Umachal Yogashram -The first yoga hospital in India that once used to fill the air of Nilachal hills

The Northeast Dialogue


Umachal Yoga Hospital, the first yoga hospital in India once used to fill the air of Nilachal hills. But the yoga hospital did not come overnight. It took a lot of patience, perseverance, and endurance. Umachal Yogashram was established by Swami Shivananda, upon returning to Assam after pilgrimage across the country. Swami Shivananda had a great contribution to the physical and health science of this region. He showed how a healthy life could be lived through yogic practices.

Born to Ramchandra Mukherjee and Tarangini Devi in a village called Badlapara of Barishal district in Bangladesh on July 4, 1900, Swami Shivananda was very sympathetic and thoughtful from his very tender age. Other’s pain pained him deeply. And he never accepted anything without knowing its real nature. This led Swamiji to leave material life at the age of 12. He went to Kokilamukh Asom Bangiya Saraswat Ashram near Jorhat to learn yoga and physical science systematically under the guidance of Swami Nigamanada Saraswati. After ten years of rigorous study and practical training, he went to Dibrugarh where he rendered philanthropic services as a novice hermit. There he was ordained by Swami Umananda Saraswati.

After his ordination, as most of the monks do, he set out for pilgrimage across the country. He came back to Assam. It was December 12, 1929, Swamiji return to Assam and then established Umachal Yogashram on December 28, 1929, near the Shaktipeeth kamakhya temple. The Yogashram added another valuable item to the treasure trove of Nilachal hills, which was earlier believed to be home to the occult and tantric practices. Earlier tantrism (a science of studying body), being practiced in solitude in the caves, was thought to be a practice for the ascetics only for their realization of the divinity within. Swami Shivananda drew the attention of the people to the therapeutic use of this practice as well.

His initial stay on Nilachal hills was exceedingly challenging. Except for the natural stillness of the hilltop, nothing seemed favorable to his meditative practice. His main distraction came from the wild animals that even posed a threat to his dear life. Miserably, many a time he had to be face to face with a ferocious tiger. However, he tackled it non-violently with the technique of ahimsa— the first step of Yama. It is a technique to subdue hatred and radiate love and compassion. This Swamiji practically demonstrated later on by establishing a welcoming bond with the wild animals on the hills.

Swamiji’s Yoga Hospital attracted many people from the state and beyond. The healthy and unhealthy alike thronged his ashram for health, happiness, and well-being. Seeing people’s interest in the efficacy of yoga, Swami Shivananda wrote a book titled ‘Yogabole Rogarogya’. Incredibly, the book got wide recognition and acceptance. Today the book is available in several languages—Hindi, Assamese, Marathi, Malayalam, French, English, and Spanish.

Later he wrote quite a number of books and he used the revenue generated through his books to build the Umachal Yogic Hospital. It opened before the ailing masses a door to great hope and faith, particularly before those who could not afford pricey allopathic treatment and thus wanted to go for a natural cure. For, in Swamiji’s healing process, as the beneficiaries said, just a fortnight’s training and regular practice of asana, pranayama, and dhouti brought the sick back to their health.

Then, yoga’s efficacy lies in its practice. Alienated from the practice, it loses all its worth. This is probably what has happened to Umachal Yogashram which seems to be losing its yogic ambiance that once used to fill the air of Nilachal hills. Today standing before Umachal Yogic Hospital one would wonder how this then majestic institute has worn almost an abandoned look. It is because of ignorance and negligence about the importance of the place and the significance of the practice as well. Celebrations or observations are a means of nurturing a tradition. We should work for a sincere way of nourishing the rich yogic tradition and practice of this region.


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