New Delhi: As 125-year-old Swami Sivananda walked bare feet inside Rashtrapati Bhavan’s magnificent Darbar Hall to receive the Padma Shri award from President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday, the applause from onlookers rang high and loud.
Dressed in a white kurta and dhoti, the yogi was a picture of simplicity and grace as he knelt and bowed down in front of the Prime Minister and President as a mark of respect. The Prime Minister too got up from the seat and bowed to the veteran yoga legend.
The President stepped out and helped Sivananda rise to his feet, after which he honored him with the award, and the duo posed for pictures and were seen in conversation.
The oldest man to be conferred with the Padma Shri award, Swami Sivananda is a monk from Varanasi. Born in August 1896, he is cherishing his remarkable 125 years of living. Despite his distinctive age, he stands strong enough to perform Yog for hours, according to a write-up by Rashtrapati Bhawan on Padma Awardees.
Swami wakes up as early as 3 am in the morning and adheres to an undeviating routine. Standing 1.58 meters tall, Sivananda sleeps on a mat on the floor and uses a wooden slab as a pillow. Fit without any medical complications, he practices Yog every day and performs all rituals on his own. He leads a simple life, eats a simple diet serves others with his selfless service.
In his childhood, poverty made him sleep empty stomach many times, while the rest of the time, his family could afford to feed him boiled rice and water. When Swami lost his parents and sister before he was 6, he denied the last rites of his family and chose the path of celibacy. His relatives gave him to a spiritual Guru.
He was brought to his Guruji’s Ashram at Nabadwip in West Bengal. Guru Omkarananda Goswami brought him up, imparted all practical and spiritual education including Yog without school education, with whom, starting from London, Swami traveled across 34 countries including Europe, Russia, and Australia.
Swami dedicated his life to the welfare of society and owed his age to Yog, discipline and celibacy. He believes, ‘The world is my home, its people are my fathers and mothers, to love and serve them is my religion.’
For over three decades, he has been practicing and teaching Yog at Kashi ghats. Dedicating his life to human welfare, he has been serving leprosy-affected people at Puri for the past 50 years. His healthy & long life has drawn the attention of national & international organizations.
He perceives them as living God and serves them with the best available items. He arranges different materials like food items, fruits, clothes, winter garments, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking utensils based on their expressed need,” it said.
For his tremendous contribution to the field of Yog, Swami believes Yog is the way to lead a healthy life, it controls the senses, mind and will. It is a way to god and divinity.
Swami Sivananda has been honored with various awards including the Yoga Ratna Award in 2019 at Bengaluru.
He was the senior-most participant from the country at a Yog demonstration on June 21, the World Yoga Day in 2019.
He was awarded Basundhara Ratan Award by Respect Age International for his contribution to society on 30 November 2019.
Till today, Swami is serving the underprivileged in different parts of the country – in North East India, at Varanasi, Puri, Haridwar, Nabadwip and so on, according to the Rashtrapati Bhavan document on Padma awardees.