One Thousand Yoga Fans Flock To Peace Island

A mass pilgrimage is under way to a Scottish island bought and renamed in the name of peace by followers of a controversial yoga movement.

Sky News, UK/September 27, 2009

Wee Cumbrae, a 700-acre island off the Ayrshire coast, will now also be known as Peace Island after the purchase by devotees of Patanjali Yogi, a brand of yoga practised by millions.

Around 1,000 people are travelling to their new island base for its blessing by their main man, the guru known as Swami Ramdev.

A distinctive figure in saffron robes with his long flowing locks and beard, he has attracted criticism due to his controversial views and claims about the powers of his yoga.

Ramdev has said the physical movement and breathing techniques involved can help cure cancer and treat AIDS.

Recently, he described homosexuals as "sick people" and said they should be sent to hospitals for treatment.

The furore has not stopped two Indian-born entrepreneurs turning Wee Cumbrae into Ramdev's new branch headquarters on the Clyde.

Glasgow care home owners Sam and Sunita Poddar bought the island for £2.5m in July and have now given it dual identity - they call it Shanti Dwipam, Sanskrit for Peace Island.

Sunita credits Patanjali Yog with curing her of severe obesity and says she and her husband hope to turn the island into a popular yoga and meditation retreat.

"Our aim is to make Wee Cumbrae a worldwide destination with something for the whole family to enjoy," she told Sky News.

"Whether it is experiencing the rejuvenating and healing powers of Yog Pranayam and Ayurved, exploring the magnificent history of the island, enjoying the many walking trails, or experiencing the many gifts of nature this beautiful island has to offer, we want to make Wee Cumbrae accessible for everyone."

A cure for the logistics would help on this rocky, uninhabited island.

As yet, there is no definite long-term plan on how to accommodate the hoped-for masses.

For the day of the blessing, a flotilla of boats has been commissioned to sail from Largs and Fairlie on the mainland.

The historic ceremony will see the island more populated than it has been for centuries.

Devotees have travelled thousands of miles to witness a traditional Hawan blessing, making it one of the largest invasions off the Ayrshire coast since the Vikings were fought off in 1263.

Happily, the yoga army is sailing up the Clyde to make peace, not war.

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