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From Peace to Chaos: A First-Person Account of the

Devastation in Nepal
Acharya Balkrishna

The actual day


The atrocious tragedy of the earthquake in Nepal claimed thousands of lives.
This life-changing event was witnessed by many pilgrims and tourists who were
enthusiastically visiting the historic sites of Nepal. Millions of people saw that
terrible and terrifying scene with their own eyes. Swami Ramdevji and I were also
destined to see this fearful incident of Nature. Fortunately Swamiji and I
miraculously escaped.
We were in Nepal to conduct one of our usual yoga camps intended to
promote positive health and help those with varied illnesses. The camp was well
attended with around ten thousand people. We would practice yoga in the morning
and have spiritual discourses during the day.

On the fateful day, Saturday April 25, 2015, there was discussion on
meditation, discipline, and stability in the midst of Lifes highs and lows.
Approximately four to five thousand people were deeply absorbed in the
discussion. We were participating as well. After Swami Ramdevjis discourse on
the spiritual dimensions of yoga and meditation, the well-known Jain Saint
Mahashramanji also gave his views on meditation. The program was running a
little late. At the time, that did not seem very important. Later on we realized how
it was of great significance.

As the program ended, I sat in the car. Swami Ramdevji was talking to the
people who had surrounded him. As Swamiji left the tent, most of the people came
out along with him. All of a sudden we heard loud noises. Brother Shaligram
started the car, but then the car started rocking violently. I thought that perhaps
someone was moving it from below. Then I looked up and saw many people
running around. I came out from the car and after that everything happened very
suddenly. Before I could realize, what was happening I saw Swamiji and others
holding onto a tree near the car. Then we were skimming in the air. We could not
keep our feet on the ground. All around the place, there were loud noises. I saw the
Bal Mandir (one of the well-known ancient temples of Kathmandu) had half
crumpled down. Some volunteers of our organization (Patanjali Yogpeeth) caught
hold of me and pulled me to a safe place. I was deeply moved. What selflessness!
Though their own lives were in danger they saw their beloved guru first. This
touched me very deeply. I have never thought of myself as a Guru. Their
selflessness and fearlessness can move me to tears even now.

The next few seconds were even more appalling. Iron poles used to erect a
waterproof tent collapsed in front of my eyes. Then half of the building right in
front of us melted to the ground. Part of the tent in front of us was ripped from the
pegs and collapsed with a noise as if something was bursting. A tall tree was
uprooted and fell and I thought how grateful I was to the Almighty that the tree
which Swamiji had clasped was safe. We had seen Death in three forms; the
collapse of the tent, falling trees and crumbling buildings. However even these
terrible events had a positive side: another tree shielded us, the tent was fortunately
empty, and though the collapsed building scared us, we were all safe. If at that time
any of us were inside the tent, many people would have lost their lives and we also
would have been among them. If the program had ended even 10 minutes earlier,
many people would have gone to the dining hall and they would also have lost
their lives as the building of the dining hall also collapsed within those few
seconds. Everything seemed to be just like a dream or perhaps a nightmare; a few
life-altering seconds which will affect millions of people for centuries.
As the earthquake ceased, we came out of the strange dream-like feeling to
an altered world of mourning and pain as people faced the consequences.
The after-shocks continued to cause people to be anxious. The first aftershock was severe enough to be like a second earthquake; large trees were uprooted,
and tall buildings crumpled. We shook off the feelings of unreality and of shock
and we tried to help those around us. While we had a near escape ourselves, we
tried to channelize our shock and grief by assisting injured people and reducing
their fear while providing relief to those who were buried under collapsed
buildings.

We saw with our own eyes how millions of lives were ruined by this terrible
calamity. Nepals glorious cultural, traditional and historical heritage was also
destroyed. The historical traditions and heritage of several centuries was reduced to
mere rubble and debris.
Restoring balance and starting relief work
We were grateful to the Almighty that all attending our camp, our
volunteers and we were safe too. We decided to move to our center (Patanjali
Yogpeeth) in Nepal. As soon as we reached Patanjali Yogpeeth Mandikhatar, we
started a Hawan and prayed according to the Vedic tradition to protect all from this
calamity and to make all free from fear. This had a soothing effect on all around.
After that we got down to practical details. We took stock of the damage
around, despite the risk. We also met the Jain Saint Mahashramanji and other
people and then we went to the other known and accessible places in Kathmandu,
to assess the damage.
The earthquake of a few seconds had ended the lives of millions of people.
All the telephone lines were non-functional and roads were blocked; we could hear
and feel the screams of the injured and the misery everywhere. Millions of people
connected with our Patanjali family knew that Swamiji and I were in Kathmandu
during the earthquake. As the media reported that there was no information about
Swamiji and myself after earthquake, millions of people from all over the world

were worried and moaning for us. We found this even more poignant as we were
part of that devastation and were saddened by the suffering all around us. We knew
that several millions of our Patanjali family would be anxious; and their anxiety
became our anxiety.
As evening came, frightened and injured people were coming to the Tundi
playground (which is one of the largest playgrounds of Kathmandu), where for the

last two days a yoga camp was being organized. Matting of almost 5 lakh square
feet (105) was spread there, for people to practice yoga. Now people gathered there
for shelter. Assuming reserved for them, people began to make shelter of that
matting. When Swamiji realized this he was glad that the matting could give the
people temporary shelter. In giving the yoga mat to the people we felt we were
doing our bit to help.
This was an example of Patanjalis first service after the devastation. The
tent (which had cost around 50 lakhs (1 lakh = 105) Indian Rupees to erect) and
was intended, through yoga practice to spread health and peace was now being
used for shelter and survival. We arranged for ground lights in the tent. This was
within the first 3 hours of the earthquake. In seeing the people gathering and
feeling some relief, we felt that the yoga matting was put to the best possible
use.

Our next thought was to provide people with potable water and food. In
Kathmandu all shops and shopkeepers were still in shock. We knew a few
shopkeepers but they were pre-occupied and devastated. However even in that
state of tragedy and fear a few people showed great courage and only then were we
able to arrange some necessities.

In the evening hundreds of our volunteers visited many places in Kathmandu


and made arrangements for the distribution of water, beaten paddy (chiwda), potato
curry, fruits and biscuits manufactured by Patanjali. There was comfort in knowing
that even in that terrible tragedy thousands of people were able to find shelter, with
electricity from a generator. Hundreds of people were able to charge their mobiles
and get in contact with people concerned about them. This was a huge relief to

them and hence to us. We felt some comfort as everyone was also getting water
and food within a short span of time on the very first day of that horrifying tragedy.
Thousands of people from Nepal, India and other countries were gathered in that
ground.
Helping people deal with fear through the night
As peoples basic needs were met, it was important to keep their spirits up.
Swamijis characteristic and positive charisma and energy found expression in
words which gave people courage and determination to serve beyond their
capacity, ignoring repeated aftershocks, showers of rain, cold weather in
Kathmandu, tragic cries of people, in-between clamor, and the ever-present fear of
death. During these moments, we were heartened to see the untiring efforts of
Patanjali volunteers, totally involved in the service of people.
Hundreds of volunteers continued their service activities till 01:00 a.m.
Midnight had passed, but we could not realize it. In the Tundi playground, two to
three people wrapped themselves under one blanket, as there were not enough
blankets to go round. Everyone was in an altered state of consciousness, great
panic and at the same time in despair and tragic moaning. Electricity and water
supply were impaired. The very houses which people depended on for shelter and
protection were now a source of fear to them because of the repeated aftershocks.
People feared that if they went indoors the building could collapse and they would
die. Empty buildings looked like ghost-houses. Everyone from the whole town was
now on the ground, beneath the open sky under tarpaulin, plastic foil or
indigenious roofs, otherwise they had to trust the Almighty and bear the cold and
rain. Everyone was miserable and seeking support from the Almighty. All were
helplessly praying for divine assistance. Through the long night the injured were
wounded and were being transported to hospitals. We still did not know how many
injured people were buried under the rubble and how many had actually died.
Imagining this added to the horror of the long night after the tragedy.
Due to these concerns, through the dark and pouring night I was restless and
uneasy. I was physically lying in a tent and was watching the open sky at the
Patanjali Yogpeeth ground. Vividly remembering the whole day each and every
moment seemed more and more frightening and heartbreaking. As I was immersed
in my thoughts, I did not realize when the sun began to rise. I encourage myself to

get up from the ground, to complete my morning-routine, then to still the pain in
my heart and start to make plans to serve humanity.
Our gratitude to our Nepal Patanjali family
From the Patanjali Ayurveda center of Nepal, Rajuji and Babu Kazi provided 300400 cartons of biscuits. Uddhavji brought 200-300 boxes of apples. Om Bansalji
and Vinodji were ready to serve with 200-300 sacks of beaten paddy (chiwda).
Distribution of 200-400 boxes of water bottles was undertaken by Shaligramji,
Upendraji, Labdevji, Sister Archana and Sister Rita; while others were also
engaged in relief activities.

The next phase


As hours elapsed people from around the world were unable to even
estimate the destruction caused by the earthquake; they were sharing information
through Facebook and Twitter and other social media and no one was able to
understand what they could do at that moment. When a tragedy is so immense it is
often difficult to know what to do.

At Patanjali we began to make both short and long term plans.


Acknowledging the needs of people Swamiji said that everyone should continue
the relief activities with top priority even if the organization, Patanjali had to stop
other important work.

We had arranged all possible immediate relief supplies from what we could
get locally. However that was not at all sufficient. We were posed with the
question - what should be done next? First we talked to Bharatji in Haridwar
(India) about the quickest way for relief material to reach us. He suggested a
possible route through Lucknow (India). After this, we talked to O. P. Shrivastava
and Alakhji for the immediate arrangement of 7 trucks of relief material consisting
of 3 trucks of potable water and 1 truck each of fruit, potatoes, biscuits and
tarpaulin.
A list of essential and necessary medicines was made by an expert team
known to Patanjali doctors and medicine worth approximately 1.0 Crore Indian
Rupees (1.0 Crore = 107) were ordered immediately. They could not reach on the
same day as paper-work had to be done. On the second day after a letter of
permission from the Indian Ambassador to Nepal along with a letter of guarantee
from a doctor, the medicines were dispatched.
Straight-away we constituted 30 teams for relief in the affected remote
districts to organize camps and continue these relief camps without any
interruption till life became better for the affected people. We also arranged food
and water, tents, blankets, mats, and other necessities in these camps. In this work,

the Nepal Government, the Police administration, especially D.I.G. Bhandari


helped us a great deal.
Amidst the devastation, we contacted the Red Cross to organize a blood donation
camp. We were informed that the Red Cross team had gone for blood donations
and after the tremors the team could not be contacted. Anyhow we had arranged
for blood donation the very next day. Swamiji and I were heartened to be the first
donors. After donating blood Swamiji urged others to donate blood as well.

Little children orphaned by a calamity are terribly vulnerable. Swamiji


announced that our organization would adopt at least 500 orphaned children and
provide them with quality education and higher education, accommodation,
clothing and all necessities by Patanjali Yogpeeth.
For immediate relief, the building of the Ayurvedic College at Dhulikhel,
Kathmandu will be used for this purpose and the proposed program for opening a
medical college has obviously been postponed. I also decided to stay there to
supervise the relief work and activities, so that relief and rehabilitation work can be
done effectively.
Reflections
In this terrible situation thousands of people waited for someone to help
them. It appeared as if Nature itself was cruel, so what could they expect from

someone else? In the face of Natures wrath what can a human being do? However
it is our moral duty to save the people whom we can save with our best efforts.
The lives of people were saved wherever possible near the city. However
relief was not easy to reach to people who lived in distant, remote hilly regions.
Such Shailputra and Himalayaputra-putriya (children of the divine mountains),
who had made their homes by laboriously putting together each straw and were
contentedly and happily living their life, eating twice a day, with their innocent
children, living peacefully without harming others and bearing their sorrow. They
were not atheists, but with their own tradition and wisdom were trying to praise the
Almighty. Beyond all political conflicts, complications, hypocrisy and the futilities
of an artificial life, why were those peaceful peoples subjected to Natures fury?
The heroic Gorkhali community people, have always defended the people of
their own country, as well as Mother India and even (earlier on) the British people;
they are those who always stood up to protect, serve and lead their own lives to
protect others. Yet today, they are shedding tears bitterly and are in deep misery.
Their poignant Cry would melt a heart of stone.
Beautiful serene pristine mountain peaks, snowy mountain ranges, the best
essence of nature and natural herbs, the melody of mountains folk music, it has all
become a graveyard in a moment. Most familiar villages, home, family, fields and
domesticated animals, everything was lost. In a moment, all the relations,
traditions, love and harmony became a thing of the past. There was a deep silence
everywhere.
Moving ahead

In the face of this disaster, it is our moral duty to raise above all political and
geographical boundaries and come forward with humanity and feelings to serve
those who have suffered extensive devastation.
As a result of this terrible incident, thousands of people have lost their lives
and thousands of severely wounded peoples are hungry and thirsty. Thousands of
families have lost their hopes. The few moments of this calamity led to such
extensive devastation that it will take centuries to overcome. If we all come
together to serve, then we definitely can provide relief to whatever extent is
humanly possible.
Patanjalis relief work
Rescue, relief and reconstruction work will take years to organize the lives
of people. Thousands of people from
nearby areas who are being treated in
Kathmandu, have no-one in their family
waiting for them and they have no home,
where will they go after being discharged
from the hospital?
For all such people Patanjali is
arranging accommodation and food at
Kathmandu and Banepa of Kabhre district.
When they get well and are ready to go to
their villages, they would be provided
tents, food, essential materials, financial
aid and courage, to re-build their lives.
They may be thousands in number, but
Patanjali Yogpeeth will take the
responsibility of all of them.
An appeal
We request you to come forward in this tragedy to support the affected
people.

The immediate disaster relief and rescue efforts by the Indias Honorable
Prime Minister Modiji should be praised. Our NDRF personnel and doctors were
involved tirelessly in this service. Our hearty congratulations go to them. In
addition, all the governments of the countries who have extended a hand of cooperation in this disaster and different countries social and spiritual institutions
selfless cooperation and support in this work and of course the courageous people
of Nepal who are engaged in collaboration and service, we thank all them for their
humane feelings. The Government of Nepal, police administration, and those
police who attempted to save people in the middle of the rubble and continued
tirelessly in their efforts, we can never thank them enough. We hope that with the
grace of the Almighty, life will be easier soon in Nepal and that the people of
Nepal will proceed with their lives with peace and prosperity will return to Nepal
with the courage and hard-work of the people of Nepal.

Donate for Nepal Earthquake


If you have read the first-person account above you will know the human aspects of the Tragedy.
As Nepal grapples with one of the worst natural disasters in its history and as the magnitude of
tragedy continues to unfold. We issue an urgent appeal to the public for generous donations to
support the victims who have suffered extensive devastation. To support Nepal through Patanjali
Yogpeeth Kindly contact:
CONTACT NO. FOR DONORS IN NEPAL
Machhapuchchhre Bank Limited
Account No. 5201524403263019
SWIFT Code: MBLNNPKAI
Sunrise Bank
Account No.002002008920c
SWIFT Code: FRBLNPKA

Laxmi Bank
Account No. 00051040010744
SWIFT Code: LXBLNPKA
Everest Bank
Account No.00300105200669 and
Account No 00300105200670
SWIFT Code: EVBLNPKA
Ph. Sh. Shaligram Ji 009779851049661, Sh. Lovedev Ji 009779841351731, Ms. Anita Ji
009779851077720
CONTACT NO. FOR DONORS FROM INDIA
NEPAL-BHUKAMP TRASADI PATANJALI APDA RAHAT KOSH,
Punjab National Bank
Branch: Ranipur, Haridwar
A/C number 1074000190263148
IFSC CODE PUNB0107400 Email: divyayoga@divyayoga.com
donation@divyayoga.com
Ph. 01334-240008
CONTACT NO. FOR DONORS FROM OVERSEAS
State Bank of India
Branch: B.H.E.L., Sec- 5, Ranipur, Haridwar
A/C holder: Patanjali Yogpeeth (Trust) Bank
Account No. 30523427810
SWIFT Code: SBININBB225 Email: divyayoga@divyayoga.com
donation@divyayoga.com
Ph. 01334-240008