Sivananda Charitable Dispensary: Health Care with a Difference

Sivananda Charitable Dispensary, the clinic located in Rikhiadham, was established in 1991 in memory of Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh. Swami Satyananda arrived in Rikhia in 1989 following the divine guidelines for his higher sadhanas and to live in seclusion. His arrival in Rikhia, a hamlet of a village in Santhal Pargana, one of the most neglected and poverty-stricken areas of the entire country, was perceived as a godsend by the villagers. The nearest medical help was in the town ten kilometres away. The villagers started flocking to the gates of Sri Swamiji because, “My son is down with a high fever and there is no doctor here,” “My wife is suffering from TB but I cannot afford the medicines required,” and so on. In answer to these heartfelt pleadings, Sivananda Charitable Dispensary was established to provide the much needed need-based but non-existent essential medical facilities to the underprivileged and weaker section of society. 'Serve, Love, Give, Meditate, Realize' – this was the message of Swami Sivananda to one and all. The clinic epitomizes these teachings and has translated them into real life.

The Dispensary has its humble origins in the gatehouse of the Alakh Bara in 1991. It was headed by Swami (Dr) Aparnananda Saraswati, an experienced doctor and a senior sannyasin. Assistance in the form of medicines, equipment etc. poured in from all corners of the globe. The crowds at the Dispensary grew to such that in 1992 a separate small hut in the plot adjacent to the Alakh Bara was built to accommodate its activities. It was noticed that tuberculosis, a scourge of the past in affluent societies, was very widespread in this region. Hence it was decided to undertake a special project to combat tuberculosis. In 1993, the entire treatment of 10 TB patients was undertaken. This was sponsored by Sri N. C. Hira from Mumbai. Encouraged by the overwhelming positive response, it was decided to continue project TB on a permanent basis. The Satyananda Yoga centre, Mumbai, undertook the responsibility of sponsoring the treatment of these patients. The number of patients enrolled in this project increased every year.

In addition to this special project, the Dispensary attends to patients with other ailments and the necessary medications are given free of cost. In cases where specialized health care is required, this is also provided with due consideration. Whether in the form of sending patients for operations or procuring the help of consultants or fitting prostheses, the Dispensary is ever attuned to the needs of the poor and helpless.

Qualified and experienced medical service is made available either in the form of resident medical personnel such as Swami (Dr) Aparnananda, India (1991–94), Sannyasi (Dr) Trimurti, India (1994–95), Swami Suryabindu, UK, a qualified nurse, (1995–2000), Swami (Dr) Yogapratap, India (2000 to the present) and also by visiting medical personnel at local, national and international levels. Many of Sri Swamiji's devotees offered their seva in the clinic, some of them being Dr Sinha, (Bhagalpur), Dr Gautam Sahay (Bhagalpur), Dr Neeraj and Dr Chandana Dikshit (Delhi), Dr Nayak and Dr Chatterjee (Deoghar), Dr Madhusudan Prasad and Dr Geeta Prasad (Dhanbad), Dr Saxena (Lucknow) and many others.

In 1998, the three-storied Amrit Kalash hospital building with 48 beds was constructed from where the present day clinic operates. On an average 1000–1200 patients are treated in the Dispensary every month for complaints ranging from the common cold and diarrhoea to tuberculosis, malaria and jaundice.

Swami Sivananda himself was a qualified doctor who epitomized the spirit of service and compassion. It is in his memory that Sri Swamiji established the Sivananda Charitable Dispensary. It is also a priceless opportunity for us to see Vedanta in action. Vedanta asks us to strive for atmabhava, i.e. experiencing oneness with all. If this is true, then the pain of one individual should also be the pain of all, without the eradication of which no one can hope to attain peace and moksha!