Vikas Saraswat
Vatsalyagram: An Indic Embodiment of Social Work
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

When Baba Ramdev had launched his valiant struggle in Delhi against the large-scale loot and venality of ruling dispensation in Delhi, a fragile lady entered the stage and quietly expressed her solidarity. This unremarkable event could have gone unnoticed if not for a Delhi based electronic media wheeler-dealer, known for his daily dose of saint sanctimonious meets professor pontificate act in twitter, manufactured an outrage over her presence. Revernetially called Didi Maa by her followers, Sadhvi Rithambara had played major role in Dhamric resurgence during the heydays of Mandir movement before she decided to bid adieu to mass movement and completely focus  her energies on a remarkable initiative Vatsalya gram at Param Shakti Peeth. “How can anybody be anath (orphan) in this land of Raghunath and Vishwanath?” quipped Sadhvi Rithambara when asked why she dedicated herself to this mission.

Those who imagine it as a mere orphanage, even if admittedly better managed than most others, are still missing the woods for the trees. To call ‘Vatsalyagram’ an orphanage would be trivialising its true import. Vatsalyagram at Brindavan conceived by Sadhvi Ritambara under the auspices of her Param Shakti Peeth is an extraordinary attempt to bring abandoned infants and destitute women back into the fold of ‘family’ – an institution fundamental to the conception of society but denied to these wretched souls by the quirk of cruel fate.

The cradle at Vatsalyagram, put up at the entrance, in its history of 12 years has never been shut on the orphans for the paucity of resources or fervour. It has a bell attached to it which rings as soon as a new child is received in the cradle. A ‘Janmotsav’, is held to celebrate the addition of the new member into the family. Afterwards the child undergoes all rituals from tonsuring ceremony to sacred thread ceremony amongst the various ‘samskars’ that a child normally has in a traditional Hindu household.  

Every child becomes a member of a primary family unit comprising roughly of 5 daughters, 2 sons, at least 1 maternal aunt, a grandmother and a mother. The aunts (Mausi), grandmothers (Nani) and mothers (Yashoda Maa) besides a few Sadhvis are in the main drawn from either destitute women themselves who have found shelter here or women who have sacrificed their cosy lives to volunteer at Vatsalyagram.  This primary unit complete with fimilial bonds is but a part of the extended Vatsalya Parivar. For an institution devoted to orphans, the concept of Yashoda Maa is indeed thoughtful. In our society Yashoda’s maternal love for Krishna, who is her dopted son, is much more venerable and abiding than that of Devaki who actually gave birth to him.  

Samvid Gurukul, an International school affiliated to Central Board of Secondary Education inside the precincts of Vatsalyagram, is a modern school with fully equipped labs, library, indoor and outdoor sports centre catering to the educational needs of around 250 children at Vatsalyagram. Besides a 100 other children are availing the state of the art facilities at the school. Sadhvi Ritambara or ‘Didi Maa’ as she is fondly referred to by the Ashram inmates and people in Mathura and Brindavan, is particularly keen that children at Vatsalyagram receive the best of modern education.  Shri Gopal Patwa, karyawah at Vatsalyagram proudly tells about the Ashram children receiving higher education in various Engineering and technical Colleges. A feather in Vatsalyagrams cap has been the commissioning of two of its children as officers in Armed Forces.

A unique feature of Vatsalyagram is its complete proscription of adoptions from here. Shri Gopal Patwa explains the rationale, “As the children here are all part of a family, how does one expect their relations to part away with them”.  That is how seriously the concept of family is taken here. From concern for their careers to fixing suitable marriage alliances, the involvement of the Ashram management and Didi Maa permeates all aspects of the children’s lives.

Project Vatsalyagram isn’t limited to an orphanage and a good school. A 24 bed hospital with 2 operation theatres, a diagnostic centre, an X-ray centre, a dental clinic and separate Paediatrics and Gynaecology wards, under its Vatsalya Aarogya Abhiyan, helps not just the residents of Ashram but also the lay outsiders. Eye clinic at Vatsalyagram periodically conducts free checkups and surgeries for various eye ailments. Vatsalya  Aarogya Abhiyan also incorporates healing and general well being through naturopathy and promotion of Yoga and Ayurveda. Under its Vatsalya Gau Abhiyan, a cow shelter with cattle strength of some 125 cows, besides bulls and calf are being maintained.

This Sadhvi at Brindavan has no Malcolm Muggeridge to profile her; she has no BBC type big media connections. She is working silently and tirelessly without boasting to be a “saint of the gutters”. And media merchants of Delhi who think nothing of funding evangelical agencies considered diabolical even by US state agencies will  contine to spew venom. But then sincere selfless service isn’t incumbent on approbation. Param Shakti Peeth is soon going to replicate the Brindavan story in Chattarpur (M.P.), Omkareshwar (M.P.), Solan (Himachal Pradesh) and Dakorjee (Gujarat). Vatsalyagram projects in the first three places have already made considerable headway. Efforts are afoot to identify land in Karnataka also. Didi Maa’s vatsalya (motherly love) is all set to touch many more lives than the 300 children and women it houses at its Brindavan ashram and why shouldn’t it?

The management of Vatsalyagram can be contacted at: