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The oldest man in the world? The happiest man alive? A yoga genius? Who is Swami Sivananda?

Virtual Bharat’s latest in a 1000 film journey of the untold stories of India, takes us to Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, this International Yoga Day. The film tells the story of Swami Sivananda, an old man, who when asked his age, grins at the camera stating with pride…“I am? 123!” Born on August 8, 1896, Swami Sivananda is today, 124 years old, making him the oldest living man on the planet! The Guinness Book of World Records has yet to certify him the longest living man. 

Like many Indians, even decades younger, Swami Sivananda has no official verification of his birth, save for a temple register that has his birth listed under this date. India’s passport authorities have used this as a confirmation of his age. He jabs at both his passport and aadhaar card when the team asks him if he has anything to actually prove his age. He adds, with confidence, “if you want proof, you can bring a doctor!” 

With ageless grace and a sharp sense of humor, he takes the team through his daily routine. Two solid hours of yoga, two simple meals a day comprising of dal, roti, and sabzi (vegetables) and the rest of his time reading the Gita. To him, it is this discipline and simplicity that has allowed him to live up to this ripe age. “Yoga brings mental peace and happiness”, he says as he also states that he has no desire, disease, or depression—the 3 Ds that he has no time or space in his life for. 

Yoga for him is the key to a happy life. Swami Sivananda lost his parents by the age of 6 and was then taken under the wing of a spiritual guide who took him around the world. His eyes gleam as he rattles off the long list of countries he has been to…Luxembourg, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands…almost 50 in total! That was his introduction to yoga. To this day, he practices yoga, and the film depicts his stunningly supple body at this inspiring age. 

He laughs as we ask him what the key to a long life is, and says, “This is the kalyug; everyone is greedy. It is impossible to live for 123 years!” It is with this cheer that Swami Sivananda goes about his day, claiming he has no time for anything apart from this: “I am, not only the oldest but also the happiest living man in the world!” A man who has lived through almost two pandemics now, smiles bright as he tells the world that happiness and simplicity are what keep him going. A story of joy, simplicity, and humor, this film shows us there is always light at the end of the tunnel. 

Virtual Bharat in collaboration with India Currents will release a monthly series highlighting the stories Virtual Bharat is capturing in India. Stay tuned for more!

Virtual Bharat is a 1000 film journey of untold stories of India spanning people, landscapes, literature, folklore, dance, music, traditions, architecture, and more in a repository of culture. The vision of director Bharatbala, creator of Maa Tujhe Salaam, we are a tale of India told person-by-person, story-by-story, and experience-by-experience. The films are under 10 minutes in length and are currently available on Virtual Bharat’s Youtube Channel

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