Vanamali Gita Yogasram


Hanuman Greeting Vanamali Visitors at Ashram Door

Vande Mataram 


May Lord Narayan who took on the
auspicious form of Vaasudeva, adorned
with the garland of wild flowers
grant me the protection from all
sides with the mace, conch, the discuss
the bow Sarngat and the sword Nandaki.

Hari Aum Tat Sat

Lord Vanamali

Lord Vanamali Krishna adorned with a garland of  flowers from the ashram garden

Vanamali Garden Lillies


Evening Aarati (Offering of the Light) at Vanamali Gita Yogasrama





Bear Harbor, California, 2001*


About Vanamali Ashram

Vanamali Gita Yogashram is a small ashram (spiritual retreat and place of aspiration.) nestling at the foot of the Himalayas beside the beautiful river Ganga in the holy city of Rishikesh, North India.  Vanamali is another name for Lord Krishna, who is the Lord and Master of Vanamali Ashram.

His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswati
His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswati  blessing Vanamali Ashram

The embodied guru of the ashram is His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswati Maharaj who is the Shankaracharya and ruling pontiff of Kanchi Kamokoti Peetam
 in the holy city of Kanchipuram in South India.


The Ashram follows and tries to propagate
the ancient yogic way of life as taught by
 Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the

Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

Vanamali has published quite a few books- "Sri Krishna Lila”  which is on the life of Lord Krishna, (published as “The Play of God” in US), "Sri Rama Lila" (published as "Song of Rama" in US), “Nitya Yoga: The Yoga of Constant Communion," a book of essays on the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, and a translation with transliteration of the actual text of the Bhagavad Gita and a book on sattvic, vegetarian cooking. the natural way, called The Taste Divine.” (Please see the Ashram store for the full range of  Vanamali publications.) The Ashram is also distributing a CD of original sacred verse
“Vanamali Love Songs”

Apart from its spiritual activities, the ashram also does service to the poor people of the village. About 150 of the village children have been adopted by the Ashram and  are given clothes, food and help in education. The ashram has started a project to provide small cottages for very poor and
deserving families of the village.

Vanamali Ashram

Sri Matha Devi Vanamali and Brahmachari Mohan are two devotes of Lord Vanamali who have been the chosen instruments of the Lord in starting and running the Ashram. They seek to inculcate the ancient Vedic way of life. Sincere seekers who hope to improve their physical, mental and spiritual health  through meditation, yogasanas, talks on the Srimad Bhagavad Gita and devotional chanting and puja are welcome to contact the Ashram. The course of instruction offered by Vanamali Ashram is designed to follow the ancient rules of harmonious living as expounded by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the
Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

In their early years of service Sri Mata Vanamali and Br. Mohan offered classes at one of the prisons for habituals in the town of Thrissure in Kerala and were abel to rehabilitate many of the inmates. Classes were also conducted at a Cancer Institute with great benefit. In recent years, when prompted by Lord Vanamali, Sri Mata Vanamali travels throughout the world offering courses in the blessed way of life of the Sanatana Dharama and sharing the wisdom of 
The Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

Beloved Brother Br. Mohan and KM Chandu Kurup, a bhotia - Himalayan Sheperd pup

Lord Shiva
  Lord Shiva as Dakshinamurti on Vanamali Temple Entrance Arch

Sri Bardinath Kedernath Temple

  Vanamali Ashram Temple Honoring the Pilgrimage of beloved Gurudeva,
His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Maharaj,
 the sixty-ninth pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham,

to the Badrinath and Kedarnath Shrines.


Vanamali Ashram overlooks the place where five tributaries
 rush out of the Himalayas united as the Holy Mother Ganga


Children Celebrating Diwali (Festival of Light)


Over 150 Tapovan village children enjoy spiritual nurturance at Vanamali Ashram

Each child receives an article of clothing

On holidays each child receives an article of clothing

Diwali Fireworks

 Vanamali gardens
Letter From Lance Turner, Newark State Prison, NJ,USA

Birds of Vanamali

Vanamali Article: A Whole New Life
New Straits Times- Malaysia, May 28, 2006

New Straits Times

A lover of the Lord - Life Positive
December 2015
By Pradeep Krishnan

Pradeep Krishnan interviews Vanamali Mataji,  an ardent Krishna bhakt, who runs an ashram in Rishikesh.

My wife and I had a chance meeting with Vanamali Mataji, known in her poorvashram as Devi Menon, during our spiritual sojourn in
Rishikesh about a decade ago. On our return from Vasishta guha, Sage Vasishta’s cave situated on the banks of the river Ganga, we saw the
board, Vanamali Gita Yogashram, and stepped in. The scenic beauty of the ashram, located on the banks of Gangaji, instantly made us cheerful
and happy. Even though she was meeting us for the first time, Mataji at once showered us with love and affection, as if she had known us for
years. For years, Mataji’s innocent and smiling face, simple manners and loving gestures lingered in our hearts.

Mataji is a beautiful singer, having several bhajan CDs to her credit. Her melodious Krishna bhajans, yearning for the
Divine, lifts the listener to a different plane of existence. Interestingly, she herself has written the lyrics and composed the
music for all her bhajans. Recently, when I learnt that Mataji was in Thrissur, her native place in Kerala, to record her bhajans, I sought an interview.
Sitting in the cozy drawing room of the house of her college classmate Smt. Nalini Chandran, adorned in a violet cotton saree,
her childlike nature, joyful smile and simple manners instantly made me relaxed and calm.

Born to Shri KMR Menon and Smt Ammaluamma on December 11, 1939, in Guruvayoor, a place synonymous with the
famous Sri Krishna temple, Devi, as she was named, was a pure Krishna bhakt right from childhood.
In time she passed out with a first rank in MA Honours degree in philosophy from the University of Madras. Later, she
joined a college in Thrissur as lecturer and subsequently became a professor. However, the Divine had other plans.
Looking back, Mataji says that her whole life had been shaped by Lord Sri Krishna, as part of the cosmic plan. “I had no
aim, I am fulfilled and contented. I have never planned anything. In my life everything happened the way it had to happen.”

At the invitation of her devotees, Mataji holds spiritual sessions in India and abroad, on different aspects of sanatan
dharma. A prolific writer, she has written several books on different aspects of Hinduism. Her latest book, The Science
called Hinduism, is a systematic and logical analysis of the philosophy.

In addition to conducting regular puja, satsangs and meditation sessions, the ashram is engaged in social service projects.
They have adopted the small village, Gaja, located in Garhwal Himalayas, and take care of the health, and sanitation needs of the villagers.
In all ashram activities, Mataji is assisted by Br. Mohan, who joined her about 38 years ago after relinquishing his job in
Thrissur. Mataji considers Br. Mohan ‘her dearest brother, friend and companion’ whose unstinted support and
dedication has contributed much to the running of the Vanamali Gita Yogashram.

Mataji & Mohanji on Bet Dwarka Pilgrimage
Mataji & Br. Mohan, Dwarka Pilgrimage (2011)

Excerpts from the interview:
Mataji, tell us about your journey from Devi Menon to Vanamali Mataji?
It is an inward journey, not just a change of name, but the journey of the soul towards the Self. When my husband left me
to marry another lady, initially I was shocked and perplexed as I did not know what to do. However, soon difficulties
turned into blessings. After my daughter got married and my son finished his studies, I just resigned from my job, and left
home without any plan, preparation or programme. I wandered all over the Himalayas searching for some place to settle.
Eventually, I came to Rishikesh and then somebody offered a beautiful place overlooking the Ganga, a unique place for me to stay,
where the Vanamali Gita Yogashram has now come up.

Kedarnath and Badrinath Temple

Mataji spreading love and light among the children of Rishikesh (2015)
Kedarnath and Badrinath Temple at Vanamali Ashram

Tell us about your guru.
My guru is Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti peetam, who initiated me to the path of advaita. Again, that was not
my choice. After leaving home, I was earnestly searching for a sadguru. Even though I met several gurus in Rishikesh, some incident
or other always stopped me from accepting any one as my guru. Once when Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swami was on his pilgrimage to
Kedarnath and Badrinath on foot, I saw him passing near the ashram, and ran after him to request him to come to the ashram. Swamiji said
that he would on his return journey.

As promised, on his way back, he came to the ashram. Later, when he was staying in the Dayananda Ashram, Rishikesh,
I regularly attended his morning classes, and puja. One day, I appealed to Swamiji for initiation. When all the others had
 left the hall, Swamiji initiated me with a Vishnu mantra without any ceremonial offerings or rituals. On hearing the mantra,
tears rolled down from my eyes and I fell at his feet as it was quite astonishing that Swamiji had initiated me with a mantra
that I had been using for several years or perhaps lifetimes.

After some years, when Swamiji was searching for a place somewhere in Rishikesh to build temples for Shiva and Vishnu,
symbolising the temples of Kedarnath and Badrinath, our premises were offered as guru dakshina. Swamiji consecrated
the two temples in the year 1984. I consider it as my poorvajanma sukrta. I still keep in touch with my guru and seek his
advice on spiritual matters.

The spiritual path that you follow?
All paths ultimately lead to advaita, unity with the One essential truth. I follow the bhakti marga based on advaita as
bhakti without jnana leads to fundamentalism as is happening now all over the world. That is why bhakti yoga comes only
after jnana and karma in the Bhagavad Gita.

You say to overcome duality, one must go beyond attachment to joy and sorrow and accept life as it is. How does
one do that?
Generally, we don’t accept that the world is made of dualities. Like electricity, positive and negative are integral parts of
life. We crave only for the positive, resulting in friction within our mind. The moment one accepts that life consists of both
and learns to accept the good and bad, the negative and positive, life becomes easy, happy and comfortable.

What, according to you, is liberation or moksha? Practical tips?
The purpose of human life is attaining liberation from the samsara sagar. Liberation does not come from the outside. It is discovering
one’s own self or rather removal of the veil of ignorance. The unawareness of connecting and identifying with the mortal body acts
as a hindrance to our self-discovery. When we ponder deeply we find that the question of liberation does not arise at all because we are
already liberated. The practical method I suggest is to accept and understand the dualities of existence with a calm mind and constantly
be aware that we are immortal.

How do you view life?
Life is a leela; joyously play it. I follow the philosophy of Lord Krishna, who is utterly incomparable. He is the only great
spiritual yogi who laughed all the time. Whatever the situation he was placed in, Krishna
stood like a lotus leaf on water. When light passes through a crystal, it emits so many colours. Likewise life also gives
different colours, shades and many facets. Accept everything as it comes, and live happily and blissfully.

What is your concept of God?
The moment you say God, it becomes a mental concept. God is not a mental concept. It is an eternal and all-pervading
energy that the mind can never conceive of. That is why sanatan dharma has innumerable gods. The human mind is not
capable of conceiving a god which is formless, and eternal, that is never born and never dies. It is non-dual, but capable of
giving duality. Now modern physics says that every matter is nothing but energy in a different form. This is exactly what
the rishis had perceived thousands of years ago. They described the world as maya, for the world that we perceive
through the senses is deceptive. They showed that the world is not the way you think it is. Quantum physics affirms tha
all is energy in motion. All is interconnected.

What is your message to seekers?
Understand the God that you are seeking. Sanatan dharma insists that everything, every creation, is God. God has many
names and forms, but is actually nameless and formless. First try to intellectually understand that energy/force, so that
experience naturally happens at a later stage. For a bhakta, japa is the best. For a person inclined towards work, karma
yoga is the best. For an intellectual, jnana marga is the best. Whatever be the path, spirituality should lead one to love
humanity. Once a path is chosen, don’t have any doubts about it. Obviously one chooses a path that one is mentally
inclined towards. Realize that all the three paths, bhakti, karma and jnana, ultimately merges into one.
Vanamali Garden Overlooking the Ganga (2015)

About the author :
A seeker based in Trivandrum, Kerala, Pradeep Krishnan is deeply attracted to the
teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.

Mata Devi Vanamali

Vanamali is another name for Lord Krishna. It means “the wearer of a garland of wild flowers.” Mata Devi Vanamali is a great devotee of Lord Krishna. She hails from the small pilgrim town called Guruvayoor in Kerala. This town is famous for its temple of Krishna. The idol of Krishna in this town is said to have been worshipped by Lord Krishna himself and by his parents. A lot of miraculous properties are attached to it. Mataji’s family members consider themselves to be vassals of the Lord of Guruvayoor.

Mataji has an M.A Honours degree in philosophy from the University of Madras. She passed out with a first rank and was also a gold medalist. Her professor was T.M.P. Mahadevan who is famous for his books on Advaita Vedanta.

Mataji attended one of the first TM courses, which were run in India at the centre called Nandi Hills near Bangalore. She started a TM centre in the town called Trissur for about ten years. In fact she was the first to teach TM to prisoners in the state prison near Trissur called Viyur jail, which was meant for habituals. Weekly sessions were taken for them and she even started a re-habilitation program. Some were set up in teashops and some were employed in the weaving centre that was started for them. It was at this time that she went to the Andaman Islands to review the jails there and give a program on TM.
Ten years after starting this, Mataji left for the Himalayas. The urge to get away from all that she had known and all that spelt security and comfort to her was too pressing to be ignored. She worked for a year in the Vivekananda School for tribals in Arunachal Pradesh in North India, but this was not what she was after. She wanted to discover the gems, which she felt sure lay deep within the great scriptures of Hinduism. She wanted to find a Guru who would help her in this and allow her to come face to face with Krishna. Though she was deeply grateful to Maharishi for all that he had done for her, her thirst to find a Guru with whom she could communicate and get personal advice was too strong. Karma yoga was not the answer. So she left and went on a pilgrimage all over the Himalayas in the biting cold of winter and at last reached Rishikesh – a holy town on the banks of the Ganga famed for the number of yogis who lived there. After many trials Lord Vanamali found the perfect spot for her to set up an Ashram. Her cousin Mohan took leave from his job in order to help her in this noble enterprise and eventually gave up his promising career and settled down at the Ashram.

Her thirst for a Guru was still not satiated. In this city of gurus, she could find no one who could satisfy her. Night and day her heart cried out to the Lord to send her a Guru. One day the Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti – Sri Jayendra Saraswati happened to walk past the ashram. In those days His Holiness used to walk barefoot everywhere. He was on his way to the famous pilgrim spots of Badrinath and Kedarnath and was camping in Rishikesh for a few days. He was walking to the bridge known as Lakshman Jhula when he passed the ashram. Mataji had been associated with the Kanchipuram Mutt previously and had even gone to Kanchipuram in order to get the blessings of the Paramacharya, who was the Guru of Sri Jayendra Saraswati, before she came to Rishikesh. At that time she had met both the pontiffs and got their blessings. Now when she heard that he was passing by, she ran after him for no obvious reason. Kneeling on the road before him, she begged him to visit Vanamali Ashram. He asked her what the name of the ashram was. When he heard the magic word “Vanamali”, he immediately agreed. On his way back from Lakshman Jhula, he came to the ashram and went to the meditation hall and was quite charmed by everything he saw. He was staying at the Dayananda Ashram at that time and Mataji would go there daily for his puja.

Sri Jayendra SaraswatiJI

Sri Jayendra Saraswati

One day when he was giving his usual audience to people, she sat next to him and asked him if he would give her “Mantropadesam”. This is the giving of a sacred formula or “mantra” by the Guru, to one whom he has agreed to make his disciple.. She didn’t know what prompted her to blurt out this request. It was not a pre-meditated request. He didn’t reply but very soon he sent everyone else out of the room and gave her the “mantra” which she had been repeating for years and which was so dear to her heart. Normally a Guru asks a person many questions before he accepts him as his disciple and the disciple has to go through a small procedure of initiation. But in this case there was nothing. It was as if he had recognized her from the very first meeting and was only waiting for her to ask him. He even knew the mantra, which was closest to her heart. It is said that even if the disciple does not know the Guru, the Guru will recognize the disciple and this was indeed so in Mataji’s case.

His Holiness had been looking for some land on which to build replicas of the famous temples of Badrinath and Kedarnath. Mataji was delighted to donate the plot adjoining the ashram as Guru Dakshina to His Holiness. From Rishikesh the Sankaracharya proceeded on foot to the temples of Badrinath and Kedarnath and brought back the sacred earth and prasada of these temples and formally laid the foundation stone for the two temples, in the plot donated by Mataji. He sent architects and masons from the south and constructed two charming temples to Badri Narayana and Kedarnatha, in the South Indian style. He blessed the spot and declared that all those who might not be able to make it to the temples of Badrinath and Kedarnath could pray at these miniatures replicas of the temples and get all the benefit of having undertaken the long and hazardous pilgrimage up the Himalayas.


Vanamali Ashram had been started as a private sanctuary and meditation place but Lord Vanamali’s plan was otherwise. One of the first people to come to the ashram was Arvind Burger from the USA. He was so impressed by it that he wrote a letter to the International Yoga Journal describing the place as a paradise etc. Very soon people from all over the world started flocking to the ashram. From the year 1995 onwards Mataji accepted invitations to go abroad. Since then she has taken many retreats in many places like Italy, Germany, France, Sweden, Israel, USA, UK, Singapore, Malaysia and recently Brazil. Mataji is a very good speaker in English. Her talks are all based on the teachings of Lord Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. She has no opinions of her own and is only a mouthpiece for the Lord’s teachings. She has also written many books in English about the various gods of the Hindu pantheon. Of these “Sri Krishna Lila”, which describes the exploits of the Blue god of Vrindavan from his birth to His disappearance from this plane of existence, is a classic, which has never been written before in such detail. Her other books are “Sri Rama Lila”, Sri Shiva Lila”, Sri Devi Lila,” “The sons of Shiva”, “Translation of the Srimad Bhagavat Gita”, “Nitya Yoga” or essays on the Bhagavat Gita, “Gurudeva” and “The Taste Divine” which is a book on Indian vegetarian cooking. She is an excellent cook by the way and this book was brought out by the request of those who stayed in Vanamali Ashram. The Suny Press – New York, has published this book. Sri Krishna Lila has been published in the USA under the name of “The Play of God” and Rama Lila has been published under the name of “The Song of Rama”.

The Ashram is also actively engaged in helping the village children. Every Sunday they are taught songs and the basic rules of hygiene by Mataji and are given milk and biscuits. On special occasions they are given feasts. All of them get school uniforms and sweaters and blankets in winter. New clothes are given for the festival of Diwali and old clothes are also collected and distributed.

Last year the Ashram adopted a small village in the hills called Gajja. This is a very poor Garwal village.  Old clothes are collected from all over the world and distributed. The few government schools are in a very poor state and every year, Mataji distributes sweaters and uniforms. Here also the accent is on helping children. The girls have now been taught to make wild flower cards. These cards are unique and deserve help from people all over the world to sell them since the money from them go a long way in helping these poor villagers.


Mataji says that she is not a yogi or a sadhu, but a gopi or vassal of Lord Krishna. She wears only purple since she says it’s the colour of Krishna in transcendence.
When He appears before our eyes He looks blue but in transcendence His colour is purple.

Vanamali Ashram itself is poised on a cliff over-looking the fascinating Ganga as she gushes down the rocks. The nicest thing about Vanamali Ashram apart from its beautiful location is the fact that everyone who goes there feels as if they have come home. The vibrations there are so powerful that no one can fail to be affected by it.
It is also a very well run Ashram thanks to the constant efforts of Mataji’s cousin – Mohanji who sees to it that everything is in order and that the Ashram runs with clockwork precision. Mataji normally resides in the Ashram in winter from October to March. During summer she is either touring or in her mountain retreat in the hills.

Hari Aum tat sat


Ashram Store

Miracle at Vanamali



Wildflower Cards

Shirdi Sai Baba
Love Songs

Pilgrims Guide


*photo by Nancy Marchant