“The Orange People” – Sanyassins around Totnes

The Sanyassins were followers of the guru of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. They appeared near Totnes sometime in 1977/78. They added another dimension to the general mix of alternative cultures which were active in the area in the late 1970s. I would love to know how and why they first got established at Gara Bridge if anyone knows.

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Another development in the establishment of alternative spiritual practices in the area was the was the establishment of the Sva Tantra Centre Gara Mill just outside Totnes in 1978. The mill was home to around 14 sannyasins, followers of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known simply as Osho) and combined a residential community with meditation and group work offering a range of courses. The Sanyassins were required to wear orange, giving them the local nickname of the ‘orange people’ some would later come to move to a subsequent centre in Totnes.

In May 1979 the Astha Rajneesh Mediation Centre opened up in the Bridgetown area of Totnes. Like the other centre this offered workshops and courses. This new centre bought the sanyassins into Totnes and made them, and their orange robes, far more visible to the wider community. Indeed in 1981 when the centre was closed and they were made homeless the Totnes Times ran the story on their front page, under the headline ‘Orange people homeless’. Some of the Sanyassins subsequently moved into a squat at Critchel Hostel in the town which became the focus for much debate about the lack of low cost housing in the area.

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