Set in the sylvan foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand is a quaint little ashram named Neem Karoli Baba Ashram or Kainchi Dham. With lush greenery abounding in the temple courtyard and neat rooms tucked away around it, the ashram presents the perfect setting for a quiet and secluded retreat. So much so that there are no telephone lines here; one cannot be disturbed by the outside world.
The ashram grew around a very ordinary-looking man who was an extraordinary saint. His name was Neem Karoli Baba, after the village where he was first discovered in pre-independent India as a ticketless traveler in the first-class compartment of a train. The British ticket collector threw him out at the next stop. After that, he quietly disembarked and sat under a tree. However, the train did not move after that, much as the engine driver tried to go full steam.
All kinds of checks were carried out only to reveal that the train was in perfect working order. The Indian passengers then told the ticket collector that since he had removed a holy man from the train, it would not move. Embarrassed at believing such native irrationalities, the ticket collector nevertheless called the sadhu (holy man) back onto the train. The holy man got back onto the train as quietly as he had disembarked, and the train immediately puffed out of the spot!
Later, a well-organized station grew at this spot, and Baba became famous for many more miracles until he left his body in 1973.
Clad in a white dhoti (unstitched garment) with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, Baba or Maharajji, as he was also known, was known for the spontaneous love that was palpable in his presence. With a mischievous sense of humor and seemingly ordinary ways, Baba drew throngs of people to the ashram and visited many places during his lifetime.
Among his devotees were the roadside tea stall vendor, the fruit seller, a Harvard professor, a scholar of Hindi literature, etc. His only teaching was to love one and all, something he did effortlessly even though most of his devotees needed a translator to interpret his words.
The Miracle of Love is the title of a book compiled by an American devotee of Baba. It is full of miraculous episodes recounted by several Baba devotees. "We grew up under his care", says the owner of the little restaurant opposite the temple.
"Maharajji was sitting on this bench by the road more than fifty years ago when my father, then a young man, happened to walk by one night. Nobody knew Maharajji then; certainly, my father didn't know him. Maharajji called out to my father by name and asked him where he was going at night. Surprised at being addressed thus by a stranger, my father stopped in his tracks and was even more amazed when Maharajji told him not to worry about the case pending in the court, as the ruling would be in his (my father's) favor. Maharajji then promised to visit my father sometimes, which he did ten years later when he stayed in our house for a few days. All that we have today is due to his grace."
It is widely believed that Neem Karoli Baba was an incarnation of the monkey god Hanuman. The Hanuman Chalisa, a special prayer addressed to this god, is recited several times during the day in the ashram. While the skeptic may not find much to believe in such happenings, no one can fail to be untouched by the peace in the atmosphere of the ashram, which stands as testimony to the nature and powers of man around whom it grew.
The temple office requires prior intimation in writing so that they can see whether the accommodation will be available for a visitor. Shree Ma, the disciple of the Baba, looks after the ashram now, which is open to visitors only when she is there. Periodically, she goes into the hills to meditate in solitude.
The hills beside the ashram guarding the inmates against the sharp sun or wind could be a reason. But, more simply, it could be due to the distance from a city, the salubrious climate, or the innumerable fruit trees around. Another reason could be the simple folks that inhabit the village.
Peace seems most natural in a place still vibrating with the power of meditation of the Maharajji. This ashram is for those who seek silence and have the faith to bide time while searching for answers.
Simple vegetarian food is cooked in the ashram kitchen, and donations are accepted. Apart from a prayer routine two or three times a day, there are no set practices to be observed. One drink in the serenity of the place, for nothing, is asked of the seeker here.
Regular trains of the Northern Railways are available for going up to Kathgodam in the Kumaon region of the northern part of the state of Uttaranchal. From there, a two-hour bus ride will be needed to reach Kainchi, where the ashram is in the vicinity of the bus stop.
For those who wish to visit the ashram only as tourists and are not interested in spending a long time there, the trip to Kainchi can be combined with a trip to the scenic and popular hill station of Nainital, which is just a couple of hours away from the ashram.
Tourism-of-India.com offers various tour packages to make your visit comfortable. You can pick the one that suits you most.
Subscribe Our Newsletter for get latest updates