A Pilgrimage to Babaji’s Cave (2015)

himalayas, kausani

A few weeks before my trip to Uttarakhand, I had the strangest of thoughts: ‘What if I never come back?’

Crazy ideas are nothing new to me and I mentally prepared for living in the mountains. Maybe I’ll work at the tea shop at Kukuchina. I decided to take with me some very important books having in mind that I may never come back: Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and of course, Autobiography of a Yogi. I take AY with me on all pilgrimages.  And as an afterthought, I also decided to add a copy of  Self Hindi Teacher  (a book that I had bought in 2013, but never got past the introduction) to this mix. After I packed my bags I realized that I did not have enough room for my big three-volume-in-one Lord of the Rings paperback. If travel has taught me anything, it is that 500+ page paperbacks are not good travelers (unless you have adequate space to secure them) and this one was a 1100+ page paperback. Reluctantly, I decided against bringing these JRR Tolkien gems as my luggage was already heavy, and also because I did not want any dog-ear or dent on my “precious” books.

This was my second trip to Babaji’s cave. I had previously visited the cave in November last year and the thought of revisiting the cave had occurred to me while I was still at Dronagiri mountain last year.

I hope Babaji would  permit me to visit his cave again sometime next year. Babaji is calling me back, and I have to go! Aum Babaji!

This was how I had ended the post that I wrote detailing my experiences there last year. Thank you, Babaji, for bestowing this great blessing upon me!

The Pilgrimage begins

The train journey from Delhi to Hardiwar in the morning was a bit dull. I meditated a few minutes, and thinking about it now, I can say that Babaji was with me right there on the train. Of course, he’s always with us, but I felt something that I hadn’t before. This pilgrimage to Babaji’s cave was more of a quest to me. I had a question in my mind and I was intent on getting the answer. During my last trip, I traveled with about 45 people and I was so excited and happy. Perhaps that excitement was a bit too much, considering the fact that it was a pilgrimage and not a sightseeing holiday tour. This time I traveled with just three people — Prem, my Ananda brother disciple and friend, and two of Prem’s friends and ex-colleagues — Satish and Balaji. Both were interesting personalities; Satish is an expert in the Israeli martial art “Krav Maga” and Balaji is a techie and a science-fiction aficionado. I was more inward than the last time and I think that this small company I was with helped me focus more on my “quest”.

At Haridwar, we were received by our Ananda friend, Mahavir and his driver Sanjay. As soon I got down from the train and saw the warm smiling face of Mahavir ji, I hugged him. He was the guide of our tour and he had organised everything for us. During my previous pilgrimage to the cave, Mahavir ji had told me of his divine experience of seeing Babaji himself! Throughout the trip, he took complete care of us. He made sure we had our food on time, if the geyser in our room worked, supplied us with “Hajmola” candies periodically to help us with motion sickness, took photographs for us, arranged pujas for us, made sure we meditated enough, and the list goes on. He was like our guardian angel.

We piled into his car, a Mahindra Xylo, which for the next five days took us to various scenic locations. Our first stop was at an area called Kankhal. Here we visited Anandamayi ma’s final resting place and we spent some time meditating there. This was followed by a quick visit to the Daksheswara Mahadev temple. It is said that this temple was built at the same spot where Goddess Sati jumped into the ritual fire to protest against her father, King Daksha Prajapati, for not inviting her consort, God Shiva, to the ritual. After this, we stopped at the ashram of Swami Keshavanda. Here we also found the samadhi of the great saint, Lahiri Mahasaya. Within the premises of the ashram is a rudraksha tree. We learnt that Swami Keshavananda himself had planted this tree with the ashes of Lahiri Mahasaya. Our last stop at Haridwar was at the main bathing ghat where we had our first sight of the holy Ganga river.

After travelling for about 25 km from Haridwar, we reached the holy town of Rishikesh and by 03:25 PM, we were in our hotel Tapovan. Mahavir ji gave us about two hours time to relax before we could leave to experience the beautiful view of river Ganga from the iconic suspension bridge, Lakshman Jhula,  and to witness the Ganga arti. Rishikesh is a picturesque, charming town with its shop-lined streets and sadhus. There were so many foreigners from all over the world and the local shops catered to their needs. I came across a small bookshop that sold books in many languages; I even saw a book on Mahavatar Babaji in the Russian language. Walking in these streets, absorbing the sights and sounds of Rishikesh was such a joy. Wouldn’t it be great if I could live here? I thought often. Judging by the various advertisements I saw there, it seems Rishikesh was also happy to teach one a lot of things — at a spa, you can also take a course on becoming a masseur; at a bakery, one can also learn to bake, and of course, there are innumerous centres to teach you yoga. We traveled alongside the banks of Ganga and finally reached the place of arti at about 6 PM. A large group of people, both local and foreign, had gathered on the steps that lead to Ganga and chanting had begun. The whole place was energetic as a black-bearded sadhu sang devotional songs. This was followed by songs from an Israeli band on the general theme of world peace. The crowd loved every minute of the wonderful performance. Mahavir ji said that we were really lucky as such bands don’t perform at the arti often. As I stood there taking photos of the blissful event, I saw people passing large lamps to one another and suddenly someone thrust a lamp onto my hands. As I stood there dumbfounded wondering if I should be rotating it in circles as I saw some priests do there or if only priests could do such a thing, a group of people gathered around me and started praying. Much to my relief, someone took the lamp out of my hands and it was passed on.

ganga arti

Ganga arti at the banks of Ganga

Towards Devpryag

The next morning, we vacated our rooms and drove towards Devpryag — the place where rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda meet to form the mighty Ganga. On the way we stopped to mediate in a cave called Vashista cave which is located on the banks of Ganga. As the name suggests, this is the cave where the great sage Vashistar meditated. It is now maintained by Swami Purshottamanand Trust. We meditated in this cave for about 40 minutes and then we went to the banks of Ganga. The sand on the banks was the softest that my bare soles have ever touched and I loved walking bare-footed on it. Soon the sand gave way to smooth rounded rocks of light grey colour of various sizes. Prem, Balaji and Satish were each sitting on a rock or standing alone enjoying the view of the vast expanse of the river when I went there.  The whole place was an island of peace and calmness without any other people in sight. The bluish-green expanse of water flowed smoothly and we were surrounded by green hills on all sides. We sat there for sometime letting in the serenity and meditated for a few minutes.

A disciple of Swami Purshottamanand, Swami Chaitanya Nanda, lives near the cave and I followed Mahavir ji into his room. He was bedridden due to a hip injury. I stood near the foot of his bed, hearing a flurry of Hindi words flying around me (I do not understand Hindi). Swami ji was talking with Mahavir ji and another person who was sitting at one corner of the room. Soon Prem, Satish and Balaji joined us. Swami ji then looked at me.

“Are you Tamil?” He said these words in Tamil

Gears whirred inside my head for a moment to adjust to this new language. “Yes!” I said looking at him with a big grin.

“I am a Malayali, so I can speak little Tamil,” he said looking at my quizzical face.

“Rajinikanth comes here every year,” he said.

It seems like one cannot visit Babaji’s cave or any other cave in the Himalayas without hearing Rajinikanth’s name. To quote myself from my last year’s post on Babaji’s cave:

It was amazing how Rajini’s name kept coming up throughout the trip.

But Rajinikanth wasn’t done yet.

I touched Swami ji’s feet in reverence and we left after receiving some chocolates from him.

At Devpryag, we walked down a flight of big stairs to reach the point of confluence without any idea that  Mahavir ji had arranged a puja for us. He took multiple photos of us as we performed the puja.

Our next stop was Kamleshwar Mahadev Mandir in Srinagar. It is said that Lord Vishnu received his Sudarshan chakra, a spinning disk-like weapon, from Lord Shiva here. Mahavir ji told us that married woman who wish to have babies come here to pray, and that he himself was born only after his mother had prayed at this temple many years ago.

We soon left this place and traveled alongside the Alaknanda river; the altitude of our path gradually became higher and higher. Towards the evening, Mahavir ji stopped the car and said that the view was good for photographs. Indeed!

sunset

River Alaknanda

He pointed to a distant structure that was close to the Alaknanda river and said that that was the place where the Dhari Devi temple was located. He said that the temple housed the head of Dhari Devi, a manifestation of Goddess Kali. In 2013, a hydel project was being constructed around this place, and with the required approval, the head of the Goddess was relocated on June 16, 2013. Shortly afterwards, the cloudburst happened. Dhari Devi is considered to be the guardian deity of Uttarakhand. The 330 MW hydel project now lies in ruins.

As per our original plan, we were to end the second day at Dwarahat and stay in a hotel there. But we had taken our time at Vashista cave and now we were travelling along valleys and mountains in the dark without knowing where to stay. “Babaji will show us,” Mahavir ji said raising his arms above.

He did and it was also a special place.

Shri Krishna Palace in Karanprayag (aka Karnaprayag) was our place of stay for the night. In walked the six of us (the four of us + Mahavir ji + Sanjay). There, at the reception desk, something caught our attention. We saw a photo of Rajinikanth standing with three other people and one of them was standing right in front of us; he was the owner of the hotel. Upon questioning, the landlord said that Rajinikanth usually stays in his hotel, for the past three years, before going to Babaji’s cave. He was all praise for Rajini’s humbleness and simplicity. Mahavir ji turned to us, “This was not part of our tour.”

The owner also added that he had received a phone call informing him that Rajini is coming to stay in the hotel sometime before Diwali. Suddenly we became excited. “Diwali is just four days away. What if he comes in tomorrow morning?” I asked the others. “Or we could stay here for a couple of days to see him!”

We decided to go for a walk outside. But Mahavir ji had a word of warning,” There’s a leopard on the prowl here. You have to be careful.”

“Yessss!!!!!!” I said out loud.

The thought of a leopard lurking nearby excited me to no end. What if I came face to face with one? I would do what any sane person in 2015 would do. Take out my camera and take a snap. But to my disappointment, Karanpryag seemed to be a safe town with lots of houses and shops nearby. There was no hint of any leopard.

After the walk and a sumptuous supper, the four of us were standing on a terrace that was adjacent to the dining hall of the hotel. From here we had a nice view of river Alaknanda that was running just beside our hotel. It was here that something strange happened. Three days prior to November 3, the day of our departure from Chennai, my mind played a little scene inside my head; my glasses breaking into two. This little scene annoyed me, but I decided to buy a pair of spare glasses anyway. But unfortunately I had to go to work on all those three days and I couldn’t order that extra pair as I came late from office on all those three days. But that image of glasses breaking kept playing in mind and all I could do was pray that we had a good trip. On November 5, at about 7 PM, as the four of us were standing on the terrace of our hotel, the glasses broke into two just as I had seen in my mind’s eye. But it wasn’t mine, it was Prem’s; and it happened right in front of my eyes. Luckily, Prem had an extra pair. I thanked our Guru and Babaji. The rest of the trip would have been a burden if those broken glasses were mine. This was more than intuition, it was premonition. I wish I have more control over that part of my mind. That night, we slept soundly listening to the river rush by.

The next morning, as promised, the hotel owner took us to the room where Rajinikant usually stays. The room had the best view of the river and the mountains beyond. I took the liberty of sitting on the bed there and Prem snapped a photo of me 🙂

We climb the Dronagiri Mountain

The day was the main part of the pilgrimage — Babaji’s cave! We packed our bags and set off from the hotel at about 8:45 AM after a light breakfast of toasted bread and tea. Unlike Tamil Nadu, one thing that I noted about Uttarakhand was that there is a food standard that is being maintained throughout the state. Whether it was roti or rice, or any kind of gravy or masala, it all tasted good and it almost tasted similar across all the places. The eatery might look small and even a bit dirty on the outside, and you may even think, “Do I have to eat here?” but as they say, it’s the inside that counts, and all the eateries, small or large, clean or dirty, gave us a satisfying meal. The people there know how to cook. I bet the people in Uttarakhand don’t waste time debating where food tastes good (like us in Chennai do) when they decide to eat out. Maybe they debate on which place has more varieties.

On the way to the cave we stopped at an ancient temple called Adhi Bhadri. The main deity there is Lord Vishnu. By 1:30 PM, we sped past the familiar tea shop at Kukuchina. Our car stopped in front of a path that wound up the Dronagiri mountain (aka Doonagiri or Dunagiri). This path looked different from last time and only after climbing down the mountain, I realized that there are two paths that takes us to the cave; the one that we took last year crosses a small rivulet and immediately divides into two and we have to take left. The path on the right, the path that Prem wrongly took last year, actually leads us down the mountain. It was this path that we chose for the ascent this time. We huffed and puffed up the narrow trail amidst the lush greenery all around us. By 02:15 PM, we had the cave in our sight. By this time, my mind had already played back the mistakes that I had committed last year a hundred times, and I was intent on avoiding those.

On the way to the cave, we played Ananda chants in our car and I chanted for almost two hours. I have never chanted like this in the last two years of my association with Ananda Sangha. Last year, I entered the cave wearing a green t-shirt and dark-blue jeans, but this time I wore a white shirt and light-brown pants. Last year, I had some trouble with the air-pillow that I used to sit on and meditate, but this time I folded my sweater and used it instead. Last year, I had a stiff back and I took some time to settle down after the heavy climbing; this time I took my time to climb and even did sasamgasana, a yogic posture that helps one calm the mind and breath,  inside the cave before I began meditation. Last year, I was on a vegetarian diet for almost two months before visiting the cave; I continued the diet even after the visit for more than a year before I visited the cave this time.

It worked. My meditation was deeper than last year’s. 30 minutes into the meditation, I heard the sound of snoring! Later when I came out of meditation, I found that it was an exhausted Balaji. He was happily snoring away lying on the floor of the cave. “You must be the first guy to do this here,” I told him later. But I thought that it was a very good thing to do and I myself attempted to sleep, but I wasn’t as lucky as Balaji and I got up a few minutes later. I left the cave and began to wander about the place alone. I left the track that leads to the cave, and followed a narrow trail that wound behind the cave and reached the cave’s backside. Here, I saw the remains of a ritual fire.

Mahavir ji told us that further up the mountain there was a place called Pandava Kholi. This is where the Pandavas meditated during their 12-year exile. At this spot now lies an ashram. I very much wanted to climb and visit this place, but couldn’t do so because of lack of time. As we descended from the cave, at one point, Mahavir ji pointed us to the droppings of a leopard.

After having tea at the tea shop at the base of the mountain, just like the last time, we piled into our car and started off to our hotel (or so I thought). Just 4.92 km (3.06 mi) from the Kukuchina tea shop (thanks, Google Maps), lies a hill of the Dronagiri range. Our car stopped in front of a flight of stairs that went up the hill. These concrete stairs, flanked by pine trees on both sides, are sheltered throughout its length uphill and rows upon rows of brass bells hung from the roof above.

“How long do we have to climb up?” asked Satish to Mahavir ji.

“It’s a one kilometre climb,” joked Mahavir ji. Only, it was not a joke. Minutes after climbing down from the cave, we were huffing and puffing up another hill. At the top, we were told, lies the Doonagiri temple. It is said that this is the spot were Babaji appeared under a tree before Lahari Mahasaya ji, prior to showing him his cave. The tree still exists. It was twilight by the time we reached the temple and the view from the top was marvelous. Far away from us, in an almost flat valley down below, we could see a village that was surrounded by six or seven mountains. We took some time standing there taking in this view.

It was twilight and we were in the middle of Himalayan mountains… 🙂

A view of the Greater Himalayas at last!

After traveling for more than 1.5 hours from Doonagiri temple, we reached a scenic town called Kausani. Mahavir ji told us that the view of the Greater Himalayas would be better than the one that we had in Ranikhet last year. It was already dark, and we could not see anything that night. Our rooms of our hotel Mystic Mountain had big windows and we guessed that we could see the snow-capped peaks right from the comfort of our beds.

Morning arrived, and just as we had expected, the magnificent Himalayas appeared before us. It was great to see the peaks Trishul and Nanda Devi after a gap of one year. I was so enchanted by these peaks last year that I even bought a book called The Nanda Devi affair by Bill Aitken which details the author’s Himalayan expedition (the book’s been sleeping on my bookshelf for over a year now). Needless to say, I took a number of photos of the mountain peaks from various angles as the morning sun slowly started to illuminate the peaks. By 10:24 AM, we departed from Kausani. Our destination was the Pathal Bhubaneswar cave (aka Patal Bhuvaneswar) at a village called Bhubaneswar. On the way we stopped at the Baijnath temple in a village called Baijnath and from there we passed through the towns of Bageshwar and Chaukori (2010 metre/6594 feet), climbing uphill all the time. I thought we were at the highest elevation of the entire trip so far and then Mahavir ji pointed something to us. High above us, towering the rest of the mountains, we saw the white, pyramid like peak of Nanda Devi floating above some clouds, all alone.  The rest of the peaks appeared invisible and even the rest of Nanda Devi, beneath its peak, appeared invisible. It created the illusion of a white, pyramidal peak floating in the sky.

Nanda Devi

The floating Nanda Devi

The mysterious Pathal Bhubaneswar

We finally reached the Bhubaneswar village by about 03:17 PM after traveling a distance of roughly about 85 km (52.8 mi) from Kausani. The sun was warmly shining as we got down from the car and walked towards the outer entrance of the cave. There were a few shops near this entrance and we walked past a government run hotel called KMVN Rest House. We were at an elevation of 1350 M (4429 F) and the path towards the cave curved downward a bit as it extended along the slope of a hill. Tall green coniferous trees greeted us on either side of the path and the slope of the hill cast a shadow upon as. As soon as we left the warm sunshine and entered the shadow, it started to become cold. It became colder and colder as we walked towards the cave, and I feared that it was going to be biting cold once we were inside. The immediate drop in temperature was surprising. There was a hint of mist around the trees and the place was very quiet. We had to pay to enter at the entrance of the cave and much to my disappointment,  our cameras and phones were taken away from us. There was an inscription about the cave that stated that the cave was as old as earth itself. One can read more about this ancient cave in the ancient scripture Kandha Puranam (Skandha Purana). It is said that the first human to enter this cave was King Rituparna of Surya Dynasty during the Treta yuga period and the great Serpent-god Adisesha himself guided him.

We removed our shoes and went towards the actual entrance of the cave. To our surprise, there was a very narrow tunnel like opening that went deep down somewhere.

“Pathal. Pathal is Bathalam in Tamil. It means underground,” said Balaji after the visit to the cave. “We should have realized this much earlier.”

Mahavir ji never gave us a hint of what was in store for us. All he told me the previous night at our hotel in Kausani was, “You should come and see how big Pathal Bhubaneswar is. It’s a completely natural cave and very big. Very big.”

I am glad that he didn’t spoil our surprise.

Balaji wasted no time in sliding down the narrow opening, Prem followed and I suddenly became excited. Scenes from Indiana Jones movies flashed in my mind as I crawled in feet first. “Babaji!” I shouted as I entered. I looked up and saw Satish coming in and getting out immediately. “I am claustrophobic; I can’t come”, he said.

“Satish is not coming!” I shouted down to the others. There was an iron chain running along the length of the tunnel for support. It was slippery and a small misstep could easily break a bone or two. I could see Prem’s head go around a bend and disappear. Mahavir ji was right above me and I felt safe. To be truthful, I would never dive into such a cave if I am to go alone. Suddenly it occurred to me and I voiced it aloud, “How are we supposed to go outside?”

“The same way we came in.” Balaji’s voice sounded somewhere from below with a hint of sarcasm. The thought mildly scared me as it was going to be a steep climb. The image of me getting stuck in this narrow cave and shouting for help haunted me for a few seconds. But I looked up and saw Mahavir ji.

The tunnel opened up and we soon found ourselves on even ground in a much larger space. The cave was cold and damp, but not as much as it was on the outside. The priest, who also acted as the guide of the cave, was waiting for us at the bottom of the tunnel. And to our surprise, Satish climbed down as well. He later told us that he had attempted to enter thrice and only on the third attempt he overcame his fear.

The cave was full of stalagmites and stalactites in strange shapes. To the left of the entrance there was a strange formation that resembled a five-headed serpent. Our guide explained that it was the Sheeshnag or Adishesha (the snake that is used by Lord Vishnu to rest). On one side of the cave’s wall, we saw what looked like fossilized snake-skin and throughout the length of the cave there was a marking that looked as though a giant snake had crawled right through. And then it dawned upon me — the whole place was like a giant snake’s lair! The thing is, I may not have claustrophobia, but I do have a little bit of “snakophobia”. And to make matters worse, right in the middle of the cave was an ant-hill (snakes, especially cobras, love to hang out in ant-hills). But my fear of snakes was not as bad as that of Indiana Jones or Rajinikanth. And so I marched into the slippery cave. There were curious objects and alcoves all around and each had a meaning and history associated with it. The cave further branches of into four other caves in four different directions and due to low oxygen levels, visitors are not allowed inside those narrow caves. The priest who accompanied us said that each of those caves would take us to four holy places — Badrinath, Manasarovar lake, Dwarka, and Rameswaram! The cave branches and subbranches a lot and it has not been completely explored. It is also believed that Pandavas meditated here and in the year 1191 AD Adi Shankaracharya had visited and sanctified this cave.

Towards the end of the tour, I asked the priest to allow us to meditate for five minutes. He didn’t understand English and Mahavir ji explained. But he gave us just two minutes. Mahavir ji, our guide and guardian angel, then spoke to him  and got us the five minutes that I asked for. As soon as I sat down and closed my eyes, I saw the image of a cobra hissing and pouncing towards my face to bite me. The human mind is capable of playing so many tricks.

Once we were outside, I wanted to take a photo with the kind earnest-looking priest who had patiently explained everything about the cave. I went to him and had a hilarious conversation with the little Hindi that I know. Tumhara naam kya hey? (What’s your name?) — this is what I wanted to say to him; but instead I confused the words and said something else.

Mera naam?” I asked him thinking that I was asking his name.

He looked at me expecting me to say my name and I looked at him expecting him to say his name. A few seconds passed as we deeply looked into each other’s eyes. And then it occurred to me.

“I mean…Tumhara naam?” I corrected myself.

“Kedar Singh Bhandari.”

Mera Nepolean.” I quickly recollected from the inscription that the cave was being taken care by the Bhandari family for the past 18 generations. “Oh you’re from that Bhandari family!”

He nodded smiling. He then asked me to enter the cave so that he could take a photo of me which was very sweet of him.

Satish, Balaji, and Prem, who were silently watching this conversation poked fun at me after the little photo session ended. Satish had a new name for me, “From now on your name is Baba. Mera-naam-baba!”

It was decided that that night we were to stay at the KMVN hotel which was just a few metres away from the cave. One could actually see the cave’s entrance from the entrance of this hotel. We had a lovely view of the Greater Himalayan peaks from there.

Wikipedia quotes the Skanda Purana as follows:

“He who wants to feel the presence of eternal power should come to the sacred Bhuvneshwar situated near the confluence of Ramganga, Sarayu and Gupt-Ganga.”
-Manaskhanda, Skandapuran

I felt the vibrations of this cave to be very powerful. If you decide to visit this cave, then I strongly advice you to stay in this hotel for the night and meditate to feel the cave’s powerful vibrations. I feel so blessed and lucky to have visited this wonderful place.

That night, Mahavir ji took us to an ancient Kali temple that was just a 2-minute walk from our hotel, and near to this hotel lives a monk in a hut. Smoke emanated from the embers of a dying fire in the middle of the single-room hut, as we entered and seated ourselves on the floor opposite to him. Mahavir ji asked the monk about the history of the cave and monk began to weave an ancient story in Hindi, that Mahavir ji and Balaji translated to me. Smoking a cigar, he said that he had given up his life as a trader and had chosen the life of a monk.

As we left the warmth of his hut and came out, the monk came out half-running to us. “You have forgotten this,” he said to me and gave me back my woolen cap.

“Shukriya (thank you),” I said.

“Thanyawadh (thank you),” the monk corrected me.

Although both the words mean the same and are used interchangeably, Balaji explained to me that “thanyawadh” is a proper Hindi word and “shukriya” is an Urdu word.

That night, I felt the powerful vibrations of the cave as I meditated deeply in my room. The sound of the Himalayan silence still reverberates in my ears.

The next morning, after seeing so many people take upon the ALS Ice bucket challenge, it was in this hotel that Prem and I finally accepted this challenge (in spite of no one challenging us) and bathed in icy cold water (because our room’s geyser did not work).

The final day of the pilgrimage

On the final day we were to reach the Kathgodam railway station and from there we were to travel to Delhi. On the way we stopped at the ancient Jageshwar temple at a town called Jageshwar Dham. Here I did a puja to the Shiva-lingam as the temple priest stood nearby chanting Sanskrit incantations. The last time I did something similar was when I was seven years old. I had a small Shiva-lingam that my father had bought me near the Thiruchendur temple in Tamil Nadu, and as a child I performed what I called “puja” to the Lingam by pouring water on top of it. After all these years this pilgrimage provided me the opportunity to do a Shiva puja. I found out that in North India people are allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum (garbhagreham) and are even allowed to touch the idols of Gods. I was ACTUALLY allowed to perform a puja as the priest chanted Sanskrit incantations standing nearby. In the South, needless to say, it’s a complete disgrace.

Later, we visited the Golu Devtha temple and also stopped at the Kainchi Dham Neem Karoli Baba ashram.

                                                              *************************

Pilgrimages are such beautiful journeys that each devotee should go on at least once a year. I feel that this pilgrimage has altered me in a different way than the previous ones. I feel more inward and spiritual after this trip. There are going to be some people who say stuff like “pilgrimages are useless as God is within each of us” or “Babaji himself said that he is with us always and there is no need to go and visit his cave” or something similar. But pay no attention to such advice as these are what I call “truthful useless advice”. You know, like the ones that we heard from our parents and our relatives growing up: “study hard to score good marks” or “good students are capable of studying regardless of any situation,”  and so on. Pilgrimages helps people to focus and one of the curses that we humans have is our tendency to lose focus. If all of us could focus and concentrate at will, we would all be Albert Einsteins or we would all have realized God by now.

In the beginning of this post I had stated that this pilgrimage was more of a quest to me as I was seeking an answer to a question. The question still lies unanswered, but what Babaji has given me now is new strength.

I would like to thank Mahavir ji for making this trip such a successful one. He is such a great soul. Thank you, Mahavir ji! Thank you Prem, for being my room-mate for the third time. I loved meditating with you and doing those energization exercises. Thank you, Satish and Balaji for being such wonderful companions and for travelling in the back-seat of the car for such a long time in spite of feeling nauseous. I feel grateful for that and even a bit guilty for not equally sharing your burden.

Thank you, my Guru and Mahavatar Babaji, for this wonderful pilgrimage and for your blessings! Aum Guru! Aum Babaji!

babaji cave

Babaji’s cave

My account of last year’s pilgrimage to Babaji’s cave can be read here.

A Short Gallery of our Trip (click to enlarge and cycle through the photos using the arrow keys)

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