From Nainital we started the journey towards Kakrighat to visit the ashram where Sombari Baba spent his time during the winter. Getting to this ashram was a bit more problematic as the road was in worse condition than the roads to the previous ashrams we had visited. It took an hour before we reached our destination because there was a lot of construction work at this time. Even though it took a long time for us to get there, it felt positive that they were working on improving the accessibility to this particular place.
Eventually we arrived at our destination. While outside we became very unsure if it was open to visitors since the gate was closed. Fortunately, we noticed that there was a small door on the gate that could be opened. We stepped into the area and were greeted by a smaller garden. Shortly thereafter we came to the temple area. We stepped in and met two temple caretakers who seemed incredibly happy to see us. They explained that this was the place where Sombari Baba and Neem Karoli Baba spent their time when they were alive.
We felt a huge calm inside of us when we visited this place. The time stopped and an inner peace emerged. We walked around and were met by the huge tree found in the middle of this temple. Under this tree, Sombari Baba used to sit while he was at this location. It felt unreal to sit in the same place as this incredible saint had sat.
I sat down to meditate. This particular day I felt sick and had a fever so it was very hard to for me to go into my meditation. Suddenly it was as if a voice came to me saying that I should go down to the river and wash myself. Sombari Baba always asked his visitors to wash themselves in the river before they stepped into the area. I was ashamed that I forgot to do this and immediately went down to the river. I cleaned my face, arms and legs. As I stepped out of the river, all feelings of fever disappeared and I did not feel sick anymore. I felt as if it was Sombari Baba who had made me recover and I felt incredible grateful.
We spent a few of hours in the area and we bathed in the feelings of well being that this place gave us. It was so soothing to be in this place and my faith to Sombari Baba became even stronger.
Within this temple there was also a section dedicated to Neem Karoli Baba. When he was alive he wished that a temple would be built at this spot because Sombari Baba had stayed here. It is the Kainichi Dham ashram who is responsible for preserving this place, demonstrating the incredible reverence that Neem Karoli Baba felt for Sombari Baba.
Inside the temple there was a statue of Neem Karoli Baba and pictures from when he was alive. Being able to feel the presence of these two amazing saints in one place was powerful. This location has left a memory for life and we long for the next time we will get the opportunity to visit this temple again.
Nearby there is also a temple dedicated to Swami Vivekananda so we decided to visit this place as well. Unfortunately, it was in very bad condition, but they were working hard to restore it. At this place Swami Vivekananda had one of the most important experiences of his life. He saw how the whole inner and outer world is one and that God exists in everything. It was while meditating under a tree that he gained this strong experience, and around this tree they have built this ashram. Unfortunately, the tree is no longer there since it died but they took a sapling from it and it’s slowly growing tall again. Hopefully, the new tree will be a place where more people will experience the same amazing experienced that Swami Vivekananda had.
On our next stop in India we visited the ashrams of the great saint Sombari Baba. We talk about our visits to Padampuri and Kakrighat where Sombari Baba lived during the later part of his life.
He was a saint in high regard who is considered to be one of the greatest saints to walk this earth. Even the great saint Neem Karoli Baba said he was one of the greatest saints to ever bless us with his presence.
One of the places we wanted to visit when we were in the area around the small city of Nainital up in the Himalayan mountains was the Indian saint Sombari baba’s two ashrams in Padampuri and Kakrighat. This area of India has hosted many great saints like Neem Karoli baba, Hairakhan baba, and of which Sombari baba is considered one of the most developed spiritually.
Sombari baba is relatively unknown in both the West and in India. Much because it is close to one hundred years since he lived. Therefore, his ashram in Padampuri is not very well-visited where it is beautifully situated in a valley between the mountains a bit from the city of Nainital. We were the only visitors when we were there and the place is more neglected and less expensive compared to Neem Karoli baba’s ashram Kainchi Dham. Nevertheless, it is one of the most beautiful places we have visited and a place we want to visit again. If you want to know more about Sombari baba we have written about him here.
The first thing that struck us when we got there was that it was bigger than we expected. The ashram lies next to a small river and we knew that Sombari baba never allowed anyone to come in without first washing their feet, hands and face in the river. In order to respect this, we did this before we entered the ashram where one of the area’s most developed beings spent a great part of his life. Once inside we were met by an incredibly peaceful place. It felt like you could walk around there without a thought of wanting to do anything else, hour after hour after hour. You did not feel the need for anything else. Even though we were the only visitors and we quickly saw all the parts, it was impossible to get bored there. You just wanted to be. Nothing more. What prompted us to leave after some hours was that our taxi driver waited impatiently on us outside.
We could feel that Sombari’s presence was still strong here and it was a strange feeling to sit at his dhuni that was still there, his sacred fire that he kept burning the most of the time. In the building above the fireplace there was a portrait made of stone of Sombari baba and this building was built at the place where he used to sit. We meditated for a while in front of this image and let us be immersed into his presence and energy.
In one of the buildings a young man sat and repeated a mantra while another young man swept the pathways. It turned out to be the caretakers of the temple. They gladly talked about Sombari baba in bad English and offered coffee as prasad. Although we had difficulty communicating with speech, we easily talked to each other with the language of the heart. The young men were incredibly hospitable and happy about our visit and the meeting with them came to be one of the greatest memories of the journey. We hope they will be there the next time we come to visit because it is a place we both want to visit again.
The week before we traveled to India we were on a retreat with Sri M in Switzerland. There we met an Englishman who turned out to have visited Sombari baba’s ashram in Padampuri seven years earlier. That fact that we encountered someone who has actually been there the week before we left for India was an incredible synchronicity, given that very few westerners have been there or even heard of Sombari baba. The Englishman said that when he was there, a 119-year-old yogi had been there and the Englishman had never encountered a more loving person. We asked the two caretakers if this yogi was still alive and they confirmed that he was now 125 and lived in the ashram during the summer. However, we were there before the summer really started so the yogi now lived at his winter residence in Haldwani. We actually got his address from the temple caretakers but we never had the time to go there and maybe it was not meant to happen. Maybe we’ll encounter him the next time we’re there if he’s still alive. We are happy anyway, because it was Sombari baba’s ashram who caught our hearts.
Since there are very few pictures on this beautiful ashram circulating, we are sharing plenty of pictures here and we hope that more people will go to Padampuri and hopefully also donate a small or big sum to the ashram so that it can survive and and perhaps even flourish once more. Perhaps this article can pay back a small part of what Sombari baba and Padampuri gave us.
A saint that is not that well-known in the western world was a man named Sombari Baba. A big reason for this is that he passed away back in 1919 and at that time there were very few westerners who ever had the opportunity to meet him. This was also a time when it was difficult to spread information so even in India he is still quite unknown. However, he has begun to have a greater spread in the West in recent years. Especially because of the book Deva Bhumi recently released. In the book, the author Krishna Kumar (K.K.) Sah presents a series of stories about this amazing saint.
The word Sombari means Monday and Sombari Baba got his name because he always gave food to those who visited him during the Mondays. No one knows for sure when he was born but many claim that he was born sometime between 1815-1825 in a small town called Pind Dadankhan.
He lived a selfless life and had very few possessions. His only possessions were a small cloth bag, a tiger skin and a chillum (pipe). He radiated an enormous peacefulness and kindness. He requested nothing from anyone else. He never preached, never wrote any books; instead, his way of living was an expression of the highest spiritual doctrine.
He spent most of his time in Kakrighat during the summer and in Padampuri during the winter. In Padampuri it became very cold during the winter that the nearby river was frozen to ice and there were several meters of snow on the ground. Nevertheless, he wore nothing else but a small piece of cloth and even refused to let the devotees build a simple shelter to protect him from rain and snow.
People who were with him explain how all their problems disappeared in his presence. Those who were with him never wanted to leave his side. He always radiated happiness and love and never showed any anger. All negative feelings and thoughts vanished in his presence and were replaced by a sense of divinity. This feeling could be felt within them for a long time after they left him.
Sombari Baba knew the past, the present and the future. If someone came to him with a problem, they did not have to say anything. The answer usually came before the question was asked. Even though he knew all, he loved everyone unconditionally and helped those who came to him with an open heart. Another proof of this was that he always knew if anyone would visit him without receiving any prior information about this. On several occasions he prepared food for visitors and just as he predicted they showed up.
Another miracle that he performed was that there was always enough food no matter how many people visited him. Even though it should have been impossible that the food would be enough for everyone, there was always food left and Sombari Baba always ate last of all. Only when all visitors were fed, he ate. In the book Deva Bhumi, K.K Sah tells stories about how the food never ran out of the bowl, even though they served far more than would fit inside. No matter how many people ate from the food in the bowl, there was always food left inside of it.
Those who visited Sombari Baba explained how they felt an divine protection while they went on the dangerous road to the ashram where he lived. At that time, this part of India was much more dangerous than it is today. They didn’t have the kind of roads that exist today and getting there was a big challenge. Especially because there were wild animals along the roads, including tigers attacking the people. But everyone who visited Sombari Baba was always unharmed while traveling to and from the place.
Another sign of the greatness of this saint was that other saints showed great respect for him and he’s regarded as one of the highest and purest saints who ever lived in the area. Neem Karoli Baba chose to build his ashrams in the places where Sombari Baba had stayed. Thanks to this, these places are still available today and you can visit them. We recently visited the two ashrams where Sombari Baba lived and we explain the feelings we felt while we visited these wonderful places in these two articles and in our Podcast:
When we planned our trip to India, that is, we who run this site, Tobias and Magnus Ahlberg, we both wanted to visit Kainchi Dham. It is the ashram that is most associated with the Indian guru Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-ji. The guru that Richard Alpert, or Ram Dass, made famous for the western world. It was there Ram Dass and other Westerners such as Krishna Das spent a lot of their time when they visited Neem Karoli Baba back in the 60s and 70s, and it was the first location we went to when we arrived at the small city of Nainital up in the Himalayan mountains. Kainchi Dham is just a few miles away from the city and you can read about our visit there in this article: A Trip To India – Part 1 – Kainchi Dham
We have both been drawn to Maharaj-ji for quite some time, especially the unconditional love he showed humanity. He had no big complex teachings but kept it simple. Love people, serve people and remember God. This was his small, but yet great teaching. Often he answered questions with “Sub ek,” all is one. You do not need to know much more than that in order to reach God.
Kainchi Dham was one of the biggest reasons we traveled to India in the first place. However, we also wanted to visit some other places in the area that we felt drawn to as well, but the place we will describe now was actually added to our list of visits mostly because it was close to Nainital and we had some time left in our schedule. None of us knew much about the place or felt any special attraction towards it.
Just outside of Nainital is the first temple that Neem Karoli Baba established located, called Hanuman Gadh. We knew there were more temples than Kainchi Dham where Maharaj-ji and his followers used to stay at and felt that this place could be fun to visit when it was quite close to our hotel. We had no idea what it looked like since we had not seen any pictures of it or read much about it.
The temple does not look like much from the outside. You mostly see some walls and an entrance, but inside the temple you are met by an mesmerizing and beautiful environment. The first thing you encounter when you enter is a large majestic statue of Hanuman, the Indian monkey god that Maharaj-ji is closely associated to, a statue that instantly leads you a connection to the divine.
The temple was also much larger than we expected and is located beautifully up in the mountains overlooking the valley. As we walked around, we quickly fell into a quiet harmonious peace. The temple was a place far more beautiful than expected. It was love at first sight. We strolled around while our smiles grew by the minute. It was a place where Maharaj-ji’s presence was strong. A place we want to return to again. Hanuman Gadh surpassed all the expectations we had before the visit.
The most beautiful room in the temple is where Maharaj-ji’s image stands. A beautifully decorated room with pictures on Maharaj-ji along the walls and a statue of him at the front. The gate in to the room was closed, but one of the temple workers let us in and said that if we liked, we could sing some kirtan. We stepped in, showed our reverence for Maharaj-ji, and then sat down in front of the murti, the statue of Maharaj-ji. We meditated for a while and then sang Krishna Das’s prayer to his guru, the beautiful song “Om Namo Gurudev.” Time slowed down, love flowed into us, butmost of all the feeling of gratefulness. After a while we bowed again for this big man and started our walk back to the hotel.
That same evening when we returned to the hotel we saw a beautiful display of fireworks over at Hanuman Gadh. It turned out they were celebrating Ram Dass’s birthday that just happened to meet the day of our visit. Suddenly it became very clear to us how important Ram Dass have been for the temples in the area and how revered he is by the people there. We felt a deep gratitude for Ram Dass for inderectly bringis us to this place. For him showing the way for so many of us. To Maharaj-ji, to God.
We also talk about Hanuman Gadh in Episode 15 of our podcast.