Mahavtar Babaji – Ageless Sage

Mar 12 2007

The article below is taken from My write-up on my visit to Babaji’s Cave in Himalayas is here.

By Anjali Bagwe


Mahavatar Babaji, a Himalayan mahayogi said to be about 1,800 years old, is the founder of Kriya Yoga. The world first heard about him courtesy Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. Today, many cults are growing around his enigmatic persona. Mumbai-based Dr Ram Bhosle claims to have lived with him for six years.

Legend has it that the remote parts of the Himalayas are home to many rishis, tapasvis and siddhayogis—Eternal Masters engaged in singular methods of sadhana or disciplined practice dedicated to cosmic exploration and in guiding the destiny of humanity through the ages. They live in rough-hewn natural caves under glacial conditions. Some have ashrams amidst verdant greenery, located at a vibrational frequency at variance with the ‘normal’ three-dimensional one to keep intruders at bay. Their abode has been verily named Shambala, Gyan Ganj, or Siddha Loka.
In this phantasmagorical world of accomplished yogis, anything is possible. A siddha sadhak (realized master) may simply choose to take the form of an ancient tree to meditate undisturbed for hundreds of years. Others, when they venture beyond the confines of their rarefied sanctuaries, may fly through the air as themselves, or change into swans, geese, eagles, or even into animals, fish and insects. There are many creative ideas for teleportation, with some just travelling on beams of light from one place to another!

Exalted as these beings are, a distinct feature common to all is their complete identification with India and her Vedic heritage. When people attain a certain level in their sadhana, they automatically lose their narrow personal bonds of family, language, caste or province. Then the old terrain of the Motherland takes over, so that it matters not whether it is Kabir, Lahiri Mahasaya, Shirdi Sai Baba or Ramana Maharshi, they all belong to India. And they converse with each other using an argot common to the wandering sadhus (monks).

Thus it is that the venerable heritage of Gorakhnath and Machhindranath is claimed for its own by Garhwal, Konkan, Bundelkhand, Mewar and Coorg, and many a little girl in the remotest village of India is put to sleep to the refrain of “Chalo Machhinder, Gorakh Aaya…”

With his lithe and youthful figure, Mahavatar Babaji (whose feats have been reported by Paramahansa Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi) is one such eternal master. He is the man with the 1,800-year-old immortal body. He’s also the founder of Kriya Yoga, a discipline involving purification of the body-mind organism through breath control techniques to aid longevity and spiritual evolution. ‘Mahavatar’ means ‘great incarnation’. He is also known as Mahakaya Babaji, the word ‘Mahakaya’ describing his immortal body. In some circles the Hare Khan Baba being referred to sounds suspiciously similar to Mahavatar Baba’s persona.

Tamil Incarnation

Babaji comes with sanitized packaging shorn of ash, rudraksha or kumkum tilak. Of course, there have been many Babajis over the decades claiming to be the Mahavatar. There’s a free-for-all on the Internet with the various Babaji Web pages multiplying rapidly to a current count of several thousand. Yet, the Self-Realization Fellowship established by Yogananda in California almost sounds as if it holds patent rights over the ‘Babaji lineage’.

After conquering the West within decades, it’s time for Babaji to return home to capture the interest of Indians who are still obsessed with pot-bellied gurus. A new international group called the Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas with a base of sorts in Pondicherry recently held kriya yoga seminars in major metropolitan cities across India. The Babaji they’re selling is the same kriya yogi, but he’s now positioned in a new Tamil incarnation as Babaji Nagaraj and never mind that he’s been a permanent resident of the Himalayas for 1,800 years.

A book claiming to present new information about Babaji, written by the Canadian guru and chief of the Kriya Yoga Order, Marshall Govindan, presents startling claims about the Tamil origins of many ancient rishis and siddhas, including Macchindranath and Gorakhnath. Welcome to the club! Tibet too claims them for its own, and the Gorkhas of Nepal and India claim to be the original descendants of Gorakhnath.

The seminar is a casual affair, particularly since the group of two conducting it has no organizational set up. There is very little planning. In two days, you are to learn 144 kriyas or breathing techniques, 18 yogasanas and numerous chants. That’s instant evolution. Devote 20 minutes daily to this and you zip past 50 lives’ worth of karmic atonement and time! Or so claims the venerable lady acharya from California. The 60 participants in Mumbai are administered a battery of short written assignments, duly checked by the acharya, or head, in the course of the seminar. Gleanings of wisdom pepper the proceedings. Participants are told that Sri Aurobindo was close to attaining an immortal body during his lifetime, but for the fact that he did not practice yogasanas.

The acharya presents charts on the macrobiotic diet, the staple no-nos of which are chocolates and meat. All this and more is discussed over a period of two days, inaugurating the advent of yet another New Age cult in India.

Master of Masters

Thankfully, there’s a lot more than that to Mahavatar Baba, who never left the shores of India and who’s way beyond the reach of puny intellectual property rights. He’s a patriotic yogi and keeper of ancient faith, whose mission for ages has been to stem the tide of barbaric conquerors overrunning India. He has often changed the course of Indian history, guided by otherwise immortal rishis, working way above insidious parochial divisions.

Babaji’s influence as a guru is said to have prevailed over the ages from Adi Shankaracharya and Kabir to more recent saints like Sai Baba of Shirdi, Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon and Swami Samartha of Akkalkot. The last three were reportedly firebrand revolutionaries who were given up for dead in the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. It is said that the first was a Muslim, while the other two were Hindus. They escaped to the Himalayas for sanctuary and were later given a spiritual initiation by Babaji. They eventually returned as illumined leaders of humanity.

Babaji mostly works in obscurity, even while serving as a spiritual mentor to scores of masters. He has guided the destiny of India and her people, yet he is perhaps one of the most accessible of siddhayogis to walk in our midst in recent times. Over two millennia, Babaji has continued to nurture hundreds of accomplished disciples.

One such disciple is an ageing healer, Dr Ram Bhosle, who lives and works in Mumbai. He is a world-renowned massage therapist who has treated illustrious patients like Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, among others. He has witnessed almost the entire 20th century, traveling abroad 160 times. A freedom fighter, he had several arrest warrants issued against him by the British during Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement and was forced to flee to the Himalayas. His escape route cut a long swathe across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Saurashtra, Sindh, Baluchistan, Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains, before he finally reached the Himalayas.

Man of Miracles

It was there that he chanced upon Mahavatar Babaji. He ended up giving massage to Babaji, the latter offering him safe house initially for three months, and ultimately for a period of nearly six years to-date, spread over the intervening period. Dr Bhosle’s stories throw considerable light on the immortal master.

Once, when the two had taken shelter in a cave for the night, Babaji asked him to go and fetch milk. A fierce snowstorm was raging outside and Dr Bhosle thought the sage had gone mad. But when he gingerly walked a few paces beyond the cave’s entrance, merely out of deference to his host, he was surprised to find a pitcher of fresh milk, still warm to the touch, positioned on a ledge!

On another occasion, Babaji solicitously asked if he wanted a book to read. Unbelieving, Dr Bhosle asked for Bharatmuni’s ancient opus on dance, Natyashastra, which was procured for him. Babaji remarked that deep within the womb of the Himalayas was an unimaginable storehouse of ancient texts. He also revealed that four rooms in that great edifice were entirely devoted to astrology. Babaji also predicted that from 2001 onwards India would gradually return to supremacy in world affairs. Several decades ago, he had also forecast the end of all the political isms of the 20th century.

Like great yogis, Babaji can supposedly materialize, dematerialize and take on any form at will. He may choose to present himself as an old man, an animal or a bird. He once promised a devotee that he would attend a feast at the man’s house, but seemingly did not. When the man later questioned him, Babaji replied: “I was there. I was the dog whom you fed the leftovers.”

Babaji can travel anywhere in the universe. When he is too busy to do so, he sends specific instructions to his chosen disciples through birds. He’s taught a chosen few how to discern birdcalls, and it may well be that the pigeon stridently cooing at your window is actually a messenger from the great seer!

Wandering Soul

The Mahayogi can be stern when the situation so demands, even while displaying a great sense of humor and rare devilry at other times. He once instructed Dr Bhosle to perform underwater meditation at midnight in the sea off the Mumbai coastline to purify his healing energy. Often, Babaji walked by to supervise his disciple’s work, treading on the waves. He would chat for a while, and then walk away nonchalantly.

Babaji sometimes greeted his disciple with an unprintable epithet, as is often the custom in youth subcultures around the world. At one time, the ageing Dr Bhosle reacted with considerable anger, remonstrating that such swear words did not befit his status as a mahayogi. Babaji replied: “These words are just creations of grammar.” Mostly, the language spoken by the Master is incredibly creative, drawing from a fount of inspiring, lyrical Sanskrit words lending themselves beautifully to new improvisations in Hindi.

Interestingly, Babaji’s entourage of enlightened and immortal disciples includes yoginis who are over 600 years old. Babaji conveys the impression that he cherishes individuality and thoughtful dissension, rather than servile obedience.

The sage with the immortal body has walked the length and breadth of India and is inured to the ways of the seemingly berserk lone ascetics that are a law unto themselves. There is no field of knowledge that is beyond him and the transmutation of atoms is simply an entertaining pastime. One day, Babaji took his entourage to a crematorium. There, he picked up a skull and placing some faeces in it, he offered them to his disciples, ordering them to eat. All of them declined, except Dr Bhosle, who gingerly touched it with his tongue. To his amazement, the revolting stuff had transformed into the most delectable dish.

In the 1950s, Babaji had set up an ashram in the Himalayan heights above Badrinath. He eventually closed it down. A true wanderer, he is not to be found in any one place, whether in the Himalayas or elsewhere. Yet he is very much amongst us, in Mumbai or Delhi, as much as he is in Badrikashram. He encourages disciples to strive for their highest destiny. Neither God nor an angel, Babaji is more like the atmik guru, or the inner light.

Dr Bhosle sounds a note of caution—the masters are suprahuman, beyond the frailties of emotion, and they demand total commitment to the chosen path. It is of greatest importance to follow the light with determination, discernment and detachment. The wise doctor concludes: “There is no such thing in this world as miracles. Everything happens through science. Only a person who doesn’t understand science calls it a miracle.”

Article taken from

Comments So Far..
  • Gautam 19 February, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    For everyone who knows about Yogiraj Amar Jyoti – I would like to share a video that I made during my visit to Kandwari Village when we had an impromptu Ghazal evening.

  • Rajan sood 13 March, 2014 at 9:07 am

    I have met Swami Amar Jyoti once in Delhi at a function. Have a great desire to meet him one to one. I am a kriyavan and would be really grateful if any body informs me whenever he visits Delhi next. Otherwise i will visit him in Palampur.

  • hariom 21 March, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    dear gautam,
    thanx 4 ur vdo.waiting 2 meet swamiji
    jai baba mahavtar…..aapka vandan barambaar… babaji om

  • Aman 5 April, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Deepak rana
    Its deepak and iam from Palampur (H.P) your artical about baba ji is realy very impressibe if you would like to know more about baba ji then you have to visit in Mahavtar baba ji asharam V.P.O Rajed(Kandbadi) Teh. Palampur distt Kangra (H.P)
    there you can meet with yogiraj Amar jyoti baba ji whom is only live direct diciple of baba ji in modern time.
    Deepak Rana
    Yoga Teacher

    Friend he is Mahavtar baba himself. Har Har Mahadev.

  • jailumar 8 June, 2014 at 1:44 am

    Hari om.namastay when and how to meet swamiji I am very excited to see him .its real I a facnating momemt for me to take his blessing .I well like to come on guru purnima.I sat in Pune it will be first the to Himachal Pradesh.
    Pls can u Gide me .do u have amarjotijis web site.

  • Manisha Singhal 8 June, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Hari om.namastay when and how to meet swamiji I am very excited to see him .its real I a facnating momemt for me to take his blessing .I well like to come on guru purnima.I sat in Pune it will be first the to Himachal Pradesh.Pls can u Gide me .do u have amarjotijis web site.RegardJaikumar.

    babaji’s official website is
    Address is:
    Yogiraj Swamiji Amar Jyoti Babaji
    Village Kandwari, Palampur, Distt. Kangra,
    Himachal Pradesh, India P.I.N. 176061
    Phone: 91-1894-235324
    I think palampur is reachable via train and via road. In case you are planning to take flight. Take it from Pune to Chandigarh/Delhi. It is approx 11 hrs journey via road from Chandigarh. It is approx. 17 hours road journey from Delhi. Train can be taken from Chandigarh/Delhi
    Manisha Singhal
    Aum Anand Aum

  • Gautam 16 August, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Keep sharing your experiences friends 🙂

  • Gautam 13 February, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Dear Friends,
    I wanted to share two pieces of good news in my life with you. I got married to my dear friend in December, 2 months ago – and one of the suprise visitors who dropped in all of a sudden, was no other than the ageless saint of Amarnath, Yogiraj Amarjyoti…it was indeed a blessing to spend time with him and receive his blessings 🙂

  • Sushanta Banerjee 16 February, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Dear Gautam
    What a magnificent wedding gift.Blessed are you. His visit is a confirmation. May He keep blessing you.This site you have created and are managing is His work.
    My congratulations to you and your spouse.
    Jai Babaji

  • Gautam 16 February, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks, Sushanta. Yes, that’s what my Father also said. I had left him a long note last yr in Palampur when I failed to meet him and didn’t really think he would take time out to actually visit the wedding 🙂 I spent some time with him day before the wedding as well and could feel the overwhelming presence of his ageless Guru as well as Yogiraj’s bliss and his Padma Gandha.

  • Sushanta Banerjee 16 February, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    That clinches it! I have to visit him at his ashram in Palampur.
    Bless you Gautam.

  • richa sharma 25 February, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    gurudev namaskar

  • richa sharma 25 February, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    gurudev parnaam
    i am in a bigger problem. some supernatural craeture is in my body and speak all the time in my mind. he scolds me too much. It is happening to me from too years and i am feeling very helpless. PLEASE give some solution to my problem.

    • Guru Sevak 27 March, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      Jai Gurudeva,

      Worship Sri Dattatreya , chant this mantra – “Avadhhuta Chintana Shri Guru Deva Datta”(108 times daily if possible more number of times) and Please visit a Maa Bagulamukhi temple if you can find any. Bagulamukhi Maa is the saviour for the problem you are facing. I had the same problem for more than 10 years and i was about to commit suicide because of the inner torture. Bows &Thanks to my Guru Mahaaraj who saved me and gave Bagulamukhi mantra diksha which made me to get rid of the speaking voice inside me. Trust me, the sole reason for the problem you are going through is Maa bagulamukhi. When she wants to come into our lives we come across the problem that you are facing and she Herself is the solution for the problem.
      So, dont worry, Maa Bagulamukhi for sure will take you out of the problem.

      It is really helpful if you practice Reiki everyday.

      Jai Gurudeva.

  • SAHADEV JAMDAR 12 March, 2015 at 12:44 am

    Babaji is my gurudev

  • Maheshwar Singh Rathore 26 July, 2015 at 7:36 am

    The desirelessness position of mind is actually full fill of desire all your needy required (a natural life not house holder )through life its a miracle , law of karma so try this……and share your experience to me msrworld1@gmail. com

  • Maheshwar Singh Rathore 26 July, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Jai Maha Avtar Baba ji He is also fully natural …,,…

  • SUNYOGI UMASANKAR 28 August, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Dear divine Yogiraj Amarjoytiji
    Good pal. My million s pranam to Babaji s, and your lotus feet.

  • SAHADEV JAMDAR 14 September, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Mahavatar Babaji is greatest maharshi who is omni present in the Universe.

  • ranveer singh 25 September, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    I am very much interested in knowing facts about babaji. I have not encountered any information about his meeting with anyone before lehari mahashay if you are having any idea then please inform me.
    Thanks for such a nice article.

  • Bhumica 26 September, 2015 at 12:39 am

    Dr.Jyoti Deb
    I have been regularly travelling in the Himalayas for the past 19yrs.Many a times I was lucky to witness unnatural scenes and yogis of the highest order.They normally stay secluded and apparently look like a common man.But their Eyes are totally different,magnetic and piercing.Moreover just by being close to them brings an immense sense of hapiness(You always dont have to talk to them).They seem to radiate a benevolent energy.I am sure many of u who visit the Himalayas regularly have met such divine persons.One incident I can never forget,happened about 12 yrs back when we were travelling by car to Gangotri.At Harshil we stopped to have tea when I suddenly saw a young(about 20)very attractive yogi wearing a white cloth upto knee level.I was keen to talk to him but he suddenly vanished.Surprisingly when we reached Gangotri temple after an hour the same person was walking around.This time too he dissappeared as I approached him.I had forgotten the matter.After I returned to Calcutta one day I was going thru the book Autobiography of a Yogi by swami Yogananda.Inside was a picture of Babaji maharaj-I was astonished at the striking resemblence to the Yogi I had seen at Gangotri including the copper coloured hair as described in the book.I dont still know if I was really lucky enough to have met the great Babaji maharaj.But I do believe that the himalayas are full of supernormal phenomenon.

    Hi I am bhumica..I always wanted to know about baba jis presence direct from the person who really witnessed him.u are so lucky if u hv seen him..I hv been to badrinath once. and people told me that u will not find such saints thr in himalyas. .they are still there but no one can see them..if u hv seen then u are really lucky..

  • Nirmala 2 November, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Dr. Jyothi how blessed you are to have had such an experience. Do you still travel in the Himalayas?

  • MOHAN CB 15 April, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Sri M is one other Saint, who has met Mahavtar Babaji & you can meet.
    A modern saint walks for a united world

    On a quest to unite humanity, a spiritual leader traverses the length of the country gathering support from all quarters


    Hundreds of people, men and women, from different religions and nationalities, are marching peacefully with a spiritual leader – Muslim by birth and Hindu by initiation. The padyatris are from a cross-section of the intelligentsia, mostly the urban elite. They include IAS and IPS officers, financial analysts, tax officers, teachers and housewives, besides NRIs including academics, businessmen and software engineers.

    The oldest is an 84-year-old air commodore from IAF followed by a 70-year-old scientist from TERI University. There are a few RSS recruits now coexisting with those who have Left leanings. Mesmerised by the yogi’s every gesture and word, the crowd is ready to do anything for him.

    At first glance, thisq sight might look like a page taken from some Latin American novel of magic realism. But as you delve deeper, you soon realise this magical setting is a reality. 

    A Muslim youth’s spiritual yearnings leads him to a Hindu guru under mysterious circumstances and he is soon groomed into a yogi. He goes on to recall his previous life as a Hindu ascetic. 

    That was half a century ago. Today, he is a spiritual guide to many, and is popularly called Sri M. And currently he is walking through the entire stretch of India – from Kanyakumari to Kashmir – on a mission to unite people.

    Sri M, now 67, began his Walk of Hope or Aasha Yatra from Kanyakumari on January 12 – the birth anniversary of another spiritual leader and social reformer Swami Vivekananda.

    He has a permanent retinue of 70 people, mostly Hindus, a handful of Muslims and others. 

    The Walk of Hope, which has completed 11 months and passed through seven states so far, will end in Srinagar in the first week of May.

    Walking through Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh, the caravan of nearly 100 padyatris led by Sri M is stopped every now and then by poor villagers, and also greeted by enthusiastic RSS workers with garlands of marigold.

    Thundering ‘Jai Sri Ram’ they walk a short distance with padyatris and disperse chanting ‘Bharat mata ki jai’.

    Sri M and his padyatris do not shout slogans. He breaks his silence only during receptions on the way as he explains the objectives of the padyatra.

    “My walk is my talk,” he says at a meeting in Jhansi Ghat near the banks of the Narmada in Narsinghpur district. 

    “You must wonder why so many people should leave the comfort of their homes and walk 20 kilometres every day. We are doing this to take a message to you. And we will do it better if we walk rather than zip past in cars or airplanes… We are all born of the womb of a mother and after our death we would all go under this earth. So, we have to remember that we are human beings before we call ourselves Hindu or Muslim or Christian or anything else,” he says in Hindi. 

    In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP government has declared him an official guest. Consequently, bands of RSS workers keep joining the yatra throughout the itinerary in the state crying ‘Jai Sri Ram’. But this does not stop Muslim and Christian groups from joining in. Nor does this perturb Sri M. “If they don’t shout ‘Jai Sri Ram’ in the birthplace of Ram, where will they do?” he asks padyatris who question such sloganeering as non-secular. “We can’t have so many restrictions or we will have no one with us,” he says.

    On a sunny day in early November the padayatra meanders through alleys in Narsinghpur to enter a Jain temple followed by a dargah. The following day – which happens to be Sri M’s birthday – he offers puja at the river bank and proceeds to cut a cake with nuns and priests at a church.

    It is a beautiful tableau of togetherness, woven by this weaver of modern times echoing another weaver born Muslim and raised a  Hindu , Kabir Das.


    The story of M

    M was born in Kerala in a Muslim family as Mumtaz Ali Khan. One evening, the nine-year-old met a stranger in the courtyard of his home. This is how the story goes as narrated by Sri M in his bestselling autobiography, Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master.

    The stranger put his hand on the child’s head and asked him if he recalled anything. When the boy answered ‘no’, the dhoti-clad man said, “sab thik ho jayea” (everything will be fine). The boy ran home and when he turned back the stranger had vanished.

    That day changed the life of little Mumtaz, and his quest for truth began. Finally, at the age of 19, shunning the “golden cage” of material well-being and security that his family represented, he left for Rishikesh.  

    Wandering in the Himalayas in a desperate bid to find the one who will show him the path, he met the same stranger who had blessed him as a child. The incident was like a miracle. 

    The holy man, known as Maheshwarnath Babaji, a yogi in the Nath tradition, took him under his wings and after imparting three and a half years of rigorous spiritual lessons initiated him into the Nath tradition, christening him as Madhukarnath.

    At this stage, the young man had a revelation about his past life; he discovered that he was a spiritual seeker in the Himalayas under the tutelage of Sri Guru Babaji. Then he was known as Madhu and had apparently spurned a Pathan spiritual seeker’s request for guidance.

    The distraught Pathan had apparently killed himself and the young yogi too took his own life in repentance. However, his guru had promised 
    to help him in the next life. 

    He was reborn as Mumtaz Ali Khan in the family of Pathans in Trivandrum. 

    In the Himalayas, Mumtaz aka Madhu was now with the divine guide. He lived with him for three and a half years, wandering barefoot through hills, forests, rain and storm. The young man re-learnt or recalled all the wisdom of the sages he had known from previous lives.

    His guru then asked him to go back home, work, marry and have a family. He was told that he would teach people later. 

    His guru passed away in 1984 but left his essence within his disciple. So far so good.

    But to have a Muslim who spouts Sanskrit verses from the Gita and Upanishads, with his ears pierced in the tradition of the kanphatta Nath yogis and followed by people from all religions and political leanings is not something that is an ordinary occurrence.

    It was enacted once before in India in Varanasi with the saint and poet Kabir Das who was born Muslim and brought up by Hindus and had followers from both religions.

    However, the man himself is shorn of the aura provided by the supernatural trappings of the ‘myth’ surrounding him.

    He comes across as a plain-speaking educated Indian who wants to remind people a simple thing they already know as Indians that “we are tolerant people. We have always accepted everyone and so there is no room for intolerance in India.” 

    He and his wife Sunanda Ali run two schools in Andhra Pradesh, Satsang Vidyalaya – a free school for tribal children in Madanapalle – and, The Peepal Grove School – a residential school providing alternative education – in Chittoor district. Both were associated earlier with J Krishnamurty Foundation as trustees and teachers.


    What M means

    Sri M’s speeches at the small meetings on the way during the Walk of Hope are mostly on the same lines. He introduces himself by explaining why he calls himself M. “You may wonder why I am called M,’’ he asks a gathering of students at a government school on the way from Mirzapur to Varanasi.

    “My parents named me Mumtaz Ali Khan. Then my guru named me Madhukarnath. My guru himself was Maheshwarnath. 

    “So M means all of these. But what it means most of all is ‘manushya or manav’ [man],” he says.

    “So M could be anyone among you,” he says and the children clap. 

    He also recalls during his speeches how it was a command by his beloved guru given decades ago that is today transformed into the Walk of Hope. “My guru once told me that I would lead a group of people from one end of the country to the other to sprejad the message of harmony. I said I would rather walk alone. Then my guru chided me and said that I should just do what I was told.’’


    Goals of the yatra

    Sri M is very clear. “We want a movement. We want more people…’’ he told his padyatris at one of his private meetings in November in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh.

    This was the first time he was talking about having people’s movement.

    He said: “I don’t care who the people are. I want people.

    “Only when there is an open platform with no restrictions of any kind can people of different faiths and beliefs come together,” he explained to padyatris.

    When Mahatma Gandhi died in 1948, a year after independence, he left his project of Hindu-Muslim unity incomplete. Sri M, who was born a year later, now hopes to finish that agenda through his personal example of tolerance aided with a charisma that comes with his spiritual stature. 

    He has an explanation for his charisma that seems to draw people to him without making any effort.

    “My guru was a magnet. I was nothing when I met him. But staying with him, he turned me too into a magnet. It is all his doing,” he said at a satsang much before the Walk of Hope began.

    Most of those who walk with him see him as a saint, an embodiment of divinity itself. 

    “I don’t want to be compared with Gandhiji,” he says adding, “As for divinity, if there is a spark of the divine in me it is there in everyone else too.”

    One of the padyatris walking with him is Krishna Kulkarni, great-grandson of Gandhiji. He feels that the Walk would certainly help in taking the message of unity to people. “It is a continuation of what Bapu did,” he says. 

    Many people’s movements have been witnessed before, starting from the Bhudan movement, the JP movement and more recently the Anna Hazare-led anti corruption movement. They had a political element. Sri M strongly rules out political goals for his movement. “Our movement is open to all. All political parties and all religions are welcome to join us. We have no political goals.” 

    And yet, he says he won’t shy away from politics. “If I get a Rajya Sabha seat I won’t run away. I think it would be good to have someone take a neutral position in parliament…” he says.


    After the padyatra

    The yatra will end in May in Srinagar.Then what? His fellow yatris are already wondering about a life after this as they have got used to walking with the master daily. Many of them have been initiated into yoga and meditation and regard him as their guru. 

    Walking with the padyatris for about three weeks through three districts in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, it was not difficult to see why. None of them felt exhausted or complained of pain.

    Sri M has an explanation. Talking at a school in Dagmagpur bordering Benaras, he said: “People ask us how we walk 18 to 20 km daily. We don’t eat any special food. It is just vegetarian diet of roti and dal. But I believe that I’m not this body. I’m the spirit. And for the spirit nothing is impossible. And what is in me is there in each of us.” 


    A commoner and a saint

    Sri M manages to maintain the air of a common man rather than that of a saint. And it is his sense of humour which helps him in maintaining this front of non-solemnity. Sometimes politicians are at the receiving end of his humour. Narrating one such incident he says, “Lalu Yadav is reading my book. He asked Ravi Shankar Prasad about the Walk of Hope. He immediately opened his bag and handed Lalu my book.

    “Recently Prasad called me after BJP lost in Bihar. So I told him that it was his fault. When he asked how, I said, ‘Why did you give my book to Laluji? That helped him’,” he says laughing.

    In Mirzapur his wife joins him for ten days during vacation in school. Later in Varanasi he is joined by his daughter Aysha who has come from Mumbai where she lives with her husband Akash Chopra, the grandson of filmmaker Ramanand Sagar. “I try to come as often as I can,” she says.

    He says in his satsangs: “I’m in the same boat as you, as I have a family and other responsibilities and I don’t live in a cave… But maybe I can manage the oars better…” 


    The logistics of the Walk 

    The entourage has been walking through the summer heat, the monsoons and now the winter fog. The caravan includes a customised bus, three vehicles with over half a dozen toilets in them, a team of cooks who prepare meals thrice a day at the halting point.

    The padyatris are mostly accommodated in schools and hostels and occasionally in hotels. They pay a small fee of ‘500 per day for the transport, accommodation and food. Those who can’t afford get donors. There are no charges for walking and those who join in between and manage their own accommodation don’t pay. Often villagers and schoolchildren join the padyatra and the numbers swell.

    The padyatris are transported to the halting point after the day’s walk ends around noon. In the evenings they are taken in the bus for satsang or interaction with the locals.

    The Manav Ekta Mission (MEM), which manages the road show, has a team of dedicated volunteers who had been working on it since 2014.

    Says Balaji Kashyap, MEM convenor: “Our team recceed the whole route thrice since 2014. We already know where we would be staying in states we would be visiting two months from now.

    “On our first visit we just see the route; the second time we contact locals and also find out the possible places suitable for halting after every 20 km. In the final round we identify schools and institutions where we could stay. But generally we wait for local people to volunteer. We are not here for propaganda but to connect with people.”   says, one of the oldest associates of Sri M.

    This strategy seems to work as people who have never heard of MEM or Sri M are seen making efforts to make the padyatris comfortable. The Daffodils school in Mirzapur, UP, is a case in point. The couple who runs the school made the Walk  a part of the curriculum and the children joined in.

    The padyatris stayed in the school hostel for a week. The school also organised Sri M’s meetings at dargahs, gurudwaras and churches. 

    Having covered 340 days and 5,000 km, the Walk of Hope will complete 7,000-odd km in Srinagar in May.

    “In the spirit of Manav Ekta we would like to cross the border and shake hands but we will keep that for the future,” says Sri M.

    “I will be taking a break after this walk but padyatris would help form Manav Ekta groups in different states and leave them self-sustaining under local leaders,” he says about the future plans.

    Meanwhile, M has been meeting leaders of not only religions but also political parties and movements.

    Addressing a meeting in Jayapura village near Varanasi that is ‘adopted’ by PM Narendra Modi for development as a model village, Sri M says: “I am a friend of the prime minister and have told him that I am visiting his adopted village.”

    The prime minister has been in touch with Sri M from the beginning of the Walk of Hope and called him when he entered Gujarat.

    Sri M has been meeting other leaders too. He met Anna Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi more recently.

    He also had meetings with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi in the course of the Walk.

    But his most memorable meetings will remain those with young school children in India’s countryside. He tells them school after school: “I am sowing a seed of unity… You have to nurture it with water and great care. One day the seed of Manav Ekta would be a big tree and you would sit under its shade and enjoy the fruits of peace love and development…” 


    We’re human first before being Hindu, Muslim or Christian: Sri M


    You recently said that you want a movement. What would be the objective of such a movement?

    It is unity, Manav Ekta. Our mission is to remind people that they are human beings before being Hindu or Muslim or anything else. That we are all born of a mother and we are all heading for our graves. Is there anyone who has a different destiny?

    We all know these things. But we tend to forget. We are just trying to remind them.

    Last time we had a movement against corruption, which failed. How will you sustain this one? 

    Just because it failed once, shouldn’t we try it again? We have to go on experimenting. Just because of failures you can’t stop experimenting. That is cowardice.

    Once you bring people together, what are the issues you hope to address? Environment, agriculture, education?

    All of those issues are relevant. We want to empower people. But before all that they have to come together. Unity is the main thing. People are talking of this issue and that issue but society is falling into pieces. Once we are together, we will look at other issues little by little.

    Do you want it to remain a civil society movement or include government?

    Governments have so much power. We have to involve them to change their attitudes. Wherever we are going, states are participating. The Kerala government, followed by Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and MP. Now in Kanpur, Akhilesh Yadav is joining us and Samajwadi Party wants to make it a big programme. Let everyone participate.

    When BJP patronised the Walk in MP did it not make it appear as having a right leaning?

    For the first time at a place in Madhya Pradesh I saw Bajrang Dal shouting slogans, “Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai, hum sab hai bhai bhai” [Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian, we are all brothers]. The problem is not with this or that group. Tolerance begets tolerance. I have been asked to address a CPM meeting in Kerala on January 3. They plan to introduce yoga for the cadres. They asked me to inaugurate it. I think it is a good thing that communists are taking to yoga. It is better than drinking liquor… That is what many so-called intellectuals today end up doing.

    Maybe these parties want to exploit the plank of Manav Ekta…

    Exploit is not the right word. The media loves to see it like that. What is wrong in participation? Look at the national media. They are not interested unless there is sensation. Subramaniam Swamy was advising our people recently to get our own people to throw stones at the yatris to get media attention. He himself then added that I would not do such a thing.

    Do you see Manav Ekta Mission become a political pressure group?

    We are not a political party. We haven’t registered ourselves with the election commission and hence we are not standing for elections. People wonder when they meet us why we are having this programme when there are no elections coming. It is difficult for them to believe that we have no political agenda.

    So you want it to be an apolitical movement, the kind Mahatma Gandhi built?

    I won’t compare myself with Gandhiji. As for politics, if I was asked to be a Rajya Sabha MP I would not refuse. I think I should not shy away from an opportunity to take a neutral position in parliament. But I would certainly not bother to fight elections.

    You left out east India completely from the padyatra. How will you make up for this?

    We don’t know. But even this route is taking us a year and a half. We may walk through Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and the northeast later in a second round of Walk of Hope. But all that can happen only after we take a break for a year.

    Are yatris with you on your agenda of social movement? As most of them see you as a spiritual guru and hope for only spiritual growth.

    Nirvana. But I can assure you they are not in it just for nirvana. As I have been telling them too that the inner journey is linked with seva, the service you do for others… If you don’t care for those around you, what kind of spiritual growth are you making?

    I say in every meeting that the divine lives in every being, that every being is a walking talking temple. While god can be worshipped through puja and prayer, the only way you can worship the divine in another being is through seva or service. If each of us bears this in mind, there is no room for trouble. 

    (The article appears in the January 1-15, 2016 issue)
    Author Sreelatha Menon
    Menon is a freelance journalist

    Please feel free to forward and share. Thanks

    A modern saint walks for a united world
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  • raju 11 September, 2016 at 10:07 pm

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  • Reneesh T R 15 October, 2016 at 10:36 am

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  • Dr.P.N.MENON 15 October, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    This has reference to the comments of Deepak Rana,15 th May 2008. If you are alive, Please contact me. I am a disciple of Satya Sai Baba. I had been Profusely blessed by Baba. will yooou give me About Mahavatar Vishnu Deva Saraswati? Can you tell me about an Ashram Eight KM near palampur by Sad Guru Pthma Ananda? I am expect ing yoour reply.

    • Gautam 24 October, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Mr Menon,
      I’m not sure which Ashram you are referring to (near Palampur) and who is Sad Guru Pthma Ananda. If you’re referring to Yogiraj Swami Amar Jyoti mentioned by Deepak, then his ashram (although he rarely stays there or at any one place for that matter) is about 11 kms from Palampur near Village, Kandbari. Here is the link to its exact location on Maps.

  • Bholanath Bhattacharya 5 January, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Yes there are many stories that revolve around Babaji. The key is to not get deluded and concern ourselves with the intellectual differences, for the spirit of the sages is much beyond that.

  • Bholanath Bhattacharya 5 January, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    A tale of fanciful imagination about a man or a yogi cannot be trusted by any reasonable man.

  • Kajal 1 April, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    Babaji. Thanks for making me come across this article. Accept me babaji.

  • leela sastry 2 April, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Does he come to plains

  • leela sastry 10 April, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    I wanted to go to kukuchinna to meditate there and have darshan of mahavathar baba . But I did n’t have any accommodation there .Dharmasala manager said that accommodation can be given on the hill which is 3 kilos from ground . I am 70 year old and got apprehended whether I can climb. Any way I am very much determined to do that , but Mahavthar Baba has to permit me whence it would be possible .

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