Hairakhan baba Ji
The old Hairakhan baba
Tobias and I went to the area around Nainital in India mainly to visit the places where the two saints Neem Karoli baba and Sombari baba stayed when they where alive. You can read about our visits to these places in the earlier parts of this article series.
However, we knew through K.K. Sah’s book Deva Bhumi, as well as Ram Dass’s book Be Love Now, that another great saint had lived in the same area up in the Himalayan Mountains. Or actually two more saints. One was called Hairakhan baba and was contemporary with Sombari baba and died about a hundred years ago. The other one was called Haidakhan baba and died quite recently, in 1984. Actually, the two names are the same and the differences in spelling are just because our alphabet has no equivalent to the sound that is a bit of a mixture between r and d. Sometimes the name is spelled with an r and sometimes with a d.
Both Tobias and I had read about Hairakhan baba the elder in K.K. Sahs’s book Deva Bhumi and both felt a connection with him. He was considered to be one of the most highly developed saints in the area and was held in very high regard by Sombari baba. He was often seen with Tibetan lamas and seemed to have some connection to Nepal. No one really knew where he came from when he one day appeared in a cave near the village of Hairakhan (hence his name) in the 1880s, or where he went when he suddenly disappeared in 1922. Some believe he had lived for a very long time since he briefly mentioned that he had experienced historical events way back in history. Some also believe that he is still alive and there are those who claim that they have seen him even after his disappearance. There are even those who claim that he is the same saint as Mahavatar Babaji, the saint mentioned by Paramahansa Yogananda in his book A yogi’s autobiography. A being that has lived for thousands of years and is often called the guru of gurus.
Tobias and I felt we wanted to visit the temples and ashrams that were dedicated to him and on the outskirts of Haldwani lies his old ashram in Katgharia. During the time he was active in the area the ashram was located in the jungle, but today the city of Haldwani has grown around it. The week before our trip to India, I read in Ram Dass’s book Be love now how Hairakhan baba had been seen by his old devotees in 1958 during the inauguration of a new temple in the ashram in Katgharia. Suddenly a bright light had appeared above the statue of him and in this light devotees saw Hairakhan baba floating in the air. Several of his old followers went into ecstasy and fainted.
As we went out to the ashram, we quickly became aware that Westerners very rarely visited the place. The ashram was located in the outskirts of the city and was also in poor condition. The people who were there were surprised that we showed up, but they were at the same time happy to see us. The man who seemed to be in charge of the temple allowed us to sit and meditate in the temple where the statue of Hairakhan baba is placed. In the temple there were both pictures of Hairakhan baba the elder, as well as the younger man with the same name who lived until 1984. People here seemed to make no distinction between the two saints.
After we had meditated for a while we were gifted prasad by the temple caretaker and we went for a stroll around the ashram for a while. It was clear that the place needed to be restored, but I assume that a decreasing number of visitors has led to a lack of necessary financial resources. Perhaps it may help that K.K. Sah has written about Harikhan baba in his book Deva Bhumi and that Harikhan baba’s story is highlighted in articles like this to help people find this once flourishing ashram.
We were also interested in visiting the ashram and the temples dedicated to Hairakhan baba located in the area where he first appeared, near the village of Hairakhan. The old Hariakhan baba had an ashram there back when he was active in the area, but today there is instead a large ashram there dedicated to the younger Haidakhan baba, often called Babaji, the person with the same name who appeared in a cave outside the same village in 1970 when he was a young man and whom died in 1984. The modern Haidakhan babaji is considered by many as being an incarnation of the old Hairakhan baba and therefore you will find pictures of both of them in the ashrams in Kathgaria and the one near the village of Hairakhan. The ashram outside the village of Hairakhan is today more or less entirely dedicated to Haidakhan babaji the younger.