A trip to Mahavtar Babaji cave was always on the cards since the time we had read ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ book by Shri. Paramhansa Yogananda.
Our plan was to visit Rishikesh to attend a kirtan by Shri. Krishna Das, a disciple of Shri Neem Karoli Baba of Kainchi Dham. We kept the itinerary open for our first proper winter trip (December end) and were not sure of what kind of cold temperatures to expect. We took an overnight sleeper train from Dehradun to Kathgodam and found our legs frozen by morning as we had clearly misjudged and not carried enough winter clothing or a blanket to cover at night. Somehow, we walked up to a tea stall on the railway station, warmed ourselves and proceeded to have an eventful day. Our day was spent in visiting Kainchi Dham Ashram of Shri. Neem Karoli Baba, the beautiful and mysterious lakes of Sattal, Naukuchiatal & Bhimtal.
The next day, we decided to take a day trip to Babaji cave which was 200 kms away from Bhimtal. Starting the day at around 6 am, our first stop for breakfast was at a small but famous stall in Ranikhet, courtesy our driver who knew all the right places to eat. In the chilling temperatures of early morning, we had hot samosas topped with chana masala, bhajji and tea. You can imagine how heavenly it was. We reached the base village of Kukuchina at around 10am. I should mention Kukuchina village has one sole guest house, ‘Joshi Guest house’ with basic stay facilities but run by a very kind man. From the village, the cave is a 3 kms trek away and it doesn’t take more than an hour to reach.
The moment we started the hike, we were accompanied by a black dog. He was quite friendly and kept walking ahead of us till a certain point. We got off the rugged path to start the climb where this dog disappeared and immediately another white dog joined us. It was a bit of a mystery. We only found later that these dogs are blessed as they guide the devotees who visit the cave. The dog was always a few metres ahead of us showing us the right path to follow. There was no other soul in the vicinity except us and him. There were sign boards on the way but still we trusted the dog, as he always seemed to know a short cut.
We reached the cave after a short trek of 45 – 50 minutes, feeling very happy and blissful to be standing in the same place where once Mahatavar Babaji set foot. It was as if Mahavtar Babaji himself had ordained us to take this spiritual trip. We recollected the stories from the book. This is where Shri. Lahiri Mahasaya at the age of 33 met Shri. Mahavtar Babaji and got initiation into Kriya Yoga. Coincidentally, I was also 33 years old when I visited the cave in 2018. We couldn’t sit inside the cave and meditate much as we were already soaking in all the bliss and joy the place provided. The cave is kept open from morning 8am till evening 4 pm everyday.
The dog was still sitting around and after sometime he heard some human voices coming up and started barking. It seems he doesn’t allow anyone else to come unless he is pretty sure about them. We met a few people who had made sudden plans to visit the cave and also a Brazilian guy who was coming down from Pandavkoli ashram which is further up the mountain. He had been meditating at the cave for the past 8 days and was going to stay for another 8 days. We had a short talk about different saints and started our trip back to the base. The dog rose immediately and moved ahead to guide us on the return journey.
We were quite hungry by the time we reached the base village where we were invited by a lady to have lunch. She was preparing Kadi Chawal for her family and did not mind sharing a plate with us. We took it as a prasad from Mahavtar Babaji himself. She then started telling story of the dog. It is their pet dog named ‘Sheru’ and an unofficial guide to the cave. He accompanies people to the cave and does not leave them until they reach the base safely. We were the lucky ones on that day to have accompanied by him. For us, visit to this cave was the most soul satisfying part of our life’s journey.