Kainchi Dham - Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Uttarakhand where Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg visited for meditation

Many of us have heard of the legendary Neem Karoli Baba. Born Lakshman Narayan Sharma in the year 1900 in a village known as Akbarpur in today's Uttar Pradesh, he was married at the age of 11 and after that chose the life of a Sadhu for a few years. He was however requested by his father to come back home and lead a family life, which he did too.


Many of us have heard of the legendary Neem Karoli Baba. Born Lakshman Narayan Sharma in the year 1900 in a village known as Akbarpur in today's Uttar Pradesh, he was married at the age of 11 and after that chose the life of a Sadhu for a few years. He was however requested by his father to come back home and lead a family life, which he did too. 

He fathered two sons and a daughter, before once again giving up the family life for Bhakti, which he would go on to devote his life to. He was a devotee of Hanuman.  One of the two Ashrams constructed in his name while he was still of this world is located in Kainch, Bhowali Range, Uttarakhand. The other is in Vrindavan. 

There are several legends associated with Neem Karoli Baba that are very interesting to read. One is about how he got this name. Apparently once when he was travelling in a train without a ticket and TC decided to deboard him. They stopped the train at a village known as Neem Karoli and made the sadhu get down. However, the train wouldn't start. Passengers then suggested that the sadhu be allowed back on board. 

But when requested to get back on the train, the Sadhu had two conditions - One that the railway company should build a station at Neem Karoli, and two that the railway company should treat sadhus better in future. His demands were accepted, and as soon as he got back up on the train, the train started. This is how he got his name "Neem Karoli Baba". 

The Ashram at Kainch, also known as Kainchi Dham, is a Hanuman temple and an Ashram. Nestled amid tall coniferous trees, the ashram is a peaceful place despite the hustle bustle on the adjoining Highway 109 and the various shops lining the busy road. The Ashram was established in 1960s by Neem Karoli Baba, and has been visited by who's whos of the world. Steve Jobs came here in 1970s to meditate and, on his advice, Mark Zuckerberg too visited it. 

Within the Ashram complex, there is also a cave in which Baba Neem Karoli used to meditate. The Ashram complex also houses a section dedicated to Sadhu Premi Baba and Sombari Maharaj. In fact, a platform for these two local Sadhus to preach and teach yoga was already present at this location prior to the construction of the actual Hanuman temple and the Ashram. 

The place is now as popular as ever among the devotees and despite the fact that Neem Karoli baba passed away in 1973, the Internet is full of emotional prayers from devotees, requesting Baba to be reborn or take an avatar. This is one thing that I like about the Internet. It is a space where you can let out a prayer and it persists, even though you do not know if anyone is listening.

Though Baba Neem Karoli did not allow anyone to record his voice, some of his devotees managed to sneak in a camera and a recorder and today, his voice exists on the Internet for his devotees to listen to. When we visited the Ashram in July 2021, it was fairly devoid to tourists, partly because of the pandemic's impact on tourism overall and also because the annual Neem Karoli Baba fair had been cancelled for second year in a row. Even though the fair usually happens in June, it kind of brings people together. 

The place is enroute from Nainital to Almora, Binsar, or Ranikhet, and is right on the highway. It is a nice place to stop and take a stroll and to allow yourself to give in to the peace of the Ashram. 

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