Dunagiri – Mystical, Rustic , Charming & Energizing
Tucked deep in the Kumaon – Dunagiri is a small hamlet far far away. Its picture perfect – and thankfully not exploited by Tourism. It took me 3 1/2 hrs to reach Dunagiri from Binsar. (Dunagiri to Kathgodam is 4 1/2 – 5 hr drive 125 km). The roads are winding , empty, with great panoramic views. Its lonely and nice.
If I recollect right I first heard about Dunagiri from the book “Apprentice to a Himalayan Master” by Sri M and later in “Autobiography of a Yogi” By Paramhans Yogananda. For some strange reason the name stuck and I have been interested in visiting.
This is where Mahaavatar Babaji had initiated Lahiri Mahasaya to Kriya Yoga almost 150 years back. And a lot of Babaji followers came to Dunagiri to visit the caves.
But there is more to Dunagiri than the Babaji Caves. There is a lot of Mythology associated with the place. According to the local tradition the town has been regularly visited by sages who established their ashrams here in the midst of nature. The Ashram of Garg Muni (Brother of Dronacharya) was at Dunagiri. After his samadhi he became an underground river “Gagas” which is the source of many rivers in that area. Dronacharya is also supposed to have meditated for many years here.
Sukhdev Muni’s (Son of Ved Vyasa) was born enlightened . The “Sukha Devi Temple” is built at the site of his original ashram . Bharata the son of Shakuntala was supposedly born at this ashram. Hanumans quest for the Sanjeevini brought him to Dunagiri and the hills here are supposedly full of herbs and plants with magical healing powers. The Panadavas also spent a part of their time here in Agyatwas at a place called “Pandava Kholi”.
Dunagiri is home to an ancient Durga temple. The priest and an Old Naga baba I met at this temple told me that this temple is from the Treta Yuga and has phenomenal energy. This is the seat of Durga Ma. Like Vaishno Devi there are two “Pindis” that are “Swayambu’s” and the neighbouring forests are full of Leopards – the Devi’s vehicle. It is believed that the Divine mother has 9 forms – some for knowledge, wealth , health etc – but the Dunagiri Devi is considered to be the Godess of the Yogis.
Folklore says that over 1000’s of years many have come to Dunagiri to visit the Durga Devi Temple and meditate. The Naga baba said that he has experienced Hanuman , Kripacharya, Ashwatamma and many more immortal souls visit the temple – he says “ you can’t identify them but their energy can be experienced”. Even Shankaracharya visited the temple. The Naga baba also mischievously smiled and said that below the goddess was hidden “Amrit” and he was trying to figure out how to lay his hands on it. The temple is very clean and well managed – maybe I was lucky it was almost empty.
At the temple I was lucky to get Darshan of “Baba Dhanvantari Giri or “Bhatkoti Baba”. A solider from the Indo Pak war – he left it all to become a Naga Sadhu. And the brief interaction I had with him was very powerful. I wish I could have spent more time with him.
How does this translate to a common man. Whats the experience you get.
I am a layman – but I could experience the vibrations and energy at Dunagiri – there is so much energy that it is difficult to meditate. For some strange reason I was waking up at 3 AM every day without an alarm – and the Resort owner told me that was common.You need less sleep and food. The rarefied air at 8000 feet , the positive energy of so many great souls , the flora and fauna – it feels like you are the door step of heaven.
Two other must visit places are the “Babaji Caves” and “Pandav Kholi”. Babaji Caves is a nice 45 min trek while “Pandava Kholi” is a steeper 90 min trek (Both one way). The trek is thru dense forests – totally empty and desolate – in spite of being a Capricorn mountain goat I struggled.
Babaji Caves is deep – the driver cum guide told me that his grandfather had walked 2 ½ kilometres deep inside the cave. But currently its closed at the tip and you see less than 25 feet of the cave. The place is serene and I was lucky to have it to myself for an hr.
Legend has it that “Pandav Kholi” is the place where the Pandavas spent some time during their Agyatwas period. Its located at 8800 feet. The car drops you at a point nearly 6200 feet and then you start the steep 3 km trek. When you reach the top – you are treated to some amazing views and a simple lunch at the Ashram. This is the ashram of “ Balwant Giri Maharaj “of the Juna Akhada – who attained Samadhi many years back – but his “Dhuni” is still kept active. “Bhatkoti Baba” who I met at the temple was his disciple.
The 3rd place to visit is “ Manasa Devi “ Temple . This is a day trek – I could not make it – but was told that the views enroute are beautiful.
The 4th place is “Sukh Muni Ashram “ and the “Sukha Devi” temple. This is the place where Sukh Dev Muni had meditated. This is a short 1 km trek from the resort where I was staying
I stayed at the Dunagiri Retreat. It’s very rustic and spartan. Think of it as an high end Ashram.
Basic rooms, hot water, simple veg food. Nothing fancy – but functional – it works. The rooms are designed with local architecture – thick walls with mud that keeps the room warm. The bathrooms are large, wood flooring , bright and spacious. Western style toilet and 24 hrs water supply. In all 14 rooms spread across a vast expanse. The Retreat also has a Pyramid for Yoga and meditation – and it accentuates the already strong energy at Dunagiri.
The landscape is wild and when you first reach you may be disappointed on how unkempt and disorganized the place is. I felt that if “Monika from Friends” was here she would have got really busy.
This is like an Ashram – lot of time for self discovery – there is no room service, no TV, patchy Internet at the main building, 3 G in some places. But somehow time moves on quickly – I never felt bored across the 3 nights I spent here.
There is reliable electricity supply – but when the current goes occasionally – its blackout – No generators. No water lines – so everything is conserved from rain water – so use water sparingly.
Dunagiri Retreat is unique. I have been to many places – but none like this. It does attract a certain audience. It’s the base for many Retreats thru the year that include….Chi Gong by Pragata (http://pragata.org – Coming up in April 2017), Yoga Camps by Claire Kerrigan & Jane Craggs and even a Sufi retreat by Nirupam Ryan. Followers of Babaji and those wanting to visit the Devi temple.
Its not a family holiday with a fire place and music. Its a spiritual enclave. Its a taste of heaven.
The food served is simple, nutrition and very tasty. Fresh and juicy “Muli’s” , Spinach , potatoes plucked from the kitchen garden and served piping hot. Its so tasty – and filling. Even the water packed with minerals is rejuvenating. Milk is so sweet you don’t need to add sugar to your tea and coffee.
The owner Piyush Kumar is a semi mystic – a MNR Allahabad (REC) engineer from 1986, who went to the US and worked at the World Bank. Came back set up his own Software firm in India and then left it all to settle down in this hills. His partner Kate is a Phd in Vedic Astrology. She is spot on with the stars and her predictions. She can be contacted at www.Drkatyjane.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a large property – spread across 25 + acres and is in the midst of the forest.Wild animals frequently visit the jungles nearby and at times even the property. Every morning I opened the door – peeping out quietly hoping that leopard would be siting there.
As in the hills the flora and fauna is full of medicinal herbs. There are amazing views you can get of the Sunrise and the Sunset. There is peace and quiet , tranquility and a strange sense of affection develops to this place. I liked it.
Piyush the semi mystic owner told me that this is the only place in the world where the “Ashta Vargha” a group of 8 rare herbs grow together. The locals believe that the power of the mythical Sanjeevini is still grounded here. Many cancer patients have had miraculous recoveries just by living here for some time. If you are a believer in energy and its healing power then this is the place to be.
I asked them whats the common thread that connects the people who come to Dunagiri. Its people looking to connecting the dots, people on different phases of their spiritual journey. Anyone who visits here finds direction , finds tremendous inner peace.
And yes in 3 days I was feeling lighter and at peace. I wonder what ten days would have done.
And as I drove down and reached Delhi & Bangalore over the next 24 years – I felt that its us who have created Hell out of this beautiful planet. Nature has bestowed us with fresh air , rivers , mountains – that is Heaven , and we have created a hell called “Metro cities” out of them. All across the hamlet of Dunagiri I did not spot a doctor or clinic – life is tough , winters are cold , but Mother Nature takes care of you. The locals are happy and contended.
I pray that this heaven on earth stays as it is and I get an opportunity to come back again and again.
Piyush Contact : + 91 98102 67719
Driver Madhusdan : +91 97569 30090