DUNAGIRI and Mahavatar BABAJI CAVE in Kumaon are a must visit

Pranic healer Yogiji meditating at top of Bhatkot hill, approximate 10,000 feet.
  • Story of my visit to Dunagiri, Babaji Cave and Bhatkot Hill where Sri Ram’s brother Bharat is said to have meditated. Why visit Dunagiri?

Kumaon is amongst the most beautiful regions of India. It combines adventure, spirituality, religion and nature as few other. The name Kumaon is derived from Kurmanchal which means Land of the Kurmavtar (the tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Preserver of Mankind).


I did a nineteen day driving tour in 2012. To know the route A highlight of the tour was a visit to Dunagiri and Mahavatar Babai Cave.


A dear Swamini friend and devotee of Mahavatar Babaji told me to go to Babaji gufa (cave) in Dunagiri. She wrote, “In an analogous dimension below Dunagiri, is the cosmic plane of Gyanganj, peopled by many Siddhas, who have been meditating there for hundreds of years. It is a closely guarded place, where Babaji created the golden palace for his disciple Lahiri, and gave him initiation, as described by Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi.” 


A respected Swamiji from Babaji’s lineage, whom I met in 2019, told me that many Siddhas are meditating in the higher hills of Dunagiri. He was one of them at some point.  


Dunagiri is about a two hour drive from Kausani and Raniket. As I entered Dunagiri could feel strong spiritual vibrations. It is at a height of 2658 metres.


Devotees also come to Dunagiri for Ma Durga Mandir i.e. on top of a hill. It is believed that the bronze plate in the temple dates back to 1181 A.D.  

Centre of pic on top of Drona (named after Pandanva Guru Dronacharya) hill is Durga Mandir.

As I entered Dunagiri saw these two hills.

On left of pic is Pandukholi (top of hill app 9,000 feet) and there is Babaji’s cave. On right is Bhatkot (highest hill in region, app 10,000 feet) 

I reached around 11 am. Had lunch and then moved ahead to end of the road where met my driver’s wife’s Mama Chandan. App four kms from Dunagiri you drive to a point from where you can trek to Mahavatar Babaji's cave. Cave is situated in Kukuchina in Dunagiri Mountain. Saw lots of rice fields enroute.


The trek to Babaji's cave is through dense forests. We saw a couple returning back because they found the climb never ending. It is advisable to take a guide. Luckily my driver, a local, came along. We did lose our way but turned back our approach being places of importance are not found easily so persevere.  


It took slightly over one hour to reach the cave i.e. virtually at the top of the hill. Superstar Rajnikant (Shivajirao Gaekwad is a Babaji follower. If lucky you might meet him at the cave).

Babaji Cave.

Cave is quite big. When I sat to meditate went into a different orbit. I could spend only an hour there since it was getting late. Recommend that you go there before noon so can spend atleast a couple of hours.


I loved visiting Babaji’s Cave. Never thought I would-guess when the time is right Ishwar sends people who guide you to the destination, in this case my Swamini friend and the driver. 


I returned from the cave by 4.30pm and asked Chandan on what to do next. He said go to Pandukholi (where the Pandavas are believed to have spent agatvyas) i.e. app a 5km trek.


I asked if it were not too late. He said my man is leaving now, go with him. We completed the trek in about one hour of which the last 30 minutes were in the dark. We could hear the growling of wild animals that prompted me to virtually run. There is a small ashram there where a Swami and few people stay. “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.


It was very cold, had hot water-simple dinner and off to bed.


About seven minutes walk from ashram is Tapovan. I sat here and chanted the Gayatri Mantra. Divine.  

As we were having tea, the resident Swami introduced me to Yogiji, a Pranic  healer from Kanpur, and said he was going to Bhatkot (10,000 feet) pointing towards it and asked if I would go along. It is app a 10 kms trek. Bhatkot is where Sri Ram's brother Bharat is said to have meditated.


Without realizing what I was committing to said yes instantly.

Bhatkot is on right of pic. 

For the first 5 odd kms you follow a path, go up and down hill. For the next five it is a steep climb post which there is no path.

U see Yogiji and me close to the top of Bhatkot.

From here the top point is app 30 minutes climb. By this time I was very tired and decided to stay back while Yogiji and Raju Guide went to the top. After a short while it started raining with snow balls falling.


I was worried that if it did not stop raining we might not reach the ashram, have to spend the night here in probably zero temperature. I started chanting Om Namah Shivaya non-stop hoping the weather improves. It stopped raining after about 20 minutes.


Yogiji did not return for about an hour. I got worried and started climbing towards the top. Then both appeared. Going downhill was tougher. Since it had rained the route was slippery. I slipped atleast a dozen times.


By then I was running out of energy. Yogiji did his bit by transferring energy to me. Around that time I sprained my foot. It was getting dark. Raju Guide warned me that if I did not move fast, his responsibility was over, we could be consumed by wild animals. With the help of torches and shortcuts we reached the Ashram by 6.30 pm. I could make it only because of Yogiji’s support.


On reaching the ashram put my feet in hot water followed by dinner. It was very cold. Realized how naïve I was to do this trek without trekking shoes and any preparation. Babaji saved me. 


The next morning I left Pandukholi at 7.30am while Yogiji went to Babaji cave (steep downhill from there). Since my foot was hurt, I walked down with help of the driver, who walked up since I had not returned (Bhatkot trek was not part of the plan). I returned to Chandan's tea stall where had chai and Maggi noodles.


When I visited in 2012, there was only a Joshi Lodge at Dunagiri. Friends tell me there is now a Dunagiri Resort.

Dunagiri Resort. Pic courtesy Dr R Pillai.    

Recent pic shows a telecom tower there. Pic courtesy Dr R Pillai.    

Durga Temple - According to sannidhi.net, “This temple of Mother Dunagiri is the second Vaishno Shaktipeeth in the Kumaon of Uttarakhand after Vaishno Devi. There is no idol in the Dunagiri temple. Naturally produced Siddha pinds are worshipped in the form of Mata Bhagwati. Akhand Jyoti in the Dunagiri Temple is a special feature of the temple. Dunagiri Mata’s being a Vaishnavi form does not offer any kind of sacrifice in this place.”  Temple is at 8,000 feet. 365 steps lead to temple (entrance from Dunagiri). 


I missed visiting, “Sukh Muni Ashram and the “Sukha Devi” temple. This is the place where Sukh Dev Muni meditated.”

We drove to Dwarhat to see the temple there.

Why visit Dunagiri

A visitor wrote on his blog, “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. If you are a believer in energy and its healing power then this is the place to be.


I asked them what’s the common thread that connects the people who come to Dunagiri.  It’s people looking to connecting the dots, people on different phases of their spiritual journey. Anyone who visits here finds direction, finds tremendous inner peace.” 


I would recommend a visit to Dunagiri and Babaji Cave.


Read Autobiography of a Yogi Ch 33 excerpts 

 Feedback from Chennai-In fact there was a Tamil movie called Baba, in which Rajnikanth is the leading star. It’s understood that the movie was taken after Rajnikanth’s visit to this place.


Golu Devta Mandir at Almora is a must visit. Sometimes, devotees write their prayers in form of an affidavit. 


Also see albums

1. Dunagiri and Pandukoli

2. Babaji Cave

3. Dwarhat Temple

4. Importance of Dunagiri

5. Dunagiri is known as the birthplace of modern day Kriya Yoga

6. Almora

7. Dunagiri Retreat

8. Dunagiri Durga Mandir

9. Dunagiri is full of mystical energy

10. Yog Uninterrupted - book by Kriyacharya Jyoti

11. Biswas travelogue on Dunagiri


To see all abums on Kumaon

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