Surrounded by incredible beauty, on the banks of the Giri Ganga River, the ashram is in one of the most backward districts of Himachal Pradesh, about 30 km from Solan, roughly 100 km from Chandigarh.


I was introduced to the Ashram by an old friend, who urged me to visit the Ashram and the Sri Hari temple, and of course, meet the head of the Ashram, Om Swami. My internet research left me feeling intrigued by the Swami. He is a mystic who lives in the Himalayan foothills and an advanced yogin who has done thousands of hours of intense meditation in complete seclusion in Himalayan caves and woods.

Before renunciation, Swami founded and ran a multi-million dollar software company with offices in San Francisco, New York, Toronto, London, Sydney and India.

The internet savvy monk had written many books that were best sellers on Amazon, updated his blog regularly and had “kindfulness”, compassion and sincerity at the core of his teachings. I decided to visit the Ashram over a winter weekend.

I can best describe the Sri Bhadrika Ashram as a rare and timeless book tucked away on the top shelf of bookshop that only serious bookworms reach.

The book has no snazzy cover, no great reviews announced on the back jacket, no hashtag and no social media popularity. Just beautiful, well-loved covers whose pages enchant and consume anyone who chose to open them. The Ashram is nestled amongst the hills of Himachal Pradesh, by the gurgling Giri Ganga River, surrounded by natural beauty, and is not easy to reach.

The Ashram is not open all year round, and the website gave me all the information I needed. After making an online booking, I reached Chandigarh and took a taxi for the rest of the way (about 4.5 hours). The drive is charming, and the website said that the route would take me right to the doorstep via a newly constructed road. The site also mentioned that the road gets damaged during the monsoons. Since it was winter, I didn’t bother to call and check. The road is not smooth, and it’s easy to lose one’s way – I found myself on the opposite bank of the river from the ashram, a little frustrated with myself for not calling ahead! Just as I was wondering if this meant I should go back to Chandigarh, I met some people from the village who were kind enough to help me retrace my steps and show me the way to the motorable road, and we continued to the ashram.

On reaching, I went right away to the office to get accommodation for both the driver and me. At first sight, the dormitory looked neat and clean, although it had been a long time since I was in a dorm with about 50 other women! The lady next to me did tell me that I fell asleep barely 30 seconds after I lay down. All the meals were served in the dining hall, and every visitor could sign up for various seva activities. The food is simple, wholesome and served with love by the volunteers. The ashram is involved in many social causes for the local villagers, most of whom remain below the poverty line. Projects at the ashram include a gaushala, a stitching and tailoring centre, and a dispensary. There is a temple that houses a beautiful life-size idol of Sri Hari (Sri refers to the feminine aspect of God and Hari, the masculine) sculpted in black stone. If you look upon the idol in devi-bhava, it feels as if it’s the idol of Goddess, but if you see it in deva-bhava, it looks like the idol of Lord Vishnu. Each morning the Lord is awakened with the chanting of Vishnu Sahasranama and every evening, Devi is put to sleep with the chanting of Lalita Sahasranama. There are satsangs twice a day. Swami’s talks are full of humour, and every Satsang ends with a bhajan. Swami’s disciples and initiates formed part of the Ashram community.

My two days filled with silence and calm passed far too quickly. I made some new friends, played with the calves I met on my solitary walks to the river in the gentle rain, and just basked in the beauty of the surroundings. When I left, it was with the certainty that I just had the privilege to be in the presence of a learned, austere monk who presided over a simple, unpretentious ashram in a remote part of Himachal Pradesh.



Author: Rajeshwari Prakash

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