Famously known as Sri Sri Jogeswar Digambar Paramhansa Maharaj and, in short, Nanga Baba Totapuri or “Nangta” or Languli Baba.  The name Totapuri is coined by a combination of “Tota” and “Puri”: when “Tota” was his monastic name “Puri” was the sub caste to which he belonged. Among the Puris he belonged to the “Naga” order of militant ascetics who believed in combating their opponents with the knowledge of sastra.

The exact date and year of Totapuri Maharaj’s birth are not well-documented. The Sadhu is believed to have led a very long life. According to some sources 250 years, and some even mention more than 300 years.  However, he had had the great realization of adwait (oneness) and his life was the manifestation of adwait. He attained mahasamadhi (final liberation) in a desolate forest on August 28th, 1961. 

There is an interesting anecdote about his age written by his Bengali devotee, Monika Mitra who was his devotee and wrote a book about him.

A lot of visitors would ask Baba, “Are you Ramakrishna’s Guru? Ramakrishna left his body many years ago but how come you are still alive? What is your age?”

Baba did not answer such questions to those who were only inquisitive. He would continue sitting silently in meditation. If a genuine seeker would ask the same questions he would say, “Go and ask this banyan tree how old it is. What will you gain by knowing its age? If you can sit in its shade when it’s hot, isn’t that enough?”

 Guru and Lineage

Totapuri Maharaj belonged to the Dashanami Sampradaya, a monastic tradition founded by Adi Shankaracharya. He was a Naga Sannyasi, which means he was part of an order of monks who typically lived an austere and ascetic life. His guru’s name is not widely recorded, reflecting the often undocumented lineage of itinerant monks.

The Dashanami Sampradaya has ten divisions, and Totapuri Maharaj was part of this tradition. This lineage emphasizes strict adherence to Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy of non-dualism propounded by Adi Shankaracharya which teaches that:

  • Non-Duality (Advaita): The ultimate reality is non-dual, meaning there is no distinction between the individual soul (Atman) and the absolute reality (Brahman).
  • Maya (Illusion): The material world is an illusion created by Maya, and the ultimate goal is to transcend this illusion to realize one’s true nature.
  • Nirvikalpa Samadhi: Totapuri emphasized achieving Nirvikalpa Samadhi, a state of consciousness where there is no distinction between subject and object, where one experiences unity with Brahman.

He was basically a “paribrajak” – a wandering monk – of the Dasnami order of Adi Shankara, who had traveled across the Indian subcontinent — the major parts of Brahmadesh (Bangladesh), and even beyond the Himalayas on foot only. 

He ate only that which he himself cooked, and he didn’t stay in one place for more than three days except for 11 months that he spent in the Dakshineswar temple in Calcutta with Ramakrishna until the devotee reached nirvikalpa samadhi (ultimate enlightenment).

He is said to have come in contact with a galaxy of very well-known saints of India like Mahayogi Sri Sri Trailang Swami, the Walking Shiva of Benaras (1607 -1887), the famous tantric saint Sri Bamkhepa of Tarapith ( 1837-1911), Sri Sai Nath of Shirdi (1836 -1918), Swami Nigamananda Saraswati (1880 – 1935) and Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa (1836 – 1887), etc. Apart from covering all holy places, the tri-centurian Nanga Sanyasi is also said to have covered the longer courses of the rivers Sindhu, Ganga, Brahmaputra, Narmada Godavari, and Krishna in the Deccan plateau.

Also, it is said that Baba had witnessed many wars spreading over centuries: Battle of Plassey (1757), the Third Battle of Panipat (1761), and the Sepoy Mutiny (1857), besides two world wars (1914-1945).

His Shishyas (Disciples)

The most renowned disciple of Totapuri Maharaj was Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

It happened at Dakskhineswar, 6 kilometres north of Kolkata in the year 1864. Totapuri had to guide the young Sanyasi in spiritual practices for eleven months. According to a legend, Baba was in the Himalayas when God directed him to go to Dakshineswar and initiate Gadadhar, the head priest of the Kali temple there. 

He took the role of Ramakrishna’s mentor and taught him the importance of the non-dualistic form of the universe. Totapuri taught his disciples how “Brahman alone is real, and the world is illusory. I have no separate existence, I am that Brahman alone”. Ramakrishna experienced a deep form of trance (nirvikalpa samadhi) under the guidance of Totapuri. This state is described as the complete absorption of the soul into the ocean of consciousness.

Ramakrishna’s profound spiritual experiences under Totapuri’s guidance significantly influenced the course of modern Hindu thought. Other disciples of Totapuri are not well-documented, but his teachings indirectly influenced many through Ramakrishna.

Monika Mitra the writer of a book about Totapuri Baba was a young girl who had come to Puri to recuperate from an ailment. She was pulled mysteriously towards Totapuri Baba’s Ashram. Baba allowed her to spend time in the ashram as she had very good sanskars. Baba spent most of his time in solitude and silence. He used to meditate naked on a deerskin mat, and didn’t entertain casual visitors; no seeker was allowed to stay in his ashram for any length of time. Her time spent in the ashram was not just valuable for her, but her book revealed many details about his habits and teachings precious to many generations of seekers to come. 

Ashrams and Institutions

Totapuri Maharaj was a wandering monk and did not establish any ashrams or institutions himself. However, Girnarbant Ashram where swami’s body was preserved in his samadhi is considered a holy place of his establishment because he spent around 40 – 50 years of his last yogic life there.

The ADVAITA Brahma Ashram, locally known as Girnarbant, now stands on huge old sand dunes covered with vegetation and greenery with palm, cashew nuts, neem, mango, date palms, and casuarina forests presenting a serene atmosphere with flora and fauna of the coastal forests.

It is said that hundreds of years ago these places were reclaimed after removing the sand by King Galamadhab of Puri. Sri Digambar Sadhu (naked Abadhuta Saint) had earlier preferred to continue his yogic sadhana on the Girnar mountain ranges of Junagadh district of Gujarat, which are considered very sacred to Hindus. His reappearance on the similar such sand dunes again makes the place known as Girnarbant (bant meaning sand dune). 

As the revered saint is from ADVAITA Vedant discipline, the Ashram so developed over the sand hill, is known as ADVAITA Brahma Ashram. It is only towards the last 40 to 50 years of his life that the “sky-clad” wandering Seer set up his hermitage in an isolated place of Girnarvant far from the din and bustle of the township.

The ashram’s mischievous cow

There was a cow in the ashram but Baba never drank its milk. Rather he preferred milk brought from outside. The cow used to eat the crops from a nearby farm. When the owner of the farm came to complain, Baba gave the cow to the farmer saying that since it has eaten your crops, the cow is yours. The cow was not willing to go with the farmer. Baba scolded the cow and said, “You had a habit of stealing in your past two lives. That is why you had to be born as an animal in this life. It is because of your habit of stealing which you developed in your past two lives that you eat crops that belong to someone else. Change your ways in time! Go with this farmer and serve him by giving him your milk, and wash your past sins. You were able to spend some time with me in this life. Now repay your debt by giving milk and be free of this animal life.”

When the cow heard this, it shed tears and went with the farmer.

 Impact on Society

Totapuri Maharaj’s impact on society is most significantly seen through his influence on Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, whose teachings inspired a spiritual renaissance in India. The Ramakrishna Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda (a direct disciple of Ramakrishna), has had a profound influence on modern Hinduism and continues to promote spiritual, educational, and social welfare activities globally.

The lineage of Totapuri Maharaj continues to be represented through the broader tradition of Advaita Vedanta and the activities of the Ramakrishna Mission. 

The mission operates numerous schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations, and continues to spread the teachings of Advaita Vedanta and universal brotherhood.


The most notable experience is Ramakrishna’s initiation into Nirvikalpa Samadhi by Totapuri. This intense spiritual experience is well-documented in various biographies of Ramakrishna, where Totapuri guided him to transcend the last vestiges of duality, leading to Ramakrishna’s ultimate realization of the non-dual Brahman.


Once Baba was meditating on the bank of the Ganga at a place called Bhagalpur. The villagers revered him and loved to serve him. This day the villagers smelt burning human flesh close to Baba’s hut. The smell surprised them because there was no cremation spot anywhere around. They searched the area to find out what exactly was burning. The smell led them to Baba’s hut itself. When they went inside they saw that a burning log from Baba’s fire pit had accidentally fallen on Baba’s leg and it was burning. But Baba was in the trance state of nirvikalpa samadhi and was not aware of what was happening to his body. The villagers put out the fire on Baba’s leg and nursed his burn.


Once there was a big flood of the Ganga. When it started to flood the whole village, all the villagers came to Baba crying for help. “If you don’t have mercy on us, the whole village will be drowned. The flood has already taken our crops, please save our houses,” they begged.

Baba did not say anything as usual. He listened to them quietly, closed his eyes, and started meditating. The next morning the Ganga changed her path, leaving a lot of silt on the villagers’ fields. The next year they had a bumper crop due to the silt deposit. After this miraculous event, Baba became even more famous in the area. People from far away started coming to meet him, bringing many gifts. When the crowd started to disturb him, Baba left Bhagalpur and went to Puri to live there in seclusion.

In summary,

Totapuri Maharaj’s legacy is profoundly interwoven with the spiritual journey of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the subsequent spread of Advaita Vedanta through the Ramakrishna Mission and its global activities.

 His teachings continue to inspire and influence spiritual seekers around the world.

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