A short drive from Kolkata, 40 miles towards Bandel-Hooghly, brings one to a non-descript place for Rajhat. Off the GT road, the narrow village road with mangroves lines on both sides forming a green canopy take you to Ashram of Lahiri Baba (commonly known by locals as Lahiri baba’er ashraam) – an Indian yogi, guru and a disciple of Mahavatar Babaji.
The foundation stone for the Lahiri Baba temple and Ashram was laid in the year 2003. In 2016 with the completion of the construction work, the first Basant Utsab was celebrated evoking the divine presence of Babaji Maharaj and Lahiri Baba with an oath to serve the mankind and spread the message of love and brotherhood among all.
Lahiri Mahasaya or Lahiri Baba was born as Shyama Charan Lahiri on 30 September 1828. Mahasaya is a Sanskrit, spiritual title translated as ‘large-minded’He was also popularly known as Yogiraj and Kashi Baba. He revived the yogic science of Kriya Yoga – he central spiritual practice which he taught to his disciples, a series of inner pranayama practices that quickly hasten the spiritual growth of the practitioner. He was unusual among Indian holy people in that he was a householder — marrying, raising a family, and working as an accountant for the Military Engineering Department of the British Indian government. Lahiri lived with his family in Varanasi rather than in a temple or monastery.
He became known in the West through Paramahansa Yogananda, a disciple of Sri Yukteswar Giri, and through Yogananda’s 1946 book Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda wrote that Lahiri was chosen by Mahavatar Babaji to reintroduce the lost practice of Kriya Yoga to the world; as such, Yogananda considered him a Yogavatar, or “Incarnation of Yoga.” Lahiri’s disciples included both of Yogananda’s parents as well as Yogananda’s own guru.
The entry to the temple is lines with flower and tea sellers. Footwears can be left outside with them. Once inside the large entrance, the walkway is lines with flower. Winding through the path, the bird chirps among silence lends a sense of serenity to the place. A flock of Chinese geese can be seen moving around with Mother Goose leading a train of its chics.
The Temples layout takes the cue from the structure of Human body according to Indian Hindu temple architecture and follows he science of Vastu. The vast Hindu canonical literature on Agamic texts, Devalaya Vastu (Temple Vastu astrology) and sacred geography describe the temple as a cosmic man, the ‘Purusha’ (cosmic man). Everything is governed by one law. A human being is a microcosmos, i.e. the laws prevailing in the cosmos also operate in the minutest space of the human being. The legend of the ‘Vastu Purusha’ states that Vastu Purusha blocked the heaven from the Earth and Lord Brahma along with many other Gods trapped him to the ground. Vastu Purusha Mandala is the metaphysical plan of a temple incorporating course of the heavenly bodies and supernatural forces. This Mandala square is divided into (8×8 =64) 64 metaphysical grids / modules or pada for temples. At this square Vastu Purusha is shown lying with his chest, stomach and face touching on the ground – his head is shown at Ishanya (north-east) and his legs shown at Nairutya (south west). The center point is known as Brahmasthana and at this vital energy point Lord Brahma presides over the temple site and protects it.
The main temple is approached through a covered covert over a small water moat that surrounds the main temple. The passage was take one through the two levels of the building which houses the statue of Mahashay in the main hall, and many smaller temples devoted to Indian deities
A walk down to the stairs to the basement level reveals a large hall at the garbha-griha for meditation. The fairways on both sides of the hall are lines up with drawing explaining the layout of the temple and various yogic scriptures and drawings. One is expected to sit in silence for a few minutes in front of a larger than life statue of Lahiri Baba.
The water tank has a large number of fishes and is a treat for children and grown up. The small and large fishes can be seen swimming up to the surface and creating ripples of water. At a distance, a turtle would come up or another would just be soaking itself on the wooden floating platform.
The Best time to visit is either in December when the annual festival take place. The colorful Basant Utsav is also celebrated around onset of spring in Feb when cultural program of songs and dances following the Santiniketan tradition, classical vocal recitals instrumental and devotional songs mesmerize the visitors
As the sun goes down, the place gets illuminated with light of different colours. The led lights outline the building almost ornamenting the place and is a delight to watch the reflection of the same on the water moat around it.
To reach Lahiri Baba Mandir, take the local train to Bandel and hire a Auto/Toto to the place. If you are driving, use the GPS to come till Bandel and ask locals for directions once you reach Bandel.
The place has a dress code and entry fees. Visitors are allowed between 10 am to 12 pm and 4pm to 6 pm
The Bhog Prasad is available after noon, you need to buy the Bhog Coupon from the counter.
Photography inside the temple is prohibited but the sprawling campus has lots of reasons to take out your phone/camera and click.
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