Introduction– India has always been a land of mystics and saints. Since ages, India has seen many great souls. These enlightened beings have stablished and maintained the spiritual fabric of the country. They continue to do so in order to show path to the people. India has always been under their protection and guidance. These beings have sacrificed their own needs and benefits for the welfare of the people. They do not want anything from people but their only purpose is to help and uplift humans. They continue to show light in darkness. There has been one such supreme saint, who was a staunch devotee of Lord Hanuman (monkey god). In fact, many people considered him as Lord Hanuman himself. This supreme soul has influenced and improved lives of many disheartened and disappointed people. Wherever he went, there would be huge gatherings of devotees always seeking his guidance. In his darbar (royal court), devotees sought him for both worldly and spiritual matters. This saint never discriminated between rich or poor. We are talking about Sri Neeb Karori Baba, who is considered incarnation of Lord Hanuman in this age of Kali (Kaliyuga).Millions of pranams (a respectful greeting made by putting one’s palms together and often touching the feet of the person greeted) to the lotus feet of this being, who has incomparable strength; who is extremely compassionate, kindhearted and merciful; who is loved by all; who is saint of saints; who is guru of gurus; who is Lord Narayan to some and to some Lord Shiva; who is food provider for some and for some God himself. To some he is Lord Hanuman and to others just ‘Our Beloved Maharajji’. Words fall short to describe HIM and neither is anyone capable of describing the unfathomable divinity of HIM. Without HIS blessings no one could write about HIM. And it is with HIS blessings that this attempt is made, justlike a drop in the ocean…
Baba Neeb Karori Maharaj was born on Thursday, 27th November 1903 (according to Hindu calendar that is the Shukl paksh Ashtmi in the month of Margsheersh). He was born in the village of ‘Akbarpur’ (now in Firozabad district, earlierin Agra district) in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. He was born into a wealthy and well-cultured Brahmin family of jamindars (landlords) with no shortage of any comforts. His father’s name was Shri. Durga Prasad Sharma and mother’s name was Smt. Kausalya Devi. At the time of his birth astrologers had announced that he will never have shortage of money in his life. He was given the birth name of ‘Lakshmi Narayan Sharma’.
As a child, Maharajji was very quiet and peaceful by nature and liked to remain alone. One day, Maharajjifore-warned his father, that robbery will take place in the house in the night. His father ignored him, thinking it was just a child’s play. But indeed, the same night the house was robbed heavily. From that day onwards, his father would pursue him to remain home. Maharajji’s detachment from the material world often worried his father.
Maharajji left home twice- First in 1913 and then in 1958.
Maharajji’s biological mother passed away when he was very young. His father re-married so that Maharajji could be taken care of. According to the customs of child marriage of those days, Maharajji was married at the age of 11. But the Gauna ceremony (This ceremony takes place several years after marriage. Before the ceremony, the bride stays at her natal home) was not done, when Maharajji left home at age 13. When he wanted to leave home, he did a lila – Maharajji’s father had to leave the house for some work for three days. At that point, Maharajji did some mischief which made his father very angry. As a result, his father asked his step-mother to lock Maharajji up in a room. The mother locked him. After that, it so happened, that his step-mother completely forgot that Maharajji was locked up. On the third day, Maharajji packed his clothes, jumped out of the small window in the room and eloped. As he was going out of the village, somebody saw him and reported to Maharajji’s house. It is then, that the parents realized that Maharajji was gone. Thus Maharajji left house at age 13 to lead a life of arenunciate. For the child who was too absorbed in God, thislila of mistreatment at home, was just an excuse to leave and go on the path of worldly detachment. Often the people in Akbarpur would say- He had always been tied to RAM.
Later in life, on his father’s request, Maharajji did return home to fulfill his duties towards his wife (whom he had married as a child and was now suffering since her husband had left home). After return, for many years he lead a householder’s life and fathered three kids- two sons and a daughter. He was a very loving father to his children and did his householder’s duties diligently. After the two sons were self-dependent and the daughter was married, Maharajji again left home in 1958.
Living as an ascetic (life and place)–
After leaving house at age 13, Maharajji first went to Rajasthan and then from there he went to Rajkot, Gujarat and lived in a temple. The mahant (head) of the temple was very much pleased by Maharajji’s service and devotion and thus declared Maharajji as his successor. Some of Maharajji’s colleagues were not happy with this decision of the head. To avoid any controversy, Maharajji left the place. After that he reached Babania village of Morbi district (in Gujarat) and stayed at an ashram of avaishnav (follower of Lord Vishnu) saint. Here he was called Baba Lakshman Das. Near the ashram, there was a lake in which Maharajji used to stand till neck deep water for hours and do meditation. The cowherds from neighboring areas used to come near the lake to graze their cattle. They used to hang their lunchboxes on trees. When they would come to eat, they would find their lunch boxes empty and so would start throwing stones in the lake. Standing in the lake Maharajji would bring out various delicious food items and throw them back to the cowherds. Thus he came to be known as Talaiyaa Baba (Baba from the lake). Maharajji remained in this place for 6 to 7 years and continued his sadhana. We may think that such preliminary preparations of sadhana ortapasya (austerities) were needed for obtaining sidhis (spiritual powers). But in fact for Maharajji, these were just some activities done to keep him away from the maya (illusion) of the trigunas (sattva, rajas, tamas) of the psych/mind and panch bhutas (five elements- earth, water, fire, air and aether) of the body. The tapasya was definitely not done to obtain various siddhis since Maharajji was already a siddha (perfected being). Maharajji did not need to perform any tapasya. Every awakened and perfected being, has to perform these kriyas (activities) to keep away from the attraction of panch maha bhutas and purify the rajas and tamasgunas. Sometimes Maharajji used to say- “By the age of 17, there was nothing left for me to do”. By the lake, Maharajji consecrated a Hunuman murti (statue) and built a small temple. Thereafter, he left the place, leaving the ashram under a female saint called Rambai. He went touring around India and in south India he went to various Hanuman temples. During this span, he was referred by various names- Lakshman Das, Handi Baba, Tikonia Baba. When he came to Vrindavan, people started calling him Chamatkari Baba.
Work Place (Lila site)–
Maharajji’s actual work place should be considered as the village of ‘Neeb Karori’ in the district of Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh. It has been said that, Maharajji with a very young body and divine light on his face, carrying a kamandal(pot for holy water) and chimta(tongs that produce chiming sound) was seen seated in a first-class compartment of a train. Maharajji, who had siddhis right from birth, did not need a train to travel. But it was just another lila. Even Lord Ram or Lord Hanuman, would have to take ordinary exterior appearance, to hide their divinity and perform lilas. People often get misguided by their appearance and this is exactly what happened. The Anglo-Indian ticket collector (T.C.) of the train asked Maharajji for the ticket. It is not possible that the divine being, that has tickets to everything in the world and beyond, would not have a mere train ticket. But it was all a play. Maharajji said- “I do not have a ticket”. So the T.C. pulled the train chain and asked Maharajji to get down off the train. Without saying anything, Maharajji got down of the train and sat under the shade of a close by tree with his chimta. The T.C. asked the driver to drive the train. But it so happened, that the train would not move. There seemed to be no mechanical fault but the train would not move. This incident happened very close to the village of NeebKarori. The villagers gathered to see the spectacle. After much effort when the train did not move, some villagers asked the T.C. to pacify the saintly looking person whom he had insulted and made to get off the train. The T.C. requested Maharajji and asked him to re-board the train with dignity. Maharajji agreed and boarded, and the train started to move. During this, the villagers of NeebKarori, recognizing Maharajji’s divinity, asked him to live in the village. Maharajji agreed and upon return he started living in a Hanuman temple in the village of Neeb Karori. Maharajji, a believer in Vasundhara Kutumbakam (whole world is one family), choose this really aloof from the world place, as his abode. The villagers built a small hut and a gufa (underground cave) for Maharajji to live. Maharajji started living here as Lakshman Das. Today, this place is called Neeb Karori Ashram. Here Maharajji, without any temple dome, carved out the vigrah (body) of Hanuman in the walls, with his own hands.0
Maharajji kept roaming in Lucknow, Meerut, Allahabad, Kanpur and many other places and got extremely famous. By the time, his popularity reached Uttaranchal; his name became well-known as NeebKarori Baba. To the near and dear ones, whenever Maharajji would talk about his places, he would always talk about NeebKarori. Maharajji used to tell Sri Siddhi Ma- “Ma, when you will go to Neeb Karori village, thousands of devotees will do pranamsto your feet”
List of some important books-
- Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass
- Miracle of Love by Baba Ram Dass
- By His Grace- A Devotee’s Story by Dada Mukerjee
- Be Love Now by Baba Ram Dass with Rameshwar Das
- Chants of a Lifetime by Krishna Das
- It All Abides in Love by Jai Ram Ransom
- Barefoot in the Heart by Keshav Das
- Love Everyone by Parvati Markus
- Doing Your Own Being by Baba Ram Dass
- Bunch of Memories by KamlaMukerjee
- Prem Avatar by P. C. Joshi “Mukunda”
- AnantKathamrit by P. C. Joshi “Mukunda”
- The Near and The Dear by Dada Mukerjee
- Divine Reality by Ravi Prakash Pande “Rajida” (AlokikAthartha in Hindi)
- I and My Father are One by R. K. “Rabboo” Joshi
- The Baba of NeebKarori
Maharajji’s lifestyle, food and his favorite devotees-
Maharaaji liked missi roti (made from wheat or chana flour) along with daal. Amng the sweets, Jalebi was his favorite. He did like Namkeens too. Towards the end of his life, he stopped eating these kind of food and mostly ate fruits. Among his favorite devotees are- Sri Siddhi Ma, family of the Joshi, family of Purnanad, Gurudutt Sharma, Shankar Vyas, Devkamta Dixit, Ram Dass, Krishna Das, Larry Brilliant, Draupadi, Radha, Sita and more
Maharajji’s habit of writing ‘Ram Ram’ in his diary-
Maharajji was born with sidhis (spiritual powers) and thus he did not had to take name of god. But it is only a lila that he maintained a diary in which he wrote ‘Ram Ram’ everyday. He said- “Neither I had a Guru, nor I make anyone my disciple. Maharajji never gave any discourses or held meetings. He used to say- “I only change hearts of people”. He did so many lilas and there have been so many incident, which should not leave a doubt for anyone that he was an ‘Avatar’. The best proof of Maharajji being an incarnation of God is that, he used to say- “I don’t make disciples, I make devotees”, “The whole world is my house and everyone are my children”.
Miracles by Maharajji-
In his lifetime, Maharajji did many miracles for the welfare of people, but among them there are a few striking ones which portray a different picture of Maharajji. For example- Maharajji was only between age 13 to 18 when he was in Babania and performed tapasya inside the lake, when he would steal lunch of cowherds and in return give them delicious food from the lake, when the train near NeebKarori village did not move because Maharajji was asked to get off the train, when he was hungry and started hitting the Hanuman statue (made with his own hands) in NeebKarori with a stick. Even after Mahasamadhi, he continued to give darshan to devotees. He gave darshan in form of Hanuman too. Dissolved sufferings of devotees without a word (like an antaryami). Never was there a shortage of food at the bhandaras in his various temples. Securing the damaged Hanuman murti, upon seeing it. All these and many more incidences, show a different identity of Maharajji from the rest of the saints.
Sri Siddhi Ma-
Once Maharajji was seated in a Hunuman temple, which was opposite to the India hotel in Nainital. Suddenly, pointing to the top floor of the hotel he said, “Puran, here on top, Katyani Ma lives. Because of her, Hanuman had to come”. Thus Maharajji very lightly revelaed his true identity to Puranda.
Shortly after a few days of her marriage, Siddhi Ma started coming for Maharajjidarshan along with other women. Maharajji used to praise her daily routine of managing both household and devotional duties. Gradually, Ma became completely devout to Maharajji’s service. After completing her household duties, she left the comforts of her home, and became a servant in Maharajji’s ashram. After seeing various miracles by Maharajji, Ma started wondering about Maharajji’s identity. Thus, at a suitable opportunity, she asked him, who he actually was. Maharajji said- “Do you know the 7th shloka of the seventh chapter of Bhagwat Gita? I am that”. After this Siddhi Ma did not have any doubts and she completely devoted to Maharajji’sseva.
During his last days, just before the Mahasamadhi, Maharajji gave his diary (where he wrote Ram Ram) to Siddhi Ma and said- “Now on, you write in this book”. Maharajjibestowed all his divine qualities to Sri Ma. Maharajji had told Ma- “Wherever you will live, bliss will live there”. Ma is inseparable from Maharajji and today in her form, Maharajji gives darshan.
Mahasamadhi time of Maharajji-
Maharajji’s end time was according to his plan. Like a pre-planned exit of an actor from his own stage, he did everything knowingly and kept the devotees confused. The duration of his last yatra (journey) is from 9th September to 11th September 1973, till 1.30pm on the day of Anant Chaturdashi.
Difference between NeemKaroli and NeebKarori-
Maharajji’s birth name was Lakshmi Narayan, but when he went on his spiritual journey to find the absolute truth, he was known as Lakshman Das. In Babania, he was called Talaiya Baba. At the village of NeebKarori, he got famous by the name of, Baba from NeebKarori, which led to confusion. The village name “NEEB KARORI” was previously written in English as “NIB KAROURI”. Maharajji himself referred it as NeebKarori. In Hindi Neeb or Neev means ‘foundation’ and Karori or Karari means ‘strong’. Thus the name means ‘strong foundation’. It was an apt name that Baba chose. When the westerners arrived, and before they learned Hindi, they started calling Neem, which is the Indian name of a tree. Neem tree seemed perfect to identify with India. And Karoli meant a place. Thus, the westerners started calling him, Baba NeemKaroli. Maharajji didn’t seem to mind this distinction and perhaps it was his wish too, since he himself didn’t want to get tied down to the mere limits of the names.
Members of Maharajji’s family-
Today Maharajji’s family is huge and all those who are graced by him, become his devotees thus joining his ever-expanding family. However, his householder family includes his two sons and one daughter. Their names are Shri Anekchand Sharma, Shri Dharma Narayan Sharma and Shrimati Girijaji, respectively. Currently, Maharajji’s entire family is thriving and happy, and is both spiritually and materially prosperous.