Back when I first visited Nepal in 2006, I met a local villager named Ram. You can see Ram and his house in Episode 2 of the video series I created about that trip.
On that trip and after my trek was completed, I went back to the village and Ram took me to meet a sadhu living in the hills nearby. For some strange reason, the video I took of that disappeared.
This time around, I contacted Ram again and went back to see Baba Srinath again.
I’ve mentioned these sadhu’s before and find their way of life fascinating. The Sanskrit term sadhu refers to “renouncers who have chosen to live a life apart from or on the edges of society in order to focus on their own spiritual practice” (Wikipedia). They are ascetic practitioners of yoga who can be found in caves, forests, and walking the streets all over the Indian sub-continent. An estimated 4 – 5 million sadhus are in existence today.
One problem is that many “fake babas” also walk the streets. Since they are considered holy the population of India considers it a noble act to donate money and food to the sadhus. They approach houses and business asking for some small alms, such as a handful of rice. Some take advantage of this, dressing in their finest sadhu gear.
Nevertheless, Baba Srinath is most definitely one of the more genuine sadhus around. For the past 30 years he has lived on his current hilltop with a gorgeous view of the Kathmandu Valley spreading before him. You read correctly, he has lived on this hill, never coming down and spending most of his timein one room, for 30 years. Before he ascended the hill permanently, he spent time living at the foot of the hill running menial tasks for the Baba that lived their before him, much like another sadhu performs for him fetching needed supplies from the surrounding area.
Somewhat unclear view from Srinath’s.
I brought him some sugar, like the first time I visited, and he in turn gave me some of the most delicious tea I’ve ever tasted. I’m sure his recipe is no secret, but I have no idea what he puts in it.
His surroundings include a couple of buildings, including the one he spends the most time is (pictured above). A trident shrine and a lingham, both dedicated to Shiva, sit nearby. Fresh running water is routed through the middle of it all and a short climb up some steps leading higher lead to some small caves used as shrines.
Inside his room, Srinath sits smoking an incredibly large chillum, placing coals from his fire on top. I’m told the fire is never allowed to go out. Among his gear in the room is a radio, though I don’t know what he listens to.
Locals and military men from the nearby cantonment come to Baba Srinath for advice and religious teachings. My first time there I found some men discussing some Hindu holy texts, and this time a young girl prone to tears and her mother approached for advice on some matter.
One interesting story was related to me about Srinath and another, more famous Baba living in Kathmandu. There is one such Sadhu who goes by the name of Milk Baba (real name: Shri Ram Krishna Das). Baba is the Hindi word for ‘father’ and given to those of perceived spiritual importance.
Milk Baba is called thus because, for the past 30 years, he has existed on nothing but milk. His natty and dreaded hair, when not wrapped around his head, falls well below the length of his body.
Now, Milk Baba and Srinath have different approaches to their religous convictions. Srinath lives rather solitary upon his hilltop. Milk Baba, on the other hand, drives around Kathmandu on his scouter and travels the world giving lectures.
About 8 or 9 years ago, Milk Baba came to visit Srinath. I’m not sure what they spoke about, but the two did not find each other amiable. Milk Baba refused to drink Srinath’s tea and eventually parted in disagreement. They haven’t met since. Interesting meeting for two approaches to the same thing.
So thats all I know about Baba Srinath. Find him if you can…
Some local kids.