Alaknath Temple

Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh

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The Alakha Nath Temple is the headquarters of the Anand Akhara order of Naga sannyasins. Members of this order of Shiva devotees are also known as Naga Babas. The temple complex beyond the inner gate consists of several buildings with a kind of courtyard in the center. Large and small shrines are there, some within buildings and some outside. Devotees go from one shrine to the next to make offerings and prayers. Animals of various kinds are around the place. Cows and goats are tethered and behind one of the buildings is a camel. Pakaria Nath temple is another famous temple in Bareilly. It is placed in bhoor thana premnager.

The temple complex beyond the inner gate consists of several buildings with a kind of courtyard in the center. There are various shrines, big and small, some within buildings, some outside. Numerous devotees are going from one shrine to the next to make offerings and prayers. Animals of various kinds are around the place. Cows and goats are tethered, and behind one of the buildings is a camel.

There's a sadhu sitting at a shrine, ready to receive offerings from devotees. There's another sadhu sitting on a mat on a verandah of one of the buildings. He looks like someone important. Approaching him, with hands clasped together, he greets you and smears ash on your forehead from a pile of ashes in front of him (the ashes are in front of a tall Shiva trident stuck in the ground). This person turns out to be Shri Mahant Baba Dhram Geree. He speaks no English, but a couple of people try to translate for you. You've heard that the head of the temple is called Balak Baba, and you tell him you're looking for him. Not sure he understands, though. He is friendly, and soon a small chillum (for smoking hashish) is being passed around.

One of the men, Prem Saxena, is a lay devotee, and understands some English, though not well. You try to tell him that you were a disciple of Ganesh Baba, who is buried here somewhere, and you've come to make some offering at his grave. He does not understand, but thinks you want to perform puja like the other visitors to the temple, so he takes you around to the various shrines. He mutters prayers, touching the many images of deities and then touching his forehead to transfer a blessing. He takes you into a kind of small crypt, which seems to be an especially holy place, and there is a Shiva lingam set in a hole in the floor, on which devotees place flowers.

Eventually he takes you to a room, open on three sides, where there is a sadhu, apparently an important one. He has orange-colored powder smeared over most of the top half of his face. Prem Saxena tells you this is Balak Baba. Aha, the very man you've come to see! He is speaking with several young Indian men. But unfortunately he speaks no English, and you can't explain to him why you're here. Balak Baba motions to you to come closer. He smears some colored powder on your forehead. He shows you a page written in Hindi, with pictures of a couple of babas. You understand that he wishes you to make a donation to this cause, whatever it is. After consultation with Prem Saxena you offer 1000 rupees (about US$22), which seems to please him.

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