By Aparna Misra
Located in the divine village of Kalimath (Almora) Kasar Devi sits majestically atop Kashyap hill perched on the edge of a ridge to be renamed Cranks Ridge by counter culture leaders.
The magical pull of Kasar devi is inexplicable. The rarefied Deodar and Pine infused air has drawn people from all over the world from time immemorial. The earliest man marked his presence on the cave overhangs by doodling his artwork for posterity.The region has the earliest inscription in Brahmi. The Devi temple is attributed to the second century. Skanda Purana states that Ma Durga manifested as Kaushiki Devi to destroy Shumbha and Nishumbha. The Kashay Mountain is mentioned in the Purana and a temple has existed here for almost two thousand years. The inscription mentions that in the 6th century, the son of Betila, Rudrak traveled all the way to Almora from South to establish a temple Rudreshwara in honour of his father! The mahatmay of Kasar Devi as mentioned in Skanda Purana had traveled far!
Another traveler was to find solace hundreds of years later, to be precise in 1890. He was to travel from the East after the passing of his Guru, Sri Ramakrishna. Searching for answers he trekked from Naintal to Almora. In the sacred stillness he meditated for days in the cave next to the temple. Suffused with divine energy he was to travel abroad and shake the core beliefs system of the western world thereby creating an abiding interest in Indian philosophical traditions.
The light from Asia shone bright in the western world and many seekers came following the source. Inevitably many of them ended at Kasar Devi! Writers, philosophers, poets, mavericks, counter culture beatniks, ones who mattered have trekked this mystical land, found an uninterrupted source of bliss and went on to lead and inspire the world.
The humble setting was to inpire seekers world wide
A Buddhist meditation center exists on the ridge. It has a rich genealogy. It was started on the estate of Evans-Wentz. He was a renowned Tibetan Buddhist scholar who inspired generations of scholars. Lama Anagarika Govinda and his wife Li Gotami settled on Kasar Devi and set up a Tibetan refugee centre and a monastery at the estate. The most famous scholar of Lama Govinda was Robert Thurman who lived here here with his family for six months naming his daughter after the daughter of the Himalayas - Uma!
Kasar Devi has been a fount of inspiration for artists and writers; literary or song writers including the likes of Bob Dylan who would win Noble prize for Literature!
DH Lawrence, spent two summers at the home of his artist friends – the Brewsters. The Brewsters had built a beautiful home and studio on the Crank’s Ridge. While Acshah painted, Brewster utilised his stay to compile a book on the life of the Buddha.
Allan Ginsberg drew inspiration from the sacredness of the space. Allan Ginsberg was to emerge as the consciousness of the western world and inpire thousands in the turbulent times of seventies and the bewildered generation listened to him because he spoke in a voice that was true and honest.
Spiritual seekers like Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert found a high that was more potent than LSD at this spot. Alpert was to reincarnate as Ram Dass and emerge as one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our times.
Danish hermit ‘Sunyata’ Alfred Sorensen lived here for years and he travelled all over India. Sorensen made trips to Tiruvannamalai ashram and Sri Ramana referred to him as a ‘janam-siddha’ or rare born mystic.
In a long list of seekers mention must be made of two British Vaishnava sadhus: Ronald Henry Nixon or Sri Krishna Prem, founder of the Mirtola ashram near Almora, and his successor, Alexander Phipps or Sri Madhava Ashish who was awarded a Padma Shri for environmental education and his contribution to sustainable agricultural practices.
Who so ever came to Kasar Devi became a better version of himself and in turn would inspire others. What is reason behind the magnetic pull of Kasar Devi? Tim Leary had an explanation- The Van Allen Belts or the alleged gap in the Van Allen Belt above the ridge makes it especially conducive for meditative and transcendental experiences. Kasar Devi temple is believed to be endowed with a cosmic energy similar to that of Stonehenge in England and Machu Picchu in Peru, thanks to gaps in bands of radiation surrounding the earth. This was investigated by NASA and their findings confirmed Leary’s theory.
Certification from NASA gives the phenomenon a scientific standing. Yet, it cannot rob the ridge of its mystical sacredness. What appeals most to you? The gap in the Van Allen Belts or the ancient mountains which watch over mankind like a sage, or this being the playground of the Goddess Kasar, Uma incarnate who has purged the land of all its evils (Sumbha Nisumha ).
Purified in this divine abode, in stillness punctuated by the divine ranges of Panchachuli, Trishul and Nanda Devi one discovers the true self and one learns to reside in that self, slowly and steadily.