#GoaDiaries: In Search of The Banyan Tree Baba

Late night beach parties. Bikini clad Russians. Cheaper than water alcohol. Yes, I am talking about Goa. But no, its not about those crazy Goa stories which you would have heard and read several times. Its about a baba- The banyan tree baba and his peace garden. Its the same baba who has been referred in the song ‘Babaji ki booti‘ from movie ‘Go Goa Gone’.

One of our friend had told us about a baba situated near the Arambol beach. Not that we were any religious bunch, but what all we had heard about that baba was exciting enough to give him a try. We were told that we had to take some fruit for the baba and in returns he gives a magical booti as prasaad. We were also told that we can have a mud bath at baba’s ashram and umpteen foreigners visit baba’s peace garden.

So the five of us enquired about that baba on the beach and took the way towards him. We were shown a small hill, at some 500 metres distance, covered with thick green cover and told that baba stays on it. The hill was beside a sweet water lake. While some said its a 10-15mins walk to baba, others warned us that it may take an hour. Not the distance, our worry was time. It was already 6 and sun was touching the Arabian sea.

We were at the footsteps of hill and we could see the beach at some distance now. There was not any way visible which could take us to this mystic baba. It was starting to turn dark. As we were about to turn back, three foreigners came and took a way in the hills. Only then, did we realize that there actually was a trek to climb the hill, going through the forest, which may take us to the baba. It wasn’t a laid down trek. Less than a metre in width, it was rocky, muddy, slippery with sweet water lake on one side. And it was all dark. And we had no idea if baba will still be available. Not so apprehended, still we decided to take the road less taken.

The trek was taking us up. It was taking turns every few metres and we could not see anything ahead. Five minutes in the walk, there were just five of us. In the middle of a jungle, walking a path in total darkness, not knowing where it may take us and for how long do we need to continue our walk. One wrong step and it could be the end. Needless to mention, there were no mobile signal either.No practical reason could define why we were still going ahead. But we continued.

Forest trail leading to Babaji (Image courtesy: sulekha.com)

It could have well been a scene from a horror or suspense movie. We were all scared by now. Few foreigners crossed us as they were heading down. And trust me, none of them could help in settling our nerves. The way they were dressed up and their body language, it was only adding to the screenplay of this thriller.

15-20 minutes. We were still walking to meet that baba, with our mobile torches on. Some of us, now wanted to go back. But the others continued to walk. At one point we reached a juction, with two ways heading towards right amd left. There was a board indicating peace garden towards right. We turned and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, in the middle of a jungle, there was this man. With the built of a bouncer, that Russian guy scared off whatsoever the shit was left in us. We asked him the way to baba and he told us to take the other way. It was very much clear now that we were at a wrong place at the wrong time. But we continued to walk.

10-15 mins further. Another junction. But both right and left seems to be bringing us to a dead end. Then we realize, there was an arrow heading right towards peace garden. We could also hear some voices now. And that’s it, we knew that we were that close to our destination. Before we could move further, one of us backed off. Scared, he gave up and started walking back. Being so close and after so much of the efforts, we couldn’t have missed the chance to meet baba and neither  could we allow our friend to go back on that dangerous path alone.

“Come back yaar!” “We have reached our destination.” “You can’t go like this” The remaining four of us were shouting. He had already made his mind. He was gone and we could only hear him refusing to come back. And you really can’t blame him for this, because we all knew that what we were doing was stupidity. But going back alone in pitch darkness was idiocy. And when I add that his cell phone was switch off and he had no torch light, his decision becomes insane. Not to forget that his panic button was on.

The four of us were looking at each other’s face. What to do now? After so much trouble, when our destination was right in front of our eyes, we couldn’t give up. So we shouted and asked him to wait as we were coming back. Meanwhile we decided to just go and rush through our meeting with babaji, expecting/ hoping that he would wait for us. There were some rocks over which we had to move and move carefully because had we lose our balance there, it could mean disaster as a small stream of water (that hill’s natural drainage system) was flowing beneath. Few steps towards left, a turn on the right and we were at our destination.

Have you seen in any of of the movie where a tantrik would be doing some kind of pooja in the middle of a jungle at night. It was something like that. There was fire in the middle and the baba was sitting across it. There was a guy lying on the left side and 2-3 others, probably his chelas. We took our floaters off and stood on the right side of fire. The baba was having a chat with his chelas. If I remember it correctly, he was dressed the way a baba is supposed to be i.e. in a saffron dress. But he was not your ordinary baba. He was speaking Punjabi and using all sorts of cuss words involving mothers and sisters.

We had no idea what to do now. We were just standing trying to figure out what were we doing there. Meanwhile, the baba offered us to have a seat. We politely refused. “Baba ko kabhi na nhi bolte! (No one dares to say no to baba)” came a voice amongst his chelas with an intimidating undertone. We sat on the mattress spread beside the fire. Obviously, we were hell scared. So much that, none of us had the courage to present to the baba the gift we had brought for him. Twice did the baba’s chelas prompted us to offer gift by asking babaji to accept gift from us. We were just sitting, looking at each other’s face with the question that should we move now. Meanwhile, in background, we could hear the voice of our friend, “Where are you guys?” “Are you guys coming back?” But we could not shout back at that moment. I don’t think so it was more than 5 minutes that we spent there. Without uttering any words, we made an exit.

Before we could analyse what was that, we had to find Saurabh. He was not at the place where we had left him. We kept walking and after every few seconds, were yelling his name, but in vain.  “He is not a kid. He must have gone back”- was one set of thoughts, but it was such a dangerous path to walk alone at night without any light. We were obviously, very concerned.

Meanwhile, we reached the beach and tried calling him. His phone was obviously switched off. Where could he go? We kept trying him phone and finally, we could go through the call. He was at the parking lot safe. He then told us how he was standing alone petrified and was in tears when none of us was replying to his calls. It was at that time a foreign couple crossed him and helped him to reach the beach safely. At the end, we all were safe.

This crazy little adventure ended without any harm being done. Or probably, it wasn’t any kind of adventure, just the fear of our minds. In the midst of all lunatic things we did at Goa, this crazy experience will stand apart. But I will have to admit, it was by no means a wise thing to do. There could have been much better ways to celebrate Valentines Day (Yes, it was 14th Feb!) then visiting an unknown baba on top of a hill in the darkness of night.

Keeping all this aside, we then visited the Saturday night market, followed by the famous Curlies shack at Anjuna beach and enjoyed Goa the way it is more traditionally supposed to be enjoyed.

An image of Banyan Tree baba as found through Google
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Author: sarthakg

A terrible dancer, an abrasive singer and a Chartered Accountant, Sarthak Goyal has been penning his mind through the blog ‘Something. Nothing. Everything’ since 2009. In whatever little time he gets away from sleep, he works for his venture, DTHConnect.com.

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