Today was the third of a six-day visit to Haridwar, a break from Hindi classes and the rains of Mussoorie. We decided to have a morning walk to the Ma Anandamayi Ashram in Khankal, just over four kilometers from our hotel.
Alan first pointed out the Anandamayi ashram to me one day when we were walking down the Binsar road from Kasar Devi Mandir. I saw a group of orange-red buildings tucked into the hillside below Chota Bazaar (or NTD, as it’s more properly known), with a very old stone temple just below the ashram complex. It looked intriguing, so we decided to visit in the next day or two.
As I wrote about my experience of the Sri Ramanasramam (in Tamil; Sri Ramana Ashram is the Sanskrit version), it occurred to me that some readers of this blog aren’t exactly sure what an ashram is. I’ve been to just a few, so my experience is pretty limited, but I’ll try to explain as best as I know how.
An ashram is usually dedicated to a guru and his or her teachings, and normally is created organically as people begin to hear of the guru and come to visit and receive their teachings. Eventually, the number of visitors becomes large enough that someone has to start organizing food, sleeping arrangements, time with the guru, pujas (worship ceremonies), and all the other activities of a spiritual community.