By Swami Harshananda
Pavahāri Bābā literally means ‘the saint whose food was air’.
The sages and saints, of the past or the present, have shaped the religio-cultured history of the country over the last few millennia. One such highly respected person who lived towards the end of the 19th century was Pavahārī Bābā, sometimes called Pāvanhārī Bābā also, the saint of Ghāzīpur near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. He was a great devotee of Lord Rāma.
It is said that he left home at the early age of fifteen or sixteen and started travelling as a religious mendicant. When he reached Badarīnāth, the famous place of pilgrimage in the Himalayas, he found a great saint who initiated him into the mysteries of yoga. After spending a long time in austerities under his guidance, he came to Ghāzīpur and settled down there in a small cave-like structure. He is said to have been immersed in samādhi here for a long period of sixteen years.
When he opened his eyes, there was a huge crowd of people to see him and get his blessings. They arranged a grand festival in his honor and fed a large number of people on that occasion. The Bābā is said to have performed some miracles at that time. An incident that is often quoted with regards to his greatness is how a thief that came to steal was converted by his goodness and loving concern. Svāmi Vivekānanda had met him during his long sojourn as an itinerant monk.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore