A month before Diwali, when India celebrates Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerburg's month-old revelation of having visited the Neem Karori Baba hermitage at Nainital has triggered a boom in pilgrims.
When Zuckerberg met Narendra Modi at Facebook's headquarters in California this September and mentioned a visit to a temple at Kainchi Dham in Nainital, the visitors have tripled and there is now even a reference to 'Zuckerberg temple' in this otherwise ordinary temple town. The temple and associated hermitage is dedicated to Neeb Karori (often called Neem Karoli) Baba, a mystic--and venerated among his followers as a re-incarnation of Hanuman--who died in 1973 but continues to be a spiritual magnet for several Hollywood celebrities, including Julia Roberts.
Vinod Joshi, who looks after the management of the temple, told the Times of India that the influx of visitors has increased after the Facebook CEO's disclosure. "The number of devotees which were earlier limited to around 50 people per day have now almost tripled," he claimed. Some of the new ones, in fact, have come looking for what they are now calling the 'Zuckerberg temple'.
Kainchi Dham is a small temple complex on the banks of the Kosi, a river in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand and is about 300 km from Delhi. Zuckerberg said he visited the temple on the advice of late Apple founder, Steve Jobs.
Joshi in an interview to the Economic Times said Joshi said when Zuckerberg visited, he had just a book in his hand without even a change of clothes. "He was wearing a trouser which was torn at one knee," said Joshi, Zuckerberg was supposed to spend only one day, but stayed for two because Pantnagar was hit by a storm and flights could not take off.