Travels - 2016


A Visit to Mount Soma and Sri Somesvara Temple

By Divakar Shukla

On a recent visit to Mount Soma, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Michael Mamas, the founder of Mount Soma and Sri Somesvara Temple in Western North Carolina. In the mid 1980's, he came across some information about building an Enlightened City and that became his Dharmic purpose later in life. Dr. Mamas began to follow Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, famously known as the Beatles' guru, in his early 20s. He stayed at the Maharishi's ashram for almost a decade. He received deep insight and knowledge while experiencing the works of various teachers over the next three decades. In 2002, he founded Mount Soma, a non-denominational retreat and spiritual destination center. The 435 acre site is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Clyde, North Carolina on the outskirts of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park just 35 miles from Asheville.

Dr. Mamas' long-term vision for Mount Soma includes temples, a Vedic University, world business center, parks, and a Vedic Wellness Center. The construction of the Sri Somesvara Temple, a Vedic Shiva temple at the center of Mount Soma and designed according to the Vaastu Shastras, began in July of 2009 and was completed in August of 2010. Construction included 46 tons of hand-carved granite from India. Vedic technology is utilized in all ceremonies at the temple by Pandit Garlapati Sai Vara Prasad. He has been Pandit since the opening of Sri Somesvara Temple. Pandit Prasad is strict in his adherence to Vedic guidelines and maintaining the purity of Vedic tradition. I found him to be genuinely caring and welcoming to all visitors. The Temple has daily Archana, Rudrabhishekam and Aarathi and hosts major events throughout the year including Mahashivratri, Diwali, Janmasthami, and Ram Navami.

Sri Somesvara is the first of several temples to be built at Mount Soma and Dr Mamas' vision is to have the temples be the foundation for an Enlightened City. Mount Soma has several parks including Sri Somesvara Temple Park, Hanuman Park, Mahanandi Park and Ganga Park with more on the way. Along with the temple and parks, there is a student union as well as a visitor center with meditation hall and dining hall. More than 20,000 visitors are expected this year. Dr. Mamas said, “Every aspect of Mount Soma, from selecting the land to constructing the homes and temples, is in full accordance with the Vaastu Shastra guidelines for building an Enlightened City." Why build the “Enlightened City" in the west? “Mount Soma creates a bridge between continents. The process begins with an alliance between India, the land of the Veda, and the U.S., the land of modern mentality. Mount Soma will serve as a reminder to the East of what has been forgotten and show the West the full potential of Vedic technology".

During our visit and two-day stay at Mount Soma, we received some basic knowledge of meditation from Dave Ehmke, one of seven Mount Soma liaisons. Dave led the group through the basics of meditation. We also hiked to the various parks on campus and attended Aarti and Rudrabhishekam at the Temple. One visitor described Mount Soma as “a piece of heaven on Earth" and I tend to agree with that sentiment or as Dr. Mamas puts it “contained within the Veda is the knowledge of how to construct an Enlightened City that will radiate coherence and harmony to our entire world. Mount Soma is that place."

They offer daily meditation, meditation retreats, an Ashram program and work study program. Accommodations are available at the private cottage and more modest accommodations at the student union with dormitory style rooms, private rooms and family rooms. Vegetarian meals are served three times a day and group meditation is offered at least twice a day. To plan your trip or learn more about the various programs and festivals at Mt Soma, visit www.mountsoma.org. More info on the temple can be found at srisomesvara.org.