As a child whenever my drawing teacher asked me to draw scenery, I drew a standard one – Mountain range with half Sun showing from between, a river that begins from the mountains, flowing downwards with villages on the banks of the river. I did not know then, that I was actually creating and re -creating Rishikesh. Rishikesh is set by the banks of the river Ganga, the holy river that keeps Rishikesh thriving. It is a land of sadhus and foreigners seeking spiritual solace. It boasts of beautifully carved temples and over 100 centers that preach meditation of every possible form. Rishikesh has an air of peace and tranquility. I had visited with my husband and two kids and what we enjoyed the most were
Though I am not a person who believes in rituals – Ganga Aarti was a serene experience. Over 10-15 Pandits perform the Aarti at the Triveni Ghat in complete sync almost like some ensemble. The light breeze and the Jyot (flame) of the Diyas involve you in the running moment.
Visit to Ashrams
We stayed at hotel Divine with all the rooms facing Ganga. The property does justice to its name. We were interested in visiting some popular ashrams though, on the other side of the city – where we had heard of people staying for month’s altogether. We went to Parmarth and Geeta Bhavan – huge areas with affordable rooms and all the essentials that one needs. In fact, Parmarth also has a tint of luxury. The walls all around are full of verses from Hindu scriptures, which coincidentally apply to your life situations. There are statues depicting the important events of Hindu Ramayana and Mahabharata. Clean temples where some chants or some prayer goes on almost the entire day. It looked so basic that it awakened my inner calling of going back to the simplicity of my childhood – where a paper boat in the rain puddle was all I needed to stay happy the entire evening.
Ramjhula and Laxmanjhula
Unlike Mumbai, that has the best of flyovers – these are humble bridges that let you cross over the river Ganga to the other side of the place. I found them to be the busiest parts of the city and they are also regarded as landmarks. At night the view is mesmerizing with dimly lit houses, hotels on both the sides of the Jhula and their reflection in the Ganga. The local markets selling cheap goodies along the road to the Jhula keeps the area lively.
After all the soft experiences comes the one that was adventurous and thrilling. Rishikesh is famous for river rafting all over India. I did the 26km rafting with Red Chilli adventure – and the feeling will forever be etched in my memories. I am a non- swimmer, yet the idea of getting closer to the flow was very attractive. The rafts were of good quality and apart from your guide on the raft you have another one on a Kayak who stays with your raft – spelling high standards of safety. The raft rifted through the river giving us an illusion that we were the ones carrying the raft with our oars but in reality the river was carrying us. They let you keep your legs out in the water as if you are relaxing poolside – it felt like the water has healing powers sending peace waves throughout your body. They also made me plunge in the river – yes, it was cold initially but after sometime you feel absorbed. When instructing us about how to raft, our guide Dev unknowingly taught us a life lesson – when in water do not resist the current, go with the flow. I realized yes, it is so easy to just go with the flow.
Food at Nirvana
An isolated offbeat Café that we reached (courtesy Zomato and TripAdvisor) nestled in one quiet corner of the city with wooden interiors and a pebbled outdoor area. It served the finest of Pasta, Mexican rolls and pizza – we were delighted to indulge in the same as we were on proper Indian food otherwise. What was special about the space was that no person out there was judging the other – all were in a state of individualistic Nirvana (not all were high on weed)
A walk through the city is engaging as you see a stark contrast when you see a conservative Gujarati lady in her 80’s is accompanied by a French lady in her 30’s at a stall selling sugarcane juice. River Ganga, which I cannot stop mentioning about, urges you to keep going day and night. To me the true essence of Rishikesh is where people from different countries, religions, castes come together – with a common purpose – ‘To learn how to live simple and stay humble!!’