Experience Peace, Solace & Divinity in Rishikesh
There are ever so many things about Rishikesh that intrigued me: it is a tourist hot spot, its unparalleled location with a Himalayan backdrop and the mighty Ganga flowing through, its reputation as the yoga capital and a distinct connect with the hot shot pop group, the Beatles. As also Rishikesh’s connect with India’s hoary past! Enough reasons for me to plan a trip to demystify and unravel this enigma called Rishikesk……
Bitten by the travel bug, I packed my bags and landed at Dehradun airport, only to soak in a scenic uphill drive to Rishikesh. I checked in at Taj Rishikesh and got all set to begin my adventurous holiday of exploration. I was awestruck with the location, as Rishikesh nestles between the lofty Himalayas and the Gangetic plain, seared by the gushing sapphire blue waters of the Ganges. The serene tranquility left me spellbound.
My first stop was to the city outskirts, where the famous yet precarious landmark, Lakshman Jhoola stands: an iron suspension pedestrian bridge spanning 450ft dating back to 1929. It stretches across the mighty Ganga and offers a spectacular view. The story goes that Lord Ram’s younger brother, Lakshman first crossed the turbulent waters on a jute rope, exactly at this spot, hence the bridge built thereafter is called “Lakshman Jhoola.”
An iconic landmark near Rishikesh is the 450ft long Ram Jhoola. This iron suspension bridge across the holy river allows motorcycles across. Lord Ram crossed the Ganges at this exact spot on a jute rope tightly entwined thrown across the river banks, a make-shift bridge without any pillars. Today this bridge connects the Sivananda and Swarga ashrams, which stand on either side of the river.
My thirst for soul searching, led me to several temples nestled in mystic Rishikesh. Sri Bharat Mandir is dedicated to Vishnu and the main idol is made with an individual piece of Saligram. Neelkanth Mahadev is dedicated to Lord Shiva, while Bhootnath Temple is believed to be Shiva’s resting place before he married Sati. Tucked away amidst the hills are the Trayambakeshwar, Kunjapuri and Raghunah temples.
The revered Ganga is worshipped at several ghats in Rishikesh. However, the Ganga Aarti at the Parmarth Niketan and Triveni Ghat are a don’t-miss treat! It is a magical sight to behold, as hundreds of diyas sail in the tranquil river waters at dusk, between 6-7pm. The mesmerizing backdrop of temple bells and sonorous chanting of mantras and bhajans are sure to leave you spellbound.
Take a day trip to the holy city of Haridwar, about 4 hours away. Har ki Pauri marks the exact spot where the Ganga leaves the lofty mountains and enters the plains. The Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years here, and at dusk it turns into magic kingdom with flickering diyas floating to the sounds of Ganga Aarti.. Haridwar is sanctified by the Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Attractions include the Chandidevi, Mayadevi and other temples.
Chaurasi Kutia is better known as the Beatles’ Ashram. It was the Centre for Transcendental Meditation, started by Mahesh Yogi. It became internationally famous in 1968 when the Beatles spent time there to study and learn meditation techniques. This was also the setting of some of the most productive work done by the rock group. Today it is almost a place of veneration for ardent fans of the Beatles!
My adventurous spirit soared and next ventured to Rishikesh’s famous rapid rafting on the turbulent waters of the Ganges. This is an enthralling experience and you can choose from three grades, the stretch you want to go rafting on. Bobbing kayaks are propelled like a roller coaster riding the swift rapids. Look around and soak in the mighty Sivaliks if this adrenaline pumping thrill allows you to experience!
Adventure sport in Rishikesh does not end with rafting. The pristine mountain air and the outdoors beckons: have fun camping by the river, mountain climbing, biking and hiking, depending on how much time you have. The daring can try bungee jumping from India’s first fixed platform and even get a Dare-to-Jump certificate! The gutsy and daring can check out the Flying Fox, Giant Swing, Cliff Jumping or even the Ziplining experience!
Handy Tips for Rafting:
For novices, here’s a checklist to go by, before you set sail for river water rafting
· Cap / hat with rim
· Sun tan lotion or cream
· Life jacket is mandatory.
· Water bottles and snacks.
· Renting a wetsuit is an option.
· Sunglasses with retainer strap.
· Carry a bag for putting in wet clothes.
· Wear quick drying T-shirt and shorts.
· Extra change of clothing for post rafting.
· Wear a windproof jacket / parka in winters.
· Canvas shoes or firmly secured strappy sandals
· Synthetic or quick drying clothing. Avoid wearing cotton.
· If you are carrying a camera, make sure it’s in a waterproof case.
· The entire white water rafting trip can last from 2hrs to 8hrs. Choose wisely.
Amble through roadside cafes serving international cuisine or explore the alcohol-free and vegetarian enclave! This is for you if you are an ardent Beatles fan, on a spiritual quest, or even a Yoga and meditation enthusiast. If stomach-churning adventure sport is your forte or if you are keen to soak in some ethereal and picturesque scenery. Do you prefer walking through the mystic past amidst antiquated temples? and meditation Then Rishikesh is just the place for you!