Traveller Speaks: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
One visit back in 60's by the Beatles and ever since this pilgrimage site has taken a more hipper route.The narrow streets of Rishikesh are bustling with furore of activity. Everything surprises you initially - right from an Icecream eating monkey to cows pooping bang in the centre of the road - and then, nothing really surprises you. The town slowly grows on you, as it rightfully should... When it embraces pilgrims, spirituality seekers, gypsies and ignorant tourists all alike.
But to avoid the frenzy, Black Swan Journeys had put us up in a cosy stay almost 15Km above the town. The place has an enviable view of the Ganges from each cottage and is just a kilometre away from 'Vashishta Gufa', a great find, especially for those seeking peace. There is a certain air to the place that puts you in a meditative space. Not really spiritual individual myself, I confess, this place did me in.
Though we didn't get to witness the clear water of Ganges for which Rishikesh is known for (it had rained the morning that we arrived, making it murky), we certainly enjoyed the thrills of rafting through its notorious Rapids. My heart was singing with excitement as we paddled forward, duelling with the turbulent water. Our expert asked me to jump, and high on adrenaline, I did! The experience of swimming (briefly) and rafting was so exhilarating that we didn't notice we had rowed along 18Kms. The view of Laxman and Ram Jhullas from the bottom is fairly special.
While in Rishikesh, we spent a lazy afternoon at the famous 'Little Buddha Cafe' (mostly frequented by bohemian crowd), watching the Ganges and wondering about the tenacity of the narrow suspension bridges (the twin jhullas) that carried people, two-wheelers and cows!
Bellies full, we walked down all the way to Parmarth Niketan to attend the maha Aarti at sunset hour. A surreal experience that I wouldn't exchange for anything! The ghats filled with devotees and many curious souls, facing the flickering Agni- kund, humming, some silently swaying to the harmonious hymns, transfer you to another sphere. The peaceful manner in which the ceremony is conducted precedes no other Hindu pilgrimage that I have witnessed. It respects the emotion and the sanctity of one's complete and total devotion.
From bhasma-smeared, Rudraksha-laden sadhus, to skimpily-clad hippies practicing yoga on the banks, and from meditating in the Vashishta Gufa to enjoying the chills and thrills of Ganga, we experienced it all on our brief stay at Rishikesh.
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