The ‘Land of Sages’, Rishikesh is one of the holy places for Hindus and is situated on the banks of the Holy River – Ganges. It is said that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana. His Brother Laksmana crossed the Ganges using a jute rope where the present day much stronger bridge – Lakshman Jhula – stands. Rishikesh is also the starting point of the Chota Char Dham pilgrimage places – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
Our trip in Rishikesh was to enjoy whatever comes our way. We stayed in a hotel which overlooked the river Ganges. The hotel had a back entry to a pathway on the bank of the river, that connected Bairaaj to Triveni Ghat.
When we reached Rishikesh, it was still dawn and the sun was about to rise. After putting the luggage in the rooms I rushed to the back door to watch the sun rise and what I saw made me wake up early everyday. And yes it wasn’t just me but it seemed the birds too waited for he sun to rise from behind the mountains. Since it was winters there was fog all around.
Close to our hotel’s back door was a Sai Baba Temple. The pathway broke into stairs at the temple and continued towards Triveni Ghat from behind the temple. There were benches and gazebo at regular intervals on this pathway where many locals seem to meet other locals for Morning and evening walks or just to sit on these benches and have nice time lazying and watching the calm scenery.
Though it was foggy during the morning, the night would generally be a clear sky and that allowed me to try my hands on short time-lapse.
Many devotees can be seen coming to the Temple to worship both Sai Baba and river Ganges. A Ghat was made at this point. People would offer milk to the holy river and collect the holy water after pouring some on themselves. While most people collected the holy water by just dipping the container from the Ghat, there are also hand pumps on the pathway which can also be used incase there isn’t a Ghat around or one doesn’t want or cannot walk down the steps to the ghat.
While devotees, birds, cats, dogs and other domestic animals are expected to be seen around the Temple, if luck be on your side one may even see an elephant showing its gratitude. Rishikesh lies next to the Rajaji national forest for elephants. So one fine day during our trip this elephant comes out of the forest to the bank on the other side of the river to eat (I suppose).
After having filled its stomach it then the decides to take a swim and swam towards where the Sai Baba Temple was. We thought it would come to our side of the river as the water was not enough to even cover the elephant’s whole body. There had been incidents of elephants terrorizing the locals in Rishikesh. But instead the elephant swam / walked to half way towards the temple and what it looked like -offered its prayer- and went back. The locals were as surprised as we were.
Holy Ganges is worshiped in various ghats in Rishikesh among which the Aarti on Triveni Ghat and on Parmarth Niketan Ghat are popular and I heard being the oldest as well. We saw both on separate evenings as their timing are almost the same.
The one at Parmarth Ghat is more like a Yagna, they worship Fire god along with river Ganga. The chanting of mantras by the students of Vedic literature and the singing of bhajans by the devotees is worth every minute spent. The ambiance is like in a trance and fills one with positive energy.
The sunset that evening was also quite magnificent.
The Aarti in Triveni Ghat starts with bhajans and drums. I think there were around 15 priests who did the Aarti together. Watching all the priests complete different stages of the Aarti in the same rhythm is a beautiful sight. The last stage of the Aarti is when the priests worship with a lamp and all the priest synced their movement with the bhajan. Many devotees took smaller lamps from the temple to take part in the Aarti.
During the day we just roamed around visiting the various temples and markets in and around the town. Near Bairaaj we saw huts of Rajasthani folks who were busy making steel items. On speaking with them we came to know that their forefathers had moved to Rishikesh. Since then their families have lived here and they have never been to Rajasthan.
While roaming around I saw many yoga ashrams all around the place mainly around Lakshman Jhula, which is popular among tourist – both Indian and foreigners. And hence most of the good food joints are around this place. A walk through the Lakshman Jhula is fun and a must in order to cross the river. The other option is the road which is a long drive. While walking on the bridge I saw many rafts pass by underneath rowing towards Ram Jhula – another walking bridge constructed much later to Lakshman Jhula.
Rishikesh has become popular among tourist for yoga and adventure sports. It is also being called the ‘Yoga capital of the World‘ and the “Adventure capital of India“. It gained fame worldwide when The Beatles came to stay with their Guru “the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi”.
White water rafting is the most sought after sports in this area, and it is considered to be the best in India. And of course who would miss a chance when there.
Since I was a first timer and not a swimmer I opted for the half day rafting that covers 18kms in approx 3hrs. In this stretch one encounters approx 10-12 rapids of grades I, II and III which are named as per their nature. Some of the names that I can remember are roller coaster, double trouble, golf course. At one of the Rapid the guide suggested to take a dive holding the raft’s ropes and explained in detail how to do it. Only one in our team took the plunge. After crossing all the rapids we were taken to a ‘Maggi point’. All rafts comes to a halt at this point to enjoy hot tea and Maggie. Apart from it being a place to replenish, it is also the point for cliff jumping. All the belongings are deposited in a waterproof bag which is locked with the raft to protect the belongings. So at calm water, after crossing the rapids were we given our mobiles to capture the beautiful scenery around us.
As I understood from the guide the 1 day rafting is meant mostly for experts as the raft will cross grade IV rapids. I also heard of rafting expeditions being conducted for 3-4days with camping on the beaches that the 1st timers may join too. Apart from rafting Rishikesh is also known for trekking, camping, bungee jumping and other adventure sports. There are various companies organizing various adventure sports. I went through my hotel’s recommendation and was glad with their service.
Note1: The cost may vary from a minimal of INR 300/- to INR 1200/- . The cost varies based on what is being provided.
- In INR 300 it’s only the rafting with guide and gears consisting of life jackets, raft and the waterproof bag. In this case one needs to wear light clothes which can dry fast. If rafting in winters you can wear a wind cheater but then diving into the water will be an issue.
- In INR 1200 the company will provide all that I mentioned plus wet clothes, snacks and a extra kayak for extra safety.
Note2: One can hire a full auto (not sharing) from Rishikesh to Haridwar (or otherway round) in INR 300/- or less.
I regret for not jumping in the rapid or off the cliff. And the expedition is still in the back of my mind. These are enough reasons for going back. That is if I do need a reason, as I loved Rishikesh the most among all the places I have been to so far.
Next stop Haridwar.