The heatwave of June in Delhi and I went on an impromptu trip to Rishikesh (Hindi: ऋषिकेश , meaning ‘Lord of the Senses’). Rishikesh is one of the most revered holy places for Hindus in the Northern India and also known as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’. And the June school-vacation had made the rush look like we are all running for gold. More so due to the fact that Rishikesh lies on-route to the other religious sites far North in the Indian Himalayas.
I divided my stay into two places. First few days at an ashram to get my first experience of what really happens in such a place. And the latter part on a hill-top hotel which had a rather nice panoramic view of the river and the valley. Even when I tried to keep low expectations and was only planning to be an observer of the events taking place there, the ashram was a disappointment. This made me party to the sad fact that of the many ashrams being run in Rishikesh by the omnipresent ‘gurus’, most are not up to the standard of providing a truly holistic yoga and spiritual learning environment /experience to the seeker/practitioner. So customer beware, before you buy a package for a month and start looking forward to some spiritual bliss.
Aside from the ashram experience, my direct encounters with the people, places and ambience of Rishikesh was a blessing. I got to walk across the famous bridge ‘Laxman Jhoola’. Had my hunger taken care of by the many and ubiquitous local and specialty restaurants and food-joints. Found a few awesome books in a beautiful bookstore quietly living in the midst of the prevalent circus of yoga, God men, seekers and pure profit-seeking souls.
It is important to note the harmony with which all the seemingly unrelated things thrive in this place. Speed-boats, rafting, yoga, music, bike tours, bungee jumping, trekking, hiking, spiritual retreats and many more come in the mosaic-like offering of Rishikesh. There is something for everybody here.
But yes, the one thing to focus on before coming to this lovely valley is to thoroughly plan the entry and exit modes of transportation and double-confirm your bookings. Specially in busy times like May through July.
I will end this travelogue with a beautiful poem I found in one of the books I bought in Rishikesh. Written by St. Francis Bernardone of Assisi and is titled ‘The Sacraments‘:
I once spoke to my friend, an old squirrel, about the Sacraments-
he got so excited
and ran into a hollow in his tree and came
back holding some acorns, an owl feather,
and a ribbon he had found.
And I just smiled and said, “Yes, dear,
And here, a few photos for that which is beyond my words: