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Around some of the world in 180 days


INDIA | Saturday, 10 March 2012 | Views [1320]

Uttarakhand, a state in Northern Indian is my home for the next two weeks. It's a place populated with many of the holiest cities for Hindus, making it a state with a hotline to <your supreme entity>. Some of the holy cities I'll be visiting such as Rishikesh and Haridwar. Others such as Devaprayag, Gaumukh and Gangotri are just too much trouble.

The first stop is Rishikesh, also known as the Yoga capital of the world. This city is located on the banks of the River Ganga where the evening Ganga Aarti is performed at Triveni ghat. It's also popular with tourists due to the many temples, yoga schools and adventure activities.

The nights in Rishikesh are quite cool, which was noticable since I arrived past 10 in the evening. I've also managed to catch a cold perhaps by coincidence or due to the sudden change in temperate. Luckily, I'd booked into a really nice hotel, Ganga Kinare for 4 days and it was nice to be able to just rest and recover without having to worry about hotel problems or planning for the next destination. Sadly, the cold also means that adventure activities are out of the question.

The centre of activities in Rishikesh is the area around Lakshman Jhula, a considerable distance from my hotel. Although Ganga Kinare is a really nice hotel with great views, it's a mistake to stay in central Rishikesh as you'll only end up travelling to Lakshman Jhula every day.

An uneventful first day was spent in cafes, followed by an even less exciting second day which coincided with Holi, the festival of colours. Basically, I went out and all shops are closed. Even the lying shops with the 24/7 signage. There were plenty of people out celebrating, which seems to revolve around hitting people with water balloons and bags full of variously coloured powders. By mid afternoon, the whole city had gone very quiet and I looked like the circus had just rolled. With nothing to do around town, the only thing left was to go back to the hotel and clean up (two weeks later and I'm still trying to wash the dye out of my clothes!).

On the third day, I finally felt well enough to do some exploring. Lakshman Jhula is one of the attractions of Rishikesh. It's a suspension bridge with great views of the Ganga and the surrounding mountains. On either side of the bridge are two major temples. On the western bank is Lakshman Templ (I think that's the name) with 5 levels full of scultures of scenes from Hindu scriptures. On the eastern bank is the Trayambakeshwar Temple, 13 stories high, with statues of different deities throughout:

A scene from Lakshman Temple:

View of Trayambakeshwar from the western end:

And the view of the western bank of Lakshman Jhula from Trayambakeshwar.

Some care need to be taken when crossing the Lakshman Jhula as it's used by people, vehicles and animals despite the narrowness of the bridge. This is especially the case at night, when you've got to watch out for motorbikes, bicycles, monkeys, cows and cowpats. Although the latter rarely represents a mortal danger. Also worth a mentioning is another suspension bridge about 1km further south from Lakshman Jhula, Ram Jhula. This is the place were many of the yoga ashrams are situated.

As Rishikesh is so tourist orientated, it's not hard to bump into fellow travellers happy to join up for lunch or dinner, chat about travel experiences and share tips. One of those time, I bumped into 3 travellers who had randomly decided to hang out together and we went along to Triveni Ghat to see the evening aarti (a kind of worship). As the sun set, the event begins. Some worshippers floated diyas (a kind of floating candle) down the Ganga, others did their prayers on the river banks and the bravest worshippers took a dip.

The aarti starts:

Other worshippers:

My excuse for not taking a dip? I'm not going down Speedos lane with a river that's far too cold and the currents too fast.

Around Lakshman Jhula are many fortune tellers. Some based on astrology, taromancy, and palmistry etc. Personally, I don't believe in this kind of stuff. But then, I would say that, I'm a Libra! 

After the four days, I booked myself into a Yoga ashram for 2 days. For RS600, I get 2 yoga classes a day, a surprising clean room with a bathroom and hot water, plus breakfast, lunch and dinner. Real value for money. In between the set times for yoga classes and meals, we were encouraged to meditate, reflect and use the reading materials in the ashram. The teachers also urged us to avoid outside distractions like electronic equipment. Let's just say I really really wanted to clarify if this included internet as well. In any case, my fears of boredom were never realised and the two days were very relaxing.

The last day, I visit Bharat Mandir. A small, important, but not particularly impressive building. Walking around the area, I came across some kids playing cricket who invited me to join in. The budding criketers:

Just for the record, I was out after 5 balls for a duck!!

Tags: india, rishikesh, yoga


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