Exploring Rishikesh: Beyond river rafting!

Rishikesh

Considered to be the yoga capital of the world and one of the holiest places to the Hindus; Rishikesh has been the abode to spiritual gurus and teachers transmitting ancient knowledge of spirituality, meditation, yoga and Indian mythology.

Located at the foothills of Himalayas, the town derives it’s significance and lifeline from the mighty Ganges that originates from Gangotri glacier in the upper Himalayas and flows through the town before running down the plains.

What amazes me though is that there is something here for everybody. From seekers in their quest for higher knowledge to adventurers who need their timely dose of adrenalin rush. For the young and the old. For the body, mind and soul, there is a little for every sphere of human life.

EXPLORING RISHIKESH

THE TOWN

  • A walk on the Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula – Surprisingly, the bridge in the name of the younger brother is more popular since Laxman is believed to have crossed the river on jute ropes. Though closed for 2 wheelers now amid safety concerns, pedestrians are allowed in limited numbers. Not far, is the Ram Jhula which is equally iconic.
Ram Jhula
Early morning sunshine on the iconic Ram Jhula.
  • Attend the aarti at Triveni Ghat. You don’t have to be religious to experience certain aspects of various religions which can evoke any kind of emotion or awaken a few sensory organs in you. The aarti(hymn to Lord) in perfect rhythm accompanied by fire brought a sense of calmness. A stillness that can only be felt if you are completely in the moment, without any prejudice.
Triveni ghat- Rishikesh.
Mesmerizing aarti at Triveni Ghat.
  • Explore the narrow lanes of the town and know more about the historic place.
  • Take a minimum of half a day to immerse in the vibes of the place where the Beatles once stayed – the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram now popularly known as the ‘Beatles Ashram’.
Beatles Ashram
Beatles Ashram

THE HERITAGE

  • Visit and experience the vibe of the quiet and heavenly ashrams. You could stay and enroll yourself in one of the meditation and yoga programs.  There are several yoga classes daily too. People around the world come to learn and imbibe it in their lifestyle which natives run away from.
Parmarth ashram- Rishikesh.
A breathtaking view from Parmarth ashram.
  • Attend the daily Ganga aarti at the banks of the river just opposite to Parmarth ashram. Listen to the chants and the tinkle of bells.
  • Visit a few of the innumerous temples. Most noticeable for it’s architecture is the 13 storied Trayambakeshwar temple.

Know more about Pushkar and ‘the grand mela’!

LEISURE TIME

  • Sleep on the white sand beaches of the river. There are various spots on both sides of the river. You should find your favourite one.
White sand beach - Rishikesh.
Take a break. Leisure time at the white sand beach.
  • Watch the rafts go by. It is just pleasing to watch colourful rafts sail through the current of the river one after one, the whole day.
  • Explore cafes with a view. One of the easiest and most pleasurable things is to find some herbal tea and relish the sheer beauty of the aqua blue Ganges and the green hills around. Rishikesh is full of them – without burning a hole in your pocket.

ADVENTURE

  • Start your day with bungee jumping at India’s highest point by Jumpin’ Heights. The thrill doesn’t get any better than this. Yes, I’ve jumped and it was the only time an adventure activity terrified me.
  •  There are short treks around but if you go higher up the hills from Rishikesh, there is a whole mountain to climb depending upon your appetite. Beginners can start with Chandrashila, VoF or Kuari Pass. The route to these treks is via Rishikesh.
  • Camp near the river(or streams now since riverside camping is no longer allowed) and take a dip in the river.
  • And of course, go river rafting. Not adventurous enough? Learn kayaking. Yes, there are professional courses on offer too.
Dip in the holy river.
Dip in the holy river.

AROUND RISHIKESH

  • Explore the Vashisht caves, 25 km from Rishikesh. I was greeted with cool air, the fragrance of holy incense sticks and a few sadhus and foreigners meditating in peace.  I rested for a few minutes too.
  • 5 km from Laxman Jhula is the picturesque Neer Garh waterfall.  Thankfully, it is relatively lesser-known and still clean. If you do visit, please let it be.
Neer Garh waterfall.
Pristine Neer Garh waterfall. This was some sight.
  • Visit the historic city of Haridwar. An hour from Rishikesh, one can treat upon some mouth-watering street food and witness the amusing crowd and religious ceremonies at the filthy ghats. And yes, you can totally avoid the much-hyped and commercialized aarti at Har ki Pauri.
Haridwar
Haridwar – Contaminating Ganga – In the name of the Lord, Mother and the Holy Spirit.

The Ganges is a sacred river and is revered as ‘Mother Ganga’ and rightly so. Anything that is infinite and a life-giver is worshipped by the mortals. The saddening part though is that the same river is abused and infected with unwanted substances and taken for granted in the name of worship and honour.

WHAT ELSE?

  • Well, it depends on you. How much do you want to explore? What are you seeking?
  • I met folks from around the world. Tony and the sailor from South Africa(below) among the ones I can fondly remember.
Cafe View- Rishikesh
Solo travellers. In the frame from South Africa. Behind the lens from India.
  • Befriend a doggo.
Chill time with my friend at the beach.
Chill time with my friend at the beach.

OTHER INFO:

Travel: Overnight buses from Delhi. Prefer late night ones.

Time: 5-6 hours.

Best Time/Season: October-March.

Stay: Budget hostels.

Duration: 3 days, 3 months or 3 years. Up to you. I’ve been here half a dozen times. My last stay was for 3 days.

Go solo. If you never go, you will never know.

Exploring the historic city of Amritsar

Sadhus and Ashrams.
Sadhus and Ashrams.

 

Street food- Haridwar
Trying a hand at the street food in Haridwar.

 

Yoga time
Yoga time

HAR HAR GANGE!

More in Uttarakhand: The tranquillity of Kasar Devi 

4 Replies to “Exploring Rishikesh: Beyond river rafting!”

  1. Yes I have been there, it is a place where anyone would like to go again n again. A visit to Rishikesh in the true form is taking a break n charging our battery.

    1. Yes true Dad.

  2. Very well written Raunak!! Makes me want to go there ASAP 😅🙌🏼

    1. Thank you Shiva. You shouldn’t ponder much. Just leave. Life is short.

Leave a Reply