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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Befriend a doggo.
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.
HAR HAR GANGE!