Our Rajasthan tour finished in Delhi and we met up with my parents and aunt for a drive to Rishikesh for two nights. Along the way we stopped in Haridwar, visiting the Mansa Devi temple perched high on a mountain (accessible by cable car) and enjoying the evening Ganga Puja at Har Ki Podi bathing ghats along the shore of the Ganges River.
The Ganga has a deep spiritual meaning for Hindus, and bathing there is said to purify your sins. Alison and I stood in the icy flow of the river, letting it wash over our feet, so I hope that counts for something even if we didn’t dunk in all the way!
At Rishikesh we stayed at the Swami Dayanada Ashram, a very relaxing and peaceful place along the banks of the Ganga. Being at the ashram was a welcome break from the noise, crowds and general sensory overload that overwhelm the cities.
Rishikesh was very cool, and both Alison and I feel that it will be on our itinerary next time we visit. There were nice lanes for walking around, many good coffee shops and nice stores and handicrafts. Of course, it is also known as the yoga capital of the universe, and there are plenty of ashrams, spiritual bookstores and classes in all sorts of mystical things, from laughter yoga to meditation to crystal healing and Ayurveda.
Many Sadhus were also in the area, walking the lanes or sitting quietly in the woods or along the roads. Sadhus are people in pursuit of deeper spiritual connection, dressed in saffron robes and living simply with no material possessions. They live solely on food that is offered to them. India, particularly the Himalaya, is a unique home for such beings, with Rishikesh being a gathering point for many of them.
The scenery is nice as the town is straddling the Ganga at the foothills of the Himalayas. You cross the river through two steel suspension bridges, the Ram Jula and Lakshman Jula bridges. While the footbridge is only a little wider than the span of your arms: people, monkeys, cows and motorcycles all ride across it….in both directions….often at the same time! Only in India will you experience something like this, with the bridge slightly swaying in the wind the entire time.
Many adventure sports are available and the town is a jumping off point for trekking and rafting. Next time we would like to do a multi-day backpacking trip from here or the mountain towns of Badrinath or Kedarnath further up the road. There is also a lot of bungee jumping here, though you could not pay me enough to do that!
Following our stay in Rishikesh we spent another two nights in Delhi with family before catching an overnight train to Hyderabad for our last few nights in India. One of stray dogs my cousin is caring for gave birth to puppies and she is caring for them (and the mom) until they are all healthy enough to fend for themselves.
We are in Hyderabad as I type right now. Tomorrow we depart for Singapore.
Below are some photos of our accommodations at the Dayananda Ashram, with views of the Ganga. I’ve also included a variety of shots of Rishikesh, and a small sampling of the many signs for yoga classes dotting the roadside. We also walked through the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, a popular school for Vedic and yoga study. Some pics of that are also included. Finally, there are puppy pics! There are six puppies, with very unique colors. They are adorable and healthy, as is their mom.