Friday, March 13, 2009

RISHIKESH - NORTH INDIA

Spiritual Disneyland

Garhwal Himalayas hold different significance for different people. And Rishikesh is just about that. Adventurers (like of Bradd Pitt), spiritualists (likes of Beatles), Yoga and Meditation enthusiasts (likes of Kate Winslet) maintain a constant bee-line from across the world to this site-of-many-amusements. The ambiance of saffronised hippies and sadhus, an unceasing hum of hypnotic chants, backpackers squatting at every bend of street, and you-name-it merchandisers, might create an instant repulsion at having landed in a madhouse, very different from what you expected. Interestingly, this exactly is the purpose you came here for --- find peace amidst turmoil, spiritual rejuvenation in a world of constant worries! And you can actually find your way through the crowds to that little, precious space you can call your own, and henceforth, carry with you wherever you head, to retire to when you want to. This, and many more of spiritual secrets await you at Rishikesh. And yes, in this spiritual brouhaha, please do not undermine its rivers and rapids, hills and gorges --- it will be not just blasphemous, but foolish. Also, Rishikesh paves the way for the holy Char Dham Yatra of the Hindu pilgrim world.

Tale of the City

“Rishikesh” means the land of the Rishis. The legend says that Rishikesh is the place where Lord Rama came came on the advice of sage Vasishtha to do penance for killing Ravana. The scores of Ashrams and Temples shot up as a result of its confluence of sages and scholars that gathered here to preach, discuss Hindu philosophies and spiritualism. Its veritable positioning -- bounded by the Himalayas and the mighty Ganges roaring past its shores, have shot it to fame newly for a perfect haven for weekend adventurers.

Attractions

Triveni Ghat: Believed to be the confluence of the river Ganges and Chandrabhaga, on the south end of Rishikesh, this is the best place to witness the religious fervor that Rishikesh stands for. Try make it for the Arti ceremony every evening. And do not miss that soul-cleansing holy-dip.

Lakshman Jhoola (5 km): Search for Rishikesh in Google Images, and chances are 90% of them will be that of a suspended bridge, heavily roped. This is the famed Laxman Jhoola – a suspension bridge with iron ropes, named after Ram’s brother Lakshman, who crossed the river on a jute rope. The Raghunath temple and the Lakhman temples lie around this place, worth visiting.

Ram Jhoola (also called Shivanand Joola): A replica of the aforesaid, it leads to the Swargashram from the Shivanand Ashram, providing an alternative to the boat ride from one bank of Ganga to another.

Ashrams at Rishikesh: Fabled time and again, this remains a celebrated fact that the Beatles heralded their quest for spiritual salvation here at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ashram. Shivanand Ashram (The Divine Society), towards the north of Rishikesh, and however the most famed for its Yoga and Meditation courses, lodging provision for backpackers and believers, charitable hospital and so on. Other prominent Ashrams are Omkarananda Ashram, Vanmali Gita Yogashram, Yoga Niketan Ashram, Dayananda Vedanta Ashram, Yoga Study Center and the Brahma Niwas.

Temples worth a visit: Bharat Mandir, Geeta Bhawan, Tera Manzil Temple.

International Yoga Week: Held every first week of February, you should not miss this event if your tour has coincided the celebration. Yoga maestros from across the globe and enthusiasts turn it into a different world altogether. Organized by the Rishikesh State Tourism, the event has yoga demonstrations, detailed lectures and seminars on Yoga.

How far can your legs dare: An excellent base camp for the treks in to Himalayas, especially to the Neelkanth from Swarg Ashram and to Kunjapuri Temple from Tapovan.

Rocking rapids: Sweet Sixteen (grade-1), Marine Drive (grade-2), Three Blind Mice (grade-3), Cross Fire (Grade-3), roller Coaster (grade-4) and Golf Course (grade-4). No they are not nicknames for beautiful schoolgirls. Adventurers with an water infatuation must have guessed already, while beginners can mug them up if they plan to dare the furious rapids at the 30 km Ganges that flows past Rishikesh right from the Himalayas.

Shopping

Here at Rishikesh, do not expect the razzle-dazzle of the usual Indian shops. All you have to load your bags with are ayurvedic and herbal medicines, religious items of made in brass, incense, bronze shiva statues, prasad and Rudraksh beads. The handicrafts on sale include those rich in beads, made of shells, pearls and wood. Visit UP Handlooms (en route to Haridwar), Khadi Bhandar or the Garhwal wool and craft shop for rugs and sheets.

The Laxman Jhula Area has many emporiums selling Rudraksh Malas, Navratna Mala, and silver Jwellery. Hunt for Jaipur Gems Center, one of the oldest and most reliable exporter of Rudraksh ,Gems studded silver and gold jewelery and pashmina Shawls. In the Ram Jhula Area, Geeta Press Cotton cloth Shop and Geeta Press Book Shop are best for buying locally wearable cotton and philosophical books respectively.

Cuisine

What you will not find in Rishikesh is non-vegetarian cuisine which is banned for obvious reasons – Rishikesh being an religious epicenter. All types and flavors of Indian cuisine is served in its myriad restaurants tucked in every nook and corner of its streets. The best bet for any foreigner, however, remains the Ayurvedic and health food restaurants, perfect for an after-yoga meal. In the main town area, check out Hotel Neelam that serves delectable Indian, and Italian dishes. In the Ram Jhula Area go to the Choti wala Restaurant for that unbeatable Indian ‘thali’, typically ‘Rishikeshised’. The Laxman Jhula Area’s Elachi Restaurent is a good bet for evenings. Do not miss this one called Chotiwala, lored to be the best one in Rishikesh.
Getaways

Kunjapuri (7,000 ft): Famed for its temple dedicated to one of the thirteen most important Goddesses of Shivalik range - Kunjapuri and the surrounding vista of Banderpunch (6316 mts) , Swarga Rohini (6252 mts) Gangotri ( 6672 mts) Chaukhamba (7138 mts) is too beautiful to be put into words.

Haridwar (24 km): Set on the foothills of Shivalik range, Haridwar is the gateway to Chardham (four pilgrimages - Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath) in the Uttarakhand region. Major attractions of the town are Har Ki Pauri, Mansa Devi Temple, Chanda Devi Temple, Sapt Rishi and Daksh Mahadev Temple. Besides, it is also one of the Shaktipeeths of the country.

Vashistha Cave (1-hr away): Meditate in this fine recluse where once sage Vasistha meditated. The ambience is still untarnished and perfect for soul-searching.

Valley of Flowers (16 kms away from Govindghat): There are places on earth you would have never believed to exist, until you see them. Valley of flowers, with its amazing floral diaspora of a zillion species and the rainbowed spectacle it presents, is one such place. A camera is a must-carry to this piece of little paradise up in the Himalayas.

Dehradun (43 kms): The tourist attractions of Dehradun are Tapkeshwar Temple, Sahastradhara, Dakpathar, Laxman Sidh, Asan Barrage and if you still aren’t amused, go there to have a look at what is called a Himalayan Beauty and for flights (it has an airport) to various destinations.

Location :
In the Garhwal Himalayas, Uttaranchal, North India

Go there for :
Yoga & Meditation Courses, Rafting, Treks

Altitude:
1,160 ft.

Climate :
41º-36.6ºC (Sum); 32.2º-18.3ºC (Win)

When to Go:
April to October

Local Tongue:
Hindi, Garhwali

Literacy :
65%

STD Code :
+91 - 135

2 comments:

  1. awesome and very informative post thanks for sharing
    navratan

    ReplyDelete
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