Rishikesh

soulful journey …

I may not be religious but I love ganga aarti in Rishikesh

I may not be spiritual but I love the sound of temple bells in Rishikesh

I may not be the ‘kirtan’ type but I love bhajan sandhya in Rishikesh

I may not be an adventure junkie but I love river rafting in Rishikesh

From religion to rafting, from spirituality to sand beaches, from temples to tranquility, from aarti to adrenaline. Rishikesh has it all.

Rishikesh

I can divide Rishikesh into two parts. First, the main town, for religious and spiritual visits. Second, beyond town, for adventure, serenity and to be ‘one’ with nature.

Ram Jhula, Rishikesh town

Located at the foothills of lower Himalayas, Rishikesh is a gateway to Char Dham yatra. As an important pilgrimage centre, life in Rishikesh revolves around temples and quaint ashrams. Most people come here for religious reasons and the entire town caters to their needs. Pujaris, flowers, incense, idols of gods and goddesses, books on religious and spiritual topics, bhajan CDs, bottles and containers for ganga jal, are all readily available. The city is also home to many low budget foreign tourists, so don’t be surprised to find some of the beggers talk in english.

Puja samagri

If you haven’t attended an aarti, you haven’t been to Rishikesh. It is that simple.

Flowers for aarti

My favorite is ganga aarti at Triveni ghat performed by a group of priests, every single day, at sunset time. The spectacular ceremony creates an ambience of divine bliss with hundreds of diyas, aroma of incense, flowers, shlokas and mantra chants.

Ganga aarti at Triveni Ghat

The most popular aarti is in Parmarth Niketan comprising mainly of bhajans and kirtan.

Parmarth Niketan aarti

The whole environment is charged with positive energy. One has to see it to feel it. Sight of floating diyas and flowers is, nothing but, surreal.

Floating diyas

Rishikesh is the spiritual tourism destination. A stay in Ashrams, at a nominal cost, may provide a holistic experience of this holy city. Ashrams and hotels provide free yoga and meditation sessions every morning on their premises. Spa & wellness is an add-on trend in most hotels.  Some hotels also provide private ghats for bathing to their in-house guests.

Ashrams in Rishikesh town

Sacred river and mountains set the perfect environment for yoga. Different kinds of yoga (like hatha yoga and ashtanga yoga) and meditation offered in the city has given Rishikesh the tag of ‘the Yoga Capital of the World’. While the city takes pride in holding International Yoga festival every year, it also prepares the local residents to become yoga instructors of tomorrow.

Yoga festival (image source unknown)

For those who don’t know, Rishikesh has a Marine drive, also called Aastha Path. It is a wonderful 2 km walk along the Ganges which ends at Triveni Ghat. Forest on the other bank makes this walk even more beautiful. There are a few temples and ghats on this stretch. Find a quiet spot and admire the meandering river.

Marine Drive or Aastha Path

Die-hard fans of Beatles can visit Beatles ashram. Even though it is in ruins, it may hold interest for many. I found graffiti somewhat interesting. Meditation huts are peculiar. Drive to the ashram, thru Rajaji national park, is pretty good.

Beatles Ashram

Serenity begins after leaving the main town of Rishikesh and moving up north. The drive through the forested hills along the river Ganges is simply exquisite. Each bend offers a breathtaking view of the river and colorful rafts.

Beyond the town

Rishikesh is as much known for spirituality as it is for white-water rafting. Whether you stay in a camp or a hotel, you must experience at least one stretch of rafting. Hotel pick-up/drop is usually included in the cost of rafting trip. It’s a team sport, age no bar, that brings thrill and excitement to the entire group. Rafts normally move in groups, so the tempo and energy levels are extremely high.

Rafting (image source unknown)

Would you dare to jump off a cliff? It is one of the most exciting activities at the end of river rafting. The cliff is about 30-40 ft high. You don’t have to know swimming as it is done wearing a life jacket. You get an adrenaline rush as people in the rafts cheer and clap for each jump. I was a little hesitant to begin with but am so glad that I finally took the plunge. The experience of cliff jumping is definitely going to stay with me forever.

Cliff jumping

We have stayed in this area countless times. Each trip is memorable with different experience. The stay in the camps, though not comfortable, is worth the experience at least once. The organizers work enthusiastically to bring the entire group together by engaging them in activities like rappelling, river crossing, canoeing, hiking etc. The best part of the camps is that you are away from the city’s crowd in a completely serene environment, by the river side, with your feet on the sand. Accommodation is basic. Toilets are shared with limited water. No electricity. No fridge. Chill your drinks and beers in the river. Food is prepared fresh and everyone eats in the same tent. Evenings are mostly spent singing around a bonfire. As the camps are off city limits, drinks and non-veg food are allowed.

Camping in Rishikesh

We have now moved from the camps to the comfort of hotels by the river side. There is wide variety to choose from depending on the budget. You can experience all the camp activities plus the facilities of proper room with attached toilet, ala-carte restaurants, swimming pool, and more.

Luxury hotels

Listen to the sound of river. Sound of silence. Be with nature. Listen to the chirping of birds. Listen to your own breath. Connect with your innerself. Close your eyes. Snooze. Let your mind drift away. Relax, Read, Rejuvenate in the serene environment. Find solace in Rishikesh and you will yearn to come back again and again.

It is the place to lose and then to discover yourself!

Let go …

Note: A trip to Rishikesh is typically one or two nights. I have stayed in the town only once. When I started writing about Rishikesh I thought I had very little to say about the main town. My focus was primarily on the serenity and calmness beyond town. How little did I realize that there was so much about this town in my subconscious mind and I may still not have covered it enough!

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Author: Anju Motwani

Aspiring Travel blogger

11 thoughts on “Rishikesh”

  1. Hi Anju. Wow..so nostalgic!! I too have great memories of Rishikesh. I can go there anytime. It’s indeed a place where one would like to spend few days. Walks at Aastha Path is amazing with Ganga by your side. Thanks for sharing such memorable notes?

  2. Lovely Anju . Enjoyed the narration on Rishikesh. I second every word you’ve written. Took me down memory Lane of my own trip. Very beautifully described. Have vowed to take your guidance on any trip post lockdown ( if possible)

  3. Very nice presentation of pictures of the flora and fauna, information about the place with beautifully capturing the essence of this holy city.
    Motivates one to travel and explore the mix of spirituality, food and adventure that Rishikesh has on offer.
    We share an equal love for Rishikesh as you. Wishing to get back at the earliest.

  4. Very good post. Highly informative for travellers who want to visit Rishikesh in Uttrakhand. Nicely written.

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