FROM LADAKH TO RISHIKESH (Story 1)
Changing groups in Delhi
And so, following on from the introduction to this story Read here: ‘Himalayan India: Journeying towards the Valley of Flowers’ and our amazing two weeks in Ladakh, Read here: Introduction story: ‘Ladakh: A trip to Each of the Four Directions’ (the followon links are at end of this story), we fly very early over the Himalayas from Leh to Delhi. We drop Manfred off at the airport to fly to Bodhgaya and with a cheerful goodbye we set off towards Rishikesh. Phyllis from Melbourne has joined our happy throng and so Shona, Shoba, Suresh, Kartik (Suresh’s son) and myself, along with the driver, are in the ‘people mover’. We drive off through Delhi towards the North Indian Plains. Once again Suresh has planned an amazing and busy trip for us: Book your Indian adventure here
Outside the Ayurvedic Hospital Haridwar
A beautiful rural drive to the Ganges
It is a long drive through the farmland of sugar cane, grain, and rice with old world and modern shops along the roadside. Women carry enormous bundles of grass on their heads and backs for the animals of their homes. We stop for lunch at a modern restaurant and enjoy the food and air conditioning as the temperatures have risen with the heat of the day. Near Haridwar we visit the Ayurvedic hospital which is iconic in the area for its practice of this ancient form of medicine and yoga. We admire the buildings, the statues of the founders of yoga, surgery and medicine, the gardens which form the grounds, and have a group photo taken outside the front door fountain.
Author of the Yoga Sutra’s, Maharishi Patanjali, outside the Ayurvedic Hospital Haridwar, India
At left: Maharishi Shushrut (1500BC): Founder of surgery. At right: Maharishi Charak (200BC): Author of Charak Samhita
From Haridwar to Rishikesh
On reaching Haridwar, just on dark, we can barely see the very tall (100ft) statue of Lord Shiva that dominates the riverside of the famous Ganges near where the evening of purification –Aarti ceremony, chants, and music – is held each sunset. We photograph Shiva’s statue as best we can in the fading light and head for Rishikesh. This road takes us through the jungle that warns of wild animals such as elephants, tigers, Himalayan black bear, and deer which might run out on the road. Arriving quite late we are shown to our rooms and after dinner retire to bed early. Although excited to be on the road again, it has been a long day from Leh in Ladakh to Delhi, and then the drive to Rishikesh.
Shiva Statue at Haridwar
Vashistha Gufu Cave
A day in Rishikesh and the surrounding Shivalik hills follows and we visit the Vashistha Gufu cave, which is known as the meditation spot of the Guru of Lord Rama and the 20th Century Swami Purshottamanand. Popular belief suggests that the holy river Ganga prevented Vashistha Muni from committing suicide here following the death of his children, and he and his wife, Arundhati, liked the area and decided to stay.
Vashistha Gufa Cave
Located on the banks of the Ganges (known widely as Mother Ganga) Vashistha Gufu cave is about 30 minutes drive in the hills and jungle above Rishikesh and then a short walk down some 200 steps from the road to the riverside. We enter the peacefulness of the small cave and along with a yogi, already in deep meditation, we do our own short meditation before heading down to the river itself and taking a ‘holy dip’ or bath in the sacred waters of Mother Ganga. At first, it feels a bit cold but soon the pleasant sensation of the water flows over my body as I lay in the shallows with my friends and allow the silky water to rush past and relax me.
(left) Kartik taking a dip in the Holy Ganges (right) Phyllis on the steps near Vashistha Gufu cave
We return to our hotel in Rishikesh, the Divine resort, which overlooks the Ganges and the Ram Jula bridge downstream. In 2003, our group had rafted down the river and clung to ropes dangled behind the raft to experience the water of this sacred river cleansing us on all levels.
Exploring Rishikesh by motorbike with Kartik
After resting and checking out the local stalls and shops near the hotel, we set off for lunch near the Laxman Jhula Bridge before walking across the bridge amidst people, motor bikes, monkeys, and cows. Many legends exist in India of the feats of the Gods and Goddesses. Lord Rama is said to have done penance in the area where the bridge now stands. Originally a jute rope bridge, an iron rope suspension bridge was built in 1889 only to be washed away in a flood in 1924. Its replacement is the present strong, very busy, construction.
Shoba on Lakshman Jula Bridge and the Neelkanth Mahadevi Temple
Rishikesh is known as the world capital of Yoga and there are numerous yoga schools, ashrams, and temples that bring crowds of visitors of every persuasion, to the city each year seeking Yoga classes, spiritual teachings, comfort, and blessing from the Swamis and in the inimitable words of the Beatles who visited here in the 1960s, love, love, love, of every kind. Read here about ‘rebuilding the Beatles Ashram’
Front doors to ‘Beatles Ashram’ and moon rise over the Ganges at Rishikesh
Catching up with old friends
The afternoon and evening pass very quickly with a visit from my dear friends, Seema, Raj, Priyanka, their children, and other family members. It was a lovely reunion once again. I also meet with my dear friend and Yogi, Vishnu and his beautiful daughter Sunrita (his lovely wife Sharada was home with their son). I first met Vishnu in 2006 at the ashram of Swami Rama and have had the honour and pleasure of meeting with him and his family on each of my return visits. Vishnu now runs his own Yoga school ‘World Peace Yoga School’ on the banks of Mother Ganga – Read about the ‘World Peace Yoga School’ here Along with the Yoga school information here you can listen to Vishnu speaking about yoga. There are also some YouTube videos of the famous Swami Rama – His Book, ‘Living with the Himalayan Masters’ sat out of my bookshelf for many months after I read it – I could not put it away.
Time to catch up with old frends and family
Reflections on Rishikesh
Beautiful Aarti on the banks of Mother Ganga
That night we pass over the Ram Jhula bridge and after walking to the ‘Beatles Ashram’ (which we did not go into on this occasion) we visit Parmath Niketan Ashram for the Aarti (fire ceremony) on the banks of the Ganges; again a beautiful experience as we share our time with the other participants and the Brahmacharis of the Ashram.
The entrance to the Aarti on the banks of the Ganges, Bramachari’s and attendants of the aarti
This night we sleep with excitement as we know tomorrow is a long drive to Joshimath and the journey towards the Valley of Flowers gets closer.
A curious cow exploring in Rishikesh!
Read more in the next story – coming soon.
Links to Ladakh stories:
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