June 16th 2:00pm, Rishikesh
Deepak and I hoped on a auto Rickshaw and made our way to the city of Rishikesh. The sacred river Ganga (anglicized to Ganges) flows through Rishikesh. In fact, it is here that the river leaves the Shivalik mountains Himalayas, and flows out into the plains of northern India. Several temples, ancient as well as new, can be found along the banks of the river in Rishikesh. The city attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year, from within India, as well as from other countries. Rishikesh, sometimes nicknamed “the world-capital of Yoga”, has several yoga centres that also attract tourists, including the Iyengar Yoga Center called Patanjala Yoga Center. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of salvation, or moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it. It is also becoming a hot spot for white water rafting enthusiasts, both from India and abroad, as it offers medium to rough rapids in the course of river Ganges.
The city of Rishikesh is a series of small to medium side roads which rolls up and down the banks of the Ganga River. Much more heavily commercialized than Haridawar, it was very common to see foreigners and large indian families who were vacationing more than performing a holy pilgramge. It was also immediately obvious that Yoga was a embedded into every hotel’s attraction. Here’s Deepak and I posing the next morning in front of the hotel. Many people don’t pause to consider people are taking photos as exemplified by these two women who seem like they were with us. LOL
As we were too tired for whitewater and also the season was not appropriate, Deepak wanted to show me two main attractions, the two swaying Jhula (bridge) one called Lakshman Jhula and the other Ram Jhula, named after the Hindu gods. The bridges are very narrow and are suspesion bridges. It was quite an experience to walk across the narrow swaying bridges with people shoulder to shoulder. Of course in typical Indian style, motorcycles and carts also darted through. Incredibly no one seemed to get bumped or complain. A state of harmonious chaos!
Walking across the banks, I noticed a Yoga Center right on the edge of one of the hills. I snapped this photo for Ashley as I bet she would LOVE to wake up in the morning and do some Yoga with a view like that! (Notice the glass house two third from the top right of the photo.
The opposite bank of the Ganga in Rishikesh from our hotel contained many more Ashrams (templates) as well as communities of locals. There were of course many very religious dressed people, each looking like the typical image of a shaman. I was able to snap a photo of a group of three below.
Across the river, Deepak and I took a boat ride on the Ganga. You would think it would be a relaxing and peaceful ride down the river however, it was a speed boat. Upon paying 60 rupees, the boat driver quickly jumped in with us, started the engine and as it in hot pursuit of something tore down the river, under the Jhula we crossed over, made a hard right and immediately went straight back to the river bank. The ride was about 5 minutes max. Deepak and I both had a nice chuckle on that one.
Across the Lakshman Jhula (coincidentally, Laksham, is the name of the concierge at the Sterling Guest House where I stay) we walked through the narrow roads stopping by to see the various river Ashrams. I have so many more photos than these but once I get my photo gallery up, I will have share them all there.
We left Rishikesh around noontime on Sunday. It was a great to get out of Gurgaon and breath some fresh mountain air and get some sun. The weather at Rishikesh was great, almost Bay Area quality. Here’s some random pictures that I took while we were at Rishikesh.
These guys loved my tattoo and and snapped a picture of their as well. While Tattoos are common they are not very big or extravagant in India. Many tattoo artists are street vendors. The most common Tattoo in India is the Aum. Many people will tattoo this in the back of their hand. Aum (also Om) is a mystical or sacred syllable in the Dharmic religions. It is placed at the beginning of most Hindu texts as a sacred exclamation to be uttered at the beginning and end of a reading of the Vedas or previously to any prayer or mantra. The Mandukya Upanishad is entirely devoted to the explanation of the syllable. The syllable Aum is first described as all-encompassing mystical entity in the Upanishads. Today, in all Hindu art and all over India and Nepal, ‘Aum’ can be seen virtually everywhere, a standard sign for Hinduism and its philosophy and mythology.
The tattoos of the Aum are never very deep and most times very faded and poorly drawn. Skilled tattoo artists are high demand in India so those in US who are struggling with the competition should definitely make it out to Rishikesh or anywhere else in India and set up shop.
Here’s a photos of soom local boys sitting on the edge of the hilly bank. These kids all seem to wear cloths that never get washed and rarely do they even walk through the streets with shoes! Talk about Hawaiian feet Ash!
Seeing the deep roots of Yoga and meditation, I decided to go for a massage, the first one I’ve ever had in my life. For the cost of 600 Rs, or just under $15 I got an hour full body massage. The old man on the right was the Guru, who has done quite well for himself, even setting up a school in Guang Zho, China. The guy the right is his student and the local Yoga Instructor who gave me the massage. The experience was more painful, so I am still confused why people love it so much. Perhaps it’s an aqcuired taste or I just wasn’t stressed out enough by People Portal to feel the benfits! 😉
We left Rishikesh in early afternoon, this time in our own private cab. No leaks this time but of course the driving was crazy. People just don’t have any patience and will pass at the slightest slow down of the car ahead. The turtle paced auto Rickshaws of course contribute to this problem. There was at least several times where oncoming traffic would vlaze past us just inches away. Our driver was pretty skilled and each time swerved just in time. As Deepak says, “This is India Man!”
On the way back to Delhi, we stopped by a well known restaurant called the Cheetal Grand. Deepak tells me it is owned by the powerful local Mafia. The food was good and there was a very pretty if not small garden in the back. It was a nice break for the drive home and I snapped a few photos.