Sunday, April 18, 2010

RISHIKESH - ADVENTURES FOR THE SPIRIT....AND BODY TOO!!!

We, my wife and I, were to drive back from Chandigarh to Delhi over the weekend ending 11 Apr 10, and we had some time to spare. A day before the return we decided to drive to Delhi, via Rishikesh. The last time I had visited Rishikesh was in 1992, and this place where the Ganga emerges from the hills had left a spellbinding impact on me. I always wanted to return but never had the chance to do so, due to other more important pre-occupations. This was a golden opportunity and I did not want to miss it. I am not the religious kind but do enjoy being alone in the lap of nature in the hills, or close to them.

Rishikesh in September 1992 was nature personified.. hills, water in the form of the Ganga, trees, flora, birds, fish, and the all present air of mysticism. Sadhus and Ashrams abounded but they were minus the commercial aspects of Haridwar. After this visit in 1992, I could always visualise, in my mind's eye, standing on the centre of the 'Ram jhoola' and watching the beautiful, svelte, rapid Ganga emanating from a narrow hilly gorge onto the plains and slowing and expanding to fill the land between the Ashrams on one bank (Eastern banks) and the Haridwar - Rishikesh - Joshimath road on the Western bank. It was magical to watch the sun rise from behind the hills from where the Ganga emerged.
(click on the photographs for a larger view)
Sun rise from behind the hills - with the Ram jhoola, the Marine Drive and Ganga in the foreground.

Rishikesh had given a huge solace to me on this trip in 1992, and thus, the memory of this trip had always stayed with me. It was on this trip that I had for the first time read the literal translation in English of the Bhagwad Gita shloks (verses) from cover to cover in the pocket size edition of the Gita in one sitting and felt its huge uplifting impact on me. We entered Rishikesh with this background in my mind, on 09th evening.

Poonam's uncle had been to Rishikesh a few days earlier and advised us to not miss the Ganga Aarti at the Parmarth Niketan ashram.

Ganga view from the Parmarth Niketan ashram

Parmarth Niketan ashram across the Ganga - view from our room's window

We managed to reach the ashram in time to attend the Aarti, but not in time for accommodation.

The Aarti, and the bhajans that followed, was a very sublime experience and we thoroughly enjoyed it. This finished at about 7 pm and we started hunting for a place to stay but could not find any place in the now greatly expanded and commercial ashrams, hotels and guest houses - all due to the 'Kumbh' mela, I believe. Finally we stayed at a guest house where the only thing that was worth mentioning was a comfortable bed for the night. We were to drive out the next morning and so we just tucked in after a hectic day.

The next morning we were strolling down the 'Marine drive' on the western banks of the Ganges. I did not want to miss this opportunity to have 'Ganga shnaan' in the


clear, cold water of the Ganga and thus stripped down to my trunks and waded in. The water felt nice and I had a good dip in the Ganga. I had to come out after some time as my feet had gone cold. It was very peaceful and blissful and we decided that we could stay for another night, only if we could find some decent place to stay with the balcony, or window, overlooking the Ganga. We found one guest house that had balconies and windows overlooking the Ganga, as we had wanted. On inquiry, we found place there. We immediately moved out of our earlier place into this guest house and booked ourselves for white water rafting down the Ganges from Shivpuri to Rishikesh,
Shivpuri - the launch point for our white water rafting experience.

a stretch of 18 kms with 7 rapids along the way. The total trip would be about 3 hours, which included driving to Shivpuri in the Tata Sumo and then rafting down. We wanted to start at 2 pm so that we could be in time for the Aarti.

All set - let's go, as soon as I get my helmet.

The white water rafting trip went exactly as per plan - it took me sometime to convince Poonam though, on doing this adventure trip. She was not convinced, stating that she was 50 years and this was when I clinched the deal with, "At this age you have nothing to lose". Credit must go to her - she agreed, BUT not before making me promise that if anything happens to her - "please tell my kids, my mother and my brother that she loved them, etc."

Are you sure this is going to be alright? - last minute clarifications!!

We negotiated rapids with exotic names like Roller Coaster (Grade-4), Golf Course (Grade-4), Double Trouble, Club House, Hilton, Initiation and Terminator. The rubberised raft had place for 10 + 2 and we were 9 + 2. Poonam was given the centre front seat to keep her fears at bay and the rest of us were plonked on the sides with paddles in hand. It was a wonderful experience and Poonam too said that she enjoyed it BUT only after it was all over. One 30 year old man wanted to be let off the raft after the second rapid as he was really scared. Somehow he managed to stick on and completed the trip. I enjoyed myself with the the rapids, paddling, going overboard, swimming in the Ganga and cliff jumping off an approx 6 metre high cliff.

Atop the 6 metre cliff - Ready for the jump.


Climbing out of the icy cold water, after the 20 ft high cliff jump

We made it in time for the evening Aarti and had a good night's rest before leaving the next morning for Delhi. All in all it was a sublime and, also, thrilling experience, and is recommended for those who want to have some adventure in the spiritual and physical planes. The trip to Rishikesh provided relaxation to us for both the soul and the body.

7 comments:

Piper .. said...

Wowwww!! Sir, I cant imagine Poonam Mam actually went ahead with the white water rafting thing!!! Bravo! Way to go!!! :):):):) Personally, I would have been scared stiff!!!
Rishikesh indeed is a splendid place. I spent a week there by myself. I was staying a little away from the main town, at a residential area called Naturville. But I would visit the river each day..long walks and then the evening arati.It was an experience I`ll never forget.
I`m so glad you and Mam had so much fun :):)

Swati said...

Rishikesh is lovely place ..and I have heard so much about rafting there :) Good to know you had fun !

BK Chowla, said...

Must have been a fantastic experience.

J P Joshi said...

Piper: Like you, Poonam was scared too, but she went along with me; credit to her; the first two rapids she had her head down and flat on the raft, and I kept trying to convince her to look up and enjoy the rapids. After that she did look up for a bit until the waves would engulf her, as she was sitting in the nose of the raft. After the event, and even now, she says that it was a beautiful experience. Will she try it again - I don't know until next year.

Yes, the Ganga gave us a very positive experience - last time as well as this time - maybe because we worship it; the aarti at Parmarth Niketan was actually sung by little kids and was so soulful that we decided to go for it even on day two. All in all, Rishikesh is a bit more commercialised now than it was in 1992, but is still worth it for both the body and soul, I believe.

J P Joshi said...

Swati: Yes, Rishikesh is a beautiful place and thank you.

BK Chowla: Yes, it was a fantastic experience for both the body and the soul, and we intend doing it more often.

indianhomemaker said...

Wow!! Lovely pictures! I have been there as a kid, but I guess this place deserves another trip :)

I am sure Poonam will enjoy when ever you go for White Water Rafting again :)

J P Joshi said...

IHM: Thank you and it sure does deserve more than a trip, I believe. Fingers crossed, IHM.