Few holidays make us look deep into the beauty within our inner selves. As the world becomes bigger, faster and crazier, it has become more important than ever to stop and introspect before losing yourself in the rat race. A vacation to a place which offers this luxury is not only priceless; it is also becoming increasingly vital.
Yet, it is also surprisingly within our reach. Look no further than Rishikesh, a modest city in the Dehradun district of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. Nestled at the foot of the Garhwal Himalayas on the banks of the holy Ganga, Rishikesh hums with religious and spiritual activity, and has managed to attract people from across borders, religions and communities to its universal solace. The Beatles very famously chose Rishikesh as their spiritual retreat.
Besides being a very revered pilgrimage destination for the Hindus, Rishikesh is also known for its scenic and tranquil Ganga beaches. A holiday in Rishikesh is always fulfilling, but enriching the experience are these five things that should definitely feature on your checklist.
1. Yoga And Meditation
The best thing to do in Rishikesh is to get away from Rishikesh – and indeed, from the world. Close your eyes, relax those hands and feet, and soak in the quietness that slowly circulates through your inner being. Are you a beginner? Nothing to worry. Rishikesh teems with yoga centers and meditation ashrams where you can learn from the masters and acquire the basics. The ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is popularly referred to as the Beatles’ ashram as the Beatles visited it in 1968. A bonus – and an unforgettable experience – would be practicing yoga or meditating on the beach of the Ganga at dawn or at sunset.
Yoga and meditation are being increasingly recognized as the key to a modern, healthy, balanced life. Grab it – it could be the best souvenir you could ever take home.
2. Many A Moment Spent Content
Weather it is the first ray of sunshine or the fading fire of the twilight. Be it either or both, you are sure to be bewitched by their experience on the beaches of the Ganga. Whether you choose to begin your day here, or to wrap up the evening, the cool air and the sheer natural beauty will put you at peace. Soak in the tranquility as you dig your toes in the sand and gaze over the laughing waters. Let them evoke the perfect walks, the deep-hidden poems, and the most fulfilling conversations in you. A moment thus spent would last for life.
3. Rejuvenate Your Body
Soothing as Rishikesh is to your mind and inner peace; it also provides a thrilling experience for your physical being. The subtle thrill of the rocking bridge, Laxman Jhula is sure to bring a smile to your lips with every gust of wind. For the strong-hearted, Rishikesh provides bungee jumping from a height of 130-600 feet and is the only place in India to offer such an adventure. There are opportunities for camping, trekking and white-water rafting, which can be pleasurable as well. However, care should be taken that the local environment and culture are not harmed or disrespected in the process.
Rishikesh also has a number of Ayurveda and herbal therapy centers where a visit would certainly liven up your tired body. Moreover, the freshly opened Ayush Centre at AIIMS, Rishikesh intends to expand research in Ayurveda, Unani, Homoeopathy, Naturopathy and Yoga Studies.
4. Experience Religion
The world’s oldest religion, Hinduism, has a sacred corner for Rishikesh in her heart. The holy city buzzes with mystic sages, pundits clad in bright yellow and saffron, and thousands of devout Hindus coming from all over the country. The old temples are filled with beautiful, exquisite idols and lores of Hindu mythology. The Neelkantha Mahadev temple is one to look out for – it is known to stand exactly where Lord Shiva drank the poison that arose when the Devas and Asuras churned the sea to obtain Amrit, the divine drink that makes one immortal.
Also, do not miss the Ganga Aarti, which takes place daily at the banks of the Ganga, post sunset. The chanting of the shlokas, the clanging of cymbals and the innumerable tiny diyas that light the darkening surroundings provide a pure transcendental experience.
5. Look Further
Rishikesh, though a package in itself, also serves as an excellent gateway to various other important tourist places in the region. It connects to places like Haridwar, where the Ganga leaves the mountains and cascades to the plains, to Shivpuri, famous for its Shiva temple, and the Chhota Char Dham – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. From Rishikesh, one can also travel to Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand and a famous, scenic town located in the Doon valley between the Ganga and the Yamuna.
Rishikesh is a mosaic of temples and streets, sages and locals, tourists and adventurers, and religious festivals and yogic solitude. With the Himalayas, towering over its shoulders and the Ganga cascading through its arms, Rishikesh, literally “The Lord of the Senses”, is an experience that engulfs you completely.