May 30, 2018

Rishikesh: The Land of Mystic Charm


Rishikesh is where you brush shoulders with weed smoking ascetics, backpackers, hippies, yogis and adventurists as you stroll through its alleys and while crossing bridges across the Ganga. Until 1960s the place was always referred as a holy town and with Haridwar located a short distance away, Rishikesh attracted numerous pilgrims from across the country during Kumbh mela. However, after the popular Beatles band visited Rishikesh and stayed at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in 60s, Rishikesh has changed into a melting pot of bohemian travellers, spiritual seekers, adventure enthusiasts and yoga practitioners.  Its location by the river Ganga further accentuates its charm. The once holy town has now transformed into a land which has an eclectic mix of visitors from world over. Rishikesh seems more or less like a blend of Varanasi and Mcleodganj as it offers mysticism of the former and vibrancy of the latter.




Often referred as the yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh has innumerable yoga centres and practitioners who offer short and long term courses in yoga. Apart from yoga, there are wellness centres, massage centres, meditation classes and many such healing centres and ashrams that have popped up across the town. It is advised to join a reputable place or a recommended one for these courses. An international yoga festival is held here every year in the month of March by the Uttaarakhand tourism board and Parmarth Niketan Ashram.

Though there are numerous ashrams that have mushroomed in Rishikesh over the years, Sivananda Ashram, Swargananda ashram and Geetha Bhavan are some of the well recommended ones. With meditation rooms and shrouded with greenery, these are ideal if you are looking for a relaxed and secluded pilgrim vacation in Rishikesh. The most popular Ashram in Rishikesh is Parmarth Niketan which is located by the Ganga and is known for its Ganga arti everyday in the evening. Bhajans, music and arti are followed by visitor’s homage to Ganga by floating flowers and incense sticks as the sun sets across the river. Most of the ashrams are located near Ram Jhula.








Jhulas or bridges are synonymous with Rishikesh, especially Lakshman Jhula. The suspended iron bridges- Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula connect both the banks of Ganga and are 2 Kms apart. Lakshman Jhula is the more popular of the two as all the cafes and shops are centred around this. The 450 metre long Lakshman jhula was built in 1939 and gets its name from Lord Rama’s brother Lakshman who is believed to have crossed the river here using a jute rope. Apart from walkers, motorcyclists too can be spotted traversing the bridges. One can also opt for a boat service near Ram Jhula to ferry across. While Lakshman jhula is favoured mostly by the backpackers and foreign tourists, Ram jhula has more pilgrims visiting it because of the small temples such as Prachin Rameshwar temple located near it.



Next to Lakshman Jhula is the thirteen storeyed Tryambakeshwar temple which has numerous shrines and offers magnificent aerial views of Ganga. Arti is performed at the ghat here too every evening but on a much smaller scale and is devoid of commercialization, unlike the one at Parmarth Niketan. Swarg Nivas temple nearby is another popular place of visit.


Triveni ghat located a few kilomteres away on the way to Haridwar is believed to be the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. A popular bathing ghat for pilgrims, the belief is that one gets purified from all the sins after taking a dip here. There are quite a few popular temples here such as Shani temple, Durga temple and Bharat temple. Rishikund, a small pond near the ghat was a place for sages in ancient times to perform various rituals. The ghat holds a significant place in Hindu mythology and Ganga Arti is conducted here every evening.





30 Kms away from Rishikesh is the popular Kunjapuri Devi temple which is one of the 52 sidhapeths established by Shankaracharya in this region. Dedicated to Kunjapuri Devi, a form of Sati- the consort of Shiva, the temple receives numerous visitors during Dussehra. The temple also offers wonderful views of the ranges of Himalayas and Bagirathi valley.



Beyond the temples and yoga, what brings people to this lovely town is adventure. Known for white water rafting on the Ganges, Rishikesh offers some of the best rapids and stretches for rafting in India. Shivpuri and Kaudiyala are the places for rafting in Rishikesh. The stretch from Shivupri to Nim Beach is a popular 16 Kms stretch which offers a few of 3.5+ grade rapids. There are also shorter (Club house to Nim beach- 10 Kms) and longer stretches (Marine Drive to Nim beach- 24 Kms) on offer at Shivpuri. The rafting season is from September to May and is not offered during the monsoon season. There are many operators in Rishikesh who offer white water rafting.




As you walk further ahead of Tapovan, there a few vantage points that offer magnificent views of  the Ganges.



The alleys near Lakshman jhula have many shops and bazaars selling a plethora of items from junk jewellery to clothing to books. There are also numerous cafes that serve cuisines from world over. 



Rishikesh is a place that offers something for all kind of travellers and definitely a charmer with its mysticism.


Navigator:

Rishikesh is located in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand and is located 20 Kms from Haridwar. The nearest airport is Jolly Grant at Dehradun, 46 Kms away and the closest railhead is at Haridwar. There are regular buses from New Delhi to Rishikesh. It is also well connected to places such as Badrinath, Yamunotri, Devaprayag etc. by bus.

Food and Accommodation:

There are a wide range of cafes along the Ganges that serve a variety of international cuisines. There are also restaurants that serve both North Indian and South Indian fare. Being a holy town, meat and alcohol are not available across Rishikesh.

May 25, 2018

Through the Forest


National Highway 7 cutting through a forest stretch near Sagar in Mdhya Pradesh. November 2017.

May 19, 2018

The Cafes I Loved in Rishikesh


By the Ganges and with a vibrant mix of backpackers, yoga practitioners and spiritual seekers, the holy town of Rishikesh is a blend of many things and people. It gained popularity when the Beatles band stayed here and has been attracting hippie crowd ever since. Its crowning as the yoga capital of the world has further made it popular on the tourism map. With people from world over frolicking to this holy place, Rishikesh has over the years witnessed a surge in the number of restaurants and cafes to cater to the requirements of the travellers. From South Indian to Chinese to Continental, there is no dearth of options to satiate your hunger. However, almost all the restaurants serve vegetarian cuisine with a few of them serving eggs. Meat and alcohol aren’t served anywhere across the town. Though Rishikesh doesn't boast of a cafe culture like in Mcleodganj, it definitely has some awesome places to eat.

Here is a list of cafes and restaurants in Rishikesh that I loved.

Little Buddha Café:

Situated across Lakhman Jhula and facing the Ganges, Little Buddha Café is the most popular café in Rishikesh and is a favourite with travellers. The place mostly serves continental fare, has a lovely ambience, free wifi and plays nice music. It is on the first floor and offers lovely views of river Ganga.


Chatsang:

Located opposite Little Buddha café, Chatsang has lovely interiors with art work splashed on its walls. The menu has some innovative dishes which are blend of Indian and continental fare. The cut fruits bowl with honey is delicious and so are their smoothies. This is an ideal place to read a book as you enjoy the food.


Ganga Beach café:

Nestled by the Ganges and next to Lakhshman Jhula, the café has a nice terrace area and the views from here are magnificent. The menu is mostly continental cuisine and their lassis are well recommended. This is an ideal place to see the Ganga flow nonchalantly as you relish some crepes and sandwiches.


Tattv Café:

Located near Tapovan, and away from the crowds, Tattv Café has both indoor and outdoor seating. They serve a wide range of continental dishes and their desserts such as brownies and chocolate balls are absolutely a must try.


Café Moksh:

Cross Lakshman Jhula and take the left that leads you on the less crowded road to Café Moksh. This is a great place to enjoy some jamming sessions with delicious continental food. Its low floor seating and lighting adds to the charm of the place.

Chotiwala:

Chotiwala is one of the most popular restaurants in Rishikesh and is located in Swargashram near Ram Jhula . Though they are known for their North Indian cuisine, they also serve South Indian and Continental fare. This is a fine dine place and has been functional since late 1950’s. Their paranthas and lassi are a must try.


Madras Café:

It predominantly served South Indian cuisine when it opened in 1960’s and was the first choice for idlis, dosas and filter coffee in those days. Though the menu has changed over the years with North Indian and continental cuisine being added, Madras Café is still the best bet to have some crispy dosas and coffee in Rishikesh. It is located near Ram Jhula.


Apart from these, Rishikesh has quite a few popular and well recommended places to eat such as Beatles café, Freedom café, Ramana’s Organic café, German Bakery, Bistro Nirvana etc.

May 18, 2018

Rural Charm!


An old bridge over a semi dry river showcases a glimpse of the charm of rural India. 
Near Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. November 2017.

May 2, 2018

An Evening in Haridwar!


The name Haridwar evokes a sense of spirituality and faith in every soul who visits this holy land. Located by the Ganges, Haridwar is known for its evening Ganga arti that takes place every day by the river.  There are numerous small shrines along the ghats and a stroll through the crowded ghats where myriad things are sold leads to Har Ki Pauri, where the arti is performed. The ghat is believed to have the foot imprints of Lord Vishnu and hence the name, Har Ki Pauri. Haridwar is one of the four locations where Kumbh mela is held and is also where River Ganga enters the plains after traversing through the mountains. Situated close to Rishikesh, Haridwar is one of the prominent pilgrim centres in India.

Below are a few frames from an evening I spent in Haridwar.











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