“YOGA IS A TRAINING OF THE BODY, MIND AND SOUL,” says Rahul, “The eight limbs of yoga, and the three types of yoga – action, devotion and knowledge”. Thus I was approached by a friendly yoga master Rahul, who is visiting Rishikesh. “Business and service are different, in business you take more and give less; in service you give more and take less”. I can’t agree more. After all the tactical businessmen in Delhi, I suddenly wished that everyone here practices yoga.
Set by the fast-flowing Ganges, Rishikesh is well-known to the western worlds as the yoga capital of the world, attracting millions of pilgrims, both Indian and foreign every year. Such a craze can be traced back to the late 60’s when the Beatles all spent a month here at the Maharshi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram and went back to tell the world. Now, Rishikesh is swarming with New Age wannabes, and spotting a caucasian wearing sarees or the orange sadhu robes are quite common.
UPON ARRIVING HARIDWAR EARLY MORNING BY TRAIN, I immediately decided to save Haridwar for later and go straight to Rishikesh (partly because of its cheaper accommodation). Traveling from the train station to the bus station on a cycle-rickshaw was a refreshing experience because outside of Delhi, the streets are not that congested and the air is crispy clean. Due to the confusing bus timetable, I ended up cramming into an auto-rickshaw with eight other Indians on our one-hour journey to Rishikesh. After splitting up the fare, I paid Rs 50, which was well worth the pain in my butt.
Rishikesh is dived into two sides of the river bank, and both are connected by two ‘Jhulas’ or bridges that caters to pedestrians only (or the occassional cow). I stayed near Lashkman Jhula, at a decent family-run guesthouse, paying Rs 200 for a double bed with attached bathroom and a balcony overlooking a nearby temple. Only a 5-minute walk separates me from several cafes with river views and nice drinks.
Students walking back from school in groups
Monkeys ‘hanuman’ linger on the Jhulas
Cows share the bridge on both the Jhulas in Rishikesh
AFTER HAVING DELHI-ED FOR THE PAST 3 DAYS, I learnt to appreciate the lack of aggresive touts here. I also find the noise levels so many decibels lower (although this is still no where near serenity). With views of the Himalayas and the mighty Ganges, it is truly a great place to start meditating and hope for enlightenment.
Food here is delicious and affordable. For lunch, I enjoyed Tibetan thukpa (noodles with soup) with a side serving of timo, which looks and tastes like Chinese steamed buns. For dinner, it was the special thali at Third Eye Restaurant, with its generous Dhal Fry, Acar, salad, curd, rice, uttampham and chapatis. One of my heftiest meal in India, complete with a mesmerizing evening view of the misty Ganges.
With so much to see and learn (and eat), all within my budget, I’ve decided to give this small town an extra day or two, wishing that it will repay me with wisdom one or more levels higher.
River Ganges emerging from the Himalayas, fast-flowing and pristine
The restaurant overlooking the river Ganges
Delicious and affordable, this sumptuous thali is really worth remembering