There is something about "Rishikesh, the DEVBHOOMI, Land of God" which keeps on calling the visitors again and again. Land is bestowed with eternal charm: "Spiritualism" coupled with unparalleled Natural splendor leaves visitors spellbound.
Rishikesh, sometimes nicknamed "the world capital of Yoga", has numerous yoga centres that also attract tourists. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it.
"Grace of the GOD or the sheer charm of this place", Well in my case both. This was my another trip, yet again with a difference. This visit was long due, I am happy to visit Neelkanth again. This time was with my 2 friends who have came all the way from South Korea. It was different experience for them, getting in touch with the Hinduism culture - our Value System and Beliefs.
We stepped in Rishikesh at 3:15 AM. What would you call it morning or night...? Well guys for Rishikesh it was early morning. An incredible atmosphere at Barrage was waiting for us. Standing on the barrage, we were amidst the mist and the symphonies of the falling water of river Ganges. We were in a wonderland, it can hardly be expressed in the words.
To charge ourselves we took shelter in a hotel near to Laxman Jhula. Never ever ever we had the privilege of setting the eyes on the clouds. What a morning it was and what a landscape view we noticed outside the hotel window. In short it was mesmerizing.....No one could have stayed further in the room, Neither we did stayed for more in our room and started our march to the Lord Shiva's "Neelkanth" Temple.
The iconic "Chotiwala Restaurant" was the first to come in our way, inviting for breakfast. In Rishikesh you can not ignore this restaurant. After enjoying the breakfast we started our 14 km. track to Neelkanth shrine with lots of faith in our hearts. "Masala Dosa" had never tasted so Yummy before.
River Ganga at its torrential best was posing a challenge to our rafting spirits and mighty HIMALAYAS were calling us for a trekking challenge. We did not had the reputation of fleeing the battlefields. Green Mountains fresh from rains were presenting a panorama par excellence. Our cameras were on the overdrive, we were capturing whatever we could have of the mother Nature. We accepted the challenge and decided to track 14 km. on foot.
With each step, we were getting closer to Hindu culture, values and believes. We have not went too far when we noticed a Naga saint offering the prayers in his own way. he was sitting on the dry thorns without getting hurt. That's the power of Devotion, Faith and Spiritualism:
The best thing to keep you charged during trekking and for providing instant Energy - "BANANAS". I spotted a vendor selling bananas. With all excitement I took the bananas, only to realize myself surrounded with bunch of monkeys within no time.
I have heard countless tales of monkeys taking bananas at such locations. I had distributed a dozen in a flash and purchased another. I invited my friends to present bananas to the monkeys. Initial hesitation did not stood beyond a few seconds, within no time they joined the party. While Mino was a picture of elegance in offering bananas.....
See it for Min.....they scared the hell out of him. We were unable to hold ourselves from laughing till out stomachs started aching. This picture is our prized possession. This was the closest I came to the monkey gods, they were extremely well behaved when it came to accepting the bananas. The truth is "If I would have offered them bananas voluntarily, they would have snatched forcibly".
Step by step, filled with excitement and fun we were marching ahead. With every turn in the way, we were witnessing striking landscapes better than the previous ones. Vow...mother nature has too much for all of us, it is our duty to preserve it for our coming generations the way we received from our ancestors.
We continued our march, kept on having a bit of trekking wherever we could sense. Travellers never feel themselves to be foreigners, we were quickly joined by locales, that doubled up our enthusiasm. By the time it had started to rain, we were enjoying the rains too. Going up becomes more demanding when it rains, we were feeling tired sometimes, but we were not complaining. Do you thing Min is complaining..????
In the way there came a spot from where we were unable to move ahead. No guesses, we were not tired - The beauty/ surrounding landscapes were simply irresistible. Check for yourself ---
Looks like a sketch out of artist's Canvas.
Rightly said "Seeing is Believing", by this time rains had also joined the party with us. Green mountains fresh from the rains were looking with a newly wed bride. I told my friends about the history associated with Neelkanth Shrine, that took me closer to the richness of our traditions and beliefs.
Neelkanth shrine was around the corner, it did not took more to reach there. We had to stand in the line for about an hour as there was a huge crowd of devotees. rains had also started to make its presence felt in good way. If I would have been in Delhi, I would have surely looked for a shelter, but here it was a pleasure.
As we say that whatever we pray to Lord Shiva in Neelkanth Temple comes true. Apart from my wishes, I prayed that whatever my friends prayed for themselves should come true. Such is the power of belief, by the time we came out of the shrine, I had started having faith in their faith.
Rain Gods were roaring at their best as soon as we emerged out of the temple. If you do not believe me, check out this:
We speculated for rains to subside, but with no success. Then came the heavenly inspiration to weather the rains, all of our electronics stuff went into hibernation. However we got raincoats from a local shop. These were the best raincoats we have ever come across in our lives and will probably ever---
If you think this was all, you are in for a pleasant surprise. The view from top was simply breathtaking, spectacular and all such synonyms. Rightly said "It is the journey of 100 steps which makes the view from top so Exhilarating".
Can it still get better....Check out this:
We had to get back to Rishikesh - we were not that daredevils to walk all the way down. We hired the Jeep (Taxi service to ferry passengers from Rishikesh - Neelkanth). Wrooming down the hills our cameras again came out of the hibernation and in no time started performing their jobs.
We finally returned to Rishikesh. Though our spirits were still roaring, however our bellies were crying for fuel. Spine chilling cool breeze and hot food inside a river side restaurant had no parallels. We sat down for evening snacks, but we ended up with Dinner. Min was sceptical of Indian foods, finally he got Pizza. Sometimes I was anxious he might get unwell because of fasting.
We met an Israeli couple, being Jews they would not spend/ use electronic equipments on Saturdays. Every religion has its believes...we should respect every religion. That is the teaching we can take back from Rishikesh. Finally it was the time for some souvenirs, we checked in a number of local shops to buy Kurta, which is also the traditional India dress.
After a walk of half an hour, we returned to our hotel and settled for a night of sleep. We started early morning next day for Delhi, however our hearts were still in Rishikesh. If you have 1-2 days more in your schedule, travel to Jayalgarh for some adventure filled water sports.
Brief halt at Baba Ramdev Ashram for Breakfast did not let the enthusiasm come down. Everyone should visit the Ashram , renowned for Spirituality. While visiting Rishikesh, we have to go through Haridwar and it is not worth neglecting.
This was one of the most amazing and adventurous trip I ever had. I am calling my friends to visit India again, we will again have such a trip. Come soon before we get all the white hairs on our heads....