I remember chit-chatting with my younger brother on a weekday (while working from home, attending back to back calls, meeting deadlines and forgetting to even breathe) about the chaos in our daily life, be it work related pressure or the inner conflicts which we face daily. Scrolling down the Instagram, suddenly an image cropped up with "Tera Manzila Mandir" on the banks of Maa Ganga with people standing on the iconic Lakshman Jhula above Maa Ganga. And the very next moment, this trip was planned (rather I would say, unplanned), and the next day we boarded the train from Kolkata to Delhi.
We had planned our stay in youth hostels, quite famous nowadays. I had not booked my return journey, considering I wanted to spend at least a week in and around Rishikesh. We reached Rishikesh around 8pm at night and checked in to our first hostel (aah, had plans to do hostel hopping) - Hashtag Hostel at Tapovan. There was a live music performance on the day we arrived in Hashtag and our whole evening was spent enjoying the music in the hostel along with the pleasant weather which Rishikesh had to offer. The hostel had mixed dorms and private rooms. We chose to stay in a 4-bed mixed dormitory to cut down our overall costs and also to get this experience of meeting people from diverse background.
The day started with a short walk (morning 6am) at Tapovan. The weather was pleasant and the atmosphere was peaceful.
We had a word with the hostel manager and booked a river rafting slot in the morning itself. Rishikesh is famous for its adventure activities like river rafting and bungee jumping. We were transported to Shivpuri (around 18 kms from Tapovan) which was the starting point of the rafting adventure.
There was a sudden rush of adrenaline down my spine, but I knew I had to do this. It was a 2 hour activity, covering 18 kms from Shivpuri to Rishikesh on a raft. There are more than 10 rapids (a rapid is an area with fast-flowing water in a stream) in that 18 kms area in river Ganga and going through those rapids is an altogether different experience. I would only say- River rafting is a MUST DO activity in Rishikesh.
Cliff jumping is another adventurous activity, which was happening right before we were about to reach Rishikesh. The raft was parked on the banks of the river and we were given a 15 mins break to relax before we reach Rishikesh. The cliff was located right where the raft was parked and many people were jumping from the cliff to the river. I was motivated too and went ahead to try this activity. The height of the jump was about 20 feet. As I reached the cliff, I looked down and a sense of fear took over me and I thought 'Do I really need to do this?'. The instructor said 'Bhaiya jaldi kijiye, baaki log bhi wait kar rahe hai, agar nahi karna hai toh utar jaiyiye'. And the very next moment, without looking down, I jumped. Within seconds, I was in the middle of the river, taking a deep breath. I did it. The river rafting experience ended on such a fantastic note and I realized that sometimes we just need to let it go and see what happens.
After reaching Rishikesh, we completed our lunch and went ahead towards the Ram Jhula. The view of the river Ganga and Rishikesh is so beautiful and enchanting from Ram Jhula, that one does not feel like crossing the suspension bridge and just stay there for a while and enjoy the view. The wind is a plus point. The Jhula swings whenever there is a wind. After crossing the Ram Jhula, we went straight to the Beatles Ashram (known as Chaurasi Kutia). For the starters, it is known as the 'Beatles' Ashram because in 1968, the English rock band Beatles practiced meditation in the ashram and also composed some of their songs on the banks of the river Ganga.
Next stop was Parmarth Ashram, which is famous for its Ganga Aarti. The sunsets from the Parmarth Ashram is a treat to watch. We sat in the nearby Ganga ghat, enjoyed the sunset and then went ahead to witness the famous Ganga Aarti of Parmarth. One can experience the calmness of the river Ganga near Parmarth, which is a must if one likes peaceful and quiet atmosphere. One should also visit the nearby markets attached to Parmarth, for souvenirs shopping. The day ended on a good note.
Later at night, we walked down through the Tapovan, straight to the iconic Lakshman Jhula. Wind and river Ganga flowing beneath it. The Jhula was swinging. There were people all around chilling out and enjoying the cool breeze at that hour of the night. The Jhula was all lit up, and the view of the city, specially, the 'Tera Manzil Mandir' is spectacular and it will leave you spellbound.
The day started with an early morning visit to the famous 'Neelkanth Mahadev Mandir'. It is about 25 kms from Tapovan and the views you get, while you travel to the temple from Rishikesh, is lovely. You will witness the beauty of the forests, the views of the city, river Ganga from the top and of course, the monkeys and langurs, on the way. It was amazing.
It was also hostel hopping day for us. Post our lunch, we changed our hostel and shifted to Zostel Rishikesh. Next stop for the day was Haridwar. Haridwar is famous for its temples and Hindu culture and it is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. It is said that the people bathe in the river Ganga in Haridwar to relieve themselves of their sins and achieve salvation. We headed straight to the famous Har ki Pauri ghat to bath in the river Ganga and attend the Ganga Aarti. It is a very captivating experience to participate in the Ganga Aarti performed in the evening at Har Ki Pauri.
Later, we headed back to our hostel, rather, Zostel. The atmosphere and the vibe in these youth hostels is fascinating and refreshing- you meet people from diverse background, get to know their stories, make friends and travel together. We made some very good friends in Zostel Rishikesh and travelled in and around Rishikesh for the next 5 days. Though, the next 5 days were difficult, as we are corporate monkeys and we did not take any leave from the office. So, we worked from the Zostel (you can say work from hills, lol) and tried to escape the work in the evenings to roam in and around Rishikesh. These hostels (Zostel Risikesh being one of them) are really a boon for the corporate monkeys like us, they provide us with a good Wi-fi set up, terrace with views, common room and even workstation, so that we can work in peace. Amazing.
The day started with the Monday blues, after a short walk near the Tapovan area in the morning. We visited the Tera Manzila Mandir, which is located on the banks of river Ganga. It has 13 floors and the views of Lakshman Jhula, the city and river Ganga gets better and beautiful as you move up to the next floor.
Back to back calls and day targets covered most of our day. In the evening, we went to Lakshman Jhula for some relaxation after the day long work. The atmosphere in Lakshman Jhula never disappoints, you feel like staying there for a while, abandoning all the negativities of your life.
The day started with early morning trek to the Neer Garh Waterfalls. The waterfalls is around 8 kms from Tapovan and another 15 mins trek on the trails to reach the main waterfall. The 15 mins trek upwards will give you some amazing views around the valley. It is an ideal spot for meditation and getting into the quietness of the place. You can enjoy a cup of tea and maggi once you reach the top to the main waterfall. It was indeed a good start to the day before we would indulge in the routine work life.
In the evening, we went to famous Triveni Ghat for the Ganga Aarti. Though I am not that spiritual, but the vibe and the atmosphere in the Ganga Aarti makes you a completely different person altogether at that moment, you get indulged into it and are drawn to a different world where you realize that peace is the most important thing in life, rest is all temporary. Post the divine experience in Triveni Ghat, we went to the famous Om Freedom Cafe (surrounded by river Ganga) for dinner. The view of river Ganga and the city from the cafe was extraordinary and serene. A must visit, when in Rishikesh.
The next 2 days were routine for us, early morning walks in and around Rishikesh, hostel hopping (This time it was Joeys Hostel), managing work and then spending our evenings on the ghats of river Ganga.
We made some amazing friends (our dorm buddies in Zostel) in our Rishikesh tour and spent some good time together- be it hostel hopping, or trekking up to the Neer Garh Waterfall, or our peaceful evenings on the ghats and the Lakshman Jhula and further continuing our journey to Mussoorie, which was our next stop (which I intend to cover in my next blog).
Quick pointers for someone who is visiting Rishikesh:
1. River Rafting
2. Bungee Jumping
3. Lakshman Jhula, Ram Jhula and Janki Setu
4. Triveni Ghat Ganga Aarti
5. Parmarth Ashram and Ganga Aarti
6. Om Freedom Cafe (and many other cafes are also there with the Ganga view)
7. Tera Manzila Mandir
8. Neer Garh Waterfall
9. Neelkanth Mahadev Mandir
10. Street Food
11. Ghats of Maa Ganga
12. Beatles Ashram
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