About 25 years ago, my father travelled to these and other northern Indian areas. He highlighted the stunning beauty, the lovely Ganges, the culture, the temples, the ashramas, and the Himalayan ranges. Since then, I’ve been itching to visit these locations.
I had the opportunity to visit Hrishikesh once in 2017–18 as part of a meditation camp, but due to the arrangements made by the course organizers, the intensity of the course, and the time constraints, I was unable to explore Hrishikesh at all. And I felt terrible about it.
And in 2022 I got a chance to visit Hrishikesh once again along with my friend (Dinesh, who returned to India from America after three years). We have a lot of things in common, like spirituality, photography, music, and exploring new places. It had been a long since we had been to a new place, so we planned a spiritual journey where we could meditate, practise Japa, take holy baths, and spend some time in silence. We had originally planned to travel to Bhutan to spend time with Buddhist monks, but because of corona restrictions, we instead chose to visit Hrishikesh and Haridwar.
We so left for Hrishikesh on May 31, 2022.
We landed in Dehradun early in the morning with a growling hunger because no food was provided on the brief flight from Mumbai.
As we departed the airport, we came across a quiet and reasonable canteen served by terminal staff (Tiwari ji and team). We had coffee and samosas, both of which were really good and still give me the munchies.
The Dry River
Then, after renting a vehicle, we traveled to Hrishikesh. I don’t know how, but the first time I went to Hrishikesh, I somehow failed to notice this dry river, but this time I saw it. When we saw this, Dinesh and I both exclaimed, “What is this?” Has the Ganges River completely dried up? Shockingly, we queried the driver. No, sir, this is not the River Ganga, he laughed at us and replied. He even spelled out the name of that dry river, which we forgot later. As he spoke, we felt relaxed and joyful. We were keen to witness maa Ganga and the Thapo-Bhumi Hrishikesh.
When I first visited, it was clean and not as crowded. This time, there was a lot of crowd and clutter. It was close to 1:00 PM when we arrived at Hrishikesh, and we were hungry. The driver dropped us near Ram Jhula, where we discovered a restaurant there named Madras Cafe.
We enjoyed some delicious paratha and a lassi. We enquired about Geetha Bhavan there in the cafe and then headed towards the route he shown us. When we boarded a boat that could hold around 30 passengers to get there and across the Ganga after paying 20 rupees per person.
In Swargashram, Rishikesh, a sizable structure known as Geeta Bhawan may be seen by the banks of the revered Ganaga River. Over a thousand rooms make up Geeta Bhawan’s expansive structure, providing devotees with a nice place to stay. We believed it would be simple for us to get a room in this complex and that too on the banks of the Ganga because of how large the complex is. We were quite thrilled.
It was getting near to midday and really hot. We were actually sweating profusely. As the boat accelerated after we got on it, we dipped our fingers into the Ganges. We were unable to keep it in the water for too long because it was so freezing. The water was ice cold. We were surprised because we had not expected such frigid water in this hot climate.
We eventually made it to Geeta Bhavan, where we ran to the office area to reserve a room. When we got there, it was really crowded. There were many individuals in the line, standing, sitting, and sleeping. The sheer size of the crowd shocked us. We made the decision to wait and give it a try. We waited for more than an hour, but because of the crowds, no staff personnel was interested in finding out what we were waiting for.
We ultimately chose to leave Geeta Bhavan and head to Thapovanam. We then reserved a hotel room. After a little nap, we rented a Royal Enfield and headed to the Swami Paramhamsa Yogananda Ashram, the first of several ashrams we planned to visit.
When we arrived to the ashram, it was closed, with a sign stating that it would be closed for the remainder of the week due to construction. Oh well, another plan has gone awry. Then, much to my surprise, I saw a large number of ashramas lined up one after another. We don’t know why, but we no longer care to go see them. So, in order to view Ganga Arati, we immediately drove our bikes to Janaki Jhula.
One of the most incredible experiences we had in Hrishikesh was the Ganga Arati, which is performed in honour of the Maa Ganga (For us, this river is like a mother). To worship and take part in the Ganga Arati, many locals and visitors came to this location. Several floating diyas were visible in the Ganga river. It was such an awesome scene.
After the Ganga arati, we had enough time to look around the shops. The Ganges provided a serene and soothing atmosphere. We visited Parmarth Ashram, strolled through the streets of Swargashram, ate some hot jalebis, drank hot tea, and went to the Ganga’s banks.
As we rode on the streets of Hrishikesh, we noticed that the city is bright since it has many lights and is quite clean. We enjoyed riding our bikes through the streets at night. It was enjoyable. We were shocked to discover a large number of pubs and non-vegetarian restaurants on the streets in such a worshipped area. We discovered that people seek out adventure encounters significantly more frequently than spiritual ones.
While having dinner at Bistro Nirvana, we came to the realization that performing sadhana in Hrishikesh was quite difficult due to the excessive crowds. So we made the decision to make this spiritual journey an exciting one. However, we did not like this idea.
The following morning, we awoke at three, showered, and then carried our yoga mats to the banks of the Ganges River. There weren’t many people around when we started our sadhana. It was quite enjoyable and gratifying.
Sitting on the banks of the Ganga, we enjoyed a breathtaking sunrise over the Himalayas. Many sadhus were singing various holy mantras as they took a sacred ganga bath. This experience has been with me ever since.
After breakfast, as per our plan, we immediately left the Madras Cafe to make bookings for river rafting.
We were driven to Shivpuri, the beginning point for rafting, from the reservation location. Typically, a raft is shared by 7–8 people and 1 guide. The tour guide was polite and professional. He instructed us on how to operate the raft and warned us against shouting since we might not hear him.
While rafting we experience the true force of the water at several speed levels. Locking our feet is much more crucial when traversing the rapids, and everyone must cooperate to keep everything stable. When all 7 (plus our guide) worked together, the raft moved clearly well. It was very thrilling to just go with the flow and enjoy every turn the rapids threw our way! The phrase “None of us are as strong as all of us” is really accurate. What an experience it was!
While rafting we witness many breathtaking sceneries that are hard to put into words. The thrilling rapids gave us a strong lift to raft! Our faces were all shining with happiness as we were all really thrilled.
We expressed our excitement about falling into the river, and the guide assured us that it would be provided at a suitable location with an even water flow.
After some time on the raft, the guide suggests that if we really want to swim in the Ganga, we should leap into the river because the flow is equal. Then we enthusiastically plunged into the spine-chillingly clear flowing water of the Ganges River. We then lay down in the river, swinging together with the water due to the strong current (Thanks to the life jackets). As we were swimming and having fun, Dinesh’s golden ring made the decision to permanently settle in with the Ganges’ clean water, so it left him without a word as he may have disagreed 😜. Despite having the ring for a long time, it departed without even saying goodbye. Such an ungrateful ring, which cost him around ₹55000, and yet he didn’t feel sad or anxious, though.
One word sums it up for me: “AWESOME.” It is a must-try adventure sport in Rishikesh. It’s thrilling and exciting in every way. This thrill-seeking activity is undoubtedly something one should enjoy.
We went to Jumping Heights for our Bungee jump after the River rafting, but regrettably, we were unable to do so. Without booking a reservation in advance, there is a very slim possibility that you will experience a bungee jump.
The second part will be published the following week. I appreciate your help and advice. See you later.