Are you one of those who consider Rishikesh as a short stop before moving onto more exotic places in Uttarakhand?
My suggestion is to take sometime out for this holy town which is as much a gateway to the pristine Himalayas for the urbanites as it is a gateway for the hill people to reach the hullaballoo that is the urban life.
Here are a few things that you must experience in Rishikesh before embarking on your destination.
Take a walk along the streets and you’ll find an interesting and intriguing world opening up to you.
The street shops are a great place to spend your time. They will sell you anything from small artifacts or souvenirs, big sculptures, clothes, trekking equipment (new and old) to religious stuff etc. Bargaining is the name of the game here. But beware of cheats. We were taken to a shop to show the only one-faced Rudraksha in Rishikesh. That day alone we saw 10 of those in 10 different shops.
Walk towards the Triveni Ghat off the market road. You can see the Gangesat its fastest. Must be over 40KmPH. Further upstream, one can enjoy white water rafting too. Triveni Ghat is where people come from all over Indiato “wash off” their sins. Come evening, you have the official prayer offered to the Goddess Ganga. It is quite a spectacular spectacle! Not to be missed. Here is a six minute video if you really want to have a feel of the aarti.
Not to forget the Lakshman jhoola, the famous iron suspension bridge on the river. This is where Lord Rama’s brother Lakshman is said to have crossed the river on a jute rope.
If you are upto it then you can take a rickshaw to Ram Jhula (a clone of Laxman Jhula 200 metres downstream) and walk to the other side. There you will see a small potbellied man with painted face in front of a restaurant with a well styled lock of hair, choti, kept in place by setting hair gel. If you don’t eat at this famous Chotiwala restaurant, your visit to Rishikesh is considered incomplete. Everything is made of Pure Ghee (clarified butter).
Wait, there is another one, next door. Apparently the original Chotiwala had two sons and so now both are Chotiwalas. Food, of course is yummy to say the least.
In case you have plenty of days / weeks then you can sign up for Yoga in the so many ashrams where you can live and learn Yoga for a nominal sum.
All this is fine in normal days. If you happen to go there during Mahashivaratri days, the place plays host to the tens of thousands of devotees called the Kavaris. They walk from their distant villages bringing containers to collect waters from Ganga to take back to their respective villages and offer it to the local Shiva Temple. During this period, the place transforms into a bustling town.
Getting there – Being a popular all weather destination getting to Rishikesh is quite easy. The nearest airport is JollyGrantAirport at Dehradun which is just 20-25 kilometers away. Alternately you can enjoy a bus/train ride which are plenty fromDelhi, Haridwar and other places.
Club Mahindra has a property in Kanatal, around 76 KMs north of Rishikesh. Depending on the weather you choose to go, it offers a lush green or snow capped Himalayas ranges besides a very warm hospitality.