Jai Guru Deva
We arrived in Haridwar from Ranthambhore in the dead of night. Our taxi drove us through the dark streets, passing over the holy Ganges river and passing illuminated deities along the way. Rishikesh is a town on the banks of the Ganges. It became famous in 1968 when the Beatles visited. Like many others they came to study Transcendental meditation at The Chaurasi Kutia ashram under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. These days Rishikesh is a busy, sprawling town with a distinctly multi-cultural, laid back vibe. People travel there from all over the World to study Yoga and meditation. Hindus from all over India flock there to bathe in and pray by Mother Ganges.
We spent a full week in Rishikesh and began to feel very at home there. You can walk everywhere and the pace is leisurely. Long boardwalks run along the river from Lakshman Jhula to Ram Jhula and then onwards towards a third bridge, still under construction. We walked from our apartment one day, past the third bridge and we arrived at The Beatles Ashram. The Ashram is now part of the Rajaji National Park and will be maintained to stop it deteriorating further.
I really loved the ashram, in places it is dilapidated and overgrown and only small amounts of what was standing in 1968 remain, but it is magical. Everywhere you look human beings have left odes to the musicians they love. There are lyrics everywhere, but also art. Much of the art is Beatles inspired of course, but outside of that there are messages of hope, of unity and of solidarity everywhere. The entire place is suffused with compassionate nostalgia, asking the World to be better, believing it is.
Back in Lakshman Jhula we frequented The Little Buddha Cafe. We tried several of the many other places and enjoyed them all, but The Little Buddha was special. Overlooking the Ganges, it it run by a bunch of really cheery guys from Bhutan. They have a dog named Cahloo who’s job is to snuggle with customers and protect their meals from the monkeys. Chris was particularly fond of the spicy beans for breakfast! We drank freshly squeezed juices there in between our explorations.
The streets of Lakshman Jhula are lined with shops, Chris took a particular liking to the music shop and came home with a drum for himself and singing bowls for the boys. I fell in love with the soft, colourful cashmere blankets, for sale everywhere for R300. Crossing the bridge is an experience in itself. There is always activity there, often between the monkeys and the dogs, who seem to spend a great deal of time teasing each other.
Our apartment was a little further upriver and the walk along the beach was beautiful. It took us past the Ganga Aarti ceremony, across rocks and on to white sand beaches. We befriended a bunch of kids who, after they’d given up trying to sell us things, became good company and we would chat to them every day. This part of the beach was home to semi-wild horses and dogs and on one day, to a herd of goats as well.
Even though it is developing fast, Rishikesh felt serene and peaceful. I hope that the town is able to maintain that as it moves into this decade and that the Yoga revolution moves at a pace that the river can cope with. It deserves to stay beautiful.