The land of Sages, Rishikesh is also known as the “Yoga Capital of the world “. There are mountains filled with greenery, holy river Ganga, forest area of Rajaji National Park, holy temples in the mountains. A perfect combination of beauty, adventure and a unity among the cultural diversity. Although the whole rishikesh town seems like a home, there are some places, I love to visit whenever I have some free time. I will describe 5 such places and why I enjoy visiting them…
At the heart of the town, near the market chowk area, there is a road called “Ghat Road” , which goes downwards to Triveni Ghat. This road is the busiest part of the town. When you take a right turn at the end of the road, going further downwards, you see an open area. On the right side, there is parking space of vehicles and on the left, is Triveni Ghat. It is the first place to visit in the town , when you enter from the haridwar road. At every evening, there is a ceremony held called “Ganga Aarti”. The place is visited by tourists and locals alike. At the time of aarti, you can see people from various cultural backgrounds together and offering their prayer to Mother Ganga. After the Ganga Aarti, people can sit at the stairs, keeping their feet in the water and enjoying the cool breeze. No matter how hot the day is, at the evening there is some refreshing cool air there. If you want to spend some time away with the crowd, then you can visit the left side of Triveni Ghat. There is a path side by side at the bank of the river, which people use for the morning and evening walks. This path is called “Aastha Path”. At the night, when there is no crowd at the banks, you can enjoy the peace of this place and some sadhus or yogis may be seen meditating.
From the parking of the Triveni Ghat, there is a path towards the right what locals refer as “Marine Drive”. It is a long path I love to walk in the morning or evening, ending at the “Bairaaj”. At about 1 KM from Triveni Ghat on the Marine Drive, there is a small beautiful temple called “Sai Konar Mandir ”.The combination of temple, river Ganga, large mountains across the river present a very beautiful view. For those who like to spend some time in quietness, Marine Drive is a great place. I like to spend hours on marine drive walking or sitting at a bench looking at the beauty of nature.
From the market chowk , you can take a shared ride on ‘Vikram’. Just 2 KM from the market, you seem to enter a new whole place. You may observe a slight change in temperature at “Kailash Gate” area. The vikram leaves you at the ‘Vikram Stand’ of “Muni Ki Reti” area. Then walk about 10 minutes downwards on the road and you see “ChotiWala” restaurant at the right. Many shops are there offering yoga items, books, toys and wearable items. There you may see small dwellers offering local fruits “ram-phal” and “chakotra”. There is “Shivananda Book Store” and just a few steps ahead, comes the famous “Ram Jhula”. At the evening, there is always some cool breeze flowing unrestricted across the Jhula. I enjoy standing there for minutes, whenever there is less crowd on the jhula. During the rainy season, the winds are so heavy, that you can’t cross the Jhula easily and I enjoy the thrusts of winds. Some people are scared while some enjoy this moment. It is fun to watch this show. When you cross the Ram Jhula and reach the other side, there is “SwargAshram area”.
there are many temples and ashrams including famous “Parmarth Niketan” ashram. This area is where most of the tourists prefer to visit, as there is a small market too. There is the main old branch of “Chotiwala” restarurant and “Café Coffee Day”. But my favourite place to get simple food is “Gita Bhawan” restaurant there. They offer food items like snacks, aalo sabji with poori ( the famous Indian oily dish ) and some sweets too.
The Parmarth Niketan has very beautiful compound and is world famous for its activities. At the evening ceremony of Ganga Aarti, the atmosphere outside this ashram is charged with high spiritual vibrations. I like the chanting more than the Aarti, which is done before the actual Aarti begins. Sitting at the bank of Ganga, listening the Shiva Chanting is a powerful spiritual uplifting experience.
There is one less known ashram called “Vanprashtha Ashram”, at the end of the market road. I am saying less known , because not many outside visitors have seen it. It seems just another ashram from outside but you have to enter inside to see its beauty. There is a small door open and due to a guard there, it’s not a place for wanderers. I just enquired about rooms for rent there and was easily allowed to enter its premises.
When I entered inside, I was surprised to see its hidden beauty. I found it the most beautiful and clean ashram in that area with a vast open ground and rooms on the sides. Keep walking straight crossing a street, you enter another ground having a temple at the end and a very beautiful “rock garden”.
After enjoying its beauty, when you come outside and visit towards the Swargashram Parking, you will see a road entering the forest area. Just when you enter this road, on the right side, you will see a board of “Rajaji National Park” and a road going towards “Beatles Ashram”.
NOTE: this road and the upper road are dangerous due to the forest area and wild elephants, leopards, stags may be encountered. I recommend you to avoid upper road towards Laxman Jhula on feet. On one occasion, I have encountered leopard at the evening time there and on another observed the footprints. So it is better to travel these roads only in closed vehicles.
On the opposite side of this road, from the left of the parking, there is a road going towards the “Laxman Jhula”. I prefer this road now as it’s quite safe. After walking some minutes, you see a 13 storey temple called “Bhootnath Temple”. Some locals live near the temple. The “Tat Wale Baba ashram” is behind this temple on the upper road. The disciple of Tat Wale Baba, Swami ShankarDas ji is the owner of this very old ashram. He is a genuine yogi, a simple person having excellent knowledge.
This ashram is quite different from other ashrams on the Swargashram market. It is the last remained ashram on the upper road. The atmosphere of this ashram is quite peaceful. You can come back downwards on the lower road near the entrance of the 13 storey temple.
If you continue walking towards Laxman Jhula on the lower road towards “Jonk village”, you will see some small huts or rooms on both sides of the road. This is the place which gives you the feel about Rishikesh, what it used to be in the old times. These sadhus and yogis live in the huts given to them by Swargashram Trust. If you are looking for some sadhus who prefer to stay alone and remain away from the yoga business, this may be a starting point to search. From here you can continue walking towards Laxman Jhula or take a short cut towards Ram Jhula on the left. If you have missed this shortcut, then continue walking on the same road. You will reach Ram Jhula Jeep Stand. There is a downward road towards the Ram Jhula.
Just when you had crossed the river and enter Swargashram from Muni Ki Reti side, you can take a left turn. Keep walking and you will see some ashrams and small huts of sadhus. There is a beach where you will see many people relaxing, bathing, partying or doing some yoga. The area near the rocks is one of my favorite place there. The mind gets relaxed there automatically and I like to meditate there for quite some time. May be because yogis and sadhus have been practicing mediation here for years, this area is better than other ghats. You can again come back at the left route and continue towards Laxman Jhula.
Continue walking on this road and you will reach the Laxman Jhoola area. There is a small market full of shops, hotels, guest houses and some local houses. This place is the most popular place among foreigners and many of them stay here for months. Many restaurants offering food like Italian, Chinease, Indian food items are there. There are famous “Little Buddha Café , Freedom Café, Café Coffee Day. The café towards the river side present you a very beautiful view. There you can see tourists lying , relaxing and chatting for hours. During the daytime the market here becomes full of tourists, but at night, this place becomes quite peaceful. I have noticed that during the daytime, the shopkeepers have to play the music like “ ganga maiya me jab tak ke paani rahe “ just to sell their CDs. They become so bored hearing the same tunes all the day, so at night some of them suddenly play the bollywood party songs, which seems quite amusing. I love to spend about half an hour just standing at the bridge enjoying the cool breeze flowing and the serenity of the place. From the Laxman Jhula , there is a motorable road towards Neelkanth Mahadev temple, and about 200 M from there is a beach called “Goa Beach”, which is favorite among the foreigners too. You can watch people bathing, doing yoga or just relaxing on the sand.
This month I visited here the first time and became another favorite place to visit. From tapovan area, about 3 KM on Badrinath Highway, on the left side you see a board of this waterfall. We got tickets and drove the car upto the lower waterfall. There were about 100 people near the waterfall. But we had decided to climb upto the big waterfall. You have to pass through a rugged trek up the hill to reach at this point. As this is about 0.5 KM higher than the base, only a few people reach here. When we reached there, it was worth the efforts. All the guys had great fun, clicking the photographs under the waterfall posing as a yogi or floating over the water. I would definitely recommend this place to spend some hours there.
Rishikesh is a perfect place for fun, adventure, yoga & spirituality. So next time when you visit here, don’t forget to visit these places to get a refreshing and memorable experience..