Besides Dubai I have not witnessed a town that grows, expands and booms as much as Rishikesh. Every empty plot of land gets bought and build on, either with a new Yoga School or a GuestHouse. And yet it can’t keep up with the immense influx of tourists and pilgrims. Varying with the season visitors with all skin colors stream in, some with tractors filled with villagers that embark on a tedious pilgrimage of their lifetime while they patiently squeeze together on the back of the tractors wagon; some with fancy cars from the metropolis eager to escape their stressful office routine on a long weekend; some by foot following the ancient path of Saints and Sages walking far beyond Rishikesh up into unknown territories of the Himalayas. All seek something…some entertainment with bungee jumping and wildwater rafting, some diversity, culture, colors, chaos, an overdose of impressions for all their senses, some God and meaning….really one way or the other all seeking their Self. And yet it always fascinates me how within minutes of leaving the at times busy town one is immediately immersed, silenced and humbled by powerful nature, surrounded by layer after layer of mountain peaks, filled with endless trees and plants, wild tigers, elephants, monkeys and birds and countless water streams that eagerly rush down to merge with Ganga Ji.
Here are a few pointers that may be helpful for those who wish to visit Rishikesh:
- Laws & Regulations: For those who are new in Rishikesh and may not be aware: as per Supreme Court order the consumption of alcohol, meat, fish, eggs and of course drugs is illegal in the sacred town of Rishikesh. Please refrain from bringing and consuming any of these products during your visit to Rishikesh in order to avoid prosecution. Police does check on a regular basis.
- Cultural Sensitivities: Saints and Yogis have been meditating and pursuing their Sadhana on the banks of Ganga Ji since time immemorial. Please let us honour, respect and contribute positively to the ancient setting of the Himalayas. Here in India women dress differently; more so when in proximity to Sadhakas and Babas (you may refer to The Naga Baba). While taking dips in Ganga Ji women wrap a big shawl around their body. It is unusual for Indian men to see cleavage, uncovered legs, tight clothes on women; at least still in the rural and most certainly in spiritual areas. It is also unusual to shake hands, hug and have trivial worldly conversations with Sadhakas. And as per the wise words of Saint Manusmriti “Yatra Nàryeshu Pujyante Ramante Tatra Devatha” (There dwells God where women are worshipped) let us treat all women the way we would want our sister and mother to be treated too.
- Kanwar Yatra: Every year usually around July the Kanwar Yatra begins in Rishikesh. During the time of the Yatra major roads in Rishikesh as well as the highway from Haridwar to Delhi will be completely closed. During this annual pilgrimage devotees of Shiva embark to the pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri to collect water of Ganga Ji. Millions of participants gather sacred water from Ganga Ji and carry it across hundreds of miles to dispense as offerings in their local Shiva shrines. Please be aware of major travel delay when visiting Rishikesh during the Kanwar Yatra time.
- Yoga Schools: Rishikesh may offer 200plus yoga schools. It is really nice if someone is interested to pursue a Yoga Asana course. It will probably be a life changing experience. Please allow me to mention that for our Sadhana it is much better to connect with one instead of numerous Yoga traditions & asana styles, so that the seeker is guided deeper rather than wider. There are a few organisations that still follow the traditional path. I did my TTC from Swami Sivananda’s tradition in Kerala. You may also check out Bihar School of Yoga and Ahymsin by Swami Rama as well as (for male Indian citizen) the two months long residential course which is free of charge at Swami Sivananda’s Ashram in Rishikesh.
For more information about interesting places in and about Rishikesh you may visit my page We Love Rishikesh