As a child I remember I loved travelling to new places and learning about them. My dad’s transferable job made me even more accustomed to it. We have travelled to almost all parts of India, from Punjab to Kanyakumari. I was in 12th grade when we got transferred to Dehradun. The city of temples, the school capital of India. I can recall seeing Mussoorie hills from my window as it would sparkle with hundreds of light every night.

As if things weren’t any better, we decided to visit Rishikesh for a few days. Rishikesh is in very close proximity to Dehradun. It is a two-hour ride from Dehradun. I remember packing all of my clothes and munchies excitedly. Even though it is a place strongly associated with spirituality, I was looking forward to the trip. I had no idea how the road to Rishikesh would look like, I was busy dreaming of the destination.

 

The trip starts

As soon as we crossed Dehradun we were surrounded by lush green forests on both sides. “There have been incidents when people saw elephants crossing the road,” I remember hearing my dad say as he swiftly maneuvered through the narrow road. Driving on mountainous terrain isn’t easy, I recall being afraid every time a truck surpassed us or a vehicle tried to overtake us. It was a delight to see absolute greenery, with no tint of pollution or adulteration. It was like seeing nature in its absolute glory. While I had thought of this to be the best part, little did I know what I was about to experience ahead.

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My dad had booked a beautiful hotel, directly opposite the river Ganges. The rooms smelled of lavender and the walls were decorated with ancient paintings. “The best part is the roof-top restaurant,” my dad exclaimedexcitedly as we headed to the roof unsure of what we were going to see.

While the ghats were crowded I remember feeling relatively calm and at peace. Maybe because devotion and religious sentiments exude a calm that automatically builds an atmosphere of collective belonging.

What a sight it was, from the restaurant! The roof was set up with chairs and tables in all corners and a glass partition separated the outdoor eating area. On the first day, we decided to sit in the outdoors area and feel the wind in our faces. As I settled into my seat I looked down the railing and there it was, mighty Ganges flowing calmly, greenish in colour as the sun’s reflection shone brightly on its surface.  It felt like the water was sparkling, like mankind never did any harm to its waters, Ganges was pure as ever.

The mighty Ganges

I think this is the charm of Rishikesh. It is the river Ganges and its inherent calm that attracts people from all across the world. The next day we decided to attend the famous Ganga Aarti that brought millions of devotees in a bid to find strength from the Ganges. We reached around 6:00 pm since the pooja was to start at 6:30 pm. While the ghats were crowded I remember feeling relatively calm and at peace. Maybe because devotion and religious sentiments exude a calm that automatically builds an atmosphere of collective belonging.

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The aarti finally started, young boys stood on wooden tables with massive lamps synchronising their movements as the devoted crowd burst into coordinated singing and clapping. “Gange maa ki jai” roared the singer as thousands repeated after him. Bells rang and the music grew louder. It was a sight to behold. One after the other, the plate of aarti was passed to everyone as they bowed down in worship. I had never seen humanity unite so authentically ever before. The sentiments transcended boundaries as hundreds of foreigners closed their eyes in devotion uttering words they could learn, not a hint of pretense in their devotion.

Once the aarti finished, the priest distributed prasadam and applied a red paste on our foreheads. It was difficult to leave the shore after witnessing such a magical evening. So we sat for a while till we had absorbed all the bliss we could and left for our hotel.

I had never seen humanity unite so authentically ever before. The sentiments transcended boundaries as hundreds of foreigners closed their eyes in devotion uttering words they could learn, not a hint of pretense in their devotion.

Bidding Farewell

The next day was a busy one, as we nervously crossed Ram jhula to reach the other corner of the city, and explore what the markets had to offer. It was tiring to walk on an uneven terrain but the beauty and rawness surrounding us was absolutely worth it. As we walked past the jewellery shops, we saw the mighty Parmarth Ashram. In its front stood one of the tallest statues of Lord Hanuman, as loads of visitors struggled to capture the idol with their cameras.

I had never seen so much happen in such a small place. It was a refreshing experience to be away from city life and spend some time in a simple environment amongst nature and its lovers.

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Snigdha Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv

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