Do you believe that a dip in the Ganga makes you sin free ? Do you believe that the waters have magical powers ? Do you believe that there actually are Holy places on Earth ? I am not sure I believe in all that mumbo jumbo. At least I know I dint until I saw the Ganga for the 1st time.
We reached Haridwar at 4:30 AM, as opposed to 6 AM. Crap, we thought. How are we going to go to the Ashram? After alighting from our rickety bus, we were quite amazed to find a share auto within 5 minutes. There are no normal autos in Haridwar, only share-autos, something we learnt later. So after explaining to the Auto guy in Hindi the directions to the Ashram, we took in the city of Haridwar. No buildings. But this was nothing new or unexpected, as most towns in India do not boast of multi storey buildings. Okay, so this place seemed normal. Narrow roads, paved streets etc.
We had booked our company ashram, so we weren’t quite sure how good/bad it will be. After the care taker showed us our rooms, all we could think of was sleep. After hitting our beds, we heard water leaking somewhere. Great, we thought, at 5 in the morning, neither of us wanted to deal with leaking water. After checking the source, we realized, maybe, it isn’t leaking water. We opened the balcony door. At this point, I honestly can’t describe what went through us. The view was stunning. Wow. Wow. Wow. We said that a couple of times, until it finally sunk in that our balcony was jutting out in to the Ganga. Well I’m not sure it sunk completely in even when we left the place. We literally had our own private bit of the Ganga. The mighty Ganga ! It flowed so fast. It was a little scary at 5 in the morning, it was pitch black. The sound was that of clear ripples running through boulders. We slept a very satisfied sleep. I will leave the photos to describe it in the morning.
Hari-dwar or ‘God’s door’ is the first point where the Ganga touches land from in its journey from the Himalayas. Ganga is said to have divine powers. If you bathe in the Ganga, all your sins would get washed away, supposedly. I am no one to decide what is true, but I did take a dip in the mighty river. I don’t usually believe folklores / myths etc, but how could one possibly use rationale after seeing the mighty river, that originates in the Himalayas, almost like it originates in the heavens. It just felt magical.
Contrary to what people say, or assume more likely, the water was clean, it was blue in fact. Maybe the water gets dirty as the river touches other places ; Varansai, Allahabad, Badrinath etc. We went walking to the Maya Devi temple first. I quite liked the temple. It was peaceful. Personally, I love temples for the very peace they can offer; an aura of sanctity. This was one of those temples one can sit and just reflect on one’s own thoughts. We met a couple of Babas, or Sadhus. They have much to tell.
We then decided to go Mansa Devi Temple. This can be reached via a ropeway. It was our first time on a cable car. If you look down from a height, a small butterfly starts fluttering fast in your stomach.
Mansa Devi temple was nice. I liked the temple bit of it. I didn’t like the money part of it. At every step, ( literally ), they ask for donations. There were times I wondered if this was a huge marketing gimmick. But you don’t let small things get in the way of the big experience Haridwar has to offer.
That evening, we went to see the much hyped Ganga Arati. This arati is performed every evening at the Har-ki-pauri – it is one of the famous rituals where praises of the Ganga maa are sung. More details – ( http://www.haridwarrishikeshtourism.com/ganga-aarti-haridwar.html )
Next morning, we left for Rishikesh by the local UK transport bus. Rishikesh typically has 2 bridges for which it is very famous; the Laxman Jhula and the Ram Jhula. Those are the so called ‘tourist attractions’. Even though I’m not a fan of going merely to the tourist-y places, these bridges are really nice. We had only a day in Rishikesh, so we had decided to only visit few places. There’s a small lane, filled with small stores on either side, selling harem pants to idols, devotional song CDs to leather bags. Beware, these stores warrant heavy negotiation in case you want to shop.
The bridges span the expanse of the Ganga. They are magnificent.
After hanging around in Rishikesh for couple of hours, we returned to Haridwar and took a ‘better than rickety’ bus back to Delhi.
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