I was lucky enough to be born in the foot hills of the mighty Himalayas in a cute little town called Dehradun. Only people from Dehradun can truly understand the specialness of this not so little city. Dehradun is only 30 kilometers from Rishikesh, yet in all my life as a child and young adult, I had never once visited Rishikesh, the city known to be one of the holiest cities of India . I had passed it many a times, as we went to places higher up in the Himalayas trekking and hiking, or on my yearly family pilgrimage to the lovely Hemkunt Sahib, one of the holiest abodes of the Sikhs. But not once had I really experienced the joys of being in the little town of Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is truly special for more than one reason but the top few reasons are :
1. Rishikesh is the spiritual capital of India and me being an ardent spiritual seeker, am drawn to this city like a bee is attracted to honey. It has been the seat of many a Himalayan masters and sages including greats such as Maharishi and Swami Rama. There is also much talk about the great sages who are meditating up in the Himalayas and pay the city a visit from time to time. The city is filled with Ashrams galore, which offer a host of residential programs for spiritual seekers especially for Yoga, Meditation and Ayurveda.
2. The Vibration of Rishikesh is special. Being on the banks of the Holy river Ganges and sitting comfortably in the lap of the mighty Himalayas, this place is high energy. You can instantly connect to it once you are open to sensing and feeling energy. One of the most special and popular events in Rishikesh is the Ganga Aarti, a ceremonial evening of chanting and fire offering, praying for the cleanliness and reverence of the Ganges. The idea, which is promoted by the Parmarth Ashram which sits on the banks of the river is largely to help clean up the Ganges and give it the respect it so truly deserves.
3. Walking on the streets of Rishikesh is a unique experience. The shops along the famous Laxman Jhula and
Ram Jhula offer some of the most gorgeous Statues of Gods and Goddesses I have ever come across, apart from stunning pieces of jewelry. There are book shops filled with all kinds of Spiritual Teachings. Gurus adorn the windows of many of the shops, every spiritual accessory and ayurvedic medicine that you may require as a yogi is available here. The food offering is also international given that there are so many foreigners here. You can opt for the various local fare or go for the large range of organic or vegan offerings.
3. Rishikesh is the adventure capital of India – Rishikesh is home to some of the best White Water Rafting in the world. Sitting on a raft, moving along the Ganges flowing through the Himalayas is an experience quite unparalleled first because of the spectacular beauty and second because of the high vibrational energy that this river offers. Just being there, feels like being in heaven. No matter what, make sure you take a dip in the river. This water with its holy prowess apparently rinses one of many sins. Though I am not sure about that claim, I can can confirm that you feel amazing after. Apart from River Rafting, some of the best hiking and trekking can be had in the Himalayas and Rishikesh serves as the starting point of many such treks. Even around the city, there are many lovely little trails and hikes of various lengths and difficulty that one can go on.
4. Rishikesh is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city of India – Because of its popularity among the world spiritual landscape, it draws to it people from every corner of the world. You will find an array of restaurants with a large variety of international fare in general. There are some spots which have greater concentration of international yogis so you need to seek those out, if that is what you are looking for.
5. Rishikesh is the Yoga capital of the world – There are many, many Yoga training places in Rishikesh, Most of these places offer Teacher Training programs at prices much more affordable than in Western countries. Further because of the spiritual history and special energy of the city, the place draws to it myriads of students wanting to become Yoga teachers.
There are endless reasons to visit Rishikesh, and all I can say about this little gem of a town is that it will not disappoint. If you are a spiritual seeker, there is plenty of different options and outlets to do a deep dive into yourself.
Apparently, there is a naughty side to Rishikesh too – The apparent easy availability of marijuana and weed on the streets, for those looking for a spiritual experience of a different kind! Unfortunately, I don’t have any pointers on this aspect