Not too long ago, we had a chance to visit Rishikesh, in northern India and the Himalayan foothills, known as a top yoga and adventure travel destination. You may have also heard about Rishikesh as the site of the ashram where the Beatles stayed in the late 1960s, and where they sought (and found, apparently) inspiration for their work. We visited that (abandoned) ashram as well, but that will be a separate post.
Pilgrims sit on the left bank of the Ganga at the Ram Bridge. Crossing the Ram Bridge is an experience in itself, as you will be joined on the 2-meter wide suspension footbridge by cows, bicycles, and constantly honking motorcycles! See photo taken by Anne, below:
To be honest, I thought the town itself was overrated as a tourist destination. It was nice to see the Ganges/Ganga where it flows clean and cool from the mountains, and you can bathe in it without worry – or go whitewater rafting. In fact, that’s what we did one day:
There are definitely a lot of outsiders hanging around town. And though there are activities that bring in the tourists and adventurers, the town itself is not that remarkable. Especially on a drab, rainy day.
I am not a big “street food” eater, but I had to stop and have some fried sweet potato from this guy. They call it sweet potato in India, but honestly I find this indistinguishable from the ordinary potatoes in Europe that they make delicious Belgian and Dutch fries out of. These were every bit as good, and when I went back a second time he became very concerned when I refused any of the special sauces (mostly spicy) he was offering me. Just salt and grease, thank you very much. And no “maditation” for us either.
Another thing people like to visit in town is the nightly Ganga Aarti – the sacred Hindu ritual of worship on the banks of the Ganges river. Students in the ashram learning the Vedic (Hindu scripture) texts sing songs and prayers, and offerings are made to the fire god Agni. Everyone is welcome to observe the ceremony, as the people photographed below are doing.
For us, one of the highlights was seeing the beautiful grey langurs we spotted hanging around near the Ram Bridge. Everyone else ignored them, but we couldn’t stop taking pictures of the monkeys, who didn’t seem to mind at all. Here is one of Anne’s shots:
Unless otherwise identified, the photos on this post were taken with an Olympus PEN EE-S from the early 1960s (color) or a Kodak Retina 1a from the early 1950s (black and white). You can see other photos taken in Rishikesh in this Flickr album.