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Delhi – Haridwar – Rishikesh

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I have had long cherished dreams of a dip in the holy Ganga and it was this august that it was fulfilled. I pen down a briefing on my visit to the “Abode of the Gods”. (I had to cramp my journey within two days and hence visited only the main pilgrimage spots)

We, my parents and self, started from Delhi (Dilshad Gardens) at around 6 pm on the 5th of August. We took an a/c taxi; although there was a train connecting Delhi and Haridwar, I opted for the car so that the journey could be comfortable for my parents. The weather was cloudy and we encountered slight showers throughout the journey. The worst part was the roads; once we entered UP (which is only about 200 mts from Dilshad Gardens), the car literally became a bullock cart. Anyway, the car trudged through and we had a halt at Muzaffarnagar (we stayed at one of my aunt’s house, which was a blessing in disguise!).

The next day we started around 7 am and proceeded on a fair pace. The roads were not that bad; we had packed breakfast and enjoyed it in a dhaba; there are many such dhabas along the way, which serve typical north Indian food. We passed by Manasa Devi temple, Har ki paudi and proceeded to Rishikesh first. Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula are the main spots; we had to park our car quite some distance away and proceeded by walk. The Jhula is actually a kind of steel bridge and it was nice to walk by with Ganga flowing below. We crossed over and then decided to have a dip (our first one!) in the holy waters. The water was a little muddy as it had rained someplace in the mountains and it was gushing at a terrific pace! The water was refreshingly cool! My mother was a little down in health at that time and the dip did not affect her in any way. A note of caution here: there are some handholds fitted in and one has to stay within that as the force of the water is immense (I am no swimmer but can say that even experienced swimmers would not stray into these waters). And it can be quite difficult for ladies who are not accustomed to take a river-dip, as the changing rooms were very, very dirty.

After we dried ourselves, we then proceeded to Lakshman Jhula - a similar type of bridge and nearby there is a temple, which houses all the deities (I came across many new names!). Visiting all the deities could be quite tedious for the elders as the temple has many floors! The view from the topmost floor of the temple is impressive.

It was around 1 pm when we started off again – to Haridwar. On the way, we again stopped at a dhaba and had lunch (again home made). Before proceeding to Har ki paudi, we visited Vaishno Devi temple (built similarly to the original one!). Again, lots of spiralling steps and narrow passages. Quite an experience!

Our final halt was at Har ki paudi (footsteps of Hari). This is supposed to be the holiest of places. And again we had a dip – though not strong as Rishikesh, the current was still swift. There are handholds, which are connected by iron chains, and holding this, we took our dips. Then we went and reserved places for the “Aarthi of Ma Ganga”. We waited and waited for more than two hours (we had started vigil at around 4 pm), but still the Aarthi had not begun. Meanwhile there were plenty of donation seekers (one is not obliged to give any) to keep the pilgrims busy. We had a shawl, which came in quite handy as one has to sit on the ground (it is not a mud floor though). Plenty of handmade waterproof towels (made from various chips/biscuit/other packets) were available for sale.

Finally the Aarthi started, but wait, it had just begun when a heavy downpour came in. We scrambled to our feet and covered ourselves with the shawl, which was actually pointless as we began to soak anyway. The Aarthi stopped for about 20 minutes and then they started again (the rain had lessened then). I took it that Ma Ganga wanted to clean us before the Aarthi! (Optimistic, eh?) The Aarthi was quite picturesque and done for about 20 minutes (not sure). We made our way back to the car and proceeded home.

It was a great experience, but I could not feel the Aura of the place or the spiritual stirring within me during my visit (maybe too much expectations). The places were more like commercial tourist spots (badly maintained though) rather than holy places. And the whole trip cost us around Rs.5000/-

I intend to visit Tapovan next…

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