Jaya was after me for long to take her to Rishikesh (Hrishikesh). She wanted to see the famous Ganga Aarti there. So, we planned this time to visit Hrishikesh during my holidays to India.
We reached New Delhi from Ranchi on Sunday and checked in at The Metropolitan Hotel, New Delhi. I had already booked a cab for the New Delhi-Hrishikesh-New Delhi trip through Carzonrent.
On Monday morning, we left for Hrishikesh from our hotel after taking breakfast. It was a Mahindra Xylo and the driver – Mr. Devender Singh is a nice guy. Hrishikesh is about 240km from New Delhi. The morning traffic in New Delhi took some time. Then we rushed towards Hrishikesh.
It was around 2pm in the afternoon, when we reached Roorkee. We stopped at a road side food joint – Green restaurant for our lunch. After lunch followed by tea, we again started our journey towards Hrishikesh. It is about 100km from here.
Ganga bridge at Haridwar with Lord Shiva overlooking
On the way, we passed by the famous Patanjali Ashram of Ramdev Baba, Kankhal & Haridwar. We crossed the holy river Ganga at Haridwar. It was a magnificent site.
We reached Hrishikesh and then to our hotel – The Great Ganga at around 4.00pm. It is quite a good hotel. Our room had a nice view of the holy river Ganga. We had a small balcony too to have unhindered view.
Our room with grand view
Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, it is known as ‘The Gateway to the Himalayas’. Hrishikesh is a name of Lord Vishnu that means ‘lord of the senses’. Rishikesh has been a part of the legendary ‘Kedarkhand’ (the present day Garhwal).
Legends state that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka; and Lakshmana, his younger brother, crossed the river Ganga, at a point, where the present ‘Lakshman Jhula’ bridge stands today, using a jute rope bridge.
The sacred river Ganga flows through Rishikesh. It is here that the river leaves the Shivalik mountains in the Himalayas and flows out into the plains of northern India.
After having a hot refreshing tea at the hotel, we decided to go to the river as we could not wait to miss the Ganga Aarti. We walked down towards the Ram Jhoola. It’s about 10 minute walk from our hotel. As it was getting close to the Aarti time, so we decided to cross the river by a boat.
Crossing Ganga river by boat from Muni-ki-reti to Swargashram
After crossing the river, we rushed towards the Parmarth Niketan Ashram Ghat for the aarti.
Entrance to the ghat of Parmarth Niketan for Ganga Aarti
Instead of being performed by pandits, the Ganga Aarti at Parmarth Niketan is organized and performed by ashram residents, particularly the children who are studying the Vedas there.
Havan before the aarti
The ceremony commences with the singing of bhajans (devotional songs), prayers, and a havan (a purifying and sacred ritual that takes place around a fire, with the offerings made to Agni, the fire god).
The lamps are lit and the aarti occurs as the final part of the ceremony.
The Ganga Aarti
The children sing along with the spiritual head of the ashram, in sweet, haunting voices.
A huge statue of Lord Shiva overlooks the proceedings.
It’s a nice divine experience with everybody participating in the bhajans and aarti. Many foreigners were also there joining the Hindu devotees.
After the aarti, we just walked around the Ashram and Geeta Bhavan. Then crossed the river walking over the Ram Jhoola bridge to reach the hotel.
Next day, we planned to visit the famous Neelkanth temple. The temple is situated at a height of 1,330m and is located about 32km from Hrishikesh. The Temple is one of the most revered holy shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a prominent Hindu pilgrimage site. It is surrounded by dense forests within Rajaji National Park and is adjacent to the mountain ranges of Nar-Narayan.
It is enveloped between the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot and Vishnukoot and is located at the confluence of the rivers Pankaja and Madhumati.
According to Hindu mythology, the place where the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple currently stands is the sacred location where Lord Shiva consumed the poison Halahala that originated from the sea when Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) churned the sea in order to obtain Amrit.
The poison emanated during the Samudramanthan (churning of ocean) made his throat blue in color. Thus, Lord Shiva is also known as Neelkanth, literally meaning The Blue Throated One.
We worshiped at the temple and then stopped at a food joint for some light refreshments.
After foods, we started our journey back through the forests of Rajaji National Park.
The water streams on the ways are carrying crystal clear water to the river. These are yet to be touched by the pollutions of the modern life.
We then stopped near Swargashram. We walked down towards Lakshman Jhoola.
There is a multi-storied Shiva temple on the bank of the river Ganga just across the Lakshman Jhoola bridge.
Multi-storied Shiva temple near Lakshman Jhoola
We walked over the bridge to cross the river and then walked back enjoying the pristine beauty of the sacred river Ganga.
View from Lakshman Jhoola
It is quite hot afternoon. We opted for ‘shikanji’ a local made lemonade drink to quench thirst at Swargashram and for some cool respite in the hot afternoon.
A traditional Indian soda lemonade (Shikanji) vendor at Rishikesh (Uttarakhand) near Lakshman Jhoola bridge.
Then, we walked up to the car park. We started our journey towards Haridwar. It is about 25km distance through the Rajaji National Park.
We stopped at the Chandi devi temple on the way. It is dedicated to Goddess Chandi Devi in the holy city of Haridwar in the Uttarakhand state of India. The temple is situated atop the Neel Parvat on the Eastern summit of the Sivalik Hills, the southernmost mountain chain of the Himalayas. Chandi Devi Temple is highly revered by devotees as a Siddh Peetha which is a place of worship where desires get fulfilled.
As we are having short time and it is a hot afternoon, so we preferred to go up the hill by ropeway. The same ropeway company also runs the ropeway for Mansa Devi temple. So, we bought joint ticket for both the temples. We waited for our turn and then went up to the temple. We prayed at the temple and then returned back for going towards Har ki pauri in Haridwar, which is about 5 km from there.
It is a famous ghat on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar. This revered place is the major landmark of the holy city of Haridwar. Literally, “Har” means “Lord Shiva” who is the god according to shaivite school of Hindu theology , “ki” means “of” and “pauri” means “steps”. Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are believed to have visited the Brahmakund in Har ki Paudi in the Vedic times.
King Vikramaditya is said to have built it in 1st century BC in the memory of his brother, Bhatrihari who had come to meditate here on the bank of the Ganga. An area within Har ki Pauri, where the evening Ganga Aarti takes places and which is considered most sacred is known as Brahamakund. It is considered to be the spot where the drops of Amrit fell over from the sky, while being carried in a pitcher by the celestial bird, Garuda after the Samudramanthan.
Har ki pauri
We walked on the banks of Ganga at Har Ki Pauri. It was lovely walk with the river passing by from both the sides. Then went to Brahmakund and sprinkled water on our body. Then we went for tea at a nearby joint.
Ganga Aarti at Brahmakund, Haridwar
After tea and samosa, we walked towards the starting point of ropeway to Mansa Devi temple.
Statue of Maa Ganga
The temple is located atop the Bilwa Parvat on the Sivalik range of Himalayas. It is dedicated to Mansa Devi. The temple is known for being the holy abode of Mansa, a form of Shakti and is said to have emerged from the mind of the sage Kashyapa. Mansa is regarded as the sister of the Nāga (serpent) Vasuki. The term Mansa means wish and it is believed that the goddess fulfils all the wishes of a sincere devotee. Mansa Devi Temple is also a Siddh Peetha, which are the places of worship where desires get fulfilled.
We reached at the base of the hill – the starting point of the ropeway to carry us up. Ufff, when we reached there, we found a huge crowd of about 500 pilgrims waiting for their turns on the ropeway.
We waited at the waiting hall for our turn. On reaching the temple, we prayed at the temple and also performed our evening prayers there as it was already quite dark by then. Then we started for returning back. Also, there was a big queue for getting down the ropeway!
A statue of an Indian sadhu at the hotel lobby
After getting down, we again headed for tea. Also, we had jalebis and samosas with it. Then we again started walking on the banks of the river in the evening towards the car park, with the waters gurgling down and cool breeze blowing. Lovely, memorable experience!
We reached the car and then straightaway headed for our hotel at Hrishikesh.
Tomorrow morning, we will return back to New Delhi. It is an excellent, but short pilgrimage for us and we enjoyed every bit of it. May be we will return here again!