Himalayan Sacred Walks - Part VII26, Nov, 2017, by Seema Bhatnagar
In continuation to Part VI.
Rishikesh is a small, holy town located in the foothills of Himalayas, in northern India, at a height of around 1,220 ft. from sea level.
Distance map from Uttarkashi to Rishikesh.
It has a great spiritual significance because the holy river Ganges flows through it. This is a place where Ganges can be seen with its pure and crystal clear water and from this point onwards it flows down towards Northern plains of India.
Besides being a mythologically significant place, nowadays, it has also become famous as a “Yoga capital of the World.”.
At Rishikesh, river Ganges with its' gushing water also offers an opportunity of white water rafting for advernture lovers. There are several adventure camping resorts run by private organizations for conducting rafting trips.
History and Significance
View of Goddess Ganga at Rishikesh.
It was here in Rishikesh, a famous ancient sage name Raibhya performed penance on the banks of river Ganges. As a reward for his strong penance God Vishnu appeared to him in the form of Hrishikesh and the place was referred by the name Hrishikesh which later became famous as Rishikesh.
Lord Ram’s younger brother, Bharat, performed deep penance here that is why even today there stands the Bharat temple.
Legend has it, that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the daemon king of Lanka; and Lakshmana, his younger brother, crossed the river Ganges using a jute rope bridge. Over the years with development in the region it has been replaced with a stronger and concretized one and has been named as 'Lakshman Jhula'. There is another suspension bridge called as “Ram Jhula” near Lakshman Jhula.
Being located on the bank of river Ganges it has a special spiritual significance and deep mythological stories related to it. There are many ancient temples, like Shatrughna Mandir, Bharat Mandir and Lakshman Mandir established by Adi Shankaracharya.
There are many popular ashrams which teach yoga and meditation, like Swarga Ashram and Parmarth Niketan and various other small ones. One can see many foreigners staying here to learn Yoga and meditation, some of them have been staying here for years.
The Ganga Arti performed at dusk at the Triveni Ghat is quite popular with visitors.
Rishikesh is also significant because it is a kind of gateway for starting Chota Char Dham yatra (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri).
This was the second last destination in our itinerary. It was a five hours journey from Utttarkashi to Rishikesh. We started in the morning by 8 am and reached Rishikesh late afternoon. This time, I enjoyed the journey, because it was downhil and hardly any sharp bend on the route. This was my third visit to Rishikesh, the last was when I went for rafting (read full post here.).
We got down near Triveni Ghat. The plan was to attend the Ganga arti in the evening and leave for Haridwar afterwards for night stay. So, for almost three hours we were free to roam around for shopping or for visiting nearby temples.
Some of the group members went to visit popular Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula but, we (I and my other newly formed friends) were just enjoying the view of Triveni Ghat and nearby market. We did shopping of some puja items and copper jewelry like bangles and rings for gifting to friends and family.
Namami Gange at Triveni Ghat.
Ganga arti is a special event performed every evening by local Trust’s pujaris (who conduct worship by profession). Special arrangements are made and all pujaris get especially attired for performing this event. It is about offering chants along with camphor and oil lit lamps to Goddess Ganga.
Ganga arti at Triveni Ghat.
It started at 6 pm. Before that all arrangements were made, loud speakers were installed, iron stools were arranged in a row over which pujaris will stand for performing arti. There was a special dais where all singers and instrumentalists were sitting.
Before actual arti, some devotional songs, Bhajans, were offered. The names of the persons were announced who donated for arti.
For offering to Goddess Ganga, one can buy a small boat made of banyan leaf which contains the lamp made out of wheat flour filled with ghee (clarified butter) in it, flowers and incense.
As the arti started leaf-boats were lit and offered. It was falling dark and all the leaf-boats were riding the flow and tides of water, looked like as if small lights were dancing on the water. It was an enchanting view. The air was filled with a fragrance of ghee and camphor and incense, after that actual Ganga arti started.
The whole place became filled with energy and it was difficult for one to remain untouched by the vibrancy at the moment. Once again I was deeply touched with the energy and vibrancy of that moment and tears started rolling down my cheeks. I was capturing video and clicking but my tears were just trying to match the flow of the river. It is difficult to describe this overwhelming state to anybody as it is something to experience and words do not have a power to express its’ weight.
Watch this YouTube video which I captured.
Once the arti completed I offered the leaf-boat by releasing it in the water. That magical moment was the moment when I actually felt doubly overwhelmed on finding the touch of cold water on my feet and the moon in the sky and the whole environment filled with positive energy. It was actually the moment of union with divine, however short it might have been.
I have always found myself fascinated by river Ganges for its’ turbulence, its’ serenity in the plains, the long journey it takes and for its’ pure water which remains unsullied even if kept for years and years. This time especially, when I have seen its’ source, the Gangotri, I have experienced a deep bonding with it.
Once arti got over we reached to our buses to leave for the final destination of our itinerary, Haridwar.