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A Weekend Trip to Haridwar-Rishikesh (1)

Reading the heading, I’m sure most of U must have begun to guffaw about my choice of destination! Theek hai yar, its not the typical place you would say you went to spend your hols, but then, its a quick, easily reachable (for me) and a good hideout for a day or two, for a summer recluse like me. Added to that, given my love for water and comfortable travelling, these two places seem the easiest getaway. Now U must’ve been wondering all this while, why did I call it a “hideout”. Hmm.. well, the word came just because my bro and I are kind of running away from our bosses on weekends when they are trying to tighten the noose round our necks to get us somehow to our workplaces with or without a justified reason; so we, for once, switch off our mobiles and rush to the place that has water, tradition, multi-hued markets, cultural amalgam, spiritual colour and an ethnic-holy confusion, all mixed together in gay abandon. Another thing that I discovered about these two places is, that the mystique associated with them is such, that each time I visit these two places, I discover something absolutely new for myself.. something untouched out of the natural splendour spread around and something new within me. As it is, nature fascinates me. But I am those forever weary, lazy travellers who would any day want to travel in trams and ropeway trolleys than go trekking or kayaking. River rafting is an absolute no-no for me or for that matter, for anyone in my family. 😮 😛 But other than that, The Himalayas in Uttaranchal are visited for pilgrimage, adventure and holidaying. Some of India’s most sacred pilgrimage sites are perched on the Garhwal Himalayas. Haridwar, Rishikesh, Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and Kedarnath have been visited by saints, sages and ordinary mortals since many centuries.

Anyway, after this blah-blah, let me talk about the actual travelling. As bhaiya and I had managed just the second weekend this time, it was an outing meant merely for precisely three days (II Saturday, Sunday & a bonus Monday on account of it being some holiday). We slept late in the night as we were chatting away hastily deciding where to stop first and what all to do. Finally we dozed off unknowingly, yawning away in the wee hours of night. We had decided to take a driver instead of bhai driving us up to the place as both of us were too tired to be volunteering for any driving. We got up early in the morning to pack our bags and got ready to move for Haridwar. We had to make a little haste in early hours of the morning because we wanted to travel on less crowded roads and reach early. We all (mom, dad, me & bhai) just took a cup of tea and dumped ourselves in the car. We didn’t have to worry about our food-supply as mom had arranged our breakfast well in advance. There were matthis, achaar, namkeen, poori and bhaji for the rest of the way along with cold-coffee in the flask, and it was a satisfying stumptuous meal arrangement for the rest of the journey. For immediate instant breakie, mom had prepared some nice mayoineses-black-pepper-cumcumber sandwhiches. All of us liked them the way mom made them so it was not an issue and we enjoyed our light breakfast in the speeding car.

We had been able to manage this trip in the month of August and so, as a sign of welcome, an overcast, clouded dark sky greeted us with sudden bursts & shouts of rain, surprising us now and then and overzealous rivulets, streams and dreams overflowed on the way. We arrived at our pre-booked Haridwar rest-house around 11:30 AM. Although, there are many good resorts and hotels available in Haridwar, we had arranged the best for us as bhai was entitled for the stay as a perk. After checking in into the rest-house, we had rest for some time in the afternoon and took lunch in the mess before we started our visit to the holy land, Haridwar which is the land of holy river Ganga where millions of Hindus take a dip in the sacred river wash off their sins. The city Haridwar is regarded as a gateway of Heaven, as the name suggests. The town is so old that it is believed that it was born prior to many of the world’s ancient towns.


Around 2:00 pm, the sky had vented out its anxiety and cleared quite a bit by now so we went to visit the famous Har ki Paidi (or better understood as The stairway leading to God), which was built by King Vikramaditya. This ghat is believed to be the exact spot where the holy Ganga enters the plain. This is also the site of annual Kumbha fair. The mighty river Ganga flows very swiftly, brimming to the top and even overflowing during the monsoons, so common sense advises that only experts must try swimming unassisted here .The name of the ghat “Har ki Pauri” also gets its name from the feet ( Pauri) of the Lord Vishnu ( Hari). In the evening, we planned to spend some time on the river bank, to see the river life of life-giving river Ganga. Attending the evening Aarti in all its majestic glory and magnificence of the daily event here is a must for any pilgrim and is considered a life time experience for any Hindu devotee but since we has seen it twice already we decided to skip it. Instead, since it was time after lunch, we decided to take a stroll at on the other ghats and later the city roads. The ghats were messy as usual but the weather was thankfully very pleasant with perhaps light rain showers reaching just ahead of us. We played in the waters, observed the amazing mad display of crazy stuff like orange sindoor, plastic bangles and toys, all kinds of glass bead strings (malas) and other kinds of way-side assortments.
We merely sat down for an hour or so in the chilling but soothing waters of this majestic river and had a cuppa tea being sold in kulhads by the road-side khomchawala (vendor). Then, we also lighted our own diyas to pay homage to our ancestors and saw them float away in the pattals decorated with flowers.  

 

As we were getting up, mom lost her balance on the very slippery paidi and almost started getting carried away in the extremely strong current. Bhai and Pa were busy paying the diya-wala, tea-vendor and buying some chana matar bhelpoori. But I held onto mom strongly and so did a man who was standing next to us, paying homage to his ancestors. We were able to pull her up and so a shaky mom and the rest of us decided to go sit in the car for a while after thanking the man profusely. After a little rest, we decided to re-explore the market (re-explore because we have often been here, shopping all kind of wares and wall/home decorations). You can purchase good deal of semi-precious as well as artificial jewellery, brass and copper Puja utensils , glass bangles , wooden and stone wares. Cycle Rickshaws can be used to access most of these lanes if you are lazy or tired enough of walking but we preferred to walk. Like always, we bought chunks of semi-precious necklaces, trinkets, armlets and ear-studs (no rings, I hate wearing them!) after a good deal of bargaining from a hard-seller. beggars and brokers were busy pestering us for their purposes. While beggars tried all tricks in the trade to woo us in the name of God, Devil and religion, the brokers offered us supposedly good hotels & motels/tasty food in restaurants/ impressive deals with gemologists, face-readers, palmists, ashrams, jadi-booties, powders, hybrids, mixtures & concoctions, babas, yogis, tantriks as well as all kinds of quacks & crooks.  

 

Well, we bought what we had to: some carved wooden curios as gifts and decorations, a few carved & enameled stone pen-holders and boxes, silver sindoor-daani for my mami, plus a copper jug and other serving utensils. We were damn tired after all this tom-foolery, (as my brother chose to put it) and then returned to our rest-house. After some rest, we enjoyed sitting a while in the manicured gardens and lawns of the well-kept rest-house that were large and housed a variety of well-maintained rare flora. it felt blissful to be there, in the lap of nature. Since it was a Saturday night, we were served khichadi, dahi and papad at the mess since that day heavy food was abstained from. We had no problems as my family respects “Saatvik Bhojan” (thereby meaning clean healthy, spiceless food), we ourselves are a proponent of that, though not very strongly doing so.
The next morning after breakfast we planned to visit Mansa Devi , the temple located on top of a hill called the Bilwa Parvat. This temple can be reached by the rope way or can be reached by trekking. We unanimously decided to go by rope way and enjoy the scenic beauty down the hill. Those who were adventure enthusiast took the normal trekking route to the top. Visitor thronged the abode of this Mata for her darshan, the Goddess of these Garhwal range of hills. On reaching the badly kept premises of the temple, we offered our prayers to Goddesses Mansa Devi while managing to stand on one foot when the other found no place in that heavily populated (phew! too less a word prhps for the crowd there! ) crowded and suffocating open muddy hall (outside the main precincts) with kuchha flooring that was being stamped with uncountable footfalls and heads bowing in reverence. The slimy, messy floor was packed to the hilt. We somehow managed to hang on. As the morning Aarti concluded, we decided to return back to our rest-house.


We could have come back from the temple by the rope way and have gone for our next visit to Chandi Devi temple but we decided to walk down the path.. This temple is also situated on the top of a hill called the Neel Parvat, (on the Eastern summit of the Sivalik Hills, the southernmost mountain chain of the Himalayas) which is on the other side of the river Ganga. Chandi Devi is a three km trek from the Chandi Ghat.
If we would have gone to Chandi Devi temple, the walking route down the path goes past the Kamraj ki kali Temple. However, we kept the visit for another time and after visiting only the Mansa Devi temple, we came down and saw the natural beauty en route. In the afternoon we went for lunch. There are many a renowned restaurant in Haridwar that offer good pure vegetarian food. However, we did not really relish the food at “ChotiWaale’s”. it was too oily, badly cooked and the stewards were in a  tearing hurry to serve, pick their tip and kick us out to let the other teeming customers pour in for more fleecing.
Anyhow, In the evening we would have gone to Saptrishi Kund , a must see beautiful site, also known as Saptsarovar. From there we would have gone to Vishnu Ghat ,where Lord Vishnu is believed to have meditated. South of Vishnu Ghat , there is Maya Devi Temple where you can see images of Ashtbhuji (eight armed) Shiva, and that of Goddesses Durga with Three heads. Offer your prayers to these holy shrines and return back to the rest-room at night after dining outside. But as luck would have it, there was a sudden downpour and since it rained heavily, the driver refused to drive in the muddy slippery unknown lanes of a city not much known to him. We too were not very sure about going out in the rain so we chucked the idea and instead spent the time in our rest-house, chatting and resting. After all, we were finding time to be together, in peace, with none of our bosses to disturb, or mom’s maids to meddle with.
Finally, we surfed through the various channels, got a bit bored, strayed out to stroll on the various spacious corridors of the four floors of the rest-house and enjoyed the cool breeze with splashes of rain. Then, we took dinner in our rooms instead of mingling with the rest of the guests in the mess dining-hall and had a sound sleep in the cozy comforts of our AC rooms.

Link to A Soulful exchange with the Garhwal Himalayas : Rishikesh : https://puplumages.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/a-soulful-exchange-with-the-garhwal-himalayas-rishikesh/

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