Travelling, as you might have by now realized, reading my earlier blog posts, is one of my raw nerves. I require a well-deserved break to refresh. This travelogue made me understand why many bloggers travel so extensively. Traveling to different destinations, seen and unseen, both, gives you new insight, new experiences of people and places. This travel of mine which lasted for around 10 days in the northern part of our country brought in mixed feelings. I had visited some places quite a number of times while two places were new for me and I had longed to visit one of these places.
The first leg of my travel was to Agra, Mathura & Vrindavan. I had written about my experience in Vrindavan especially, some 8 years back when I went there for the first time. (Click here to read the post). I thought, that the scene I encountered then might have changed for better. It did change, but whether, it was for better or worse one can surmise by his or her own experience. I for one can say that an organized loot is carried out in the name of faith in Vrindavan, systematic brainwashing of hapless devout travelers took place when I first visited the place in 2011. It has become, even more sophisticated, I can say.
After completing official work, I happened to visit Rishikesh & Haridwar. I had waited, pretty long, for this day, I would say. I wanted to see the Ganga River. It had eluded me many a time before. It had been a classic tale of so near, yet so far, in the past. So I was very curious to visit the place. I have seen many rivers like Yamuna, Narmada, Godavari, Ravi, Tapi, Cauvery, Tapti, Beas, Jhelum, Sindhu etc. But Ganga eluded me. Let us leave behind the current debate surrounding Ganga, its purity etc. Yes, Ganga river requires to be cleaned, for it is not just another river for Indians. It carries a Godlike halo around it. no other river of this land is so mythical or commands such awe, respect, and devotion than Ganga. An entire Indian subcontinent owes its existence to this river, whose name is etched up in our consciousness and whose reference one can trace in folklores dating back to centuries and thousands of years more.
Another place which I wanted to visit was Rishikesh. I have read quite a number of spiritual works by renowned spiritual leaders and have never missed the reference to Rishikesh. I have read books of Spiritual Masters like Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, who is also credited for spreading Yoga and Hinduism to the west, Journey with a Himalayan Master written by Swami Rama, The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami by Radhanath Swami, If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir by Om Swami and other such books. All these books delve into the spiritual prowess of the place called Rishikesh. And they were not wrong.
As we crossed Haridwar and our bus started its journey on the curved roads, somehow, I could feel the difference. Maybe, because, I was expecting too much about the place, some skeptics might say. Maybe they are true. But, yes, as I reached Rishikesh, I could feel the vibrations, the energy of this place. Afterall this place has been the abode for many spiritual masters like Mahesh Yogi who was called a Flying Yogi in the west, Swami Shivananda, Neem Karauli Baba of the famed Beatles etc. We crossed the Ganga River by boat and bathed in the river. At 12 in the noon the water was chilling cold, the flow was very fast. It was my first experience with Ganga River and I was mesmerized. We spend around one hour in the river. Anyways, we had lost the time count by then. We did not visit many temples, just an Ashram. But, still, the place exuded such a vibrant energy. We sighted many foreigners from western countries. They were there to learn Yoga. Rishikesh is called as the Yoga Capital of the World.
On the way, we found a man in his early sixties, he was wearing just a white loincloth and an orange headgear. He was dark complexioned, his cheeks had retreated, but his face glowed, he was simply sitting on the banks of the river. His face exuded pure joy and happiness, which we yearn for. On inquiry, we understood that he was from Tamil Nadu, he was a highly qualified rich man from that state. He just left everything behind and came to Rishikesh. He had taken ‘Sanyas”. The inquirer in me arose. I had read many a thing about Rishikesh and it was now time to check some of those. I inquired him about the mystical experiences which he had, about the upper reaches of Rishikesh and the Sadhus and Sanyasis staying there. Finally, I asked him what did he achieve here. He said, I found the real joy, the eternal bliss, that we all long for. I am sure the man was not lying, for he had no objective gain in lying. He did not accept money from us either.
There are numerous such people staying in Rishikesh, they are in search of that eternal bliss, which is called as “sat chitta ananda”. Yes, some of them may be totally fraudsters, but one can find few ones who are genuine seekers.
Rishikesh is also becoming a commercial place, activities other than spirituality, like fast water rafting, adventure sports etc is promoted. However, one who is in search of something higher will ignore these things.
I shall certainly strive to make another visit to this mystical place, as early as possible, and probably yet another one and another one.