At the foot of the Himalayas lies two holy towns which sit along the Ganges about 30 km away from each other. Hardiwar is not the cleanest city I have ever seen but the many people, cows and monkeys make up for its ‘less than kind’ features. There are many holy places along the Ganges River. There are holy men everywhere due to the prominence of Hindu temples with their many stories. There are 33 million Gods in the Hindu culture so there is a lot of worshipping going on at any given time.
Our Hardiwar and Rishikesh guide, Alok, was proud to give us the top tips of Hindu religion in a simple way. Of course, the main three or Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. As it has been explained, G O D is the acronym for Generator, Operator and Destroyer. In the Hindu religion, Brahma is the generator and creator. Vishnu is the operator and protector. And Shiva, the destroyer and transformer. As one walks through the town, dodging scooter and pigs, there are little pujas and statues throughout.
A bit further North is Rishakesh, another very holy city. It is cold and rainy on the day we arrive. The Ganges snakes along the mountain valley like a serpent of servitude. This river is a reminder of the strength of India’s cultural connection to renewal. Throughout its history, and all the strife, discomfort, war and poverty, is always a sense of hope. There always seems to be that feeling that this too shall pass.
Rishakesh is famous for two bridges to cross the river in significant spots. Laxshman Jhula and Ram Jhula both provide passage to the North side of the river. The most amazing experience there was the Aarti Ceremony right on the foot of the Ganges. The rain stopped and the skies opened to a beautiful sunset. People gathered around next to the Ganga and a large flock of young boys dressed in their saffron and maroon clothing flanking the holy fire. It was simply beautiful. The singing was something I have never experienced. I think the Hindi spoken ceremony was basically about honouring the experience of ‘life’ and ‘light’ that is within. The feeling that overcame me was surreal. The mood was one of release and an uplifting of spirits. And the young boys seemed entranced with such passion as they sang along with the holy man overseeing the service. It was truly moving.
As we left Rishakesh, dodging cows, pigs and scooters along the small streets, I could feel a shift inside. It will be a moment I will fondly remember. No matter what occurs, It is as it should be.