Escape to the Holy Twin Cities

Escape to the Holy Twin Cities

A trip sounds like the ideal thing to do when stuck at home during the long and boring vacations. Even the trivial act of hearing about the varied experiences that others have gone through makes a surge of jealousy rise up in our hearts, and an extensive search to find your perfect and budget-friendly travel destinations appears almost too tempting to resist. Like most, we often turn to our friends’ experiences to select and plan ahead for the vacations and the ensuing trip. When one goes to visit a place, they usually return brimming with plans that went awry or risks that turned out to be blessings in disguise. On similar lines, read on about a trip taken by one of your own classmates, who found her expectations completely overturned and herself dumbfounded, when a trip to a “boring, devotional” place turned out not that boring after all-

Know that feeling when the long winter holidays stretch ahead and you simply itch for a change from your monotonous, usual grind of a life? Of course you do! Doesn’t a vacation with your family to some favourite holiday spot sound tempting? It definitely did to me when some years back I found out that we were soon going to make a trip, but my excitement soon deflated on hearing that the destination in mind was Haridwar and Rishikesh. Not exactly what a teenager has in mind, you’d say. So, with a tired sigh, as usual, I prepared to follow my parent’s orders.

I hope you’re still reading on? Good! Because I am going to share my experience there which I hope will totally change your perception of the place, exactly like it happened to me.

Throngs of people gather on the banks of River Ganges.

‘Let me give you a brief introduction. Haridwar, 214 km northeast of Delhi, is at the base of the Shivalik hills. Here the mighty Ganga comes down to the plains of India from the Himalayas. Among the many pilgrimage towns situated along the length of the holy Ganga, Haridwar is arguably said to be one of the holiest in the land. Our hotel was right on the banks of the Ganges and the strength of religion and surge of devotion was evident as throngs of people had gathered there. After some refreshments we went down to the river to take a dip, like most, walking with trepidation as the slippery steps threatened to imbalance us.

 That evening I realised that Haridwar is a lot more than a crowded religious place. Har Ki Pauri Ghat, literally meaning the ‘footstep of God’ is a holy bank nestled on the banks of the river Ganges, teeming with people waiting to take a dip, who follow that up with the evening Maha-Arti, symbolising the five elements. There are some things that can never be told but only be felt and this daily evening ritual of worshiping Goddess Ganga and other Gods is one of them. All I can say is that the enchantment cast by the chanting of mantras, sparkling light that came from the lamps and the aroma from the ‘dhoop’ followed by the lamps floating in the river left me mesmerised, despite my earlier misgivings.

A glorious example of beautiful architecture, the Laxman Jhula.

Next, following the advice of the hotel manager, we went to the Bada Bazaar, only to have our senses assaulted by the aroma of mouth-watering food and tiny shops, serving  mountains of spicy puri aloo, hot frothy kulhar milk, crispy kachoris, sweet samosas and everything tasty under the hood.  If you are a food enthusiast like me, there are so many food items to choose from that you would be spoilt for choice. Trust me when I say that you have signed up for a delightful gastronomic journey. After buying some souvenirs and other stuff we went back to our hotel to get ready for the next day.

The white water rafting in Kaudiyala for the adrenaline junkies.

Next morning, we headed to the holy twin city of Haridwar, that is, Rishikesh. The 450 feet long iron suspended bridges, Laxman and Ram Jhula, a glorious example of beautiful architecture, was our first tourist spot. As explained to us, apart from offering scenic beauty, these architectural marvels are important pilgrimage spots. We visited the famous Trayambakeshwar temple, Ram temple and Laxman temple, situated in the vicinity. Being in Rishiskesh, like most adrenaline junkies, I simply could not miss out on the white water rafting in Kaudiyala. To say that I enjoyed the rush of adrenaline would be an understatement. The rafting went on for several kilometres and the path was interspersed with rapids, ranging from Level 1 to Level 5, in order of difficulty. At the end of the trip, one also had the option of jumping some 20 feet from a ledge into the water. Sadly, as we had planned to spend only a day in Rishikesh we could not visit other tourist spots, something I still regret.

It was a beautiful experience and I am glad that I was proved wrong in thinking that it would be an uneventful trip.  True, I have got several photographs but the real panoramic view that I treasure is the one that is captured in my mind. Perhaps this trip might not have been one to pump up the party spirit of a typical teenager, but it was certainly one that I will always cherish, more so for the knowledge that it gave me and the myths it destroyed in my mind.

-Anchita Parna

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