"I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost
Although Rishikesh is dotted with a number of temples (Pawan dham, Bharat mata, etc), nothing is more sacred than the river itself, Ma Ganga. We longed to get a glimpse of the Ganges and finally succeeded after reaching this beautiful ashram in Rishikesh, Dayananda ashram.
The ashram exhibited a marvelous canvas of natural grandeur. We had prebooked our room so getting accommodation was not difficult. The ashram houses a huge garden, a library, a temple facing the river Ganga and a large dining hall. The rooms are clean and spacious. The food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) is very saatvic (pure) and home-like.
[Ghat at Dayananda Ashram]
It has its own ghat which the visitors staying there can use to take a holy dip/bathe in the river. The atmosphere here was very peaceful which provided us the perfect ambience for our stay here -- A far cry from the Mumbai concrete jungles...
After making ourselves comfortable here, in the evening we set out to explore the city. A five minutes walk from the ashram to the main road and then a rickshaw (Rs. 5/person) to Ram Jhula. One can either take a boat or utilize the Ram Jhula to reach the other side of the river. We took a boat (runs every half hour, Rs. 10/person) as Parmarth Niketan ashram was on the opposite side of the river. 5 minutes walk and we reached the Parmarth ashram.
[Parmarth Niketan ashram]
The place was abuzz with activity and lots of people. Small Parmath Niketan students dressed in yellow dhotis were running around as if little yellow flowers swaying in the gentle breeze of the holy river. We realized we were just in time for the famed ashram Aarti and took a seat on the flight of stairs. The atmosphere was truly enchanting and spiritual. Words fail to express the serenity and the divinity that one experiences amidst the ringing temple bells, the chanting of the mantras, and the innumerable diyas enlightening the entire place as well as (to some extent) your inner soul. I felt a oneness with the surrounding which energized my spirit and cleansed my mind. It was something I won’t forget in a long time. After reconnecting with ourselves, it was dark and time to return to the ashram. The boat service was closed now and we crossed the Ram Jhula on foot this time. The entire stretch of the bridge gives you a marvelous view of this exotic city. I longed the stretch to be a little longer cause the view from up there was amazing.
We started the next day with a holy dip at the most revered ghat- Triveni Ghat. After the Ram Jhula, I definitely was waiting for our trip to Laxman Jhula which is older and bigger. After crossing the Laxman Jhula, we walked to Ram Jhula up to the Parmarth ashram, on the way feeding many langoors (monkeys) and cows with bananas which we had bought quite cheap. Slightly ahead of Parmarth Niketan is Gita Bhavan where many prominent saints like Swami Ramsukhdasji used to give pravachans (preachings) in front of packed crowds.
By this time the sun had started to set, a blazing orange circle slipping into a soft delightful sleep after a long and a weary day. We retired in our rooms and packed our bags as the beautiful journey had neared its end.
I closed my eyes And thanked this enthralling city for rejuvenating and replenishing my soul for the life ahead....