Soul searching in Rishikesh

I had lost 6 kilos in three days. Chronic allergic bronchitis seemed to have killed my appetite & I knew in my mind that the medicines were going to be of no use this time. I had heard of yoga curing these sorts of ailments & I wasn’t going to let ill health ruin my happiness. So without a plan & just a faint idea of my destination I boarded a train to Delhi; threw away all my medicines & swore to myself about never using them again. After sleeping for 12 hours straight in Pahargunj, Delhi – my road trip started & I boarded a bus from ISBT Kashmere Gate in Delhi to Haridwar and onward to Rishikesh.

Rishikesh bell from a temple

There was a chill in the air as it was the first week of January. I dragged my bags across the Ram Jhula to arrive at Parmarth Niketan Ashram before darkness descended. I was almost denied entry at the ashram but I guess fate had a role to play when a kind man inside the office of Parmarth Niketan gave me the keys to the room.

Imagine yourself sitting in peace on the banks of the Ganges (or holy Ganga for the purists) with a thin veil of mist shrouding the evening; listening to the soothing sounds of gurgling waters & add to that the mellifluous chants of the soulful Ganga Aarti with the Himalayas in the far distance. Spirituality had not yet had its tryst with me due to the mundane affairs of daily life. As they say ’When the student is ready, the teacher appears.’ My moment had arrived then.

Ganga Aarti Rishikesh
Magical evening at Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh.

Closing your eyes and getting swayed in the chants of the aarti with the heartrending voice of the guru is possibly the most divine experience anyone can have. It is an indescribable happy high & enlightened feeling, like an unending crescendo of uplifting trance! I wished the Ganga Aarti would never end; for it was like being brought back to earth from heaven itself! The meditation class proved to be a tough nut to crack with most of us having never tried it earlier.

On the first day, everybody had smiles on their faces & tears streaming down their eyes by the end of a 30 minute session. It was quite surprising to know that this was a sort of inner cleansing. Come second week, natural detox had resulted in zen-like inner peace. I was joined by a handful of other folks in Parmarth Niketan; mostly foreigners from different countries. It was an eye-opener to have unhindered conversations about life as travellers bared their hearts to strangers.

Parmarth Niketan Ashram Rishikesh

I had been humming Scorpions’ ‘Send me an angel’ on the repeat mode since Christmas. The universe responded and how! There I met Nicole from Copenhagen and had an instant soul connection. When we parted ways, she drew me a tattoo & said ‘remember each other till it lasts.’ Fellow travellers from across the world had become everlasting friends.

The all seeing eye - a tattoo drawn by someone I met at the Yoga ashram.

Rishikesh literally means ‘Lord of Senses’ (Sanskrit translation) & is rightfully called the ‘yoga capital of the world’. Ganga River is the holiest river for Hindus and it flows right through Rishikesh.

Why is Rishikesh so popular among hippies & travellers?

Rishikesh shot to prominence in the late 1960s when The Beatles visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram for meditation & wrote most parts of ‘The White Album’ at the Ashram. Subsequently, hordes of westerners followed their footsteps and came searching for peace & enlightenment to gave birth to the offbeat hippie holiday trail.

Beatles Ashram Rishikesh
Graffiti at Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh.

Expert Tip from 2014 : To get inside The Beatles Ashram, jump in from the side walls, as the gates are usually closed due to it lying within the Rajaji National Park. The lucky ones stumble upon impromptu jam sessions held in the hall known as ‘The Cathedral’. Explore an array of graffiti on the walls made by travellers from around the world. Thank me later!

At the ashram; Sasha from Kazan in Russia was trying to get a sim card but was having a lot of trouble doing so due to the language barrier. I helped him in getting it but would strongly recommend reading this ‘How to get a Sim card in India‘ post by Rachel.

Read : Beatleas Ashram in Rishikesh – What to expect?

2 weeks at Parmarth Niketan in the non-touristy part of Rishikesh had transformed me from being sick; to fit as a fiddle. It was time to head northward to the high Himalaya and ‘reclaim my life’. The next leg of my journey would take me to McLeodganj and then to see more snow in Manali.

As Rumi says : ‘And you. When will you begin that long journey into yourself?’

I knew I had begun mine.

Have you ever had a life changing travel experience?

Practical Information : 

Buses from Delhi to Haridwar/Rishikesh are very frequent and run from the ISBT Kashmere Gate in Delhi. Parmarth Niketan Ashram is located on the other side of the Ganga river in Rishikesh. It is best to reserve accommodation in advance at Parmarth Niketan Ashram as it has become known as the best Yoga and Meditation Ashram in Rishikesh and sought after over the years. You can connect with them on email or by calling the phone number mentioned on the website.

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83 thoughts on “Soul searching in Rishikesh”

  1. Super osum brother…wat a writing …simple & crisp …to d point… short n sweet n expert comment sud be named after u..or baba’s idea..gr8 going.. luved it..very happy 4 u..quite satisfied to c u lyk dis..nature redeemed u…oh lastly special mention for photos n d way it hs been placed…bravo !

  2. Picturesque. The pictures aid the experience but the writing is graphic enough to transport you to that land 🙂 looking forward many more stories

  3. The writing and the experience are extremely graphic and transports one to that land immediately. Hope you felt better after the trip. Looking forward to many more posts.

  4. Thanks for bringing your blog to my attention! You clearly have the gift for writing plus the post was informative. I would add a little more detail about how people can arrange a stay in the ashram, if there is a cost, add that plus also how you booked your train/bus trip to Rishikesh & the cost. Keep up the good work, definitely think of buying the domain and losing the Plus, do try and get yourself over to a travel blogging conference in the near future ( TBEX in Thailand, October 2015)

    1. Thank you Europebudgetguide. 🙂
      I will add a generic post regarding factual information about the ashram & Rishikesh in general later… ok, I will try & connect with other bloggers & get to a TBEX conference at the soonest 🙂 Thanks again for the suggestions

  5. This looks like a great introduction to yoga for you and with some almost immediate health benefits too. I love the gesture of the tattoo from your new friend. Maybe you can exchange tattoos each time you meet again?

  6. Hi Shubham, a very good start to your first piece of blogging and you got me hooked already 🙂 I love your pics esp the sunset one. Glad to read that you have overcome asthma. They say mountain air is good for the lungs, no? Looking forward to read more of your posts. Best of luck!


  7. Wow Shubham, your narrative is crisp and the photographs are amazing. I’m glad that I had been a part of your travel at some moment of time.
    Keep writing, keep travelling, and I hope we’ll meet somewhere, someday.
    All the best!

  8. By the time I completed reading the post, I felt an irresistible yearning to visit Rishikesh. And if your post has made a couch potato like me feel that, it is really something! (Y)

  9. Beautiful narrative! Loved the way you have described everything. It’s very simple and placcid but manages to capture ones attention. Keep it up. If your first blog is as good I am waiting for the upcoming stories.

  10. Great Story Shubham, The experience you narrated couldn’t have been said in a better manner. Rishikesh is on my bucket list from forever but somehow it kept on spilling. This year would definitely visit Rishikesh, Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. These photos are stunning! A very good friend of mine has inspired me to start seriously thinking about travelling and these types of posts just inspire me so much. You have a lovely blog and I will definitely be keeping in touch with your posts! – Tasha

  12. I’m glad to discover another traveller who sees travel as a spiritual journey. 🙂 I’m so allergic to the idea of constantly posting pictures and tweeting while travelling! One should switch off completely. Sharing can happen later. Experiencing is more important in the present moment. 🙂 Lovely writing and photography.

  13. I love such travel stories and experiences covering each detail. Great work Shubham! and yes the pictures are fab!
    BTW Rishikesh is my second home 🙂
    I spend minimum 10 days every year at Parmarth. You should try the naturopathy there. relaxing!!
    Also early morning yoga at Vanprastha 🙂
    I take a trip to neelkanth almost every month. There is a govt. school at Rattapani on the way to the temple. such a pleasant place by the Ganges. hiking is fun on the path. Do check it out 🙂 beware of the monkeys though 😀

    1. Thank you Upasana. I am all for organic food and closer to nature. Neelkanth is divine & so is Neer Guddu waterfall. Hehe, monkeys are a regular feature in Rishikesh.. Next time will definitely go there 🙂

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  16. I can’t describe my emotions after reading your post. I belong to Rishikesh, spent 24 years of my life there. Now married and live in Gujarat. Healing Ganges and Mystique Himalayas know how much I miss Rishikesh ! Wish you many more of such trips !

  17. What a Gr8 start to the Blogging World 🙂 Thanks for Sharing this Lovely post and Awesome Pics I have found my reason to be there soon !!

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  19. Hi Shubham, what a pleasure it is to discover your blog through the Himalayan Club and read your travel stories. I could not help myself from sharing my experience of the Ganga Aarti with you. No favors asked, I just felt like sharing my experience with you as I understand the feeling of wishing the aarti to go on forever…. Here’s my take on the experience Enjoy!

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  23. I feel as if this was your first post of the site and when I see the latest , I feel like I have seen these places with you. This is the power of a powerful narrative.

  24. I like your blogs youngman! Your experiences as a solo backpacker are fascinating and your descriptions about those experiences are excellent. Keep up the ood work. Your blog has inspired me to travel solo as well, hopefully I will embark on my 1st solo adventure soon. Take care of youeself.

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