It was an impulse decision to come to Hrishikesh, partly to get away from the heat of Vrindavan, but, mostly due to hearing for years about the beauty of the river and the cooler mountain breeze. Westerners gather here for the ashrams and yoga retreats, the water sports like white water rafting, kayaking, hiking and the gunja (dope).
We came for the river, the scenery and the chance to circumambulate and photograph another holy place… honestly! We are booked into a place that overlooks the Ganga right on a sweeping bend complete with rapids. This allows us to fall asleep to the sound of the river and conjure up echoes of the ancient past.
Sitting in the roof top restaurant a full moon appears over the mountains reflecting off the river and the Shiva temple next door. It is easy to see why this is a special place to rest and rejuvenate for the tired traveler. The next morning we are up at first light greeted by the sound of the river below our balcony and a milky mist that makes the mountains and water merge as one color. I play with my 70-300mm lens for some long shots across the Ganga and then a few shots of Jagat chanting below our balcony. See http://www.pearlphotography.biz/ for more.
The town is waking now and bells from the ashrams across the river ring out to signal the faithful of a new day. We venture off to the big multi story Shiva temple next door and to our surprise fine scores of rooms with alters to every incarnation of God and all the demi gods. Then Jagat spies a crystal store so all bets are off for further exploring for now.
I find a CD store and the owner will open any CD and let you listen… its fun and I have them all looking for Indian fusion music and Jagat has them looking for mystic, mantra stuff… all in all a little fortune is dropped here (about a third of USA cost) but I do love some of the new sounds that fits the time place circumstances. Of course we reach the Ganga and I take a couple of my favorite images of the trip, a Sadu washing his cloth. It’s late now so tomorrow we will cross the river and look for a Hanuman monkey.
The Ganga is a milky green as the first rays of sun light come over the mountains and we are off for the far side of the river. We cross a suspension bridge and the warmth of the day is setting in along with the sellers of wares thinking I want to buy stuff even though you tell them NO! Over and over again… but soon we are out of the tourist zone and heading along a road with other pilgrims looking for that special something in life. For me on this day it is to find a Hanuman Monkey and worship the Ganga. We buy some bananas (for us not the Monkeys), this is a more peaceful side of the river with green gardens and stone walls with sitting benches every few feet.
Down the road I see them sitting in a tree and on a wall just waiting for me it seems. Hanuman Monkeys playing and eating, big and small, a whole family. My first wish out of the way we head for the second Foot Bridge and Jagat makes a flower and candle offering to Mother Ganga. The bathing gatts are full of worshippers and even cows join in as small boys dive in and fill bottles of the Holy water. We both dangle our weary feet into the cold water and sit in bliss as the sun starts it descend into the western sky.
This night we dine at a spot recommended by a young guy who said to food was great. Well we waited and waited for the food… but it was worth it… all freshly made by a kid from Nepal… what he did with mushrooms and eggplant was truly amazing and the atmosphere was nice to. The smell of gunja coming from the kids sitting and eating on the floor (traditional Indian style) brought back memories of being young. Their faces full of life, their eyes red and their appetites big. It turns out one of the young girls runs the internet café and rafting store that I meet the day before and she chatted with us for a while her sweet German accent (Swiss) and friendliness capping off a lovely two days in Hrisikesh.
Tomorrow we hit the road and hopefully nothing else!!!!!!! Fingers crossed…