Ghats in Rishikesh
As we drove into Rishikesh
, the welcome sign boldly stated 'Diversity is our Unity' which I remember thinking pretty much summed up India. Rishikesh, famous for being the city where the Beetles found their guru, proudly claims to be the yoga capital of the world, and this is pretty easy to believe. The city is divided up by the River Ganges, lined by ghats similar to those in Haridwar
, and joined up by the rather elegant but busy luxman suspension bridge. This place again had a very different vibe to all other cities we visited. There were many more Westerners here than say Haridwar. They mostly seemed of the backpacking variety, specifically the 'finding themselves' crowd, dressed in tie dye and looking a bit spaced out.
The quiet (traffic-less) main streets were lined with yoga and meditation ashrams, the population largely consisting of practitioners, pilgrims and 'sadhus'of all variety. We had already seen sadhus (wandering monks) previously in Haridwar and at the festival we stumbled upon on the River Kosi. These dudes are easily recognised by their hair long (often dreadlocked), beards, and robes which are often bright orange. They live with extremely minimal material possessions, often just a walking stick and a small bag containing all their worldly goods. They are very well respected in society and live on donations from the public, they do not beg. There were variants of the sadhu, some in black robes apparently practising black magic, and some begging ones that were apparently fake monks. Apparently they can travel by train free of charge too! Fascinating.
Time for some yoga. We found a yoga ashram in a great spot overlooking the Triveni Ghat on the banks of the Ganges. This was quite a different yoga experinece to anything i have had before. We started off with some chanting exercises which promptly gave me the giggles. It was OK until the instructor got us to put our fingers in our ears so we could only hear ourselves chanting, catching a glimpse of Lindsay ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm the moment was too much! Calm down, a few sun salutations, meditation, I really got into the vibe and felt very calm, marvellous. Took a stroll around the city to take in the sights. Ashamedly, this ended with a nutella pancake and a capuccino in a cafe 'recomended by the Lonely Planet'. Oh the shame of it. This was one of the only cities we visited where such places existed and we just really craved non-spicy food. That pancake really hit the spot, just orgasmic.