Working Hard at Relaxing in Rishikesh, India

It’s been just over two weeks since I arrived in Rishikesh, India, to meet up with my wife, Carrie, who has been here since January studying Yoga.

In that time I have wandered around a bit, attended a few religious ceremonies, made new friends, hung out with old ones, learned the art of Laughing Yoga and, most importantly, relaxed!

A sunset over the Ganges River with an always-popular river raft floating into the nightGanges Sunset with Rafters - Rishikesh -2012-03-22 04-40-4
A sunset over the Ganges River with an always-popular river raft floating into the night

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What’s a Rishikesh

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Rishikesh exists in a delicate balance between city, nature, tourism and spirituality.

Nestled against green rolling mountains and next to the start of the Ganges River, it reminds me of San Francisco back in the day: with river instead of a bay.

The scenic town of Rishikesh, India, with the foothills of the Himalayas as a background.
The scenic town of Rishikesh, India, with the foothills of the Himalayas as a background.

Rishikesh Geography

While the city area itself is quite large, Carrie and I spend most of our time in a little rectangular space a few miles long. Split down the middle by the Ganges River, one main road runs from top to bottom on both sides while a pair of bridges connects them.

Ganga Beach Cafe & Restaurant by the Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh, India
Ganga Beach Cafe & Restaurant by the Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh, India

At either end of each bridge, there is a pocket of commerce, guesthouses, ashrams, temples, yoga centers and urban existence. As pilgrims come to Rishikesh from all over the world to visit, pray and cleanse in the Ganga, you can imagine there’s always a crowd. The city is like Varanasi, but on a much smaller scale.

Alongside the pilgrams, scores of travelers – Western and Indian alike – spend days roaming the streets, eating, shopping, visiting temples, bathing in the Ganga, snapping photos and taking it all in.

While some come for just a day or so, the majority stay for weeks at a time. I was joking the other night that I could spend my entire six month visa just relaxing here.

A 30 second exposure of the tail end of a sunset over Rishikesh and the Ganges River
A 30 second exposure of the tail end of a sunset over Rishikesh and the Ganges River
In the battle of Cow v Motorcycle, the Indian Cow always wins
In the battle of Cow v Motorcycle, the Indian Cow always wins
Shiva sits at the end of the Laxshman Jhula Bridge in Rishikesh, India
Shiva sits at the end of the Laxshman Jhula Bridge in Rishikesh, India

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The Business of Spirituality
Nestled in the Foothills of the Himalayas

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Spiritual tourism is the #1 business in Rishikesh with new guesthouses, ashrams, shops and infrastructure always under construction. Alongside the Ganges – India’s holiest river – buildings are covered with signs advertising courses in yoga, meditation, energy, Reiki and more.

Ashram, Yoga School, Music Consort, Tour Agency and Massage Parlor where I was groped during a massage
Ashram, Yoga School, Music Consort, Tour Agency and Massage Parlor where I was groped during a massage

Like anything in India or elsewhere, some of the classes treat the subject matter and participants with respect. Others, of course, are just in it for the money and do the bare minimum to get you back out the door. If you’re coming here for this purpose, do your research and choose wisely.

If you’re not in Rishikesh looking for a spiritual journey, it’s still entertaining to wander around and check out the never-ending collection of signs.

Yoga, Hotel and Tourism Signs by Ram Julah in Rishikesh, India
Yoga, Hotel and Tourism Signs by Ram Julah in Rishikesh, India
Yoga Centers by Laxshman Jhula - Rishikesh
Yoga Centers by Laxshman Jhula – Rishikesh

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NYC-London-Delhi-Rishikesh in 36 Hours

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Getting to Rishikesh was pretty easy, if not time-consuming…

Carrie and I on the porch of the Vana Mali ashram in Rishikesh
Carrie and I on the porch of the Vana Mali ashram in Rishikesh
  • Car ride to the airport with my mom
  • Flight, layover, flight
  • Taxi to the wrong bus terminal in Delhi
  • Inter-city bus to the right one
  • Public bus ride
  • Tuk Tuk to the bridge
  • A brief walk over it…

…and there she was. My beautiful wife, walking up the street just as I turned off the bridge, as if she knew I had arrived.

And once again, all was right with the world.

Ganges River between Laxman Jula and Ram Jula - Rishikesh
Ganges River between Laxman Jula and Ram Jula – Rishikesh
Universal Yoga - God Bless You - Rishikesh, India
Universal Yoga – God Bless You – Rishikesh, India

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . .

Stay tuned to this site as I continue to chronicle my journey across India and beyond.

In the mean time, please enjoy lots more observations and photography from three weeks in Rishikesh

  • Alexandru Amoq

    Wonderful!