The city of Rishikesh was made famous thanks to the Beatles spiritual retreat, where they supposedly composed The white album in 1968.
Retrospective of March 2015, source of the Ganges
The ghats are the steps built on the banks or in the vicinity of bodies of water in India.
We stayed in Rishikesh for two weeks, in a somewhat touristic part of town, mostly inhabited by masala-hippies, as we like to these young European backpackers dressed in white sweaters and sarouel pants, walking barefoot with a yoga mat under their arm.
We looked for a yoga class ourselves, but the sheer quantity of them was overwhelming - how to even choose when facing hundred of ashrams and sanctums. Ranging from Europeans yogis billing in dollars to spiritual retreat with mandatory donations of 900Rs/day.
These are sacred ground, so naturally, they attract tourists!
To be honest, our retreat was filled with vegan burgers and pastries! Seriously, there is a plethora of Nepalese owned restaurant trying to steal each other’s clientele. Our favorite one was outdoors, hidden at the lower end of a street, along the Ganges.
The 70s hippie generation has left behind a significant culinary legacy of "healthy" vetegarian food. Indeed, as a hindu shrine, the city forbids (in theory) alcohol, fish and meat.
In another part of town, 20 minutes from Laxman Juhla’s area, we like to join evening prayers, Kirtan
In other words, songs followed by rituals of water and fire . The rhythm is catchy, the tempo acceleration seemingly translated into palpable glee, a party spirit leaving each and everyone relaxed.
In India, no shoes are allowed in places of worship. Barefoot, we instantly feel connected to the place.
We got lucky this time around, Snatam Kaur American composer and a fervent militant for Peace, was performing.
She’s been performing Kirtans in Hindi for the past 30 years, whilst following the sikh disciple’s path ( a branch of Hindu religion). She manages to mix past and present melodies to form a coherent soothing song.
She’s a bit like Lady Gaga for yogis, with a voice and melodies transcending beliefs.
In the end, the crowd gathers to touch the oil lamp, symbol of the divine light in the Om bhur bhuvah svaha song , the most famous song mantra.
After this vibrant and calming ceremony, we feel it’s time to head back.
Some touristic guides warn against crowded tourist places’ tendancy to make shoes disapear. Or thiefs steal them? One or the other! We had to experience that firsthand to believe it. All these "bad spell" warding ceremonies, and for what!
Having accomplished our two main goals we had set for our trip in India - attending Parisian photographer Thierry Chantegret’s photography lesson, and giving my Mother’s ashes to the Ganges- we were suddenly free from any imperative. Oh right! Visiting the Taj Mahal.
Each encounter with Nepalese was reinforcing our wish to add Nephttp://tatup.fr/spip.php?page=gis&a...al to our list of destinations.
Ending up barefoot at the end of the way made me question a few things I took for granted.
It was a good opportunity for us to expand our horizons a bit, and meet our future friend Marc André, swiss healer with solid arguments, who we recently met in New Zealand not so long ago.
We then had a very interesting encouter. A Sâdhu nearly charged me and touched my cheek. I have absolutely no idea how then we managed to set up a meeting to go on a spiritual march with him, since none of us could understand the other. (Well Delphine DOES understand me...sometimes?)
We still managed, and departed on day with him, in the morning, for a 4 hours silent trek. Our Sâdhu wasn’t fazed by trekking tracks despite wearing crocs..
He showed us how he lives, (hint: he owns nothing) and surprisingly didn’t ask for compensation or payment. Sadly we never met again!
On the road along the Ganges, we meet monkeys, beautiful in their glorious freedom, devoid of any kind of the aggressiveness their city cousins tend to show.
Our next visit of the place happened with Luis, french follower of Krishna for the past 30 years. He comes to India every year. We wanted to try and visit a very remote village, and thanks to him, we managed to visit the city of the goddess Krishna.
After a 1 hour walk after the waterfall, there’s this tiny village, deserted by the young ones who shun traditional agriculture for an AI masters in the city.
The warmth and welcoming is incredible, Tchaï tea and cookies soon appear in our hands, with the promise of a meal we have to refuse, afraid to impose.
We share very few words, but the treasure lies in the eyes, the smiles and friendly gestures.
Ingenious irrigation vestiges are scattered in abandonned paddy fields.
The saying "India changes who you are" holds true in Rishikesh!
All these event helped us expand our mind, be less judgemental of others through acceptance, no matter the looks. Delphine even bought Nepalese sarouel pants! (That she kept using until New Zealand) !
We had time to share quality artsy time with Lukesh, a tatoo artist just settling down on the tourist district, and finally let the wind guide our steps.