“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.”
IMAGINE a week in the foothills of Himalayas, the mightiest mountain range on the planet earth; a week in peace, far away from the hustle bustle of a metro city; a week to learn some yoga to re-establishes the original harmony.
Ever since my last trip and after reading Eat Pray and Love, I wanted to spend some time in an Ashram. So I began my search for a nearby Ashram where I can spend a week in peace away from hubbub of Delhi, a place where I can learn some Yoga, spend some time with myself and get more close to spirituality. After a long search, I finally picked an Ashram in Rishikesh.
On the holy banks of the Ganges, in the lap of the Himalayas, lies Parmarth Niketan Ashram, the largest ashram in Rishikesh, and one of India’s largest spiritual institutions. Parmarth Niketan means “An abode dedicated to the welfare of all.”
It was Friday, somewhere in mid of April when I took an overnight bus journey to Rishikesh. My earlier plan was to make overnight train reservation, but because of seats unavailability I had to take a bumpy ride in local state transport bus. The bus driver was playing old Bollywood songs in a speaker to help him stay awake. After hearing more than 20 songs playing in loop and a sleepless journey I finally reached Rishikesh, it was still dark. The registration office of Parmarth Niketan opens only from 8 am to 8 pm, so I decided to walk and spend few hours by exploring Rishikesh’s morning life.
With backpack on my back and camera in hand, I started walking towards Ashram. As I moved out of bus stop I can feel the cold breeze flowing, with each breath my mind was getting more relaxed. There was a sense of spirituality and purity as I crossed the Ram jhula (bridge) over Ganges river to reach ashram. Ram Jhula is an iron suspension bridge built in 1986 over river Ganges to cross the river which flows deep and silent. One can easily feel it swinging as people move around. The bridge was constructed with the span of 750 feet (230 m).
I reached Ashram a little early where a huge idol of Lord Hanuman (the monkey God) welcomed me. Parmarth has these magnificent welcome gates carved with beautiful designs and scriptures. Once registration desk was open I checked-in by completing required procedures. If you are planning to arrive during off times make sure you send a prior communication to respective authorities at Parmarth, so that they can arrange and plan things for you.
I was given a riverside room from where one can observe ever flowing the mighty Ganges. After taking a holy dip in mother Ganga, I made my way to a centralized mess for breakfast. Parmarth serves 3 free meals a day to all the guests who are staying in Ashram. The food is very good but after a couple of weeks it gets too monotonous. Whatever they cook everything tastes the same after a week. In most of the meals they prepare Rice, Dal(lentils), chapatis (flat bread) and cook green vegetables. There are few small shops outside the ashram where you can satisfy your taste buds.
With my tummy full with breakfast I attended my first Yoga class of my stay which was supposed to be taken empty stomach or at least an hour after any meal, so for the first hour I only listened to the instructor. They have many trainers, practitioners and guest faculties from across the world to teach and talk about Yogic science and how it help us to balance and re-establish the original harmony of life.
After long discussions and talk with other guests, I decided to have some rest in my room. I slept like bear tired from a sleepless journey followed with yoga sessions. In evening, I headed for Ganga aarti (fire ceremony) ghat where preparations for the worldwide famous Ganga aarti has already begun. In front of ghat there used to be a huge statue of Lord Shiva sitting in a meditation pose which was submerged in monsoon flood last year. I settled myself on a corner stair to witness the magnificent Ganga aarti live.
As the daylight starts fading, more and more people gathered on aarti ghat waiting for the ceremony to start. The ceremony starts with the singing of bhajans (devotional songs), prayers, and hawan (a purifying and sacred ritual that takes place around a fire, with the offerings made to Agni, the fire god). The lamps were lit and the aarti occurred as the final part of the ceremony. The whole surrounding was so positive and powerful that while sitting there I can feel that energy flowing through my body and purifying my soul.
The ceremony lasted for an hour after which I headed for a walk on the bank of mighty Ganges. It was dark and I can hear the Ganges flowing at its pace. I can feel the whole essence of Ganga as I stopped and immersed my hand in the mighty Ganges. After spending time with mother Ganga, I had my dinner and wrapped up my day preparing for next day.
Early morning holy dip, yoga, meditation, simple meals, Ganga aarti and spending time with mother Ganga, this was my only world during my stay in Parmarth. I have experienced and learned so many things that it is hard to wrap them in words. All I can say, it was a lifetime experience and yes they say it right Parmarth is truly a spiritual heaven.