Rishikesh is one of those places which hold a special place in my life, hence no doubt that I have a special liking for this spiritual township. My first memories of this town are from 1987 when I came here as a teenager and spent more than a week alone in search of myself. That’s altogether a different story, but since then I developed a close affinity to this place. I have come here a number of times since then, and what is significant that almost my every subsequent visit to this place has been part of a defining trip, as much as my first visit here.
Haridwar nearby was the more heralded one always- mythologically as well as religiously. It was bigger and more accessible, but it still couldn’t make Rishikesh less attractive for me. Whenever I had a choice, I would prefer to stay in Rishikesh instead of Haridwar. That is why, I consider Haridwar as more religious and Rishikesh as more spiritual. So, when its spiritual, it brings more of peace and tranquillity- peace of mind as well as body. A lot has changed obviously, since that visit 32 years ago, but the charm off the place is still intact.
Check your Yoga quotient
Talking about body, Rishikesh for ever has been unofficial Yoga Capital of the world. I might not be that religious, but I had believed and practised Yoga since my childhood. The serene environs of Rishikesh always motivate towards a mindset inclined to Yoga. Rishikesh has been a breeding ground of many Yoga Gurus. Many Yoga Festivals have been organised in Rishikesh for years. Many of them have over the time got an organised structure and huge following across the world. They have made their mark on the international travel calendar. Prominent among them is the International Yog Festival (IYF) organised by Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB) in association with Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN). Since its inception in 2013, the calendar for IYF is fixed- 1st to 7th March every year at Ganga Resort of GMVN, right at the banks of the river Ganges. It’s the same time of the year again, when you need to start making your preparations for the event.
This global festival attracts yoga enthusiasts from around the world and gives them a chance to experience the divine art of uniting mind, body and soul. This year’s weeklong festival has been divided into 3 themes: Traditional Yoga (Day 1 and 2), Contemporary Yoga (Day 3 and 4) and Shakti – the power of creation (Day 5-7). The last 3 days will be a celebration of divine feminine spirit, wherein prominent female spiritual figures and yoga practitioners will share their knowledge and conduct Shakti-energy invoking sessions in a variety of yoga styles.
Besides the yoga classes, various symposiums will be held on the topics, such as Yoga for women, The Yogic way of Life, traditional vs. contemporary yoga, Yoga before and beyond the asanas, the goal and the foundations of Yoga, an integrated (body-mind-soul) approach to Yoga, Significance of the Shatkarma in Yogic advancements, frontiers of Yoga as per the ancient texts & their attainability, Yoga for me v/s I’m for Yoga (How to get out of our comfort zone & grasp the goal of Yoga). The festival will host a number of sessions with some of the leading experts who can change your perspective and deepen it by sharing their knowledge. Various yoga affiliated eminent personalities will grace the occasion.
The Thrill Factor
But it’s not all spirituality and yoga. Rishikesh, as I said, always had defining moments for me. One of those was my trip to Jumpin Heights. The highest bungee jump in India was very instrumental in kicking out some level of fear factor out of me, and what made it more thrilling for me was the fact that I was able to have the experience before most of the people could have it as I was the part of the pre-launch experience media team. That still remains etched in my memory as one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Its something probably in this place which brings the impossible out of you, be it yoga or be it adventure. No doubt that city attracts tourists from all over the world for its numerous adventure sports such as white-water rafting, cliff-jumping, kayaking and camping. Known as the ‘Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas’, Rishikesh is starting point for treks to numerous Himalayan pilgrimage centres and shrines. And, I have tried to have every sort of adventure here.
As an icing on the cake, Rishikesh has now been honoured not only as the Yoga Capital but also been given the title of India’s Adventure Capital. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Rishikesh has been identified as the capital of adventure sports of India. Rishikesh, the host of India’s highest bungee jumping platform, along with popular and intense rafting rapids, is the first choice of adventure lovers this year; Goa was second in terms of choice of adventure lovers, while Kerala remained third.The year 2018 was celebrated as the Year of Adventure as declared by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.
It has also been found that people chose trekking and river rafting to be their preferred adventure sport. The reason for this has been observed as the increased number of rafting rapids available in India and people enjoying it as a group activity, to encourage team spirit. I have seen rafting in Rishikesh for more than two decades now. Similarly, bungee jumping in Rishikesh has also emerged as one of the most favourable activities for adventure enthusiasts. Since its inception nine years back, more than 70,000 jumps have been made and it is expected to increase exponentially. Camping is being taken up as another form of important group activity.
So, if you are one of the ardent adventure aficionados and are longing for your adrenaline kicks amidst the lofty mountain peaks, dense beautiful forests or the challenging rapids of the Ganges, Uttarakhand is place to be! Pack your bags, gear up and make rush your adrenaline!
That feeling of togetherness
Another thing is driving Rishikesh these days. It is now also getting favour for meetings, conventions and team-building or leadership-building activities. Its right on the foothills of Garhwal Himalayas. The serene atmosphere here is deemed to be just perfect for rejuvenation and bonding. This is attracting a lot many corporates for their activities here.
City is already getting ready for PATA Adventure Travel and Responsible Tourism Conference and Mart 2019 (ATRTCM 2019) organised by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). This will be held in Rishikesh from February 13-15. The three-day event, kindly hosted by the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board, comprises of a one-day travel trade mart and one-day conference that brings together public and private sector tourism professionals involved in adventure travel and responsible tourism. It is going to be a big event.
Rishikesh is indeed a land with many faces. It has gushing river flowing by side, it has got feeling of hills but is easily accessible by all means of transport. It is spiritual town but far away from chaotic crowd. It has got wide range of foods, without any restrictions which are imposed in nearby Haridwar. Rishikesh gained instant international fame when The Beatles came to stay with their guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in the 1960’s. It has come a long way since then. Worth a many visits and lot many experiences.
Have you been to Rishikesh? What all you did there? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.
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