Unreal May in Rishikesh, North India
The most important: Don’t make my mistake and go to the mountains in the north first and then travel down to Rishikesh in May. I booked a Vipassana Retreat early in advance, so I had to plan my travel around, but in India it’s always better to travel with the seasons! I’m still grateful I was there exactly at that time and place, it made my experience exhausting but also unforgettable.
May seems to be the month of school holidays in India, when many families in India go on a pilgrim journey to places like Rishikesh. Daily, thousands of people came into town. Also May is one of the hottest months in that area, not many tourists are still in Rishikesh, they all travel up to the mountains and come back after summer and monsoon are over.
Alone in Rishikesh
Rishikesh was like a dream or a crazy movie for me. Small streets full of people, beggars, animals, beauty and trash. Holy places and ceremonies everywhere. The air was boiling in the sun, the river was heavenly cool. All the smells in the air, street food, fire, animals and incense. Delicious drinks can be bought at every corner, but the heat makes me sick and I should better only eat bananas..
I went to the sunset ceremonies at Parmath Niketan Ashram a few times and loved Sadhvi’s satsang at the ashram afterwards, it touched me deeply to hear from her life. In the day I met kids and women at the bathing places down at the river and sometimes we talked, they invited me to chant and swim with them. I watched all the deeply believing people making their dreams come true when they dip into the Ganges there.
The mix of people in the streets is overwhelming, many people and animals look sick and desperate, many pilgrims share food with the poor in the streets. The animals are peaceful and often beautiful, others have open wounds. I wander around, go shopping and swim in the Ganges several times a day.
I enjoy the moments after a dip in the river, the cold clothes on my body make me able to think clearly for a moment. I don’t think it’s possible to get used to this heat. I enjoy the early mornings and the time around sunset. It’s impossible to get a deep sleep, my mood is always between nightmare and dream come true during the day.
Sweets and Ashram Yoga
I like the sweets and chai they sell at Parmath Niketan’s Ashram restaurant, they use fresh milk from their own cows. Many times I also join the yoga classes there, traditional Yoga practice, taught by amazing women. On the other side of the river I find an amazing Hatha Yoga teacher, Samatvam Yoga with Gurmeet Singh.
A room at Ved Niketan Ashram
For the first days I stay a Ved Niketan Ashram in Swarg Ashram part of town, this ashram is very affordable and simple and includes the meals. They offer single rooms for foreigners. I really liked the atmosphere there, but I think in the season it might be different. In May the rooms are very hot, even in the night.
The Beatles’ Ashram
One day I went to visit Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram on my own, it costs 600 Rs but for me it was absolutely worth it. Not many people around, I wandered through the ruins and meditated and chanted in the small huts. What a magic place, it must have been a great time in the 70s with the Beatles there!
Ram Jhula is the name of the main bridge in Rishikesh, it’s for people, cows, monkeys and scooters. I find it very beautiful and you meet all kinds of interesting people on it, but every time I arrived on the other side I could smell the adrenaline in my sweat from the fear I felt.
Yoga Niketan Ashram
In my second third week I moved to Yoga Niketan Ashram on the other side of the bridge, because I needed a bit more comfort and couldn’t find a nice, affordable room. I loved the time at the ashram, they offer a beautiful daily schedule with sessions of Yoga, Meditation, Library and Chanting. It’s a very good atmosphere, the teachers there want to share their deep knowledge.
Oh Rishikesh, what a blessing to be with you in this May 2018. So many painful and meaningful memories I will never forget and it puts my whole life in perspective. This human life is supposed to be the best reincarnation because of the possibility of suffering and also liberation – both sides I could experience in Rishikesh.0