“The long and short of our mini vacation at Haridwar is that no matter how hectic and tiresome it may seem, it is worth the break from monotonous daily grind”
Sun rise and Songs of the Birds
Even though it was a short & hectic trip to Haridwar that we undertook with with good amount of planning and preparation. Gone are the days when I would just hop on to the bike and ride clean out of sight listening to Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band “Roll me away”
Now we have to plan and be ready with every eventuality considering the young kids. Kabir though now 51/2, is a tough fussy individual and Meera is just too young 31/2.
My father-in-law, who is going to celebrate his 75th birthday this July, my elder Sister and my nephew Karan (we call him Keshu) were also part of the trip so we had to make sure of their special needs. Both undergoing medical treatment, cant afford to put them under too much stress.
Rather than travelling on the Friday night and enjoying the whole of Saturday over there, decided to travel on Saturday morning to avoid any inconvenience to our host there. Oh Yes must mention that we were going to Panditji‘s place (father figure for me, one of the few people in this world that I am really close to). A nice big house, near the Ganga (Ganges river) in a rural area. Which in the context of India/ North India/ Uttar Pradesh, it means lack of infrastructural facilities.
Except for the Meerut Bypass which has been really upgraded very well (yes we have to pay a toll-tax of Rs.65 one way for the facility), the road condition other wise is still a shame. Heavy traffic is a normal occurrence on this route, there seems to be hardly any long term planning visible to improve the infrastructure.
Yes there are few nice food-joints on the way – oh now there is a McDonald & Haldiram, side by side, but we halted for the food at our favorite Moolchand’s :-), both ways and not only kids had a good time there, even Dad & Sister enjoyed their meal and the hot glass of Tea. Its very common to have tea in a glass in India, its not something which is sipped delicately out of a cup to savor the subtle taste but rather slurped and enjoyed with milk and sugar to get refreshed and recharged.
There are few things I am pretty sure about and one of them is that the McDonald of the world can never really win over the Indian foodies. People (specially young kids) may get tempted by the burgers and fries but ultimately either these MNCs will have to change their menu’s drastically and include the Indian taste & preferences or they will continue to be the fringe player in a absolutely humongous market.
On reaching our destination, which is a small village called Haripur, we had a simple home-cooked meal of lentils and rice and while the other decided to rest. Me, Kabir, Meera and Keshu decided to venture out in the hot sunny afternoon have a look at the river Ganga from my favorite spot in the forest of Rajaji National Park. Haripur is situated at one of the important religious/mythological places in India called Saptarishi, Haridwar. It was a part of the dense forest area which humans slowly started cultivating (its a very fertile land thanks to the Ganga river).
In the evening all of us walked through the Rajaji National Park forest area to reach a secluded and safe part of the Ganga river bank and had an amazing fun time in the water… the place is breathtakingly beautiful with just the River, Forest and peaceful environment in the company of loved ones… We stayed there as long as we could, it was really dark when we reached back home.
The dinner was again a simple Indian home cooked mean and then it was time to go to the terrace, lie down and watch the beautiful night sky – the sky was so clear there, away from the maddening pollution of the big cities, that one can see all the stars shining so bright, all the constellation were looking so beautiful. The airm was so nice and cool, Kabir called it ‘Natural AC’ :-)… I kept staring at the starts only for a long time, chatting up with Pandiji and Keshu for a long long time and then we didn’t even realize when we fall asleep.
Woke up around 5:15am with the songs of the birds playing all around, the sun was just about to rise up from the East and the place was looking even more beautiful at this time of the day.
We just sat there for a while, slurped some hot sweet tea and talked even more, till the time the kids woke up downstairs.
The kids woke up a bit late and the sun was already up in the sky, so there was not much fun in going to Ganga and get a sunburn… We turned on the Tube-well at the farm and the kids had even more fun, it was safer than the river. Kabir and Meera kept jumping around playing with the water for a long time and have still not stopped talking about it. One of their questions (they are unending you know) when we were coming back home was “Why cant we have a tube-well at home?”
After the fun with the water and a lazy breakfast of Aloo Paranthas, we left for Rishikesh which is just a short 45 minute drive from there. Got down near Laksham Jhula, walked around the market area, had a nice cold glass of Nimbu-Soda drink and we were ready to cross the famous Lakshman Jhula – an iron suspension bridge over the river Ganga, the views from the bridge are breathtakingly beautiful. The group of youngster rafting down the river and shouting loudly as the cross the bridge is just awesome. The suspension bridge rocks gently as the large crowd of people are crossing it from both sides, it is unnerving for some people and that’s visible on their faces as they hurry across the bridge and their expression changes as soon as they are able to cross it. But it was good fun, I was there after a very long time, and the very first time with kids.
There were lots of monkey, monkeying around and I told the kids not to get scared of them and to throw away the eatables if the Monkey suddenly jumps in front of them, they will get busy with the stuff and will not attack them. I demonstrated this to the kids and I guess they took the lesson too seriously. While we were having another round of Nimbu-Soda, a Cow who was gently wondering around, came close to Meera who threw her glass along with the Nimbu-Soda at her, scaring the poor thing and breaking the glass in the process. We had a good laugh as Meera said you only told us to throw away the eatable if some animal comes closer.
We roamed around the markets, temples and streets of Rishikesh for a while. Reached Swargashram and had a fine lunch at the famous Chotiwala restaurant there. The famous anecdote from Panditji about this place is how in the 1960’s Chotiwala had a small eating joint there and used to charge just 75paisa for an unlimited meal. Panditji who was a wrestler in young days and had a pronominal diet used to come to this place along with his friends on their bicycles from Haridwar and gorge on the food till he owner used to get mad and through them out.
After a sumptuous lunch we gingerly moved on to cross the Ram Jhula – the newer suspension bridge. Half the family wanted to cross the Ganga on the boat as it would have taken us closer to the car parking area, but our Meera wanted to walk down the suspension bridge one more time. It was getting really really hot there. So to avoid the usual scene created by a howling kid, I walked along with Meera across the bridge while the rest of the group went in the boat. I didnt regret the decision of walking on the Ram Jhula, there was a nice breeze while we walked slowly over the bridge, it was less crowded than the Lakshman Jhula, Meera kept waving to all the boats going down the river, thinking Kabir and others are there in any one of them. As we crossed over the bridge, we were welcomed by a big Langur looking for food aggressively and a Mad Man running around.
The kids and the elderly in the family were already tired and we headed home to take a afternoon nap. Wandered around the SatptaRishi area in the evening, walked on the bank of Ganga where many people were meditating, seriously following the ritual of taking a dip in the holy Ganga. Kids had some Gol-Gappas while we returned home at the Dinner time.
The night on the terrace was even more beautiful with a gently cool breeze sweeping the area. We were so tired of the walks throughout the day, slept off in no time after hitting the bed. I was woken up by the rain drop falling on my face, the feeling was so pure that I wanted to keep lying down there in the rain but then the better sense prevailed and I got up, woke other up and we quickly moved the bedding to the covered area.
After leisurely rounds of tea, another round of fun at the tube-well and a lazy breakfast of Puri-Aloo we got ready to pack up and say emotional goodbyes to all. Oh yes in between Keshu managed to pick up lots of mangoes from a nearby tree.
We started early so that we can cover Chandi Devi Temple and also reach home by the evening. The next day was again the start of regular schedule of Office/School/Research work for Me/Kids
The attraction at Chandi Devi for the kids was the Ropeway ride… and they loved it. Although to get that few minutes ride we had to wait in the queue for more than an hour which was just crazy…
The temple, as it is usual across India, was crowded with people in a hurry, as we were more of Kids and Elderly group, we had to be double patient for the Darshan of the deity ‘- call it ‘Kali’, ‘Durga’ or ‘Shakti’ its basically the female form of God in Hindu religion.
The Temple visit was again filled up with our little breaks for Nimbu-Soda, soft drinks/ fresh juice and wafers and snacks. Though it was lunchtime when we reached down the hill and got into our car, we decided to move on and have a late lunch at our favorite Moolchand’s on the highway. The heavy breakfast in the morning and lots of soda and water after that helped us in a big way.
The kids took a nice nap in our lap and they were recharged with the energy by the time we reached Moolchand’s. The lunch was a mix of South Indian snacks, pizza, burger & sandwiches, accompanied by tea, juice and lassi…
The heavy lunch meant that most of us we ready to take a nap when we got back in the car, but the kids with their overflowing energy didn’t let that happen. Though Meera did fall asleep later and Dad also managed rest with his eyes closed for a little while.
We were back at home by the evening, the short and hectic trip was over, you cant really call it a Vacation but that’s all we could manage right now. There was hardly any time to reflect on the trip, it was preparation time for the next day and the week ahead. Stationery items for the kids for their summer camp in school and groceries for home. But did manage to steal a moment and enjly a bottle of chilled Badam Milk in the market…
While dreaming of better, bigger and more comfortable vacations at sexier places in the future, its better to take even these small breaks whenever one can get some opportunity. It helps in breaking the monotonous day-to-day work-home regime and gives a respite from the regular schedules.
Saptarishigets its name from Sapt (seven) Rishi (Sages) of Hindu religion. According to one Sacred Hindu history many years back seven great sages used to meditate at this specific spot and Ganga river (the holiest river for the Hindu’s) converted itself into many smaller streams in this area, to avoid disturbing the meditating sages.
The seven sages are mentioned by different names in different Vedas (Hindu scriptures), they are also used as gotras (starting point of families or rather genetic tree going back thousands of centuries) in India. Every Hindu person has a Gotra named after one of these Sages, indicating that the person belongs to that particular lineage. The names of the Sapta Rishis mentioned in the various Hindu scriptures are different which may mean that the Saptarishis are the seven positions, where different Sages are being assigned to the position time to time to fulfill their duties. My family gotra is Bharadvaja
Another popular story of the area is from Mahabharata, it is said that after the great war, The Pandava brothers Yudhishthir, Bheem, Arjun, Nakul & Sehdev along with their common wife Pandava, started their journey to heaven from here. Interestingly the only other creature to accompany them was Yudhishtra’s Dog, who lead them in this journey. There is a statue at Saptarishi, dipicting this scene
Rishikesh is a city in the Dehradun district which now comes under the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, it is known as The Gateway to the Himalayas. Rishikesh is surrounded by three other districts namely Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal and Haridwar. It is located around 25 km north of holy city, Haridwar. The place gets its name after Lord Vishnu who appeared to ‘Raibhya Rishi’, as a result of his meditation, as Lord Hrishikesh. In Skanda Purana, this area is known as ‘Kubjamrak’ as Lord Vishnu appeared, under a mango tree.
Rishikesh is now mostly known for white water rafting. Enthusiasts, both from India and abroad are always there to take on the adventure of riding on the wild and energetic waves of Ganga river. The Ganges offers medium to rough rapids rated class 3 and class 4. It is also a center for hiking and backpacking. Recently, bungee jumping has also been introduced in Rishikesh, the first and only bungee jumping camp in India.
Laxman Jhula is an iron suspension bridge situated in Rishikesh inIndian state of Uttarakhand. The bridge offers some spectacular views all around. It is made over river Ganges to cross the river and is a landmark of Rishikesh. It is said that Lakshman crossed Ganges on jute ropes between the place where this bridge is built. Lakshman Jhula was built in 1939, during the British era before the independence of India.
A similar iron suspension bridge was constructed post independence by Govt. of India is called Ram Jhula. Though similar in design, this bridge is bigger than Lakshman jhula.
Ram Jhula is also an iron suspension bridge situated at Muni Ki Reti in Rishikesh, about 2 KM away from Lakshaman Jhula. Built in the 1980s, over river Ganges to cross the river and it has also become another landmark of Rishikesh. Ram jhula is located 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) north of Rishikesh at Muni Ki Reti. There are some of the Hindu ashrams and religious centers like “The Gita Bhawan”, and “Swarg Ashram” located here. It is also a connecting bridge between Swargadham, Gita Bhawan and other temples with Sivananda Ashram.
Chandi Devi Temple
Chandi Devi Temple is dedicated to Goddess Chandi Devi in the holy city of Haridwar. The temple is situated atop the Neel Parvat on the Eastern summit of the Sivalik Hills, the southernmost mountain chain of the Himalayas. Chandi Devi Temple was built in 1929 by Suchat Singh in his reign as the King of Kashmir. However, the main statue of Chandi Devi at the temple is said to have been installed in the 8th century by Adi Shankaracharya, one of the greatest priests of Hindu religion. The temple also known as Neel Parvat Teerth is one of the Panch Tirth (Five Pilgrimages) located within Haridwar.
Chandi Devi Temple is highly revered by devotees as a Siddh Peetha which is a place of worship where desires get fulfilled. It is one of three such Peethas located in Haridwar, the other two being Mansa Devi Temple and Maya Devi Temple.