Table of contents for Looking Beyond : A Bike Journey
- A memorable trip on bike to rediscover myself in the foothills of Himalayas – Part II
September 30 – October 2, 2000
It’s really a beautiful morning once again on Saturday, the September 30, 2000. Devi Paksha (Nav Ratra) has already started few days ago. All my disappointments of the previous day were not there with me, as I stand alone at Har-ke-Pauri, also known as Brahma Kund. This is the most famous Ghat in Haridwar. This ghat was built by King Vikramaditya in memory of his brother Brithari who often meditated on the banks of river Ganga.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu had visited this place in the Vedic times and Amrit (Nectar) was dropped from heavens at Brahma Kund. Since then, Haridwar is considered to be one of the holiest of pilgrim places in India. Ma Ganga leaves the mountains and enters the plains in Haridwar. Thousands of pilgrims converge and the festivities commence during the Kumbha Mela, which takes place every twelve years and the Ardh Kumbh Mela, which takes place every six years.
Many People were offering oblations to the departed ancestors, it is believed that performing Tarpanams or Tarpan during “Devi Paksha” will bless your ancestors and will free them from all their sins.
After a holy dip, I had breakfast with Puri Sabzi from a nearby restaurant and there are many such places available. The per plate rate was not even Rs.20/- in Year 2000 and it is almost the same even after 12 years.
I chalked out my plan for the day. A trip to Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi Temple, a visit to the market, Sandhya Aarti at Har-ki-Pauri and finally dinner at “Dada Boudir Hotel” – a famous place for all Bongs visiting Haridwar. Haridwar is arguably the most favourite tourist place for Bengalis and you will find them here throughout the year. However, it is a different matter that you will find us everywhere in India at all the time…you may find two kinds of Bengali tourists; one who loves to travel alone and or with family and second category of travellers travel in a group. In Bengali, there is a popular phrase “Bangalir payer talai sarshe lukuno ache” (bitten by the travel bug).
Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi Temple
Both Mansa Devi (Bilwa Teerth) & Chandi Devi (Neel Parvat Teerth) Temple, are ancient temple and a part of the Panch Teerth (Five Pilgrimages) within Haridwar and considered a must visit for the pilgrims going to Haridwar. I don’t remember whether rope-way service was available that time or not. I decided to trek both the holy shrine in two days and I had few days in my hand. Mansa Devi Temple is located atop the Bilwa Parvat and Chandi Devi Temple is located atop the Neel Parvat on the Eastern summit of the Sivalik Hills, the southernmost mountain chain of the Himalayas. The trek was beautiful, as I love to walk. Mansa Devi trek was not difficult, compared to Chandi Devi as it took almost an entire day to come back from there. Both the places offer views of the River Ganges and the plains of Haridwar.
Both the temples are visited by thousands of devotees from various parts of the country.
By evening, I used to come again at Har-ki-Pauri for the evening ritual (Sandhya Aarti) performed by the priests on the banks of river Ganga. This is a highly enchanting and divine experience. Devotees light ‘Pradip’ or Diyas and let them flow in the river Ganga… The beautiful diyas float on the water and it is a wonderful sight to experience. A splendid aura of lights and chants fills the atmosphere in the evenings. I used to sit there hours after hours, doing nothing, but never felt bored even for a second…it attracts me always. I knew that I would be visiting this place again & again during this trip and forever in my life. I would have loved to go there any time, can sit there hours after hours, fully aware of the fact that my mind is trying to figure out the reason.
Tuesday, the 3rd of October 2000 till 5th of October, 2000
After spending three days in Haridwar, I thought to go to Rishikesh, which is ~ 25 km from Haridwar. The plan was to go there in the morning and come back by afternoon, as I was staying in Bharat Seva Shram Sangha. The drive to Rishikesh from Haridwar is wonderful and is a joy to your eyes. You need to pass through Rajaji National Park, few small streams, railway line (Delhi to Dehradun). Landscape changes as you are getting closer to Rishikesh and all of a sudden the mountain is just in front of you. Amazing! I reached there around 8:30 in the morning.
I fall in love with this place almost immediately, as soon I reached Rishikesh, a part of the legendary ‘Kedarkhand’ and the starting point for travelling to the four Chota Char Dham pilgrimage places i.e. Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Legends state that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka; and Lakshmana, his younger brother, crossed the river Ganges, at a point, where the present ‘Lakshman Jhula’ bridge stands today, using a jute rope bridge. The jute-rope bridge was replaced by iron-rope suspension bridge in 1889, and after it was washed away in the 1924 floods, it was replaced by a stronger present bridge.
Some facts about Rishikesh
Rishikesh is also famous for many other things e.g. this is the place where Beatles composed around 48 songs during their stay at the Maharishi’s ashram in February 1968 – so if you are a fan of Beatles, you must have heard many of them; the place is considered to be the world capital of Yoga and also famous for ayurvedic treatments, which is the oldest known healing therapy. Meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha. Kailas Ashram Brahmavidyapeetham, an institution dedicated to preserve and promote the traditional Vedantic Studies is also situated here. The institute is 120 years old and one of the greatest sons of India Swami Vivekananda had studied in this institution.
Rishikesh is also famous for adventure sports like Rafting. I was keen to be a part of that. However, as told you earlier, those was difficult days, hence my pocket didn’t allow me and had to return after finding out the rate. I had no regret for that.
The sacred river Ganges flows through Rishikesh. It is here that the river leaves the Shivalik Mountains in the Himalayas and flows out into the plains of northern India. Several temples, ancient as well as new, can be found along the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh.
It was a wonderful view and my first love affair with the mountains. I didn’t want to leave this place so soon and decided to stay there for a day. The entire morning I sat in the ghat and staring at the river, Ma Ganga. We are from plain and brought up near a place close to Gangasagar. The river attracts me always. The importance of Ma Ganga in India & in our life is immense. We consider the river Ganga or the Ganges as our Ma (Mother) and always call Ma Ganga. Also, knowing the fact that Gomukh, the origin of the river, is just few hundred kilometers away from this place is a different inexpressible feeling altogether. I had seen the signboard and once the thought to go there was also came to my mind, but I couldn’t…till today it is still in my dream to be there at Gomukh, to see the place myself, which I wish to fulfill once in my life.
Though there was a chill in the air and people could be seen with woolen clothes, I found it very pleasant for two reasons. First, since after landing in Delhi on 23rd December from West Bengal (it could be the coldest day in my life as I didn’t have courage to take bath for the next few days) to try my luck, I always enjoy windy, chilled weather of Northern part of India and secondly, I was not carrying any woolen clothes along with me. Even today, you may find me in half-sleeves in December or January most of the times. Only I need a good blanket during sleep and I do compensate my sleeping hours during winter…like a camel who stores water in its hump…and bank it during other season. When I realized that I didn’t have my lunch yet, it was close to 2 O’clock. I had no idea that I was sitting there for a close to 4-5 hours, enjoying the beauty. After lunch, it was time for me to look for an arrangement for night stay. It’s not a very difficult task at places like Rishikesh. In the evening spent some quiet time, alone in the ghat – thousands kilometers from there ‘Durga Puja’ has already started – today is ‘Shasti’. Why me only? Why this has happened to me? I was not able to find any answer…I could see the aura of lights from various ghats and temples. Other than this, it was dark everywhere and my mind was trying to find some answers…didn’t know when I went to bed but got up early…and went straight to the Lakshman Jhula.
Who am I?
The past few days of my life have been very introspective. Since morning, I was sitting on the railings just in front of Lakshman Jhula Bridge for hours during my 2-3 days stay, staring on the river and the mighty Himalayas. When I sit alone in Rishikesh, with a backdrop of the mighty Himalayas, standing tall for many many years, I forgot my own existence completely. I felt myself so small in front of him. I wanted to know why I was feeling so upset few days back. I received so much help from the office. I did enjoy a home away-from-home atmosphere and lots of affection from everyone in the office, so why on earth I reacted in that manner. Who was I? Who am I? Where do I stand? Who will I be? What would be the future? Why do people remember me? How would I like to be remembered? What is the definition of perfect happiness?
It brings me to reality. And from there, I get to learn. People don’t really mean what they say, always. Still, we fight with each other for pettiest things, get upset if things don’t go according to our plan and at the same time hurting ourselves. We judge a person or take a decision so instantly that we tend to overlook people’s love, good things they did for us in the past, most of the times. I have had all the reasons to accept the fact that I won’t be able to go to my home during this year, but I chose to react in a different way on that particular day. But again we are human beings and the slaves of our mind. When mind stops working, we just slip. If we realize that half of the problems will be solved automatically.
During the last few days, I interacted with many people and had learned a lot about myself through interaction with others that are strange to me till a few days ago. I never thought that I would be strong enough for such a trip, as I never thought of it earlier. We are here in this beautiful place, the mother Earth, to perform our duty to make it more beautiful & an enjoyable place for everyone, at the same time to enjoy the beauty it offers.
No, I am not saying I became a perfect person after this trip. I am still the same, a very ordinary person in this universe. I have my own limitations and short-comings like every human being. I still react & express my anger, which could have been avoided sometimes, if not always. But my perception towards life, to judge a person or to handle a difficult situation, as well as to enjoy my life took a complete ‘u’ turn.
The biggest thing from this trip is that it allows me to get out of my own mind for a change. I became more self-sufficient and there is a self-belief in me after this trip. I would like to be an active participant in self-reflection and start working on my short-comings. It doesn’t matter how we wish to be a perfect man or want perfection in everything we do, we did commit mistakes, as we are human beings.
Life is beautiful. Enjoy this day, you won’t be able to enjoy this day once again.
See you in my next post.
p.s.: May Lord Ganesh shower you with success in all your endeavours. Happy Ganesh Chaturthi.