Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India is the spiritual hot spot for saints, sages and sadhus as well as modern day spiritual seekers. The mighty Ganges river (Ganga in Hindu) runs through the centre of town, where I dipped my toes into its holy waters and felt its divine strength flow through me. In this holy place you can feel the uplifting aura that has been created by thousands of years of meditation and worship. A multitude of Ashrams continue to provide a place for the spiritually enlightened to gather.
We had finally arrived at Parmath Niketan Ashram, a place where foreigners as well as Indians are welcomed. Countless statues of deities dot the property at every turn. Hindus believe that God can manifest in any form and have numerous deities to which they pray. We arrived at the Ashram just in time to take part in the daily sunset ceremony, Ganga Aarti. Oil lamps were lit with offerings that were passed to us, these oil lamps were placed with our prayers and flowers on the waters of this holy river to be taken away with it’s mighty current. I could hardly believe that this was real, my dream had come true and here I was standing on the banks of this mighty river. As I chanted and prayed to my God within, my heart swelled with gratitude and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. What a sight to behold—this white state of Shiva, the all-powerful deity who looks on with such grace. The Ganga is the giver of life, nourishment, purity, and liberation to all who come in contact with her magical waters. Ganga is the mother goddess giving freely to all with no discrimination, hesitation or expectation. Her holy waters purify all those who bath in the river. In fact, scientific studies have found the no coliform bacteria grow in her waters.
In the following days we crossed the Laxman Jula Bridge to explore the city. We had a blast, shopping for beautiful arts and crafts; the brightly coloured fabrics filled the shops. We had a great city tour on a rickshaw and then wandered around the streets exploring nooks and crannies. The streets are filled with a unique variety of people: Sadhus (people who have given up all worldly possessions to devote themselves to God), spiritual pilgrims, and hippy-type wanna-be Sadhus of every description. Amongst this eclectic mix of people were the holy cows that wander freely anywhere they please, so you try to avoid stepping in the cow patties….oh and besides that who could miss the playful monkeys causing havoc everywhere. Om, shanti shanti….was my daily mantra as I practiced patience, compassion and love for this craziness that surrounded me.
Love, love, love….is what the Beatles sang, they too had spent time at an ashram in this holy city. We visited the crumbling remains of the ashram where they had lived with their guru and place that had inspired John Lennon to write the song Prudence.
Back at our ashram we spent long days meditating and studying with a group of over 50 students. We sat in a circle and together raised our vibrations to continue on life’s journey with faith as nourishment, and wisdom as light that guides us by day.
As I concluded my time in Rishikesh, I meditated on the banks of the mother Ganga with a crystal in my hand to keep me connected to her always so I can draw from her strength when I returned home. I am so grateful for this life, even though it may be challenging at times, I am liberated and happy and peace fills my heart…I truly felt like I was home and will return one day soon.