After months of planning, we finally decided to take our mothers on a holiday. My roommate and I chose a place close to Delhi so that it would not be too hectic for our mothers. It was a short four-day trip at the end of which we got back to the daily grind.
Day 1: We took an early morning train and reached Haridwar around 12.30 pm. The main ghat at Haridwar was 1.5 miles from the railway station. Our hotel was mid-way. We had booked via Booking.com and our stay at the hotel was a good one. We checked in and freshened up. Then we had lunch and decided to rest before going out in the evening to see the Ganga aarti. Around 6 in the evening, we walked down towards the ghat. Haridwar is a small town with narrow alleys and shops on either side. Since it was an extended weekend, the place was teeming. We braved the crowds and reached the ghat. The ghat, Har ki Pauri, is a major attraction in Haridwar. By the time we reached it was full of people. Almost a hundred thousand were already there before us to witness the aarti.
As the sun set in horizon, the temple priests began to chant mantras and waved the tall oil lamps over the river.
The fire reflected on the moving water and created a spectacular scene. One does not have to be a devout person to be present there. The sheer joy of witnessing something as beautiful as this.
At the end of the ritual, we returned to the hotel. Being tired after the early morning journey, we retired early. The next day we planned to visit Rishikesh (Laxman jhula and Ram jhula).
Day 2: Note to self- never travel during extended weekends and peak holiday season. So the next day started a little late. Around 11 am, we booked a cab and started our journey. The distance between Haridwar and Rishikesh is around 12 miles (20km). The journey took around two hours, mainly because there was a lot of traffic and also we stopped at several places for sightseeing (mainly temples). At Rishikesh, accompanied by a guide, we crossed the Laxman jhula, an iron suspension bridge, hanging over the Ganga. Rishikesh is a popular destination for rafting and we saw several signboards on the way willing to take you on such an experience. According to legends, Laxman, brother of Ram, crossed over the river at this point using jute ropes. This place also boasts of a temple dedicated to Laxman, the only one of its kind in the whole of India.
Once we crossed over, we took a shared cab to Ram jhula, a short distance away. This bridge is similar to Laxman jhula only bigger, 1.2 miles (2km) upstream.
Even though both the bridges were crowded with tourists, cows, dogs and bikes crossing, the beauty and serenity of the surrounding hills took away all the stress and strain of our hectic work schedules. Next we had lunch at a nearby restaurant and returned to Haridwar by evening. We spent the rest of the evening strolling along the streets and browsing through the shops on either side.
Day 3: Today we planned to visit the Mansa Devi temple. Having learnt our lesson the previous day, we started early even though the temple was close to our hotel. The temple is located on the top of a hill. The temple is dedicated to Manasa Devi, a form of Shakti. To reach the temple, devotees either have to trek or can take the rope way service. From the rope way, one can get a bird’s eye view of the entire town and the river.
Soon we reached the temple and found several long queues and utter mayhem. All to offer prayers and receive blessings. We, too, got in the line amidst intense jostling. Everyone scrambled and pushed and nudged, trying to get a glimpse of the idol. After half an hour of fight, we emerged victorious. We managed to get a glimpse of the deity and did not lose our belongings. A second rope way ride brought us down to the town. Then we walked back to our hotel where we quickly changed and went to a small ghat behind the hotel to bathe in the Ganga. The water was cold and refreshing. A welcome respite from the summer heat. Day 3 also being our last day in Haridwar, we dedicated the evening to shopping. Buying little knickknacks to gift people back home.
Day 4: Early in the morning, we bid goodbye to the little town we came to like despite the crowd and heat. Hoping to be back again soon, we braced ourselves to plunge into the work that awaited us.