Thursday, June 05, 2008

Visiting The Ganges

I shall now continue with my Uttarkhand series :) And what is a trip to Uttarkhand without visiting Haridwar and Rishikesh?! The two famous towns where River Ganges flows by... They have loads of temples over there. Here, I am a bit picky. I know temples are temples no matter where you go if religion is the motivation. For me, when I am outside my home town, a trip to a temple has more than a religious significance. I am a sucker for temple architecture and have been spoilt by the grand temple towers of Tamil Nadu that I am so accustomed to seeing. The temple architecture was very different in Haridwar and Rishikesh. Nice to look at in their own sense but the magnificence of size was missing. Therefore, you could say in a sense my trip to these places had more of a religious motivation. Whatever it was, I surely was not prepared for the sheer volume of water present in this river! While I am accustomed to the huge temple towers in South India, I am also accustomed to seeing loads of dry river beds or tiny streams on our road trips. For a Southie going North for the first time, the volume of water flowing in River Ganges can be quite a shock! And its an even bigger thrill when you realise that unlike the South Indian rivers, this mighty river is fed by a glacier!!! I sure as hell am going to make a trip to Gangotri the next time I go North! I will hand over this post to the pictures now. Let them do all the talking :P

Starting with Rishikesh. A view of Ganga from Lakshman Jhula. I am not too clear behind the story of the town. Just sort of know the gist. The guide we had spoke only Hindi and that to pure UP kind of Hindi! I barely registered what he said!
Another pic of the river. I have several more in different angles but I am not bothering to post them here. You get the gist... I was thrilled by the volume of flowing water :P
A multi-storey temple! I have seen many temples in my numerous trips around Tamil Nadu, but never a multi-storey temple!!! Wowee! Damn crowded though. I didn't go inside.

A view of rivere Ganges from Haridwar. The volume seems to be more here. And its also a more popular site for pilgrims to dip. For Soleil - dipping in river Ganges is supposed to wash off all your sins! No wonder the crowd :P
Another view of the river with a different backdrop. They have different sections for people to dip. For example, they have a "Mahila Ghat" where only women take a dip. They even have a "VIP Ghat" where big shots like ministers come to take a dip!

Now here is a scene I usually associate this river with! Will you just look at the sheer number of people!!! This is the kind of picture you's expect to see on National Geographic or something for India :P With such a huge crowd, it wasn't surprising that there were loads of policemen and loud speakers installed everywhere saying the same thing over and over again in Hindi - "Please do not touch any abandoned article such as bags, motorbikes or even cell phones. There could be a bomb in them. If you spot something suspicious, please alert the Uttarkhand Police Force"
I stepped into the river but only upto my waist. Didn't dare to dip completely. This picture should explain why! You wouldn't believe the kind of stuff that was floating around in the water! Well... atleast my sins are half washed off!

It was definitely a huge disappointment for me that I couldn't dip fully in the river. I love water and most of my vacations have atleast one or two dips in water bodies or involve waterfalls. Once, we made a trip to Kanyakumari (the southern most point of the Indian Peninsula) and the neighbouring areas. We took bath in atleast 6 different waterfalls! Yeah, the point is, I love water bodies. Especially running water. So I like I said, I was disappointed.

But not for long! In our road trip itself, on the way to a place called Kasauni, we spotted this tiny stream. The driver told us it was called Kosi River. It was spectacular. It looked like an exotic location that Bollywood would choose. We told our driver to stop by some shady area so we could get out and stretch. He stopped by a small temple on the roadside. It seemed like a weird place to build a temple. Yeah, the area around the temple was a beautiful wooded area, but it was in some remote spot along the highway! Anyways, it provided a good place to explore. We found out from the priest that River Kosi was accessible from the backside of the temple. That's all the invitation I needed! We immediately changed to shorts and plunged in!!

Doesn't this look like paradise???!!! A crystal clear stream.... wild horses grazing at the banks of the river... It definitely seemed like paradise! I could have stayed there forever! The water was damn cold! This river also has its origins in the snow capped Himalayas. No wonder the water was freezing. But once you got over the cold, the water was simply delicious! And the strong current provided the element of fun! Nature's water amusement park :)

Another view of River Kosi

Like I said, crystal clear water! You can see the pebbles at the bottom :)

All said and done, its actually pretty amazing how much the people in Uttarkhand love and respect the river. Their lives seem to revolve around the river and Ganga is more of a God to them than a mere water body. On our way back to base camp after driving around for 4 days, we were to pass Haridwar. Our vehicle had a cassette player but our driver never used it while we were inside. Surprisingly, as we approached Haridwar on the final day, he popped in a cassette and played it. It was an entire album dedicated to the river! Unfortunately, all the songs were modified versions of popular film songs. Mostly patriotic. I managed to identify a few - Aye mere watan ke logon, Vande Mataram (Lata Mangeshkar style), Ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyon etc etc etc. These are all I can remember right now :P Oh, I also recognised "Om Jai Jagadeesh hare" somewhere in the middle! Anyways, the point is, its amazing how loyal the people are to the river!

And why shouldn't they be? After all, we consider our rivers to be the main arteries of the country for good reason :)


Clueless said...

Ooh, you're right! The crowd at the Ganges does look like a typical National Geographic picture! :D

The multi-storey temple is pretty! It's certainly not temple-like, but it's pretty cool nonetheless :)

And the Kosi river does look awesome! Bollywood location, indeed! I can imagine the hero and heroine standing over those pebbles and singing love songs ;)

soleil said...

Wow they actually have different dipping spots for different people!

"Well... atleast my sins are half washed off!" - LOL!

River Kosi is gorgeous! I can imagine hopping from one stone to the next :)