The mention of Haridwar brings to mind images filled with piousness and picturesque pujas and the Ganga aarti by the fast-flowing river at Har ki Pouri, right? And not all of us are fond of having a trip to a place of spirituality and puja and temple hopping (yes, some of us do enjoy this as well). But this time, a small trip to Haridwar with family helped me look at this holy place from a different perspective altogether.
|[Just because I like this picture so much]|
We planned a short Haridwar-Rishikesh-Haridwar trip on an extended weekend (19.04.2019- 21.04.2019). Like many of us, even I wasn’t too keen on going to Haridwar, but I left it to the town to surprise me.
Day 1: Delhi --> Haridwar
We left from Delhi at around 5.15 am in the morning, in our own car and were expecting to reach the venue by 9 or 10am. However, it being an extended weekend for everyone, the roads were unpredictably packed and with a short 40 minutes one single break, we reached our destination at 12.30 pm. We took our first break at the newly renewed Cheetal Grand restaurant for breakfast. This place has been decently maintained with beautiful flowers and gardens at the entrance which are surely a reason for everyone to get clicked.
|[The backside view of Cheetal Grand]|
The place was overcrowded, and it took us much longer to wait for the breakfast to arrive than to actually eat it. The food was decent, but I personally like Moolchand more than this place in terms of service, food quality as well as the taste.
We continued from there towards Haridwar in around 40 minutes. We have some relatives living in Haridwar and there is also an ashram known as ‘Vyas ashram’ (made by another relative) on the Sapt Rishi road and my family always resides in that ashram, whenever visits Haridwar and so did we.
The Ashram, to my surprise again, was very well maintained, hugely made and looked none less than a decent hotel. An ashram of that level was not expected in a city like Haridwar by me, but the city amazed me for the first time as I visited the ashram. The ashram has its own rules and everyone who visits this ashram ought to follow the rules.
Some of the rules include:
a. Meal timings are fixed. The cooks ring a bell every time the food is prepared the everyone residing inside must reach the ‘bhojnalya’ within 30 minutes to have the meal.
b. Each meal generally includes rice, chapati, daal, sabji and raita along with some desert and no one is allowed to take it themselves. The ashram people serve the food to everyone, standing in the queue.
c. Foot-wears are not allowed inside the bhojnalya and the used plates must be kept outside the bhojnalya at a designated place where they are washed.
d. No one is allowed to enter the ashram after 9 pm, unless pre-informed. Punctuality is a matter of important concern for everyone in the ashram.
e. There is no rent for any room in the ashram, but the cleanliness of the room must be maintained by the people who are staying. You can donate, according to your wish, for the welfare of the people who are running the ashram.
We had our first meal in the ashram- rajma, chawal, roti, aloo ki sabji and raita- which was super light and tasty. After that, we moved to take our first ganga snan at a ghaat near the ashram (Har ki Poudi was a little far away from the ashram and since we were tired of the long journey, we decided to go the nearest ghaat for the dubki).
|[The river behind us is clean and beautiful]|
That ghaat, on Sapt Rishi road is recently made and is maintained to high standards. It was beautiful, super clean and had a view of an island from Mauritius. It actually reminded me of the islands of Mauritius. So calm, so serene, I felt so peaceful. It was the second time that I was surprised by the city. The river was fast flowing, and it was extremely difficult to actually take a dip in it and hence we helped each other in doing so, by holding on each other’s hands. It was fun, peaceful and pure bliss.
We came back to the ashram. From there, we moved on to visit one of our relative’s workplace (my grand mother-in-law’s brother and his family).
He has a factory of cosmetics in Haridwar. He showed us the whole place discussing how the cosmetics are being made. Being a chemistry teacher myself, I enjoyed the conversations and discussions with him. We moved to their house then. A society, I had never imagined could actually exist in Haridwar. Huge houses, with beautifully and well-maintained roads, each house having multiple luxurious cars. Oh gosh, I could feel the richness of the people all around. Haha!
We stayed with them for the whole evening and had a great time with everyone. Enjoyed the dinner and came back to our ashram. We were extremely tired by that time but super excited. For? For the rafting next day and of course because my brother and would-be-bhabhi were also coming to join us!!!
Day 2: Haridwar --> Rishikesh --> Haridwar
Early morning at around 6 am, my mom, bhai, bhabhi, her bhai and a friend reached the ashram. The plan was to reach the Rafting site at the earliest (8am as that is the first slot). Our gang of 6 people moved towards Rishikesh and my mother stayed in the ashram with my in-laws. We reached Rishikesh in less than an hour and all of us were super excited to for rafting (except me as I was a little paranoid about it). I was being told that it’s going to be so much fun, but my mind was not ready to accept it. I was just super scared.
Since we reached much before time, we decided to have breakfast as rafting would need us to have a lot of energy :P.
We had basic stuffed parathas and sandwiches with tea at a local restaurant of Rishikesh named as ‘Negi restaurant’. The food was just okay to make you feel full. Since all of us were more inclined towards rafting, the taste of the food was not much of interest at that point of time.
|[My rafting gang]|
We parked our car there and then moved in Innova, with the team of people with whom we booked our raft called ‘sea hawk’. It was almost an hour drive towards the starting point of the rafting. There are 3 types of rafting which can be done at Rishikesh:
1. 11 km for Rs 1000 per head
2. 26 km for Rs 1500 per head
3. 36 km for Rs 2500 per head
As we started, I was horrified. I didn’t know what was happening. I was just scared. I was told by many people that there have been many instances where many people have flown with the fast-flowing river, fell down in the river and what not. I didn’t know what to do. But as usual, Akshay knew it. He had done rafting 3 times earlier as well and was as excited as others who were doing it for the first time.
|[A picture before wearing the life jackets]|
|[Only Shivam needs the focus]|
We sat on the raft and it started moving. Our instructor was good and patient. He kept his patience, with us not being able to follow his instructions in the beginning. Of course, we went there for fun and wanted to enjoy in our ways. A point came where he asked us to jump into the river (we all were wearing life jackets, so it was totally safe). I was scared to hear that whereas everyone else jumped into the river. I just could not. But Akshay kept pushing me to jump and finally I jumped. Ohh my gosh… the water was freezing cold. I could not feel anything but the ice-cold water. For the first 10 seconds, it was scary but after that, it was fun. So much fun. We stayed in water for a while and then pulled each other back into the raft. The fear was gone by that time. We were just having great time with each other, with the clean water of Ganga and with the beauty all around. The tides in between, the jokes, the laughter, the serene water, the jumps, the pictures (oh yes, since we could not carry the phones along, the instructor clicked our pictures and made videos on his Go pro- of course it was paid, we paid- Rs 200 per head to him), it was overall so much fun.
|[The pictures shows how much fun we all had in water- water babies we are]|
And then came the cliff jump. Hushshshsh.. by that time, I was not scared, I did not know what to feel. I saw people jumping from the cliff into the river and then easily swimming towards the boat and didn’t know what to do. But I had to jump. I had no choice. Thanks to my husband. He gave me no choice.
But yes, it was another life time experience which I am going to cherish throughout my life. It wasn’t scary because all the fear was out by that time, but it was wonderful. In no words the feelings of the jump can ever be described. We all did it (except Samiksha- who is afraid of heights and that is fine, we all). I did it. Yes!
Shivam, Akshay and Nalin were having the best times of their lives and they did it again. I don’t know why and how. Akshay did it for the third time as well.
We stayed at one point for some time and ate Maggi (there was a Maggie and chai point). Moved from there and reached the final destination.
Oh, my gawd- Akshay was so right. He truly believes in a saying- ‘create your own experience’. I created mine. Wonderful, fabulous, incredible experience.
It took us more than three hours to complete rafting and once done, we were super tired. And obviously super hungry too.
We did not want to sit at another local restaurant and be disappointed by the food so I decided to look for a good place on Zomato where the food will actually be good. After a little bit of research, we finally decided to go to a restaurant named “Bistro nirvana”. It was a good place and the food was tasty. We ordered so much and ate so much. But it was so cheap. The bill came out to be nothing (much less than what we could have paid in Delhi for the huge amount of food which we ordered and ate). We were happy, satisfied and of course tired.
We drove back to the ashram in Haridwar. The next plan was to visit Har ki Pouri for Ganga Aarti. You cannot miss that when you are in Haridwar. I was extremely tired but was okay in visiting there as Akshay wanted to. Since Shivam and gang were driving the whole night, they were much more exhausted than us, we decided that they will rest in the ashram itself, while I with my husband, my in laws and my mother, will go for Ganga Aarti.
|[Har Ki Pouri at the time of Ganga aarti]|
Har ki Pouri was crowded, over-crowded. People were sitting there for hours just to witness the holy Aarti. I am not a great believer of such things and hence could not relate to that concept, but it was fine. We reached at the right time when the Aarti was about to start.
I stayed there, watched people enjoying the bhajans. Clicked a few pictures of the whole scene (as I didn’t know what else to do) and then once it was done, we all came back. From there, we visited one temple (as it is mandatory to go to a temple in Haridwar 😊 )and then came back to our ashram. Temples in Haridwar and beautifully decorated and people visit there for the beauty more than the spirituality.
|[View of a temple]|
We had the dinner at the ashram itself and went to sleep.
The next day was planned to go back home.
Day 3: Haridwar --> Delhi
The next day started early when Akshay with my in laws went to Har Ki Pouri again for the holy dip. I did not. I had no reason to do so and that too early in the morning at 5 am. The dips were done and enough of water. I stayed back at the ashram.
At 7.30 am, the ashram people had organised a havan for specially me and Akshay (as it was our first visit there), which I liked.
|[While the havan was on]|
Havan and then breakfast with a few last pictures :P, we all headed back to Delhi at around 10.30 am.
The journey was not long, but the routes were different and weird. Thanks to google maps, we could survive it.
Because of traffic on the roads and again only one short break, we could manage to reach home by 5.30pm.
It was a fun trip overall. A little exhausting because there was no time to relax but I enjoyed it. We all enjoyed it.
The major plus point was that I saw another side of Haridwar. Which was good. Not that you can plan to visit Haridwar multiple times, but there is no harm in planning a short trip to such a place with a little lighter itinerary.
Also, for those who wish to- there are two main temples in Haridwar- Mansa Devi and Chanda Devi temple. You may visit them too.