india, rishikesh

Rishikesh: ashrams, yoga and aarti

I arrived in Rishikesh in a similar way as I had other Indian destinations; tired and achey after a long car journey! I didn’t have too much time to spend in Rishikesh but I just about had enough time to soak up the relaxed, peaceful atmosphere. As it is such a small place, it doesn’t feel too overwhelming and our short trip didn’t feel too rushed. That said, many people stay at least a week to truly relax. Whilst there are probably many extra things to do in Rishikesh, here are a few of my recommendations…

Stay in an Ashram. For those of you wondering, like myself before I arrived, an Ashram is a place of religious, spiritual retreat. Pilgrims from all religions and cultures come to observe the practices which are predominantly Hindu and include yoga and meditation. We stayed at Parmarth Niketan and it was beautiful. It is huge and sits on the bank of the holy River Ganges.

The beautiful Parmarth Niketan Ashram.

Take a yoga class. We arose around sunrise and tiptoed out of our rooms at the Ashram and across to their yoga classrooms. This yoga practice had a gentle pace and was unlike a lot of yoga classes that I had previously attended. The main focus was on breathing and as silly as this sounds, some of the breaths were quite difficult! Unfortunately I was only able to attend one class but I would have loved to try a second class to see if I could have advanced any further. There are lots of of classes, courses and yoga teacher training available all around Rishikesh for those who want to try more than one class or book a course.

The view from our yoga class.

Replenish your body with a juice at the Juice HouseAfter our yoga class we decided to wander along the main pathway in Rishikesh, browse the shops and grab some breakfast. It was on this morning, the day before my 24th birthday, that I found the best breakfast in India. Another LRTT fellow walked past us with a tasty looking juice and pointed us in the direction of a nearby cafe. After all the stodge we had eaten over the past three weeks, our breakfast of a juice and porridge piled high with fruit was very much appreciated by my fruit deprived body!

Dodge the friendly cows and browse the shops on the main street. Refuelled after our delicious breakfast, we started to browse the beautiful little shops. Here I bought notebooks and sequin adorned skirts. I also managed to buy a book on meditation for Conor from a tiny book shop! There are also amazing skincare shops and outlets selling a variety of scents.

Observe or take part in a Ganga Aarti celebration. On our first evening in Rishikesh, we arrived at dusk and just in time for Sunset Ganga Aarti. Aarti is a ceremony filled with singing, praying and rituals where oil lamps are offered to God. The idea behind it, put simply, is that God gives us light during the day time and so at night we offer it back by sending oil lamps down the river Ganges, or Ganga as it’s known. It was lovely to be a part of the ceremony and feel the buzz in the atmosphere. The next evening we started to watch a ceremony from our balcony at Ganga Beach Resort, however the inviting chimes of the ritual soon lured us down to the river where we enjoyed a smaller, more personal ceremony than the previous evening.

One of the things I love most about India is how culturally different it is to the west and how they are more than happy to invite foreigners to take part in their celebrations. From religious ceremonies to ‘thank you’s’ at conference days to the warm welcome we received when we arrived at Ganga Beach resort, I loved taking part in these joyous occasions. The humbleness and hospitality of the Indian people never ceases to amaze me.

The view from the balcony after our warm welcome at Ganga Beach Resort.

Have you been to Rishikesh? Have you any top tips? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @_teachertravels

Beautiful, peaceful River Ganges.


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