21 September 2010

Rishikesh – The Yoga Capital of India

At the foothills of the Himalayas along the banks of the sacred river Ganga, lies the town of Rishikesh. The first town this holy river reaches on its descent from the mountains, Rishikesh, is a town of many Ashrams and Hermitages and most major Ashrams including Vivekananda Ashram, Sivananda, Osho, Bihar School of Yoga, having their Yoga centers. Popularly adored for its scenic beauty dotted besides the holy Ganga, Rishikesh is traditionally known as the spiritual capital of the globe. Most of the temples and ashrams are on the banks of the Ganga at Rishikesh.
From the music legends like “The Beatles” to new age celebrities – everyone wants to come down to this city of Yogis and temples. During the mid-1960s, The Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram (now closed) and several other artists, including Mike Love of The Beach Boys, Donovan and Gyp Mills, visited the site to contemplate and meditate. It seems modern Rishikesh experiences little shortage of people traveling from all over the globe in pursuit of enlightenment and spiritual bliss.
The city attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year, from all parts of India as well as from around the world. It is also becoming a hot spot for white water rafting enthusiasts, both from India and foreign tourists, as it offers medium to rough rapids in the course of River Ganga.
Rishikesh represents the gateway to the Himalayas in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. The Char Dham Yatra (Four Shrines Sacred Journey) ideally begins from Rishikesh. Located at a height of 1360 feet above the sea level, it is believed that through the ages, the yogis and sages lived and practices penance here and it represents the site where Vishnu vanquished the demon Madhu Kaitav.
This holy town is 228 Km Northeast of  Delhi and 24 Km north of Haridwar and spreads on the right bank of holy river Ganga, at its confluence with the Chandrabhaga stream. The name Rishikesh is loosely applied to an association of five distinct sections encompassing not only the town but also hmlets and settlements on both sides of the river. These include Rishikesh itself, the commercial and communication hub; the sprawling suburban Muni-ki-reti or the “sands of the sages”; Shivananda Nagar, north of Rishikesh; the temple section of Lakshman Jhoola; and the assorted ashrams around Swarg Ashram on the east bank. You can reach the famous Neelkanth Maha Deva Temple from here.

The Yoga Capital

Rishikesh is internationally termed as Capital of Meditation and Yoga. The town is famous for its yoga sessions that are taught here by many yoga experts. The city has several yoga centers that attract domestic as well as foreign tourists. It is believed that meditation at the bank of river Ganga in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of salvation, or moksha, as it does a dip in the holy river that flows through it. 
The ancient art of Indian Yoga is very special, physical, breathing and spiritual exercises to get a perfect balance between the physical, psychological and spiritual health.
An annual international Yoga Week Festival is organized in Rishikesh, usually during the months of march . Leading spiritual leaders, yoga teachers, meditation teachers, naturopath doctors and thousands of devotees participate in the festival.

Some of the major ashrams and yoga learning centers at Rishikesh are:

Paramarth Niketan
Sivananda Ashram
Omkarananda Ashram
Vanprastha Ashram
Ve Niketan Dayanand
Vedanta Ashram
Vanmali Gita Yogashram

Winters last from November to march here, when temperatures fall below 5-6°C. The monsoons are generally experienced in the month of July and August. With introduction of river rafting on Ganges, adventure tours and increasing interest of people in traditional Indian activities like yoga, meditation and Ayurveda has made Rishikesh the preferred destination round the year.

14 September 2010

Pauri - A City Where Time Stands Still

Garhwal Himalayas have always been considered as a place where nature seems to have endowed all her innate loveliness.
The land of Pauri Garhwal is blessed with splendid view of snow-bound peaks of Himalayas, scenic valleys, surroundings, meandering rivers, dense forests and quaint hospitable people with rich cultural diversity. Diverse in topography, the district of Pauri Garhwal varies from the foothills of the ‘Bhabar ‘areas of Kotdwar to the soul lifting meadows of Doodhatoli, sprawling at an altitude of 3,000 m and covering as area of 5 sq. kms. There are several places to go and explore in Pauri Garhwal. This remains snow-bounded during the winter months. Filled with places of tourist interest, most locations in Pauri garhwal offer a breathtaking view of snow ladeb Himalayan splendour. The small hill town of Pauri is shaded by oak, deodar and pine forests.
The tourist complex offers a panoramic view of the innumerable known and unknown snow clad Himalayan peaks like Hatiparvat, Nilkantha, Choukhamba, Sumeru Parvat, kharchakujnd, kedarnath, Bhrigupanth, Jaunli, Gangotri group, Thalay Sagar, Bunderpoonch which is really breathtaking during sunrise and sunset. At sunrise the sun seems to be spraying colours on the mountain peaks which appear to be revolving continuously.

Best Time to Visit Pauri

Pauri is best visited between September and April or even all year ro0und. The monsoons cast a misty spell on the town, a sight worth seeing. If you want to see snow, then plan your trip around January.

How to Reach Pauri

Air: Nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun
(153 Kms –Via Srinagar; 130 Kms – Via Deoprayag)

Rail: Nearest railway station is Kotdwar (108 Kms)

Road: Pauri is well connected to Dehradun, Rishikesh, kotdwar and other cities of the region.

Where to Stay at Pauri

Tourist Rest House – GMVN                           Ph. 01368 – 222359

Forest rest House, Khirsu Res. Authority

Hotel Umesha                                                   Ph. 01368 – 223989

What to see at Pauri
Kandoliya Mahadev Temple:  A bewitching location, encircled by dense forests and towering peaks. A trek through forests will take you to the temple of the reigning deity kandoliya Devta.

Kyunkaleswar mahadev Temple: It is believed that the temple was constructed during 8th century A.D. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The solemn atmoshphere makes you meditative at this beautiful place.

Tara Kund: Situtaed at a height of 2,200m, tara kund is a picturesque spot amidst lofty mountains in the Chariserh Development Area.

Deoprayag – A Spiritual Metaphor

Devprayag is a beautiful showcase of traditions, myths and mysticism. This is a place where the holy rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda meet, making it a unique pilgrimage like the Prayag of Allahabad.
From here onwards two rivers merge into one and take the name of ‘Ganga’.
Deoprayag though situated just at an altitude of 618m from the sea level, is endowed with abundant natural beauty.
According to a belief, Lord Rama and his father King Dasharatha did penance here. The main temple is the ‘Raghunath Temple’ dedicated to Lord rama.
Devprayag a small town of Tehri Garhwal is a pilgrimage centre of great significance. In Treta-Yuga, Lord rama and Lakshman performed a yajna here to atone for killing Ravana, who was a Brahmin. The ancient Raghunath Temple here with a 15-foot tall deity of Sri-Rama (Sri Raghunath) is one of the 108 most important temples in India.

How to Reach Deoprayag

Air: The nearest Airport is Jolly Grant at Dehradun, 90 Km from Deoprayag.

Rail: The nearest railway station is at Rishikesh, 70 Km from Deoprayag.

Road: Deoprayag is well connected with Rishikesh and Dehradun and other parts of the Garhwal Himalayas.

Where To Stay at Deoprayag

Tourist Rest House – GMVN                           Ph: 01378-26013

PWD Inspection Bungalow

Dharamshalas of Kedarnath – Badrinath committee

Ramkund Resorts                                             Ph: 01378-266391

Places to see at Deoprayag

Raghunathji Temple: The ancient temple dedicated to Lord Rama, the epic hero of Ramayana. An impressive black granite statue graces the temple.

Barat Mandir: Relatively unknown, but this small temple is a beautiful example of hill temples. Named after Bharat, Rama’s younger brother. The bigger Bharat temple is at Rishikesh, but it is also much revered. Its worth visiting, to feel the pulse of Hindu mythology and beliefs.

Chandrashila: A gigantic boulder in the mid of Bhagirathi river at a distance of 2 Km from Deoprayag. According to legend, King Dashratha, father of Lord Rama meditated here for the salvation of his ancestors. A holy dip at this place, is believed to get one’s wishes fulfilled.

Chandrabadni: It is a small temple situated at the hilltop at an altitude of 2,756 mt above sea level at a distance of 30 Km from Deoprayag to Jamnikhal on the Tehri road. Reaching there by a trek of 1 Km you can have a breathtaking view of the Himalayan peaks and the river flowing below.

In the month of April, this sleepy corner of the hills bubbles with activities. A fair is held here, which sees devotees congregating from different parts of Himalayan region to witness the spiritualism revered in Chandrabadani Temple.

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