Rishikesh: Fall in love with the land of gods and Beatles

Rishikesh is like a Beatles melody. There’s a riff of religion, a strum of spirituality, a yodel of yoga.

But there was no sheng of style in that melody.

People go to Rishikesh in search of their soul, meandering to reach meaning. But no one ever gave Rishikesh a high-five for hipness.

Hippies, maybe. Not hipness.

People come to Rishikesh in search of God.

We have done Rishikesh several times. So we clearly decided to stay away from the dips, the evening aartis and the crumby Chotiwala’s of the world.

The idea was to see Rishikesh through fresh optics. Adventure sports. Food. Digital detoxification and The Beatles.

The moment you land in Rishikesh you are overwhelmed by the number of river rafts that you see. They are seen more frequently than street lamps. Which leads one to conclude that it is indeed a dodgy business. After careful research one honed in on Red Chilli Adventures. They have two-hour adventures from Shivpuri. They go through rapids such as The Rollercoaster (III+) and Golf Course (III+).

Zip lining is the other great option available at Rishikesh. Soaring 200 feet high above the Ganges is exhilaration that cannot be adequately enunciated. The lines are up to 400 m long and because they too are located at Shivpuri, you kind of kill two birds with one stone. The guys at Flying Fox do a zany job of the zip lining.

There are also strange activities such as reverse bungee jumping, but they are past my expiry date and were therefore studiously avoided.

But the stuff to truly lap up is the cuisine.

I never order from the menu. I always ask chefs to make me whatever they like. But with one caveat: it must contain spices and produce that is local.

And our meals at the The Roseate Ganges were a compelling contrast to the food that Maharishi served the Beatles at what is now called Beatles Ashram. Harrison thought the food at the ashram was “ lousy” Pattie Boyd, thought it was “ delicious”. No wonder they eventually got divorced.

Beatles Ashram, also known as Chaurasi Kutia, (84 Cottages) is located opposite the Muni Ki Reti area of Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas. In the 60s and 70s, it was the International Academy of Meditation where Maharishsi Mahesh Yogi taught Transcedental Meditation. It was around February 1968 that the Beatles trooped in here and made it rock forever. They wrote 48 songs while there.

The site is run down with graffiti all over its walls but if you are a Beatles nut, a visit to the place is quite lovely.

A weekend at Rishikesh leaves you rebooted.

Getting to Rishikesh from Delhi is a song. And The Roseate Ganges is a hip hymn.

One that sings to you what Ringo Starr wrote while in Rishikesh: “Don’t Pass Me By.”

The author is a connoisseur of luxury and an ad guru. He launched his own agency, Equus, and has some of the most prestigious corporate honchos as his clientele.

From HT Brunch, November 10, 2019

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