Rishikesh is a town in Northern India set on the banks of the Ganges and is known for being the Yoga capital of the world. We arrived the day before Prince Charles and Camilla were due and preparations were under way for their arrival.
The town itself is completely vegetarian (by law) and alcohol-free. Streets are lined with medicinal and health stores, as well as signposts and flyers for all the ‘hippy’ things you might expect like reiki, laughter yoga (I’d have done that if I’d had time) and something to do with chakras.
But a ceremony called Aarti, run by a guru on the banks of the Ganges, is what many visitors come for, and what Charles and Camilla would be seeing too the next day.
The ceremony commenced with teenage boys playing drums and singing; something they continued for over an hour. Spices were thrown into a fire pit by the river as offerings to the gods, and oil lamps were passed around – clearly an important part of the ceremony as the locals were scrambling over each other to hold them and make circular motions in the air with them. A lovely local man made space for me then signalled for me to hold it too; I duly obliged wondering if it was supposed to bring luck or please the gods in some way.
For the end of the ceremony the guru arrived and sang in harmony with the boy singer, creating an atmospheric sound. I forgot where I was for a moment then looked around to see the sun setting over the river and a sea of faces lit by the oil lamps all staring in the direction of the guru.
The next day we left the town to go camping, and what a place to do it! The camp was set right next to the river and an open canopy with a circle of seats was positioned next to the tents for sociable meal times.
We went for a difficult walk up a rocky, overgrown stream and joined another family and the camp owners around the camp fire in the evening. In our group we had former Girl Guides and Boy Scouts leaders who led us in camp songs as we eagerly opened the beers we’d managed to get hold of after the enforced dry spell in the town.
The image above is what we woke up to. The beautiful, refreshing Ganges. It was such a simple life down here by the river but one I could spend more of my time living.
I sat on a rock and contemplated what I was going to do with my life. This was the end of my Indian adventure, but also the end of my whole Asian adventure. Just as my life changed dramatically when I left the UK for Burma in February, my life was now entering a new phase. Time to return home and figure out what to do next.