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Armchair Travel! Himalayan Healing

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Recalling a reboot in Rishikesh

ONE OF NORTHERN INDIA’S MOST SACRED SITES, Rishikesh in the northern state of Uttarakhand is scenically located on the banks of The Ganges, the holiest river according to the Hindu religion. Being in the foothills of the Himalayas, it’s relatively cool year-round. You fly in to Dehradun Airport from New Delhi or Mumbai.

OUTWARD BOUND IS HUGELY POPULAR in Rishikesh. There’s trekking, white-water rafting, rock climbing, cliff jumping, rappelling and bungee jumping on tap; after all this is the glorious Gateway to the Himalayas.

THE WORLD CAPITAL OF YOGA, Rishikesh catapulted to Western fame when the Beatles dropped by to visit Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram (now closed). There are in fact three Rishikesh essentials: yoga practice, a ‘holy’ dip in The Ganges and having your palm read.

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GANGA AARTI IS PRACTISED DAILY on the steps leading down to The Ganges. Fire lamps are lit at the end of more than an hour’s chanting, symbolising the light of truth as they fire up, and the destruction of the ego when they burn out. Taking part makes for a powerful goodbye to Rishikesh and an empowering preparation for the real world to come.

NON-VEGETARIAN FOOD AND ALCOHOL ARE BANNED but there’s a wealth of delicious Ayurvedic and health-food restaurants. The sleepy downtown streets are lined with wooden pushcarts selling fresh fruit and veggies, plus tasty local sweets, like jalebis and imartis. Watch out for food- stealing monkeys!

TRAYAMBAKESHWAR TEMPLE IS THE BIGGEST in Rishikesh, built as a 13-storey home for Lord Shiva more than 800 years ago. It is known for its beautiful idols of Hindu gods and goddesses, and walls inscribed with ancient religious texts. The best way to reach Trayambakeshwar is via Laxman Jhula hanging bridge.

ASHRAMS PEPPER THE TOWN as densely as Starbucks in Seattle, and picturesque Swarg Ashram (Heavenly Abode) is one of the oldest. Situated at the foot of the Himalayas on the left bank of The Ganges, it’s the spiritual ‘ground zero’ of Rishikesh, positively jammed with temples, meditation centres, Sanskrit schools and stores.

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