A Holy Man (Sadhu) in Rishikesh
A Holy Man (Sadhu) in Rishikesh

India Part 4| The Himalaya, Ananda andRishikesh
After Jaipur I went to Udaipur, Varanasi, and then up into the Himalayan foothills, where I wrote this post.  I would have loved to have written in between but time did not permit. Fortunately my photos do a lot of storytelling on their own: Click for Udaipur photos & Varanasi photos. Earlier posts were from Delhi , the Taj Mahal (Agra) and Jaipur, Rajasthan.
The below post was written near Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India on May 8, 2013
It’s the last day of my journey to India and I have a lousy head cold – since later yesterday. I’m at the top of a mountain above Rishikesh at Ananda, the best destination spa in northern India.  If you Google Rishikesh, you’ll see it’s quite the place and let me tell you that is really is.  More on that in a minute.
This area is the beginning of the Himalayan foothills and the view from my room is rather spectacular as the mountains appear one in front of the other as they make their way higher toward Everest.  No, too far to see that 🙁 The border with Tibet is about 400km and I understand that you can get a great view of the snow capped peaks about 40km from here.  Alas, the roads are pretty bad and there is just not enough time. But at least for me the excitement of being in the famous Himalaya is palpable. The respite at this peaceful resort from the chaos that is otherwise India is wonderful –probably why I got my cold after letting down my defenses of the last 10 days.
Here at Ananda, people typically spend 1 to 3 weeks or longer (they also have shorter packages) and I’ve met friendly people from Scotland, France & England. Haven’t spoken with the Russians as I’m not sure their English is too good and they seem a bit to themselves.   It’s not a spa like Miraval* but the setting is great and as I’ve found all over India, the service levels are excellent. To generalize, they’re a very warm and hospitable people. And peacocks wander freely around the property as they have in several of the hotels I’ve stayed at.

Ananda Spa Peacock
At Ananda Spa (a local)

Rishikesh is the town at the base of the mountain here, about half way between here and the airport at Dehradun, about a 30 minute windy drive. This town with many ashrams is where the Beatles spent time with their yogi back in the 60s.  You could pretty much have expected to see Julia Roberts here too, straight out of the movie Eat Pray Love. A holy city sitting on the Ganges, a lot quieter than Varanasi (Benares) people come to meditate and seek peace and understanding I suppose. It was hard to grasp the true nature of the place in 2 days, but that was my take. It can take you so far away from what you, as a Westerner, are used to, that I’ll bet it can be transformative.
We attended the aarti** on the river banks (ghat) to the music, chanting and prayer to the Hindu deities, including Hari Krishna. I felt like I was part of a George Harrison song and had traveled back in time to when I was barely a teenage.  With the flames being passed around, the colors (sky, water, clothes), the huge statue of Krishna in the Ganges, the appearance of the local yogi and the intensity of the people, it was something else.
*  The food is good, but not as healthy as Miraval. The pool and spa are just OK here. All-inclusive packages are available.
** the sunset observance similar to what we experienced in Varanasi

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