Legs and Wheels – Rishikesh Yatra
Team Udayavani, Jan 1, 2019, 5:58 AM IST
Traveling through the Himalayan terrains provides a traveler with a mesmerizing experience. As you realize the journey is coming to close soon, the mindset of a traveler is poignant, probably something similar to that of a married girl who is about to leave her mother’s house after rejuvenating holidays.
We are on our return journey after completing Char Dham yatra. On way back now moving towards Rishikesh, we stopped at Nagarsu, which was unscheduled but was very refreshing. I strongly believe in destiny and we were destined to stay at Nagarsu and that too on an auspicious day. In my morning stroll, I had discovered that we were staying just next to a Gurudwara Langar Damdama Sahib which was full of Sikh pilgrims. As predicted, they were moving towards Hem Kund. A glance through calendar told us 16th day of June is important not only for Sikhs but for the entire country, as this was the day Mughal emperor Jahangir ordered that Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth guru of the Sikhs be sentenced to death. The guru was subjected to unrelenting physical torture as he refused to obey the orders of conversion to Islam. The Sikhs commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji every year. In all Gurudwaras of the world, special worships are offered. I remember attending the special prayers even at Bremen, in Germany. Before the arrest, torture, and martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, it is important to note that the Sikhs were not taught the skills of weapons.
In the Gurudwara, we offered prayers and as we were coming out we were advised to receive ‘prasad’ before we left. I was yearning for food from langar. Without much ado, we had ‘dal’ and ‘roti’ along with ginger flavored tea. The stream of volunteers (karsevaks) who were involved in cleaning and serving, attracted my attention, my husband who was reading my mind took a cautious step of reminding me that we were yet to cover two prayags and Rishikesh before the end of the day. Offering our prayers to a great Guru who stood by his principles, we felt blessed for being at the right place at the right time. This Gurudwara at Nagarsu, caters to the needs of travelers moving towards Hem Kund.
We traveled around 17 km to reach Rudraprayag. Here, the river Mandakini who takes her origin near the foothills of Kedarnath, joins Alakananda. Mythologically it is believed that Lord Shiva chose this place to perform ‘tandava nrutya’ and played ‘Rudra veena’ to entice Lord Vishnu. Another story reveals that Parvati, who is believed to be the reincarnation of ‘Sati’ performed rigorous penance here to please Lord Shiva for marriage. The third story revolves around Sage Narada who was proud of his musical sense, gets humiliated and performs penance to please Lord Shiva. Pleased by the meditation of Sage Narada, the Lord appeared here in the form of Rudra and blessed him. Apart from the temple of Rudranath, there is an ancient temple of Jagadamba who is also identified as Chamunda Devi, by the localities.
Rudraprayag is important from tourists perspective because it is here the roads to Kedarnath and Badrinath branch out as two different roads. If we take the route passing through Karnaprayag, Nandaprayag, Chamoli, Srinagar, and Joshimath we will reach Badrinathji and the other road passing through Agastyamuni, Guptakashi, Sonprayag, and Gowrikund will take us to the trekking path of Kedarnathji.
As we sit near the Lord Shiva’s temple, viewing the confluence of rivers you feel like severing all the ties you have with the outside world, and with great difficulty, you will come back to the realities of life. The sight and sound of both Mandakini and Alakananda provide a bewitching feeling. If anyone wishes to stay here, there are many resorts and hotels in Rudraprayag. After spending the quality time, we move towards Deva Prayag. We traveled from Rudra Prayag for the next two and a half hours covering a distance of 67 km to reach Deva Prayag.
By virtue of its size, Deva Prayag is a small town but has earned significance both in a religious and spiritual sense. For a Hindu devotee, Deva Prayag becomes actual birthplace of river Ganga. The city which gains importance through the confluence of river Bhagirathi with the river Alakananda, which flows further earning the name Ganga.
From the mythological perspective, it is believed that King Dasharatha and Lord Rama did penance at this town which has earned its name after Dev Sharma who led his ascetic life to receive the blessing of Lord Rama. In Deva Prayag, which is blessed with divinity and serene natural surrounding is an old temple of Raghunath – the other name of Lord Rama attracts visitors. The temple is built using massive rocks. At the confluence, we see Brahma Kund (Bhagiriti) and Vashisht Kund (Alakananda). The confluence of two gets identified as river Ganga as she flows has earned divine status and plays an important role in all our spiritual and religious life. It is even believed that a dip in Ganga at Baitalshila has power even to cure leprosy. Apart from the mythological significance of Deva Prayag the beauty of strong currents of Bhagirathi when meets relatively calmer Alakananda provides an elevating feeling. The confluence where placid Alakananda meets her turbulent counterpart Bhagirathi and turn into roaring and energetic Ganga, getting ready to wash sins of millions is indeed a place of sanctity. If river Ganga has sanctified Lord Rama who did deep penance here to atone for his sin of killing a demon king, but a son of a Brahmin we human beings can just stand on the banks of river Ganga and say “Namami Gange”. Dev Prayag is also a place where Devotees offer their ob…. To their elders
As usual, I stood watching as my husband walked and crossed the ropeway bridge to climb down some 300 steps to take a dip in the holy confluence. A short walk without losing the view of the rivers and sitting on the slopes of the mountain in peace trying to understand the significance of the place and importance of keeping the rivers clean is in my destiny.
Coming back to the ancient temple of Raghunathji built at the confluence has a beautiful 15ft tall statue of Lord Rama. Carved in the black granite, is believed to be about 1250 years old. There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Apart from the beautiful temple complex which is believed to be supported by wooden pillars, stone inscriptions and image of ‘Garuda’ are something a visitor should not miss.
It was around 1 pm now we had our lunch before proceeding towards Hrishikesh, a journey of 2.30 hrs to cover nearly 74 km was ahead of us. The experiences at Deva Prayag had filled our hearts. We remained silent as Uday efficiently drove through the terrains. It was nearing 4 pm when we reached Hrishikesh.
‘O’ traveler please Remember
Traveling through terrain is not an easy journey. Keep light language, eat good food and drink plenty of safe water. Warm clothes and raincoat must find space in your bag. Travel plan should be meticulous, however, keep one or two days extra. Remember rarely you will get the mobile network ( any company), so try to remain without mobiles. Plan, read and research well before or else you tend to miss out interesting spots. Traveling in the group gets financial benefits and can also play as a motivating factor, but the group should be like-minded. If you intend to trek, plan in advance and obtain necessary training and permission. The next travel season towards the Himalayas largely begins by the middle of May, start planning your vacation gradually. As a traveler respect nature, do not dump plastic/clothes and in the name of religious belief. Please do not litter the place.
Dr. Nandini Lakshmikantha
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