SOMETIMES myriads of Memories crowd in and refuse to fade away from the mind .
SUCH AN OLD Moment is Stimulating and rejuvenating experience even now .___MY first visit to the city of saints ___RISHIKESH
THE HOLY TOWN
ON THE MORNINGof 27th August 1974, to be exact 3.30 AM I got down from the DTC bus in the close vicinity of RISHIKESH ,THE HOLY TOWN—The City Of Saints.
Without waiting I made for a Tonga ,the only possible vehicle available at that early hour .
“will you take me to a Hotel” I asked the Tongawala directly..
“Hotel ? no hotels here sirji ,only Ashrams .we have good Ashrams ,a lot of them, can take you to a good one and you can stay as long as you like on paying a nominal charge.” replied Tongawala with an air of certainty.
Without waiting for my consent he took my luggage ,pushed it under the seat and beckoned me to rear seat of his shabby ill maintained Tonga ,himself clambouring on the front.
The Tongawala ,a tall swarthy of medium build,with a thick walrus moustache, whipped the horse uttering a strange sound” HEE-HOO” “HEE-HOO” .
The horse responded to the code word and broke into gentle trot .
We drove into the Town breaking stillness of the early hours with the sound of his hoofs and the sound resounded with crescendo.
‘’ Are you going to stay here for sometime” The Tongawalla asked me .
“ yes I think I should.” I replied briefly.
“ are you going to visit kedarnath ,Badrinath”
“oh no ,I have come to settle though temporarily, being offered a job in your Town.”
“ I see ,a good news “ “you are lucky ,our beautiful town,the city of saints,-lots of good religious places to see-LaxmanJhoola ,Geeta Bhawan,Swarga Ashram, Gangotri,Yamnotri –close by “The Tongawalla volunteered the information.
As we drove through the broad,clean, deserted streets of the sleeping town,I could hear the Temple bells ringing. Could see groups of ladies and men with Brass ‘Lotas’ in their hands going through for early prayers .
“ Are they going to Temples” I enquired from my lone campanion pointing towards those early pedestrians.
“ they shall take a dip in holy waters of The Ganges and meditate on the Ghats of Triveni Ghat” “ Alovely scene to look at Sahibji .
I must say you should spend a few hours meditating on the Ghat daily.”
He replied with his broad smile on his face.
The Tongawalla finally pulled up outside a huge Ashram,picking up my luggage I meakly followed him into the Ashram
“ Ram Ram Sahib” Tongawalla greeted the man at the reception.” Ram Ram Pyare singh” replied the man shuffling apart to make room for me.
I was ushered into a small room with Charpoy bed ,two wicker chairs, and a small table.A fan whirred overhead making the room a bit comfortable .
I dispensed off Pyara singh by paying him Two rupees ,thanked him for his good gesture,slammed door upon him and dozed off to deep slumber.
I woke up to the sun beams passing through the chink of window that fell on my face directly.
Dressed up hurriedly and went straight into the street,.The broad street with huge buildings on either side and the Bazaar slowly beginning to throb with life.
At the main chowk I hailed a passing Taxi .
“whereto?” the cab driver asked .
“That should be Rs 3” the cab man opened the rear door and I barged in without haggling for a lower rate.
We lurched forward passing through the busy streets ,dodging the pedestrians. ,cyclists, pony –drawn Tongas, at reasonably good speed . He came to foot of hill and took uphill journey.
As the taxi plied on the winding road , dug out of hills finally came to a halt near Laxmanjhoola .
A spectacle of bewitching beauty.
Rishikesh is a beautiful valley surrounded by huge Himalayan forests with Holy Ganges gurgling through the entire Town ,criss cross brooks through rivulets joining the big expansive waters of the Ganges , a green verdure all along and a treat to one’s eyes.
Laxmanjhoola ,the swinging bridge standing on the iron ropes across the Ganges forms the only connecting link to SWARG ASHRAM and other ASHRAMS . GEETA ASHRAM and PARMARTH ASHRAM the famous ones .Parmarth Ashram spreads over 8 acres and has 1000 rooms.
I stood in the middle of the bridge looking at the glinting blue waters beneath. The Holy Ganga looked serene .
The scantily clad women and the men taking dip in the waters of Ganga together.
The men and women splashing water on one another ,and thus wash off their sins in the holy waters of Ganga.
I went down to the bank of Ganga and enjoyed the frolicking crowd of pilgrims for hours together and eventually spent almost two decades of my precious life in this Holy Town.