Diwali on the Banks of Ganges in Rishikesh
I go on the bus that take us from Shimla to Haridwar. To begin with, the vehicle was a can with wheels, half the windows broken and no more than 60 seats. For the 60 seats there were at least 80 people with their bags, suitcases and boxes of disproportionate size. I sit in one of the first rows of three seats in the window.
The hard plastic seats are like a stone without any cushion or simple upholstery and without backrest for the head. Of course the position of the seat was straight at 90 degrees without the possibility of moving it. There, cramped in the limited space left by the poor souls caked on luggage boxes in the aisle and the bags that hung lightly above our heads, we feared a complicated journey.
Even so we were not very worried, as by now we had been in similar situations. We would come out of it without problems. After 8:00 at night, the bus headed for Haridwar. Continuous accelerations and braking are normal. In a road full of curves, it became somewhat harder to bear. The suspension of the device was not there either, not to say that it was chewing gum. So we were bouncing continuously.
The curves followed each other incessantly. In the passenger compartment it was already hot due to the amount of bodies pressed together sharing the limited space and air. We all sweated. On the contrary, it was very cold outside, so water droplets condensed in the fogged windows.
In addition to the sound of the engine, the wind and the rattle of broken windows covered by woods, the noise of the arcades and spits were part of the soundtrack of the bus at all times.
The much-awaited festival of Diwali, perhaps the most famous after the Holi began throughout India. I would say that really the only thing that is celebrated is the veneration of the goddess Lakshmi, who represents wealth and prosperity. So these days, the locals celebrate that the goddess will visit their homes to bring them riches.
In the morning I woke up with explosions and firecrackers as an alarm clock. The tiredness was such that we were immersed in a state of apathetic and stoic trance in which we felt nothing. Only the minutes pass slowly as if the trip were endless. The journey ended shortly before 7 o'clock in the morning at the Haridwar bus station. Without much impetus due to fatigue, we tried to find a local bus to Rishikesh but we gave up soon and went straight to get a auto rickshaw.
The drivers obviously tried to get the best slice but we did not leave. We got angry because one of the drivers started to laugh suspiciously when we started bargaining. In the end the negotiation reached a point of agreement on the condition that it left us exactly where we wanted to go or if not, we would not pay.
We arrived in Rishikesh and indeed the guy did not know where to go. He wanted to leave us somewhere he thought was enough. After a small discussion in which other rickshaw drivers got in, we left without looking back. We had to walk for a while to Laxman Jhula, where are the guest house for travelers as well as yoga schools and some temples.
We enter a cheap hotel but is expensive because it targets a rich western clientele. That said the place is clean, and the price can be justified by the quality of the estate. After our well-deserved rest, we walked around Laxman Jhula for a while. There we see a strange mixture of passers-by. The locals moved among many tourists, some babas and monkeys. We sit down to drink chai. We took advantage of the morning for a little rafting adventure.
Here the Ganges is not at all the sewer in which the river becomes during its last stages. In Rishikesh, the great Ganges is the god that legends speak about. The glacial waters from which it is nourished, bring color and freshness to the serpentine image of the river through the mountains that evoke the most authentic nature and purity. It is the memory of the Ganges in her passage through Rishikesh that still allows me to think that in India, nature is truly sacred.
We visited Neer Garh waterfalls located less than an hour walk from Laxman Jhula. The waterfalls were not great and were full of people but it was a pleasure to bathe in those icy waters. When we left there we met by chance a group of Israeli girls. We made the obligatory visit to the Beatles Ashram. The place was completely abandoned until recently, but now someone has bought it and is dedicated to refurbishing it.
We explored the huge enclosure for a while and entered many of the buildings and rooms. We found a ship in which people, perhaps fans of the Beatles, had made graffiti that evoked some of their songs. The streets of Rishikesh were filled with people throwing firecrackers and fireworks without stopping. The firecrackers were almost bombs.
On occasion I could feel the shock wave of one of those small homemade bombs when I was walking on the street. At night the show was a high-risk show. The houses are decorated with garlands of light.
The traffic of people on the main street of Laxman Jhula collapsed due to the firecrackers and bombs thrown in the middle of the street. On more than one occasion we could see how someone had to bend down so a rocket do not strike in the head. It really was colorful, noisy and fun about everything, even in spite of the scares. We made the way to the bridge and then we had dinner at one of the restaurants in the area.
Both during dinner and afterwards when we returned to our guest house, the Diwali was still celebrated and the fireworks illuminated the sky over the Ganges. We were staying in a low-lit bamboo hut at the price of an upscale hotel. Rishikesh was a continuous party, and I was loving it.