FIVE AMAZING FEATURES OF RISHIKESH INDIA
Like coming home, I’m in Rishikesh again! To me its one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in India. Of course it would be; Rishikesh is the Yoga Capitol of the world. That alone would make it amazing.
But Rishikesh is much more than that. It’s a vegan/ vegetarian paradise; it’s surrounded by a great wildlife sanctuary; it’s located at the base of the Himalayas where some of the most sacred temples of the world are found. Additionally, the Ganges River runs right through it and incidentally it is also an art center.
Rishikesh is a vegetarian / vegan center. You can’t even buy eggs in restaurants or food shops. One of my favorite restaurants served pancakes as well as non-spicy food. I struck up a friendship with the owners and shared my family pancake recipe that can be made with the heaviest whole wheat flour, while still remaining fluffy. They were delighted until they saw eggs among in the ingredients. It was unthinkable for them to use eggs which were not available or legal anywhere around the area.
Driving into Rishikesh, from Haridwar, there is a big expanse of what the driver
termed: ‘tiger sanctuary’. There is thick jungle on both sides of the road where elephants and wildlife enjoy protection. I’m used to watching for deer or kangaroo crossing signs but meeting an elephant, tiger or cobra on the road would be a bit more intimidating, especially after sunset. I shivered as I wondered if these animals ever ventured into the village areas of Rishikesh. After all I felt like we were completely surrounded by dense jungle.
RISHIKESH IS AT THE BASE OF THE HIMALAYAS
Rishikesh is located in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains with sacred temples along the way including Kedernath Temple, reputed to have been saved from total destruction by a giant rock that serendipitously landed behind it during the big flood.
Of course I visited Rishikesh during winter so roads to Kedernath in the snow clad mountains were closed. Even in summer one can only get to about eight kilometers before the temple, or visit by helicopter. I missed out on both of my winter visits to Rishikesh but think I will take a helicopter when I do visit next summer, after monsoon season.
The Ganges River is definitely a big highlight for me when I visit Rishikesh. I was struck by the sheer volume and amazing color of the river. I have seen many ‘green’ rivers before but the Ganges in Rishikesh has a color that looks like a blend of green and white making it a sort of teal green. It is very particular to the Ganges in Rishikesh and pictures do not do justice to that shade of green. There are two pedestrian and bike bridges that go from one side to the other. Once you cross the bridges you come to the ashram and yoga centers where you feel surrounded by a spiritual cloud of seekers.
Artists and street art are abundant in Rishkesh. After finding my favorite health juice bar
in Laxman Jula I wandered about looking at shops, souvenirs and different types of yoga schools, ashrams, temples, and even walk-in classes. I stopped short at an art store next to the juice bar. Apparently you could walk in anytime and take an art lesson from the local artist/owner. You just pay for the class on the spot and he provides all the materials and samples of subject matter you can work on.
I quickly took my shoes off, signed in for a class and copied one of the art pieces the artist had displayed on the wall. I think I surprised him as he did not know I was already an artist. Copying this figure was not a difficult task for me and I didn’t need much direction. I was soon absorbed in drawing the Indian maiden I’d chosen to copy.
On the way back to the ashram I came across another artist with no arms who was painting beautiful traditional Indian art with her foot. I watched her for awhile and exchanged some tips and went on marveling at how people lacking physical faculties often produce pieces of art or music with whatever parts of the body they have available. It is humbling to see this when so many of us live up to only 2% of our abilities, though we are endowed with all our faculties and above average intelligence.
Finally, I met Rajineesh PingleRaj, my street portrait artist who awed me with his portrait of Osho, someone whose talks and books I relish. There was something about his rendition of Osho that was very intriguing. The eyes on the portrait seemed to follow you around. Looking a little closer I noticed that in the placement of the initial sketch there was a line that he had moved over about one millimeter to finish the painting.
I immediately related to the feeling, remembering how I once erased a big part of a stained glass design, just to move a line over about a millimeter to get the eye of a toucan just right
It seems ridiculous to do such a thing. But for an artist even this tiny move can make a huge difference in the final look of the painting. I believe that this small change is what gave Osho that special look as if his eyes were following you wherever you moved.
In any case I bought the painting and it is now in my living-room in Australia where the eyes follow guests around. I like to think they bring them into Osho’s wisdom. You can find the artist, Rajineesh and his portraits in Laxman Jula, Rishikesh,India (phone: +919548730928). Rajineesh also plays the violin and the guitar and does portraits for passing tourists. Rishikesh is a great place to be and a great place for artists!