Recently there has been a spate of virulent religious extremist propagandas taking place in India. It pains my heart to see the country‘s usually placid nature getting so spoilt, and I often wonder how action of one or a handful can be held against entire communities. These fanatics in their fits of passion defile the true meaning of their faith along with the identity of India, that is her wonderful diversity. Very few countries on earth offer the array of natural and human diversities as India and it is sad to see this getting diluted everyday. Sitting so far away from my country, I often wonder if these are mere media created hypes. My own travel experiences in India point out to something quite different. The general vibe of India is usually primitively communal and it is most gloriously blended.
These unpleasant incidents stirred up a lot of memories of India in my mind and many of them were associated with religious spots or festivals. In both, I had experienced true blue soul of India and it had contained a lot of chaos, brilliant shows of colours, deep faith and harmony. They had also come along with the quintessential Indian annoyances like rude monkeys, immobile cows, scattered garbage, indisciplined crowd, lack of civic sense and nearly non existent empathy for the environment, hygiene and what is generally considered as good manners. Nonetheless, they have been beautiful glimpses of the vibrant beating heart of India and somehow my country had seemed innocent and still very child like. My most gorgeous memories hail from the holy towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh and both have been highly intense experiences.
Nestled on the bank on the lovely Ganges, Rishikesh and Haridwar are twin holy towns which are separated by a mere 20 kilometres. This distance, which is usually covered in 30 minutes by road not only separates the two holy spots, but also the huge world of difference existing between them. While, Haridwar is more gritty, grungy and Indian pilgrim oriented, Rishikesh relates to wellness, zen, yoga, rock and roll and rafting. Beatles had made it famous internationally and nowadays every spiritual leader, holy man, yoga expert, wellness guru, bio/organic farms and social do gooders worth their salt, have some enterprise up and running in Rishikesh. Needless to say, this attracts huge crowds of foreign tourists seeking respite from the maddening Indian pace and there are a lot of funky cafes, bakeries, restaurants, accommodations etc.
Good old Haridwar on the other hand, has lots of temples, strict yoga ashrams, devout religious institutions and a lovely (and very popular) evening Ganga arti or prayers for the river. The crowd flocking to both the towns could not be more different in their looks, mentality and attitude; but what connects them, is their faceless nature. Despite, being the two most important holy sites in India, both Rishikesh and Haridwar warmly embrace people of all faiths, nationalities, beliefs and financial status. This often makes me wonder, if religion is indeed such a harmony killer as it is tagged or is it the result of non usage of the highly sensible advice of “Live and Let Live”.
Presenting a three part series of photo essays on the twin towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar; holy and deeply spiritual places, the real beauty, grunge, charm and soul of India can be captured there. This is where the real India exists.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE