Rishikesh! After an overnight sleeper train ride, we arrived in Rishikesh. Heavy monsoon rains greeted us. We are lucky because it can get quite hot here, too. But instead, the rain is cooling and everyone is happy. Street vendors materialized out of seemingly nowhere selling rain ponchos.
We got to our very posh Great Ganga Hotel only to find out that my roommate Theresa and I have Peeping Toms on our back balcony!! Langours, that is! Monkeys, yes. Wait until you see my pictures which I cannot download now. Papa, whom I have named George (after Curious George) had his face plastered against our window watching our every move. Meanwhile, Mamma (Georgina) and her baby (Gigi) were more timid, but stayed nearby, keeping an eye on George. Teenster son, Geoffrey, intently watched George and later joined in on the window peeping. Well, I guess we won’t be opening up our door to the balcony unless we want the place ransacked by George, Georgina, Gigi, and Geoffrey. Watching these guys is pretty entertaining.
There was a strike most of the day (yesterday in Rishikesh). All shops were closed, including internet cafes, as a strong expression of protest against a rise in diesel and gas prices. This made for very quiet streets. Lots of barefoot pilgrims walked from temple to temple laughing and praying in the rain, covered in the ubiquitous plastic pink, yellow, or blue rain ponchos. This town has a celebratory feel to it. Many have come from Delhi for a few days or a week to pray, to enjoy the mountains, to touch the great Mother Ganga (Ganges River as it is called here), to have a spiritual retreat. Indians love to interact with us. I got to hold a few children while the proud parents looked on. People proudly introduce their families, “This is my wife, Sunita, my daughter, Gita, my son, Ramesh etc etc” I look at the family members and am greeted with beaming smiles.
Every evening before sunset, people gather at the temple Pramath Niketan on the Ganges to pray and say goodnight to Mother Ganga. We removed our shoes and joined in the crowd. Devotional music and chants, a colossal statue of a very buff and handsome Shiva sits over the Ganga facing the crowd, large cobra headed lit candelabras being passed around. You take hold of the lit candles and turn the candle holder clockwise. Dayna took hold of the candles and turned them counter clockwise and a kind old man behind her placed his hands over hers and gently corrected her direction. It is a very touching ceremony and it was moving to watch Arvind swaying to the music, singing the chants along with the crowd. What a wonderful way to pay hommage to the great river, the Ganga, the life line of India.
The next day, this morning, I was sitting in the lobby at 6:30 am. I saw Don coming back from his sitting mediation along the Ganges below. He told me that while meditating, he thought he heard what sounded like ducks all around him. He kept his eyes shut and continued his meditation, but later when he opened his eyes, he realized that what he had been hearing were PIGS (sow and piglets!!) snorting and happily snarfing all the garbage around him!!
At 7 we went to have a yoga class with our guest yoga instructor Yogi Gopal at an ashram. Gopal had the big peaceful clean yoga room all set up with mats and towels. He explained that when he was 12 years old, his parents sent him to live and study with a guru. And he has been studying yoga and meditation since then. He is in his late 20s or early 30s. He wears a white robe and is kind of hard to understand because he is so soft spoken and he has a heavy accent. I strained to hear and listen. I really liked the session with him though I think that some may have been disappointed that the asana wasn’t more advanced or vigorous. But part of our experience here is to open ourselves up to new experiences. He talked a lot between poses so we were standing around often.
He talked about:
- therapeutics of yoga, yoga as a healing practice, the benefits of the yoga practice and he showed Dayna a meridian to press on her thumb to deal with an aching knee (the meridian point helped her relieve pain).
- breathing and how the breath is healing and energizing. He spoke of Ida (sun energy channel) and Pingala (Moon energy channel) about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems
- awareness in asana, how to be fully present. he advocated keeping the eyes closed during the postures which is something I don’t do. bring awareness to the whole body and interior of your being
- tapas or practicing with austerity and vigor and zeal. he told of how some yogis take this to the extreme and there is one guy who held his arm up so so long that it became stiff in that position. My guess would be that the silly man’s arm withered…we practiced our own experience of tapas by doing Virabhadrasana III at the bar holding it for a long time with the most tender part of the outside wrist pressing against the bar. Tapas is lying on a bed of nails. We didn’t go that far but the exercise at the bar got the message of intensity across.
- Tapas, Rajas, and Sattva are three states of being. This tapas is different from the tapas above. This one refers to sloth and low energy….rajas refers to vibrant energy and vigor…sattva refers to meditative state of mind where the mind is relaxed and alert and at a perfect place of purity and balance.
Have to go and will write more later…off to the Ashram for the afternoon! rain rain rain…warm warm warm but very comfortable. maybe I will go say goodbye to the monkey peeping Tom’s before I leave for the day. They are so adorable!