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MUSSORIE to MOKSHA - BY SHITAL DESHPANDE

By 03:59:00

Before I take you to the soulful journey through the holy land of Ganges, let me give you a brief background of what led us to this journey. Me and my friend Maithili hail from Pune and were on our very first trek up north to Nagtibba.

Nagtibba is the highest peak (around 10,000 feet) in the lesser Himalayan region of Garhwal range and is situated around 57 km from the famous hill station Mussoorie in Uttarakhand.
It offers a great trekking experience in the snow clad ranges for first time trekkers. 

 
While planning the trek we were left with half a day to spend in Dehradun due to the flight availability. 

Though Dehradun offers multiple places of tourist interest we chose Rishikesh as it was the easiest destination allowing us to exhaust our last bit of mountain hangover.( yes we were not down ..even after our 3 days of lack of sleep and  first timer physical exhaustion !)

The trek was indeed exhausting and all we craved was a warm, soft bed and good 10 hour sleep. However we knew that by morning we would be refreshed and ready for action. We booked a taxi on the last day of our trek with the help of one of the locals who got us a great taxi deal to set out at 5:00 am.

Dehradun being a central place for visiting the famous Char Dhamroute (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath) offers easy transportation (state run buses as well as private taxis) to the nearby tourist spots like Mussoorie and Rishikesh.

The drive to Rishikesh (which literally means ‘ Land of senses’)was peaceful and soothing, driving in the misty early morning light through empty roads and picturesque forests, almost setting the tone for what we had in store. 

Rishikesh is your typical Indian pilgrimage spot with its rigmarole of overly crowded tourist spots like the Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula.
Several temples run for miles along both the banks of the Holy Ganga replete with hawkers and shops selling anything between Indian gem stones and handicrafts to cheap plastic toys and food stalls serving everything ranging from desi Parathas to Chinese and even Italian.

 However thanks to the early morning hour, when we reached Rishikesh the entire tourist establishment was shut. Barring a few early worshipers and a lone hawker selling tea on a cycle, the entire town was still in deep slumber.

We walked up and down the famous Lakshman Jhula, an iron suspension bridge, built on
the path, which was said to have been crossed by  Lakshman on jute ropes centuries ago.
The bridge sways and swings as you walk and my friend thought it was really jittery though it was fun (since there was no one I even ran up and down couple of times).
Ram Jhula is also similar bridge slightly bigger than Lakshman Jhula.

I decided to explore my pious side and walked towards the temples and the religious ghat. The mood was quite somber because of intense physical exhaustion I had gone through on the trek and the time spent in solitude. I felt some kind of deep serenity when I dipped my hands in the holy Ganga and prayed. 

As we looked on the flowing river lost in a reverie, the priests started the Morning Prayer chants drawing our minds to the tranquility within. Finally we rose from this trance both us and Ganga Maiyya getting reading for the humdrum of real world as the prayer closure bells struck.

Another prominent landmark we went to, typically visited by foreign tourists and dignitaries, was the ParmarthNiketan, one of the few places where kids are imparted VedShiksha the ancient way. 
Rishikesh also happens to be “World Capital of Yoga” with nearly hundreds of yoga centers around every nook and corner of the promising Moksha through meditation.
You will see a large number of foreigners thronging these places in search of the much-promised Nirvana ;)

We then took a stroll along the banks of Ganga traversing along the entire length of Rishikesh. It was a good 3 km walk with a breath taking view of the river Ganga in its purest form casting many shades of blue, jade and green with the rising sun.

 It was nearly day light and a light crowd of sight seers and worshipers started building in. 

We sauntered through the market place and settled at a desi food stall serving parathas with alookisabji and piping hot pakoras for a traditional north Indian breakfast. The food was delicious and we had a hearty meal gearing ourselves for our journey back. 

The rest of the walk back through the market place was like any other pilgrimage spot and we hurried our way back to the parking lot. 

Driving back to the airport we were glad for experiencing this quaint yet mystic place especially at the early hour of the day carrying back with us our tiny share of Moksha and the holy Ganga safely sealed in our water bottles .

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