India Dreaming
Accounts of previous tours to India by Sundaram



Part Six: On To Rishikesh


Just a further note in regards to Vashishta Guha, the ancient cave temple: It is said that this cave used to extend as much a several kilometers further into the hillside. While Swami Purushottamanandaji was residing in the cave he sealed off the rest of it since a number of siddhas (perfected beings) wanted to use the cave for undisturbed meditation. It is also worthy to note that Sri Satya Sai Baba visited Vashishta Guha for three consecutive days while visiting with Swami Maharaj in 1959. He materialized a spatika (crystal) mala for him that he wore with reverence until the end of his life.)


The camp we were staying at near Kodyala is a pristine 35-acre parcel owned by Anil & Puja Bisht, dear friends of ours who own & operate a rafting, camping & trekking company. We have worked with them during all of our previous trips to India since 1995, & they make all of the travel & accommodation arrangements for us during the mountain portion of our tours.. Their property includes a white-sand beach, a beautiful meadow overlooking Ganga Ma where we camped in large tents, a waterfall , a terraced hillside where Craig is planning on building a retreat house & beautiful forested terrain -- & they do all the cooking. It is a yogi's paradise!


On the morning of the fifth day at the camp, we were to take our bus into the holy town of Rishikesh where we would be staying in a large ashram. We had most of the morning free as we were not planning on leaving until 11:30, at which time we were all supposed to meet up at the road. It would take time for the horses & their keepers to transport all of our luggage across the bridge & up the winding path to the road. Anil suggested we visit a very old Shiva temple close by & gave us directions, so Shivani & I set off for a little adventure of our own.


We walked along a wide trail past the bridge crossing the river. Almost immediately we entered a small mountain village, quaint & simple. We walked on past the village keeping an eye-out on the left hill bank for a trail leading up the hill. Soon we found the trail & the ancient-appearing stone steps leading steeply up to the crest about 200-feet above the path. Not knowing whether or not we might be intruding, we apprehensively climbed the steps to find ourselves in another transcendental environment, through the grace of God & Guru. Here, under the shade of a hoary banyan, was an old courtyard with several rustic-looking Shiva lingams under the tree. There was even a samadhi shrine (tomb) of a saint a short distance away. We found ourselves quite alone, which we thought was amazing in & of itself. Entering the small temple, we found all the implements & offerings from the morning puja, including the monetary offerings, still there -- as if the puja had just been completed -- yet not a material being was present! We sat to meditate & had a luxurious dip into the inner stillness. We would have liked to have stated there longer but were concerned that the group might be waiting for us, so we reluctantly left, only to discover, upon arriving at the bus. that we had to wait there for everybody else! Oh well... another timeless memory & blessing in a string of blessings that could only have been arranged by the One who loves us most.


The bus ride into Rishikesh takes only about 2-hours from where we were so we all stopped for a final visit to Vashishta Guha on the way. The Paramarth Niketan Ashram in holy Rishikesh is a large & prominent ashram on the opposite side of the Ganga. It is an easy walk across the Ramjula Bridge at Sivanandnagar. By vehiclle, however, one must drive thru & past the town of Rishikesh itself, cross the Ganga south of town, then proceed up thru the forest on the opposite bank, finally arriving at the Ashram. When we did arrive there, we found the narrow lane to the Ashram gate blocked by crowds of people & vendors. It seems it was a festival day (aren't they all, in India!) With time & gentle persistence, our driver did manage to get through. We checked into the Ashram for a brief stay of only two days. (Shivani & I later returned to Rishikesh for 11-days before returning to the States).



Part 7: Holy Rishikesh