By Maya Lalchandani
I had been to Rishikesh a few years ago when I needed a detox and a spa experience. They say you have to always keep going back to better your experience. Going back to the base of the mighty Himalayan range was uppermost in my mind. Rishikesh, in the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand, is known to be the gateway to the Garhwal Mountains and the twin holy city of Haridwar.
Essentially a pilgrimage town, it is rightfully known as the yoga capital of the world. Religious significances indicate no alcohol and non-vegetarian foods on the menus. Since my mission was to detox, I was obviously headed in the right direction.
I checked in at the newest offering on the hospitality block, The Modi Yoga Retreat, a luxury boutique spa hotel. Founded by social entrepreneur and philanthropist Bhupendra Kumar Modi, the resort was bought in the 1970s by his mother, who gifted it to him to encourage a healthy equilibrium between self and nature.
As I entered the lobby and looked to my left I was astounded and gasped at the views of the river Ganga and the majestic mountains. An instant calm enveloped me as I moved towards my room. I had clearly entered paradise, a gilded picture depicting beautiful nature outside and utmost indulgence inside.
Outside my long balcony I sighted the road leading to the Triveni Ghat. The Ganga Arti – the daily prayer service conducted by head temple priests at the banks of the river – beckoned and so did the Rajaji National Park.
As I drove towards the much-awaited Ganga Arti along the banks, I remembered that the river that starts at the Gangotri glacier in Gomukh flows all the way into the Bay of Bengal. The prayer chants rose as the sun downed. Dusk set in alongside a giant statue of Shiva facing the Parmanand Ashram. A crazy walk along the many-hued street leading to both the Ram and Lakshman Jhoolas (iron-suspension bridges across the Ganga) should be on every tourist’s to-do list, simply because of the diversity of people one meets on those two bridges from all over the world.
For me, the mountains usually mean forests, and such a trip would not be complete without a jungle safari. On a winter morning with temperatures touching 80C, I drove into the adjacent Rajaji Forest Reserve spread over 820 sq km, and had an amazing safari excursion into the National Park. We didn’t see any tigers but we did spot tiger paw-prints in the riverside sand!
Next stop was the former ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, (Chaurasi Kutia ashram) now famously known as the Beatles Ashram that shot into fame in 1968, and inspired a global interest in yoga and transcendental meditation. Since the 1990s, trespassers on the ashram site had taken to leaving graffiti as a tribute to the Beatles, most of which is still visible today.
After a long day of sightseeing, I decided to rejuvenate at my hotel. The retreat has 29 rooms and suites, and offers yoga services every morning in their meditation rooms as well as personal yoga. My spa journey went through various phases, from wet warm beds for body scrubs, to heated spa beds, a dedicated spa rest area and a heated swimming pool.
There’s also a fully equipped gym, and a restaurant that offers a wholesome menu – Sattvik and regular – designed by a nutritionist and a MasterChef!
The best part of being here is that one can follow their practices in a beautiful space and detox completely. Add to that the wonders of being so close to the Ganges, taking morning walks on the Aastha path along the river, going river rafting, kayaking, and trying one’s hand at flying fox and bungee jumping, adventure activities that Rishikesh is famous for.
The divine sunrise and the sunset views tempt me to come back and experience lovely Rishikesh again and yet again.
Maya Lalchandani is a Mumbai-based entrepreneur, writer and the author of Paiso (Penguin Random House).
First published in eShe’s May 2019 issue