Towards Spiritual Awakening
Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.
– Bhagavad Gita
Uttarakhand is blessed with the presence of the Himalayan range which has, since time immemorial, been the favourite spot for sages, kings and common people alike for a revival, owing to the lofty mountains and quiet valleys. The Kailash range in particular has not only provided an abode to the cosmic energy of Shiva-Shakti, but also served as a location for spiritual awakening of various legends from different religions; Jains believe their first law giver Rishabhdev attained nirvana here, Buddhists refer to it as Mount Meru, one of its important pilgrimage sites, Tibetans regard it as Axis Mundi i.e. where heaven and earth meet. And thus, a state soaked by holy rivers, on whose banks ancient and modern sages have attempted de-tangling the meaning of their life, surrounded by majestic and serene mountains, sustained by an air of mystical aura, Uttarakhand comes out as the natural selection for a place to embark on a journey of spiritual enlightenment. It is not for no reason that every year outlanders and natives alike congregate in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, for the International Yoga festival.
The name Rishikesh has nothing to do with a Rishi’s kesha (hair). It originates from Hrishikesha, one of the thousand names of Lord Vishnu, which translates to “The Lord of All Senses” (hrsika an organ of sense, isa lord). This Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas is situated in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand. It is located 25 km north of Haridwar, with whom it shares the title of “twin national heritage cities”, which also happens to be the nearest railway station. Nearest airport is the Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun, almost 35 km away.
Three landmarks in and around the city covers most of its religious as well as spiritual aspects, namely Muni Ki Reti, Ram Jhoola, and Laxman Jhoola. Both ends of Ram Jhoola, a 750 feet bridge, house a sundry of ashrams for visitors looking for a peace of mind, like Gita Mandir, Parmarth Niketan, Kailash Ashram, Mahesh Yogi Ashram, Divine Life Society, Swargashram etc. These ashrams conduct programs at a reasonable price dedicated to revivalism. They provide residencies which try to hold on to the concept of simple living, while also being equipped with modern amenities. The people deployed to help your transition from a tamasic lifestyle of modern times to a satvik one will expect you to follow certain guidelines, in order to sustain the sacred atmosphere of the ashrams, like giving up on non-veg, adhering to a dress code, dedicating more time to sadhna, meditation, introspection and reflection. Any normal day at these ashrams starts even before the break of the dawn with universal prayers followed by yoga practice, keeps you engaged throughout the day with various cultural programs and classes dedicated to teachings from holy books like Gita, and ends with the wholesome Ganga Arti at sunset.
Other than the already established centres for spiritual learning at Rishikesh and Haridwar in Garhwal region, the Kumaon region, with the help of Ministry of Tourism and Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam, is developing the Jageshwar circuit as another retreat space. Resorts and ashrams here offer Yoga classes for various styles, like Kundalini Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Power Vinyasa Yoga, etc. which aim to help the seekers achieve that perfect balance between mind, body and soul. According to Brihad Samhita, the gods play where the groves are, near the rivers, mountains and springs; Jageshwar meets all these conditions. Naturally it is also one of the most important abodes of Shiva. A dedicated Shiva walk and meditation retreat takes you through all of the temples in the circuit and helps you in achieving that level of consciousness where you become one with the universe.