Ganga: Holiest of the Rivers 4

This week I’ve been a tad sick and had some days where I couldn’t get out of bed. Feeling much better now though. Why, you ask? Well…

It all started with my German friend, Obi, and I racing through the streets of Old Delhi trying to find the bus terminal. You see, we were supposed to be going to Haridwar & Rishikesh for the weekend and had bus tickets booked to leave at 10:45pm. It was 10:40 and there were no busses in sight even though the cycle rickshaw driver indicated that this was the place that was written on the ticket! We quickly decided that the police officers with flashing lights on their cruisers across the street might be our only chance at making this weekend any sort of success. They were extremely helpful and led us to the right “bus terminal”, a.k.a. a tiny little rundown store with a box on which we could wait for the bus which was 45 min late. Long story short, we made it and the bus ride was hellish: continuous bumps, terrible seating, A/C which was too cold and lots and lots of people together in the same space.

We arrived safe and sound in Haridwar where we met up with some other German guys ready for adventure. A full day of temple-exploring, shopping and Ganges-wading ensued, but I’ll just talk about the first temple that we entered. Every Hindu temple that I have visited here in India has been very different from the ones before it. All of them have the same feeling of un-organization and chaos, however, which might come from the fact that there is always a lot of “things” inside. There are paintings, statues, flowers, seats, idols and many more kinds of decoration. On most of the temples you even find Christmas lights and other bright neon displays inside and outside. Often the temple walls have inscriptions and quotations which are very useful for everyday life and really ask for your introspection on various topics. Previously, the people inside have all appeared to be going through the temple at random, pausing at whatever god, deity or avatar might be the correct one to pray to for the specific remedy they seek. This temple in Haridwar featured one, winding, long course which we followed in single-file-line for 20 minutes through the confines of the temple. It weaved around gigantic statues, through small caves and to waiting Brahmins. Altogether, these temples offer a very mystical feeling as you are constantly surrounded by changing scenery, messages and inspiration. Hinduism itself is very different from the way Christianity is preached; instead its message is spread through the diversity of its people, the community and the way these exotic temples unite anyone who wants to live by this Hindu lifestyle.

Standing in the Ganges River with my German friend Tom

Obi and I in an auto-rickshaw-bus between Rishikesh and Haridwar

In Rishikesh the next day we were brought up the side of a mountain by a Jeep and set off at the ticket gate in front of the trail we wanted to hike. Unfortunately it turns out that I still can’t convince anyone here that I deserve to pay Indian prices because I live here in Delhi and have a valid student card. We climbed up the side of this mountain and eventually a waterfall crossed our path. Walking back and forth along the waterfall as we continued climbing was beautifully refreshing and definitely a change from the everyday life of Delhi. At the top we swam in a pool underneath the waterfall in the clearest water that I’ve seen so far in India! Rishikesh and Haridwar are both known as very holy places as thousands of pilgrims from across India come here to bathe in the Ganges River. Such a beautiful place and the source of one of the largest rivers in India, it is clear to see why one would think it such a godly place.

Part of the aforementioned waterfall

Rishikesh on the Ganges River!

On the bus back we were pleasantly surprised to find some nice British girls who were also staying in India for extended periods of time. The trip did not give us much more comfort than the one coming from Delhi 2 days earlier. Luckily we had these fellow travellers to keep us company with their tales of adventure and misfortune across the Indian subcontinent. Best part of the night: Bridget Jones has agreed to take me on a grand tour of London when I stop by for 12 hours on the way home to Vancouver from Mumbai in January! Ha, now that it’s immortalized in my blog you won’t be able to retract that offer 😉

I was honoured this past weekend to give a presentation on Satellite Design for the Astronomy Club here at IIT-Delhi. There was amazing interest from a crowd of 120 people as part of a turnout for the largest Astro-Week event the club has put on so far! It was a lot of fun to give the talk and the weekend in Delhi allowed me to catch up and get ahead on a lot of schoolwork and other important issues an international student here needs to deal with.

Oh, and why I was sick? I don’t know; perhaps it’s India’s revenge for me having such a great time here! 😛

Interesting article which would definitely be attacked in Canada as a violation of the “freedom of the press”


  1. Chipmunks: smaller, longer and not as cute. Better than the absence of chipmunks in BC though
  2. Everyone has the same ringtone (or about 75% of people do) and it’s bloody annoying
  3. Phones in India are super cheap!
    1. Everything is pay-as-you-go
    2. I paid $2 CAD for 1GB of internet data for a month this morning
    3. 80c CAD for 500 text messages for a month

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4 thoughts on “Ganga: Holiest of the Rivers

  • Beth

    Your photos are gorgeous! They make me want to visit India.

    That article about media censure/responsibility shows an interesting point of view. I’m currently reading Wilbur Smith’s “Wild Justice” (an easy, somewhat mindless read, but lots of action) and the main character is extremely contemptuous of the media, especially regarding their coverage of terrorist activities.

    Don’t get sick again: I want to hear about more of your adventures!


    • Alexander Harmsen Post author

      Definitely visit India, there is really an entirely different world to explore here.
      Wild Justice looks quite interesting – must resonate quite a bit more with you now that you are in South Africa as well!

  • Philip

    The thing that I found interesting about Rishikesh is that it is at the place where the Ganges leaves the mountains and starts its lazy journey across the Indian subcontinent. I’m glad you met some fellow travelers and have a tour of London lined up on your way home!

    Thanks for another great blog post!

    • Alexander Harmsen Post author

      Being the origin of the Ganges means that it brings people together from all over India. I saw an interesting video about India and they spoke about these pilgrimages to Rishikesh from as far south as Tamil Nadu to bath in the river. Before you had this global telecommunications network these pilgrimages were one of the main ways of disseminating information and teachings across the Hindu faith.

      Thanks for the comment Philip – interesting comments you’ve left behind on the blog!