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Excursions of Ananda

It is said that when Gods left their footprints on the land of Haridwar, metaphorically they also left an indelible mark on the spiritual ethos of every Hindu - more so the devout, which would later follow their holy paths all across this blessed land. Of such significance is Haridwar in the thought of India's traditional Hindus that it has earned its sobriquet of honor as The Gateway to the Gods.

Legend has it that the holy Ganga, the holiest of all rivers, which flows through this sacred city has actually been sanctified by the powerful trinity of Hindu mythology- Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.

Down the ages, this special importance of Haridwar as the ever-refreshing mystic venue for the purification of the mind, body and soul gained more impetus and today manifests itself in two great events that take place here - the memorable Kumbh Mela which is held every 12 years and the Ardh Kumbh Mela, which is held once every 6 years.


The town of Rishikesh lies in the foothills of the Garhwal region. Located 1160 feet above sea level, it is the gateway to the upper Garhwal region and the starting point to the Char Dham - four famous pilgrim centers namely Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri. It is believed that meditation at this place leads to attainment of salvation.

The Ganges flows through the town and is worshipped here. Rishikesh has long been a spiritual centre. It has numerous ashrams, some of which are internationally recognized, as places for philosophical studies, yoga and meditation. An international 'Yoga Week' is organized here every year in the first week of February.

Back in the 1960's Rishikesh gained instant fame as the site, when the Beatles came to stay here with their guru, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi.

Narendra Nagar

The small hamlet town of Narendra Nagar came into existence in 1895, when Maharaja Narendra Shah decided to move his capital from Tehri to a more picturesque locale. The small town of Odathali nestled in the Shivalik foothills was chosen not only for its extraordinary scenic beauty, but also for its proximity to the plains below.

'Odathali' is a place of historic and mythological significance. It has been known to be a seat of spirituality and meditation since ancient times. According to legend, the sage Udhav is known to have performed severe penance at this spot. Also, Purasar, the founder of astrology, has been known to conduct various experiments on the movements of planets and stars. His observatory has now been converted into the local polytechnic.

Narendra Shah was an enlightened ruler, as you can see in the well ordered civic buildings of the neat little royal township of Narendra Nagar. Some of the buildings like the hospital and the secretariat are still in use today. The bazaar buildings too are a century old.

A venture into the Himalayas is more than a mere journey: it is a "yatra". A pilgrimage does not hold more importance than it does in Garhwal and Kumaon, once known as "Uttarakhand" - the 'northern territories' - in the pre Vedic era. This is the domain of the ascetic Lord Shiva, the destroyer and re-creator; it is land charged with "Shakti", the power and energy of the goddess Parvati, consort of Shiva and the daughter of Himavat, Lord of the Mountains. Together, Garhwal and Kumaon form a sizable wedge in the Central Himalayas, joining India and Nepal.

Garhwal today remains a land of myth and legend, where every stone tells a story. The earliest historical references to the region are found in the Vedas, paeans to the purity of the Himalayas. Specific mention of the mountains exists in the Mahabharata, dated around 1000 BC. This is when the protagonists of the epic, the Pandavas, are said to have ended their life on earth by ascending the slopes of peak in western Garhwal called Swargarohini - literally, the Ascent to Heaven'. The epic also mentions this region being the home of the Kirata, Puolinda and Tangara tribes.

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