19th I flew to Delhi. Met some folks and went by train to Rishikesh the next day. Was there on the Ganga River in a nice hotel for 2 more days then we went to Haridwar for a day, a bit downriver from Rishikesh. Then back to Delhi late on the 23rd. In Gurgaon the 24th and flew back to Pune on the 25th.
Here's what we did in Rishikesh: Took an early morning express train to Haridwar on the Ganga. New Delhi Central sure has changed. Like an airport you have to have a ticket to get inside. So the crush of people is no more. No sellers, only official coolies, no families sleeping on the platforms and clean! WOW! From Haridwar (last time iwas here it was Kumbha Mela and millions of people were camped out all around, now it was empty) we bussed to Rishikesh and checked into the high end Hotel Vasundhara Palace. Not my usual kind of place, but after a month in a tent at the Ananda Community, it was very nice to upgrade. We got into a boat and crossed Mother Ganga for the big sunset arati (fire ceremony). Friday Feb. 21 we went to Swami Sivananda's final house for meditation and to see his things. He formed the Divine Life Society after giving up his life as a physician to become a renunciant monk. Later we crossed one of the two main walking bridges (unfortunately now used too much by motorbikes driven often by rude young men) and explored the town. Saturday the 22nd we bussed up river past the many rafting camps. When I first ran the Ganga in 1998, there were just a few tucked away. Now they are lining the shoreline on both sides. Most rafters now are Indians. Domestic travel and recreation increase reflects how much better the average Indian is doing these days economicly. Anyway, we went up river to visit Vashista's Guha (cave). Vashista was one of the original "rishis" who brought the Vedas to humans. The Vedas are holy scriptures of Sanatha Dharma, the correct name for Hinduism. He was also the Guru of Lord Rama of Ramayana fame. It is a very old and powerful place. After being in the cave awhile, we all enjoyed the riverside with its multi colored rocks and sparkling white sand. The river is a beautiful light green color and is very clear, even in Rishikesh. We bussed back to town and that evening visited Mataji Vanamali Devi, a woman swami from Kerala who has an ashram here, for satsang (a talk, with questions after) and arati service. Her place is high over looking the beautiful Ganga Valley. On the 23rd we drove back to Haridwar to visit Swami Keshavananda's ashram. He was a devotee of Lahiri Mahasaya, and he made a shrine where some of his ashes were put. There is a rudraksha tree there that was planted as a seed given to the swami by Lahiri. Now it is huge and loaded with green fruit. These seeds are very important to Hindus. Many people wear malas (necklaces) made of them. They are said to be Lord Shiva's tears. We then went to visit Anandamoyee Ma's samadhi mandir where she is buried. The " Joy Permiated Mother" is a very well known saint all over the world. This was our final stop before getting the train back to Delhi. We went first class, also not my usual, but very nice. Not overcrowded and they fed us constantly. Good food and lots of chai. "We" were a group of mostly Yogananda devoteees associated with Ananda. It was a good mix of folks from the USA (several states) and lndian nationals (also from several lndian states), 18 in all, representing many professions, including physicians, film makers, teachers, managers, IT and even the number 2 tiger man for all of India! Needless to say our conversations were lively and interesting. OK. There you go. I am sick of this tablet so won't go on except to say the guys at Yash say hi.Good old Anjuna is pretty much the same except for more shops that don't seem to be selling much, more Russians and domestic tourists. Staying at Manalis. They welcomed me like an old friend. Holi is Monday. I bought some colors. Oh, as much as a pain that this tablet is, without it would be worse. Net cafes are dead or so bad they might as well be. Manalis is ok, I hope. Need to Skype tonight and my "hot spot" doesn't work well enough for it to connect clearly. It's all inbetween now days.