Rishikesh is a town of Pilgrims. There are three kinds of people in Rishkesh: Indian tourists, western tourists and the locals. The Indian tourist, primarily Hindu, come as Pilgrims to pay respects to the Ganges. They bathe in the sacred waters believing it has purifying qualities. The relationship with the Ganga is mystifying to us westerners. On the one hand, it is THE sacred river and on the other a garbage disposal. People bathe in the waters by the thousands, they rinse the corpses of the dead to purify them before cremation. This direct connection with the element of water is humbling and a true homage to mother earth.
However, the river is also abused and any trash on land is thrown into the river with no second thought. Sitting at lunch the other day, we watched as a bloated, dead cow floated by, bobbing in the current, in the same water in which the devout wash to cleanse there souls
There are massive statues of the blue colored lord Shiva. Shiva is the destroyer and creator of the universe. Shiva is also the ultimate Yogi. A huge statue (seen above) sits in the river in Ram Juda, and every morning and evening local and visiting Hindus preform puja in front of the statue and on the beaches of the Ganga. They gather and sit surrounding a fire and chant and sing to the sound of sitars and tabla drums. As the sun sets the pius lay necklaces of merry golds and little fires in the rushing waterPuja is preformed to a back drop of intense thundering Disney-like music.