A Holy Mess

This Sunday we (me and my family) decided to visit Haridwar and Rishikesh. Before you guys start getting any ideas, no I still don’t believe in God. I just tagged along in the hope that I would be able to Kayak and/or Raft down the flowing waters of the Ganges and a dip in its icy waters was always an attraction. I couldn’t do the former, so won’t talk about it.

Sunday morning, we woke up at around 0500 hrs. Loaded the car and hit the road at 0600 hrs. The road was smooth till we entered UP. The states of roads, traffic sense of the people their…etc. It isn’t rocket science to understand why it is considered one of the worst states in India. Anyway, we entered U.K. or Uttrakhand at around 1100 hrs. It took us 1 hr to reach the outskirts of Haridwar and another hr to reach the place we had to stay, a distance of 10 km. And I thought jams happen only in Delhi.

After leaving the luggage in the rooms and having a hearty lunch, me and my parents went to Rishikesh. My grans were not too keen to visit it, and moreover they were too tired, so we didn’t force them. Anyway, Rishikesh is about 24 km north of Haridwar. Earlier it was famous for the Lakhman Jhula, which is basically a suspension bridge, that is supposed to swing about when you walk over it, as a religious place and for its scenic surroundings, but nowadays it has also become a hub for adventure tourism. Kayaking, Paragliding, White Water Rafting, Rock Climbing, Beach Camping, Trekking….etc  all cater to the thrill seekers.

I went there with high hopes, but they were all washed away by the flowing water. Since the last 5 years, the place has been commercialised so much, that it would disgust you. There is not one place left that doesn’t have a shop selling devotional song CDs or adventure tours or rudraksh malas or….etc. The place is full of conmen who will leave no stone unturned to lighten your wallet. I had heard that the UK government has put in a lot of money trying to make Rishikesh into a major tourist hub. I can assure you that if they spend the money correctly and beautify the area a bit, Rishikesh would get 4 times the tourists it is getting now.

Haridwar is no better. Illegal construction, litter everywhere, unhygienic conditions…etc. The population density of beggars and conmen here is around 5 beggars and 2 cons per metre square area of land. The place is called Devbhoomi or land of gods…..frankly, if I was god, I won’t even look at it, forget staying there.

The other thing I noticed was that everyone is there because they want something. They do things and expect something in return. After the daily aarti or prayer at the Har ki Powdi, a little girl came and started applying teekas on everyone’s forehead. My Granddad was quite delighted and blessed her. I told him, she would appreciate more if you pay with cash rather than blessings and sure enough she demanded ten rupees. Gran coughed up the 10 bucks and later remarked that everyone here is selfish, and god has become commercialised.

Yes, religion is commercialised there. Rates are fixed for different types of poojas. And each comes with an added benefit. Plus, you also get a receipt. The moment you enter the bathing ghats, you will be flooded with people, with little receipt books, asking money for the poor, the aarti, the Ganges, for cows, for animals…..for any damn thing you can think of. And if you are foolish enough to give to one, the rest will all engulf you like a swarm of bees.

Forget manners and courtesy. It is a jungle there and each man is for himself. I became sick of the people there. I don’t believe in God, but if people who believe are like this, then I am sure glad I am not one of them.

If anyone wants to go there for spirituality, then I can assure them it is not there. Materialism is there, but not spirituality. I am sure not even one of the priests would have been able to answer my questions about religion and god. It is proof that living in a so called holy place doesn’t make you pious. Hypocrites, the bloody whole lot of them.

Anyway, I grew sick of the so called baghats around me, so I just took off my clothes and leaped into the Ganges to cool myself. Then I knew why they say that the water of the river gives you peace. I didn’t want to get out. A lady on the banks told me that if I think of a name every time I dive in the water, the person I think of will get everything he/she ever wanted. I didn’t believe in it and dismissed her suggestion as a false belief, but still tried it (I don’t know why). So the next 15 minutes, I did dive in the water, thinking of all the persons I could think of, including Mayur, Pallavi, Sapna, Harshad etc. Do tell me if it worked.

Next morning, that is today, I decided to visit one of the priests who keep the records of families. He asked me the following questions,

  • Your Name
  • Name of 4 of your ancestors
  • Village
  • Caste
  • Gotra
  • Subcaste
  • ………………………………etc

That was the cue for me to run away from there.

Yes it is a long crib. But it is something I saw in the last 2 days that has made my blood boil. There is nothing holy about the cities.

5 Responses to “A Holy Mess”
  1. delhizen says:

    Thanks for such a glorious post about the place.. I am going to be in Haridwar for the next 3 days ( read for work)… anyway, since you got one side of the holy city lets see if I can get a better picture of the place for everyone..

  2. Sapna says:

    It is indeed an unholy mess in a holy city. Atleast now you will be happier staying in Delhi. I am sure you are glad that you are from Delhi and not from one of those “Holy” cities 🙂

  3. Anubhav Roy says:

    You are correct about the commercialization of things, but then times have changed now and religion is commercialized everywhere in India. All religious places we find people asking for donations.

    You did not write much about Rishikesh in this one.. Did you go there too?

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