I am going to present you with the plan for our Yatra (pilgrimage) to give you an idea of what to expect. Please keep in mind the Hindi saying, that in India, Sab Kuch Milega (Everything is possible!). This means that you should be ready for changes in plans according to circumstances (floods, bad roads, etc). It is always challenging to make plans for trips elsewhere in the world. But in India... the only thing you can expect is the unexpected. I will now share with you the vision I have in my mind for this Yatra and when we meet in India we will take it one step at a time. Our meeting point will be in RISHIKESH at the foot of the Himalayas. There are fairly inexpensive flights from New Delhi to Dehradun, from there you can take a Taxi or bus to Rishikesh (taxi would be around 20 usd)
Day 1 Rishikesh Rishikesh is one of the most famous spiritual centers of India. It has a lot to offer. While we rest a little from the journey to India and prepare for our trip up the Hiamalayas we will explore Rishikesh and it's people. We'll locate ourselves in Hotel Great Ganga near Ram Jula. It is a very comfortable hotel in a good location. The first day will be spent in meeting the group and looking around Rishikesh. We will start in Omkarananda Ashram with an opening Puja ceremony for the success of the Yatra. In the evening we will go to witness the famous Arati in Paramartha Niketan Ashram.
Day 2 The day will open with meditation and a Yoga class on a beautiful platform facing a breathtaking view of the Ganga. After breakfast will go to visit the original Sivananda Ashram of Swami Sivananda and have some time for shopping (there won't be much time for shopping during the Yatra). After lunch we will go to visit a very special woman named Nanima (literally: 'grandma'). She is a Hindu Sadhvi (holy woman) who was born in London, came to India in 1971 and never went back. The Sadhus of the Himalayas consider her to be a saint. She has practiced many austerities in the high Himalayan mountains for many years and now lives near Rishikesh running a first of its kind spiritually based hospice for terminally ill cancer patients. She is an amazing person who, I know, you will truly love to meet. From there, we will head to another holy city, Haridvar. Haridvar is one of the 4 places in India where the famous Kumbamela is celebrated once in 12 years. We will go to witness the Arati on the Ganga river with thousands of people and return back to Rishikesh in the evening.
Day 3 We will start this day with a relaxing Yoga class and a nice breakfast so that we are prepared mentally for the long journey to Uttarkashi. This day is not an easy one, although the stunning views make the drive worth it. The way to Uttarkashi takes about 6 hours drive in the breath-taking beauty of the Himalayan mountains. The ever bending narrow road, which is never in good repair (to say the least), can pose a challenge to people with a weak stomach.
Uttarkashi Once we reach Uttarkashi, we will go straight to Sivananda Ashram in Ganeshpur, where we are going to stay for the next week. This Ashram is run by Swami Premananda, who is one of the last living direct disciples of Swami Sivananda. He is such a great and saintly person and we are all going to enjoy is hospitality and love. We will have a good bath and take some much needed rest. Just like in other parts of the world, the further you go away from tourist centers, the more you experience the "real" country. India is no exception. That being said, our accommodations for this part of the trip will be very simple and understated, yet clean and hygienic.
Day 4 Good morning! Try to imagine the beauty you will see from your window when you wake up to a Himalayan sunrise just peeking over the mountaintop. We will take this day easy and start with a morning Yoga class. After breakfast we will join a philosophy class taught by Swami Premananda (one of the last living direct disciples of Swami Sivananda, and our host). In the evening, we will go to have Satsang with a very special Sadhu friend of mine in his tiny ashram called Vishnudevananda Tapovanam. He named it after his Guru, Swami Vishnu Devananda. His name is Swami Janardhanananda and he is very intelligent, sweet and engaging person. He is a good bridge between East and West. We will talk to him and hear stories about his experiences in the Himalayas.
Day 5 Today we are hiking to a beautiful mountain lake called Nachiketas Tal. But before that, we will visit the famous Vishvanath Temple in Uttarkashi. It is one of the most important temples of the Himalayas where the main priest of the temple will conduct a Puja (Hindu worship ritual) for us. After the Puja, we'll take about an hour ride to the starting point of our first trek. It is an easy walk inside a magnificent forest. The lake is very peaceful and quite. We will hear the story about Nachiketa, the amazing boy from the Katha Upanishad.
Day 6 Today we travel further up the Himalayas to Gangotri. We'll get up early, eat breakfast, and hop in the Jeeps that will take us. The drive is 65 miles long and ascends to over 11,000 feet. The view is breathtaking and is changing all the time. Gangotri is the source of the Ganga river and has been the place of austerity for Yogis for thousands of years. We'll visit the main temple there and then we'll visit Swami Vishnu Devananda's cave. I will share with you my experience there and maybe we will be able to talk to one of the Yogis. On the way back we'll visit a hot spring in Ganganani to relax our muscles before returning to the Ashram.
Day 7 Today I'm going to give you a peep into my life. I'll take you to visit the Sivananda Ashram of Swami Chaitanyananda (my Guru) and tell you about my life with him. From there we will go to visit the ashram in which I'm living these days. We will meet the two Acharyas (spiritual teachers) of the Ashram and hear from them about spiritual life. We will have a rear chance to see from the inside the original and traditional community of Sadhus (holy people) who carry with them the Yoga tradition.
Day 8 Not far from our Ashram there's a small temple called Laksheshwar Mandir. This is my favorite temple in Uttarkashi. Though it is small and unknown, it is a special one. It is believed that Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava from the Mahabharata epic, built it over 5,000 years ago. While there I'll tell you the magical story associated with it. A few years ago, I lived in a tiny room adjacent to the temple, and I fell in love with this place. The energy here is unbelievable. Today we'll go to visit this temple and have a puja there with a local priest. After the Puja, we will eat a traditional Garhwali meal in the priest's house. In the evening, we will go to have Satsang with a very special Sadhvi (a lady Sadhu), Swami Amritananda. She lives in a small Ashram near Laksheshwar on the bank of the Ganga. Swami Amritanandaji is one of the few women who stayed in Gangotri over the winter. She did intense Tapas (spiritual practice) in Gangotri for seven years living in a small cave. After the Satsang we will go to Tapovan Kutir Ashram to enjoy a Bharata Natyam performance enacted by one of our group, Suba Parmar, who is a professional Indian dancer.
Day 9-10 Today we are going to visit Tihar. Tihar is a small village high on an Himalayan mountain above the Ganga River. I had a magical visit there a few years ago and I've decided that we have to visit this place. We will have the chance to see a truly authentic Himalayan village life. We will also taste their traditional Garhwali food and have a small cultural program with the local kids. To avoid the very difficult climbing to the village from the main road we will go with our vehicles to another village of about the same hight and from there hike to Tihar by foot. The visit to this village last year was so successful that we've decided to extend this visit and stay in the village overnight. The villagers we host us in their humble homes and share with us their food. The night atmosphere of this remote village is simply magical. Prepare for an experience of a lifetime... In the next morning after breakfast, we will hike back to the road and just before driving back to Uttarkashi, we'll go to a nearby hot spring to have a good bath.
Day 12 This morning we're going to hike on the mountain above Uttarkashi to a tiny temple called Shikareshwar from where you will have a panoramic view over all of the Himalayan mountain ranges with its snow covered peaks. Very few tourists ever reach this amazing place. Our bus will take us part of the way and we will walk the rest by foot. The hiking is quite steep, but it is definitely worth it. We will have lunch there and we will talk to the Swami who has lived there in complete solitude for many years. We will descend back all the way to Uttarkashi passing through rice fields and picturesque villages with traditional houses of mud walls and stone roofs.
Day 14 This is the last day of our journey and a beginning of a new one... After our Yoga class and breakfast we will sadly leave Uttarkashi and head back to Rishikesh where we will bid farewell to the group. (We will drop you in Dehradun airport at around 3pm if you have a flight, or arrange for a taxi to Delhi if needed)
CANCELLATION POLICY - If cancelled 30 or more days before the starting date, there will be a 50% refund. - There will be no refund for cancellations done with less than 30 days notice. - Deposit is non refundable -If governmental restrictions do not allow that the Yatra to take place, , the Yatra dates will be rescheduled.