Rishikesh is the yoga training capital of the world. There are as many yoga schools here as there are city blocks, or cows. And there’s an ashram for practically every one of them. You can find a drop-in yoga class at virtually any time of day within 50 meters of wherever you are, though most are early morning. The beginners have to brave the afternoon heat for their dose.
Rishikesh is built on both sides and wrapped around a few curves of Ganga-Ma, mother Ganges. Here, about 200km from the source in Gangotri to the north, the river is wide, mostly deep through town and swift. It’s also chilly.
There are only a few bridges in town, accessible by foot or motorbike, but not by car. The eastern shore is more oriented to tourists, backpackers, yoga students, a younger and very international crowd. The narrow lanes are packed with the usual cafes, tour operators, jewelry and gift shops. Walking here, as in nearly all the other places I’ve visited, is a delicate exercise between dodging vehicles, mud, other people and cow dung, all while looking cool. Of course.
Across the river is more standard commerce, hotels in layers down the hillside toward the river, dust, traffic, rutted and decaying roads, ghats, battalions of noisy tuk-tuks. I attended ceremony one night at the Traveni ghat.