It’s been so nice to be in clean, dry beds in a nice hotel having had a proper shower! I sit on the balcony outside our room to write up my diary, enjoying the early morning light.
The river Alaknanda, just south of Rudraprayag
As a true Scot, John was delighted to be offered ‘salt porridge’ for breakfast but less so when it turned out this meant porridge cooked with curry spices!
Today’s first stop was at the Haridevi temple for Vinod to pay his respects. He explained that we could take photos outside but not inside the temple and invited us to come with him. The temple is on an oil-rig-like platform in the middle of the river with the goddess stone in exactly the same position as originally, but lifted upwards (see Srinagar to Joshimath). A new, grander temple is under construction on the site but the project seems to have stalled for the time being.
Vinod bought a coconut and sweets as offerings and we walked down and across a bridge lined with bells to the temple. The bells are placed there by people whose wishes/prayers have been granted after a visit to the temple.
Inside the temple, Vinod presented his offerings to the priest in front of the goddess stone. Other people were doing the same. The priest took the offerings, placed the money and sweets in front of the stone and threw the coconuts into the corner in what seemed a very offhand manner to those more used to the reverence of Christian worship. He then placed the coconuts on a flat stone and used a more pointed stone to smash them open, allowing the liquid to drain away. The pieces of coconut went back into the bags they had been brought in and were given to the supplicants. Vinod later broke small pieces off and gave them to us. He explained that if, when the coconut is broken open it has rotted inside, this is particularly auspicious as it means the goddess has already eaten of it. The priest broke off a piece of red thread and tied it around Vinod’s wrist as a symbol of the offering he had made. It will remain there until it falls off of it’s own accord – the spiritual version of a festival wristband, some might say.
From the temple we continued south along the Alaknanda, past Srinagar where we stayed on the way up and Devprayag, the confluence where the Alaknanda finaly merges with the Bhagirathi to become the Ganges. It soon started to rain and continued all the way to Rishikesh but the sun was just coming out by the time we arrived there about 4pm. We had a cup of tea with Vinod, who we won’t see again – there seems no point in him hanging around all day tomorrow just to escort us to the station in Haridawar, when Mohan is perfectly happy to do this. Then we wandered into town along the river bank to stretch our legs and do some souvenir shopping – it was pleasantly cool after the rain, though it soon got very wam and humid when the sun came out.
Monkeys performed for our entertainment – these ones, fortunately, are happy to eat figs from the large tree by the path rather than accosting passers by.
We bought thali trays and metal beakers, leaf tea and incense for presents then wandered back via the ghats, much quieter than on our previous visit. We bought banana leaf boats full of flowers for 10 rupees. The girls selling them lit the incense sticks and we and set them sailing down the river as the light faded.
The light was beautiful as we walked back to the hotel.
We watched the end of the evening puja ceremony in the hotel gardens before quick pre-dinner showers. Some of us were very pleased to have the option of more continental style food again!