Reasons to come:

Tulsi tea
made with rose water
on the balcony of a cafe
high on the hillside
overlooking Laxmanjula
the suspension foot bridge which connects two sides of this town which sandwiches the Ganga down to Ramajulla. The single 'road' on our side snakes along between her shores and the steep rocky foothills of the Himalyans.

Legend tells that Laxman shot an arrow across the Great Mother river, manifesting a bridge so that his brother Rama could trek higher into the mountains to meditate. Walking across the ravine, high above the relentless flow, the powerful resonance of this Divine source of life and healing vibrates to my very bones. Down around a twisted path on the far side, I am called into a temple where the keeper conveys in somewhat English each of the representations of the Divine, and invites me to receive blessings. Touch this foot of Kali, kneel before Shiva and Shakti, open solar plexus at Hanuman, sit to receive bindi at Vishnu, and peacock feather 'dusting off' at the last, whose name I could not grasp.
Another reason to come.

Very different from this morning's predawn experience, when the keeper of a little Hanuman shrine a few doors from our accommodations yelled at me and chased me out when I only feigned to drink the water and eat the sweet he offered. Thankfully my God doesn't require me, in exchange for blessings, to eat something that may likely make me sick. The rooftop yoga class I finally found before the sun came up was more like calisthenics to me, LOL, but OK, I will come again tomorrow.

Last night's Arti at Parmarth Niketan tingled my skin and my brow and the souls of my bare feet. Look for pics and vids when I am home to technology with a bit more fortitude. A hundred saffron-robed monks swaying to kirtan, butter lamps lit from sacred fires, then scores of pilgrims set afloat their prayer offerings of little boats filled with marigolds, burning incense and candles. The fragrance diffuses across the crowd and across the river as the tiny lights float away, recede and recede. Here, at the rivers edge, a true sense of 'go with the flow,' and of the ever expanding nature of the element of water.

As recently as 1988, there were no restaurants, just one little hut serving Indian street food, and no coffee shops, just a few chai wallas, no artisans, no shops, hotels nor hostels. Only a few ashrams, a host of sincere Sadhus, devout Pilgrims from all over India, and the jungle. No westerners, well, not until the Beatles spoiled, or started it all. Tigers and leopards and elephants came to the river's edge to drink in the early morning hours, cats sometimes swam across. Oh, and the ubiquitous monkeys. The footpaths were merely that, a streaming ribbon like ants on the march along the powerful, pulsing, relentless highway of flow that is the Ganga. Shiva's tears, the source of life, millions came and still come to her every day, to bath and drink the healing waters, or to be released to their final resting place, ashes to the sea. When crossing the bridges, people carried their shoes so as not to disrespect the Mother River. You leave your shoes at the door whenever entering a temple, shrine or dargaah - wouldn't it be interesting if we adopted that custom back home, it might that would remove the 'fashion show' vibe and make room on Sunday-going-to-church for more meaningful focus. Supposedly no one ever gets sick from Ganga water, and, many are healed. Western minds want to know why... Could be the unique one-celled organism that burgeons forth the moment any kind of bacteria or impurity strikes the water. Or perhaps it's just Faith.

Today, colorful shops line a 'street' offering handmade crafts from regions all over India, Tibet and Kashmir. There's a coffee shop every hundred steps, and a hundred step climb up to a gallimaufry of roof-top cafés serving traditional Indian and Chinese, and 'western' food, mostly 'Italian.' It's not safe to go wandering alone off the beaten path. Just a stone's throw away the edge of the jungle presents a formidable wall behind which wild elephants and big cats still roam. In 'town,' which on our side of the river is one street in depth between jungle and river, rare sightings of tigers, like the one that captured a dog last week just on the other side of the stone wall along the one road, are big news. Sadhus still glide by, monkeys still look for food to snatch from your bag or your hand, and cows actually approach, like a dog, if you put your hand in your bag when they are near, thinking you are about to feed them.

Lots of cows, and not a few donkeys. Cows of course roam freely wherever they like, climbing steps to temples, lurking forlornly about outside of restaurants, and plodding (and plopping) along undeterred by the occasional BEEPing motorcycle or jeep, not varying their trajectory one bit for humans on foot. The donkeys are beasts of burden, carrying on their backs loads of brick twice their width and height, or sacks of concrete mix.

You can visit the 'Beatles Ashram,' if you like. Long abandoned, it haunts like a western ghost town, bougenvalia and jungle vine twining over graffiti dotted walls of crumbling meditation huts, a hospital, cafeteria, and sleeping quarters. Or take a river raft down the Ganga, complete with wet suit so you can take a dip.
Awake and go to sleep to singsong chants that greet and then send off the sun.