We celebrated the New Year in a serene manner: enjoying vegetarian Olivier salad, accompanied by Santa Claus from Fiji, and the meditative sounds of the sitar and flute. By one in the morning, we had already returned to our room, reminiscing about our adventures, and then dozed off as if hitchhiking around the galaxy. It was a unique and memorable way to welcome the New Year!
Just a 10-minute walk from our guest house is the renowned and esteemed “PARMARTH NIKETAN” ashram, considered the finest in all of India. This ashram boasts nearly a thousand rooms, the majority of which are fully equipped with modern amenities, including hot water facilities.
At “PARMARTH NIKETAN,” you will find highly regarded yoga instructors, some of whom are prominent European practitioners. The ashram stands as a contemporary and forward-thinking center for nurturing both the soul and body. It is no coincidence that the annual international yoga festival is hosted here, attracting visitors from all around the world.
We also had the opportunity to visit the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, and the journey there and back was simply extraordinary. We opted to hike there, conquering the ascent of the mountains, and it left us with numerous impressions: a challenging climb, encounters with mischievous monkeys, breathtaking views, and a profound sense of inner peace and harmony. As is often the case in India, the journey itself was just as intriguing and captivating as the Temple of the Blue-throated Great God.
As many are aware, Shiva is traditionally depicted with blue skin. However, to be precise, it is only his throat that should be blue. According to legend, during the churning of the Milky Ocean, a pot of poison emerged, which Shiva consumed to protect the world from its harmful effects. To prevent the poison from spreading through his body, Shiva’s wife, Parvati, tightly pressed his throat, thus containing the poison and turning it blue. Since then, Shiva is also known as the Blue-throated deity. It is believed that he consumed the poison at the very spot where the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple now stands.
After exploring the temple and enjoying a snack with bananas, we ventured even higher, reaching a small temple where Sit Bali Baba resides and bestows blessings. He lives in a dugout near the temple, which was so low that I couldn’t even stand up straight =) Despite our group consisting of more than 10 people, he kindly treated us all to masala tea and blessed each one of us by tying a red thread around our wrists. The red thread serves as prasad (a sacred object imbued with the energy of the deity) in the temple, symbolizing the connection with the divine established through the ritual preceding the tying of the thread. It can also be tied by a spiritual mentor as a sign of initiation or energy transfer.
We decided to return in a jeep since we were hungry and wanted to reach the city before it got dark. The winding mountain road both thrilled and amazed us. Once we descended, we headed to our favorite café, 60’s or Beatles Cafe, situated on a hill at the bend of the Ganges River with a beautiful view of the sunset. We decided to take some time to relax after the trip and enjoy the mesmerizing sunset from there.