Unique River Tour
By Rashmi Goyal
“The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, from old times to new, is the story of India’s civilization and culture, of the rise and fall of empires, of great and proud cities, of adventures of man.”
Many tourists come to India seeking what they call ‘the real India’ . If you are at your hotel in Delhi, wondering where to get some authentic ”real India”, then a unique, mind blowing tour would be to head down the mighty Ganges river from its start to finish. The tour will also take you to major holy hotspots along its entire stretch – a unique tour itinerary.
The mighty Ganges River (Ganga) rises in the Himalayas and flows 2,510 km eastward through the vast plains to the Bay of Bengal. In Bangladesh, it is joined by the Brahmaputra River and Meghna rivers; and empties into the Bay of Bengal forming a delta 354 km wide, the largest in the world, shared by both countries.
In the Uttarakhand Himalayas, where glacial waters flow from a cave at Gaumukh, is the origin of the Ganga river at a height of 13,000 feet. The river reaches Gangotri, the first town on its path, 23 km from Gaumukh.
Thousands of visitors come to Gangotri annually, which is at 10,000 feet . Nearly four hundred thousand tourists visited the shrine in 2010. The shrine is dedicated to Goddess Ganga.
The river joins the Alaknanda river at Devaprayag, in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, to form the Ganges which then flows through Himalayan valleys to emerge at holy Haridwar. The Ganga is revered as the Goddess by a billion Hindus. The evening ‘Aarti’(prayers) on its holy river banks has the entire riverside lit up with offerings of thousands of floating lamps accompanied by devotional singing and tinkling bells.
The Ganges then courses through Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, and Kolkata. The Ganges drains an area of over a million sq km. The nearest point from your Delhi hotel to the sacred Ganges is at Haridwar just 250 km away.
The Yamuna originates less than 100 miles east of the Bhagirathi(Ganga), flows mostly parallel to it and merging with it at Allahabad, known as holy ‘Triveni Sangam’. New Delhi and Agra are on the Yamuna river. So you can have a breather at your Delhi hotel before moving further down the Ganges heading straight from your hotel in Delhi to either Rishikesh or Haridwar. Ganga near Rishikesh is now a world famous locale for river rafting. The river rafting stretch of 36 Km between Kaudiyala and Rishikesh, has 12 major rapids.
Around 70 million Hindus gathered at the last Kumbh Mela (fair) on the Ganges riverbanks in Allahabad ! Below Allahabad the Ganges becomes a slow, meandering stream with shifting channels passing Mirzapur, Varanasi, Patna and Bhagalpur. Varanasi is the most holy place for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains alike. More than 1,000,000 pilgrims and tourists alike visit the city each year.
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