The Beatles set off the flow of Western spiritual seekers after their stay in an ashram there in the 1960s.
TUCKED INTO a town in India’s Himalaya foothills sits a statue of Lord Shiva, one of Hinduism’s most venerated deities.
Shiva’s legs are crossed as he peacefully meditates, unlike the eager yoga students who clamber up and around the bigger-than-life statue to drape him with garlands.
Yoga and spiritual devotees of every nationality flock to this northern Indian town of Rishikesh along the banks of the Ganges, India’s holy river. The Beatles set off the flow of Western spiritual seekers after their stay in an ashram here in the 1960s.
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Now billing itself “the yoga capital of the world,” Rishikesh brims with ashrams, temples and yoga schools, mixing New Age trappings such as juice bars and healing crystals with ancient Hindu teachings.
For many visitors, yoga — with its blend of meditation, breathing and physical poses — has become almost like a religion. Yoga has been practiced for about 5,000 years, say some Indian scholars, evolving with Hinduism and Buddhism. And the serene, yet devastatingly powerful, Hindu god Shiva remains one of yoga’s cornerstones.
Kristin R. Jackson is editor of The Seattle Times’ NWTraveler section. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.