While Rishikesh itself is quite large, most pilgrims and travelers only stay in a small area situated between two narrow suspension bridges: the Laxshman Jhula and Ram Jhula.
The 82 year old Laxshman Jhula suspension bridge is surrounded by 13-story temples, a bustling market, ashrams, yoga schools, guest houses, restaurants and a never-ending string of local and foreign tourists. To say it’s the busiest part of town would be an understatement.
According to legend, Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Rama, crossed the Ganga River using a jute bridge located in the same location. This led to another hanging jute bridge being built there in 1889, though it was washed away by floods in 1924.
According to the sign in front of the Laxshman Jhula bridge:
Span: 450 feet Height of the roadway above mean summer water level: 59 feet
Opened to traffic by H.E. Sir Malcolm Haley C.C.I.E.. K.C.S.I. Governor of the United Provences on April 11, 1930. The bridge was constructed by the public works department during the years 1927-1929. It replaces the old bridge of 284 feet span, which was the gift of Rai Bahadur Surajmal Jhunjhunwala, father of Rai Bhadur Shewpershad Tulshan, and was situated about 200 feet downstream.
This was washed away by the great flood of October 1924 which undermined the left abutment. The extra cost of rebuilding this new bridge as nearly as possible on the site of the old bridge has been contributed by Rai Bhadur Shewpershad Tulshan to perpeturate the honored memory of his father, and no tax or toll will ever be imposed or realized for crossing this bridge.
Shilalekh (sign) Constructed by Saroj Agarwalla (great grand-daughter)
Built in the 1980s, the Ram Jhula crosses the Ganges River three kilometers (1.9 miles) downstream from the Laxshman Jhula in Rishiksh, India. While these two bridges are nearly identical in appearance and design, the Ram Jhula actually is a bit bigger.
Located in Muni Ki Reti, the Ram Juhla is surrounded by bustling markets and temples on either side. It also plays a key role in connecting the Swargadham, Gita Bhawan and other temples with Sivananda Ashram.
Temples and markets aside, the Ram Jhula also is the gateway to a very tranquil, laid back and backpacker-oriented part of town. It was here that Carrie completed her yoga training course and where we lived together for a week at the Shiva Resorts guesthouse.
Crowds and Wind on the Jhulas
Cars and tuk tuks are not allowed to cross the Jhulas, though motorcycles, push-carts, tourists, monkeys and cows often bring pedestrian traffic to a standstill.
At any given time, hundreds of people are pushing their way across; and the bridges sway accordingly.
On one occasion, the crowds and high winds coming off the Himalayas made the Laxshman Jhula bounce up and down in the air. Carrie and I stood there, enjoying the rollercoaster-esque experience and laughing as everyone on the bridge tried to avoid being blown into the mesh wall.
Fun and laughter aside, I was amazed that the entire thing didn’t come crashing down into the Ganges like the Tacoma Narrows.