Charles and Camilla visit Rishikesh at start of India tour

7th Nov 2013

A holy Hindu city in India, which proves popular with backpackers and spiritual travellers alike, is playing host to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

With its hostels, wifi cafes and small, intimate restaurants, Rishikesh was the starting point on Charles and Camilla's nine-day tour of India.

Their adventure will take them the length and breadth of the Asian country, experiencing its cultural diversity and visiting some of the organisations linked to the Prince of Wales. The royals will also celebrate some of India's leading achievements and meet the individuals responsible.

A garland of red and white flowers was offered to the royal couple on the banks of the River Ganges, as they were greeted during a sacred ceremony.

Back in 1968, Rishikesh hosted The Beatles while they studied transcendental meditation alongside fellow musicians Donovan and the Beach Boys' Mike Love. The destination is also popular with spiritual and yoga tourists.

Hand-in-hand, Charles and Camilla walked to the shore of the Ganges, and enjoyed a Hindu service linked to the Aarti ceremony. Devotees perform a ritual to give praise to God for lighting the world during each sunset. The ceremony involves waving oil lamps containing burning ghee.

Leading Hindu guru Swami Chidanand greeted the couple, along with his closest disciple Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati. Dressed in orange robes, they draped strings of beads and flower offerings of marigold blooms around the necks of Charles and Camilla.

Mr Chidanand has been working alongside activists, scientists and engineers as part of a project to reduce pollution in the Ganges, to ensure the waters and riverbanks are kept clean. Charles thanked him both for the ceremony and his wider work, saying he displayed a "deep understanding of working in harmony with nature".

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