Ridi Bazaar

Ridi Bazaar

Ridi Bazaar makes an equally eventful all-day outing, either on foot (13km one way, with the option of bussing back) or by bike (60km round-trip). From Hotel Srinagar, walk west to a fork at a police checkpost, bear right and in half an hour you’ll reach Chandi Bhanjyang; turn left here and descend through a handsome canyon before rejoining the unpaved road for the last 7km. On a bike, stay on the main road all the way.

Set on the banks of the Kali Gandaki, Ridi is considered sacred because of the wealth of shaligrams – fossil-bearing stones associated with Vishnu – found in the river here. It used to be said that if a person were cremated at Ridi and his ashes sprinkled into the river, they would congeal to form a shaligram, and if the stone were then made into a likeness of Vishnu, the devotee would be one with his god. The spiral-shaped ammonite fossils typically found in shaligram are 150–200 million years old, dating from a time when the entire Himalayan region was submerged under a shallow sea.

Ridi has declined in importance over the years, but remains an occasional cremation ground and, during the festival of Magh Sankranti (Jan 14 or 15), a pilgrimage site for ritual bathing. Celebrations of the ekadashi of Khattik (the eleventh day of the bright fortnight of Oct–Nov) include processions and dancing. The colourful commercial end of town lies across a stream that joins the Kali Gandaki here, while the magical eighteenth-century Rishikesh Mandir is south of the stream, just above the bus stop. According to legend, the idol inside the squat temple, a form of Vishnu, was fished out of the river and originally bore the likeness of a young boy, but over the course of years has matured into adult form.

Several buses a day head back to Tansen, taking two and a half hours, but you may have to wait some time, as most ply the route in the morning only. You can stay overnight if you get stuck. The return journey can be combined with a visit to Palpa Bhairab, up a short path from the pretty Newar village of Bhairabsthan, 8km before Tansen. So many animal sacrifices are performed at this temple, especially on Saturdays and Tuesdays, that it’s often compared with that of Dakshin Kali in the Kathmandu Valley. Its much-feared Bhairab image is kept in a small chamber at the far corner of the compound; the gilded trisul here is claimed to be the biggest in Asia, and pilgrims have left a large number of smaller replicas at its base.

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