This holy town got its name from the Sanskrit name Hrishikesha – which means “Lord of the senses”. Several rishis and saints have lived here due to its aura and spiritual significance. The holy Ganga flows through the entire town purifying the entire town. There are temples which are hundreds of years old and yoga centers throughout the town. Apart from being a spiritual town it is also the “International Yoga capital of the world”. Being the Yoga capital, the town is filled with multinational people and yogis, and thus wonderful international food joints. The contrast of being a spiritual and yoga hub makes Rishikesh a beautiful place for various kinds of people – Indian and foreigners.
Rishikesh is also the gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas and is the starting point today for several Himalayan treks from this region. It is world famous for rafting with the Ganga flowing for several kilometers.
This introduction would definitely make one realize how exciting and gorgeous this town is. This blog will focus more on the history of each of these places, taking you through hundreds of years of history so that you can feel the importance and beauty of each of these places.
Ganga Aarthi (Triveni Ghat) - Rishikesh is 25km from Haridwar and these 2 holy towns are called the “twin national heritage cities”. The evening Ganga aarthi in both Rishikesh (Triveni Ghat) and Haridwar (Har Ki Pauri Ghat) is a must watch for all.
Triveni ghat is the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Devotees take a dip in the confluence to purify their aura. The Ganga Aarthi happens at Triveni Ghat and the sounds, aura and feeling during the elarorate aarthi to Ganga mata would take you to a different world altogether.
Another beautiful aarathi is at Paramaniketan ashram on the banks of river Ganga, in front of the huge Shiva statue on Ganga. This arathi though of smaller scale is beautiful as well with the ashram guru having discourses very often just before the aarthi.
Lakshman Jhula – Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana stayed a few years in Rishikesh. Lakshmana had built a jute rope to connect the Tapovan region to the other side to walk across. This rope was later replaced by the current iron Lakshman jhula bridge. There is a similar iron bridge Ram Jhula one kilometer from Lakshman jhula.
This temple has 13 (Tera) floors and each floor has various idols of our Gods and Goddesses. The temple is built on the banks of holy Ganga and you get a view of the gorgeous river from each floor.
Shri Makar Vahini Ganga ji
This temple has several floors of deities of various Gods and Goddesses. The main deity is Ganga mata and there are beautiful idols of Markandeya hugging a shiva linga (when he hugged the Shiva linga when Yama tried to take him back at the end of his short life at 16) and another Shiva linga. The view from the temple is absolutely gorgeous where you can see the holy Ganga flow all through and rafters rafting through till Ram Jhula.
Bharath (Hrishikesh/Vishnu) temple
This temple is the most ancient and sacred temple in Rishikesh. Shri Adi Shankaracharya reinstalled the presiding deity in the temple in 789 A.D. The temple is mentioned in Vishnu Puran, Shrimad bhagwatam and Mahabharat. This temple is dedicated to Lord Hrishikesh, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Kaliyuga (Lord Hrishikesh was also known as Bharat-ji). It is said that the five Pandavas along with Draupadi stayed and meditated here on their way to Swarg Rohini.
This small temple located in the Tapovan area near Lakshman Jhula and it is said that Lakshman had meditated here. The temple was hence built in the very same place.
The Shatrughna temple is located on the banks of the holy Ganga near Ram Jhula. This is one of the 2 temples dedicated to Shatrughna and the other temple is located in Thrissur Kerala.
Rishikund is situated close to Triveni Ghat. Several years ago, Sage Kubj meditated at Triveni Ghat for Yamuna River and asked for her to come until Triveni ghat such that he could cleanse himself at both Ganga and Yamuna together. Yamuna than diverted her flow until Rishi Kund near Triveni Ghat. Close to Rishikund is the Raghunath temple is dedicated to Lord Ram and Sita.
Beatles Ashram/ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008), was known for his Transcendental meditation technique. In 1955 Maharishi began to spread the Transcendental meditation technique to all. His ashram was located in Rishikesh and the world-famous Beatles band members were followers of Maharishi. In 1968, the Beatles band members moved to the ashram at Rishikesh for a few weeks to practice meditation and they had composed some of their best songs at this time.
The ashram has wonderful graffiti of Maharishi, the Beatles members, and the rooms of the ashram members
The ashram of Sivananda is located near Ram Jhula. Swami Sivananda stayed here for more than 3 decades and had started the ashram at the age of 37 years in 1936. Swami Sivananda was one of the greatest yogi gurus, who has changed the lives of several Yogis thereafter. He taught the practice of Jnana, Bhakthi, Karma and Raja Yoga to his followers.
There are regular yoga classes and spiritual discourses conducted at the ashram till date. The ashram is paradise on earth for Yogis.
Being the Yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh is filled with several kinds of Yoga schools, Yoga teachers training courses, Yoga retreats and Yoga resorts. You can drop in for daily classes or attend full fledged courses by the Ganges.
Beach and Rafting:
Ganga Neem beach
This isolated small beach near Tapovan is a rocky beach with an absolutely gorgeous view of Ganga and Lakshman jhula area. Some of the rafting groups end their tour here. Yoga lovers can enjoy a peaceful meditation experience here with just a handful of people around.
Neelkant Mahadev temple
History: One day, the Devas and Asuras together churned the ocean of milk for Amrit (the nectar of immortality). Lord Vishnu transformed himself into a tortoise who went to the base of the ocean and Mount Mandar was placed on top of the tortoise. The serpent king Vasuki (Lord Shiva’s snake) twisted itself around the mountain to work as a rope which would be pulled by Devas on one side and Asuras on the other to churn the Amrit.
The churning of the ocean produced a deadly poison which Lord Shiva agreed to consume to successfully complete the churning, but Goddess Parvati stopped the poison from entering his body by blocking it in his throat. His throat hence turned blue and thus Lord Shiva was given the name “Neelkant” (blue throat).
Once the pot of Amrit was ready, the Devas and Asuras began to quarrel for the same though it was initially decided that it would be equally distributed. The asuras began to chase the devas who carried the Kumbh. During the chase, some drops of amrit fell on 4 places, namely, Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. These 4 places have thus derived the divine powers and the Kumbh Mela is celebrated in these 4 places.
Lord Shiva drank the deadly poison which came out of the churning, at this very place – Neelkanth Mahadeva temple, hence the name.
You can reach the temple by walking up from Swarg Ashram or you can hire a taxi to get there.
Tera Manzil (Trayambakeshwar) temple
Rishikesh River rafting
To adventure enthusiasts, Rishikesh would mean Rafting. The 35-km stretch which one would cover over 4-5 hours has several rapids, is totally exciting and is rated as one of the best rafting experiences! You can enjoy the stunning views of Himalayas all through and the best part is that it is extremely budget friendly as well.
Weekend rafting camp
Rishikesh also has weekend rafting camps setup along the banks of Ganga with magnificent views of mountains and Ganga.
Food joints in Tapovan area with Ganga view
The Tapovan area has the best food joints with cuisines from all over the world. The atmosphere in the restaurants and cafes are relaxing and the views and sounds of river Ganga flowing by its sides is simply mesmerizing.
These are just a highlight of the top interesting places in Rishikesh, but if one is a happy easy-going person, Rishikesh is THE place to be. Trekking, Yoga, temples, Ganga, adventure sports and blend of all kinds of Indians and foreigners make Rishikesh a must visit place for one and all !!
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