According to legends, it was here that Lord Rama did penance for killing Ravana, while his brother Lakshmana crossed the river using a jute rope. The beliefs attached to the place led to the establishment of several ashrams. But for the outside world it remained an obscure little town until the 1960s, when The Beatles arrived here for a three-month course on Transcendental Meditation and inadvertently put Rishikesh on the world map. In 2000, after the International Yoga Festival was introduced, the town saw an influx of tourists and came to be known as the yoga capital of the world. For adventure seekers, this town is a gateway to extreme sports like bungee jumping and river rafting; wellness enthusiasts flock here for the city’s wide array of spa resorts. There is something for every soul in Rishikesh.
Whether you’re looking to nourish your body, mind, or soul, Rishikesh is the answer.
One of the most ancient and sacred temples in the city, Shri Bharat Mandir (shribharatmandir.org) was established by the Indian philosopher Adi Shankaracharya in 789 CE, following which the city is believed to have come into existence. Nestled in tranquil surroundings, Swarg Ashram is reportedly the oldest ashram in India and an ideal place for meditation. Gita Bhawan (gita-bhawan-religiousdestination.business.site) offers shelter to over 1,000 pilgrims every day, while the striking architecture of the 13-storeyed Trayambakeshwar Temple, or Tera Manzil Temple, makes it a prominent landmark. With 84 derelict meditation caves spread over a wooded hillock, 1 Beatles Ashram draws in a different kind of devotee. This is where the famous four members of The Beatles spent three months learning meditation and writing, by one account, as many as 48 songs!
One of the oldest yoga retreats in Rishikesh with over 1,000 rooms and lush gardens, 2 Parmarth Niketan Ashram (parmarth.org) offers traditional Ayurvedic treatments and spiritual programmes. It also serves as the venue for the annual International Yoga Festival (internationalyogafestival. org). One of India’s top yoga schools, Sivananda Ashram (sivanandaonline.org) offers free yoga and meditation classes daily for beginners. Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram (akhandayoga.com) conducts akhanda yoga classes, often followed by a fire puja. For those interested in Osho’s meditation techniques, Osho Gangadham (oshogangadham. org) is the place to be.
Bridge to Belief
The most famous landmark of Rishikesh, 3 Lakshman Jhula is a 450-foot-long, 70-foot-high iron suspension bridge over River Ganga, built in 1930 at the point where Lakshmana had supposedly crossed the river with a jute rope. Its twin bridge, 4 Ram Jhula, was built in 1986 and is another splendid feat of engineering. Located at the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati, 5 Triveni Ghat is considered the most sacred bathing spot in Rishikesh. This is also where the enthralling ritual of Ganga Aarti is held every evening. Close by is a natural hot spring called Rishikund, or the ‘pond of the sage’. The beautiful Neer Garh Waterfall can be reached by taking a short trek through a forest from Lakshman Jhula.
Rishikesh is a convenient base for several important pilgrimages in the Himalayas.
Nestled in the Himalayan ranges of Uttarakhand are four sacred destinations that form one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage circuits, known as the Chota Char Dham. The pilgrimage traditionally begins from either Rishikesh or the holy town of Haridwar. Badrinath, situated on the bank of River Alaknanda, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Kedarnath, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is the northernmost of the 12 jyotirlingas (devotional representations of Lord Shiva). Overlooking River Bhagirathi, the shrine of Gangotri is devoted to Goddess Ganga, whereas Yamunotri, dedicated to Goddess Yamuna, is located in the picturesque Rawai Valley. During the pilgrimage, set some time aside to visit the town of Devprayag, where Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet to form River Ganga. For those who can’t embark on this strenuous holy expedition, 8 Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, located just 32 kilometres from Rishikesh, houses one of the most revered Shiva shrines. 9 Vashistha Cave is another holy site in the vicinity. This is where Vashistha, one of the seven great sages, is said to have meditated.
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