DESTINATION
HISTORY OF RISHIKESH

24 kms upstream on the banks of the Ganga where it is met by the Chandrabhaga is the holy town of Rishikesh. Literally, Rishi’s (holy man) locks, this small town is the point where the holy Ganges crashes down in full glory onto huge boulders and creates long stretches of white sandy beaches.

 

The banks are lined with ashrams, where saints and holy men rested before beginning their arduous pilgrimage up into the snow-covered land of the gods. Rishikesh is essentially a combination of five different districts- Rishikesh the commercial centre, Muni-ki-reti in the quiet suburbs, Shivananda Nagar to the north, Lakshmanjhula with its holy shrines and Swarg Ashram where most of the ashrams are located.

 

Rishikesh is the lap of Hindu philosophy and learning, with several ashrams devoted to the understanding and propagation of the faith. Signs of religious rituals can be seen all over Rishikesh – in the numerous temples lining the banks of the Ganga, the mythological tales that you hear about various spots and even the shops that sell books and religious objects.

 

Rishikesh acquired prominence in the west when the Beatles generation was influenced by the foray of their idols into this Hindu spiritual heartland. Because Rishikesh is where the Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and began their quest for spiritual salvation.

 

Even today, several foreign travellers besides the steady stream of Indian students visit the ashrams to study Hindu philosophy, yoga and Ayurvedic medicine. Every year in the beginning of February an international Yoga week is organised at Rishikesh by the Department of Tourism.

 

Rishikesh is not only popular for its religious significance, but also as a base for devotees on their journey to the Char Dham Yatra (Tour of Four Pilgrim sites). Rishikesh is equally popular with adventure tourists heading for the tougher trekking trails to be found in the higher Himalayas.

Sightseeing in Rishikesh
The Triveni Ghat

The Triveni Ghat, in the centre of town is the most prominent bathing ghat in Rishikesh. With its modern images of Hindu deities and white sandy beach, the ghat is ideal for a dip in the holy waters of the Ganga.


In the morning, pilgrims come to the ghat for prayers and offer milk and feed the shoals of fish in the crystal clear waters. The evening, arati (worship) with lamps is worth watching for the atmosphere.

The Bharat Mandir
The Bharat Mandir near Triveni Ghat is reputed to be the oldest temple in Rishikesh. The temple's presiding deity is a black stone Vishnu, which is believed to have been consecrated by Adi Shankaracharya when he visited Rishikesh in the 9th century. This occasion is commemorated with special celebrations on the day of Basant Panchami, the spring festival.
Swarg Ashram

Swarg Ashram, with its numerous ashrams, food stalls and shops is a haunt for those looking for insights into religious themes. The newly constructed Ram Jhoola straddles the Ganga at this point. You can also make a river crossing on the ferries that run during the day.

 

Important shrines and ashrams at Swarg Ashram include Kali Kumbliwale founded by Swami Vishudhananda, Parmarth Niketan with large statues of gods and goddesses and the Gita Bhavan with its Ayurvedic dispensary and shop selling religious books and cotton Khadi.

Lakshmanjhula
About 2 kms upstream is the old footbridge called Lakshmanjhula, named after the brother of Lord Rama. Temples line both sides of the river at Lakshmanjhula.
Shivanand Jhoola

The Shivanand Jhoola is another suspension bridge spanning the river along the ancient route to Kedarnath and Badrinath.

To the northeast is the area of Muni-ki-reti. Along the banks of the Chandrabhaga river, this area with its secluded white sand beaches is ideal for swimming. Boat rides on the river near Swarg Ashram are a pleasant diversion, and you can feed the fish that cluster around pilgrims throwing balls of wheat flour into the waters.

 

North of Rishikesh are some good spots for white-water rafting, including Shivpuri 18 kms upstream and Kaudiyala 38 kms up. Both the sites are served by professional organizers who provide equipment, tents and food. Besides the longer hauls on the Yatra route, there are shorter trek routes around Rishikesh.


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