Rishikesh is a small town located at the foothills of Himalaya, on the bank of river Ganges, about 237 km from the Indian capital of New Delhi. It is called The Gateways to the Himalayas as it is the starting point for the Char Dham pilgrimage for Hindus. As part of Char Dham pilgrimage, pilgrims go to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, the four sacred shrines of Hindus, for blessings. Rishikesh is a popular religious destination for the Hindus with many ancient temples located in and around the town. It is also a spiritual centre of world fame with a large of number of ashrams of different Gurus which impart the teachings of Yoga and Vedanta. This place rose to an instant fame when in February 1968, The Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram. Several other artists, including Mike Love and Donovan, have also visited the site to contemplate and meditate. But away from the limelight, Rishikesh has always been a place for those who earnestly seek spiritual inspiration or wish to do some soul-searching. And for those who are not religiously or spiritually-inclined, it is a place for adventure as it is one of the most famous places in India for adventure sports like river rafting, rappelling, to name a few.
Places of Spiritual Significance
Located 3 km from Rishikesh in a picturesque area is the Sivananda Ashram, with hills surrounding it and the holy river Ganges flowing by its side. It is the headquarters of International Spiritual Organization, The Divine Life Society. The Divine Life Society was founded by Swami Sri Sivananda in the year 1936 for the dissemination of spiritual knowledge in the world by publication of books and conducts programmes such as yoga retreats, satsangs and discourses. The ashram has also been actively involved in lots of humanitarian activities such as providing medical facilities to the poor and running educational institutions. The other places of significance within and around the ashram are as follows:
This is a temple of Lord Shiva who is the presiding deity of the ashram. The Shiva Linga was consecrated by Swami Sivananda. It is believed to be the spot wherein he attained the self-realization.
The Sivananda Ashram houses the Samadhi Shrine of Swami Sri Sivananda, who entered Mahasamadhi in July 1963. The Samadhi Shrine is the central place of spiritual activities of Sivananda Ashram. The two main activities – early morning meditation, and the evening Satsanga – are held here. This place is the source of spiritual vibrations and inspirations for all seekers. Even when no programme is going on, devotees enjoy the atmosphere while praying, meditating and doing japa.
Gurudev Kutir is a small hut on the bank of the river Ganges wherein Swami Sri Sivananda spent the last 25 years of his life until his Mahasamadhi. His articles are carefully preserved and regular ritual worship is done to maintain the sanctity of this place. As the vibrations of illumined souls continue to permeate the space where they had lived physically, this place is quite popular among devotees and seekers and they sit here for meditation to be in the ever-present vibrations of the great Sivananda.
14 miles from Rishikesh, this is the cave in which Saint Vashistha meditated and did penance. It is popular place among spiritual seekers for meditation.
Other Places of Interest
The Bharat Temple is the most ancient temple in Rishikesh. According to legends, Rishi Raibhya did penance over here and Lord Vishnu, pleased by his austerities, appeared before him in the physical form. Since then, this town got its name as Rishikesh, which literally means Lord of the Senses, another name for Lord Vishnu. Later on, Adi Shankaracharya reinstalled an idol of presiding deity Vishnu in the temple on the auspicious day of Vasant Panchami. Since then, every year on the day of Vasant Panchami, the idol of the deity is taken around the town and then brought back to the temple as a symbolic reinstallation. Opposite the main entrance of the temple, there are three trees of Pipal, Banyan and Beil, whose roots intermingle in such a way that they appear as one tree. The presence of these three trees at one location is considered extremely sacred as per Hindu mythology.
Located in the heart of the town, Triveni Ghat is the main bathing ghat where devotees take holy dips in the river Ganges.
Lakshman Jhula is a suspension bridge across the river Ganges located about 2 km north of the Sivananda Ashram. Lord Rama’s brother Lakshman was said to have meditated in ancient times at this location.
Garuda Chatti is located around 4 km from the Lakshman Jhula. The waterfall here is quite popular among international tourists.
Kunjapuri is one of the Shakti Peeths dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga. It is located on a hilltop 15 km from Rishikesh. It is at an altitude of 1645 metres above sea level and offers panoramic views of the mighty snow-clad Himalayan peaks.
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple
On a mountain on the eastern side of the Ganges, located about 32 km from Rishikesh, is a very ancient and famous temple devoted to the worship of Lord Siva. Legend has it that Lord Shiva consumed venom that appeared out from the ocean during the Samudra Manthan (Churning of Ocean) and that his throat became blue (neel means blue and kanth means throat). Around the time of the festival of Shivaratri, one can see thousands of people walking up to the temple, which has an altitude of 926 m, to worship. It is enveloped between the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot and Vishnukoot and is located at the confluence of the rivers Pankaja and Madhumati.Submit Query