Rishikesh: Sacred land of the Ganga, fit for meditation

Rishikesh, 24 kms from Hardwar, is located in the laps of lower Himalayas, and is surrounded by scenic beauty of the hills on three sides with holy Ganga flowing through it. The whole place is considered to be sacred as it is believed that meditation at this place leads to attainment of salvation. There are many temples – some ancient, some new along the river.

Rishikesh is important not only as pilgrimage centre closely associated with the Ramayana, but also as home for many important centers of Hindu religious thought and spirituality, and as a very great Yoga centre. There are a great many ashrams and Yoga institutes here.

Rishikesh is also the gateway and the start-off point for journeys to important religious places like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.

Rishikesh is also acquiring greater significance as a centre for white water rafting, other river sports, a base for treks and hikes in the beautiful Garhwal Himalayas.

Rishikesh is an ideal destination not only for pilgrims but also for those who want to delve deeper into meditation, Yoga and other aspects of Hinduism. For the adventurous, Rishikesh is the place for starting their trekking expeditions and excursions towards the Himalayan peaks. The International Yoga week, which attracts participation from all across the world, is held here every year from 2nd to 7th Feb on the banks of the Ganga.

Places to visit

Bharat Mandir: Built by Adiguru Shankaracharya around 12th century, Bharat Mandir is situated in the heart of the old town on the banks of the Ganga. Detailed account of this oldest temple of Rishikesh is available in ancient records of Kearkhand. The inner sanctum of the temple has the idol of Lord Vishnu, carved out of a single Saligram. In the inner canopy above the idol is shree yantra installed by Adi Shankaracharya. The original temple was destroyed by Tamur Lane in 1398 A.D. Lot of old statues, coins, pots and other things of historical importance were found in recent excavations in the premises of the temple.

Rishikund: Close to Trivenighat is the most ancient place, the Rishikund. Ancient records relate this to Kubz Saint, who was blessed by the Goddess Yamuna who saturated this pond with its water. The pond reflects the temple of Ragunath, dedicated to Lord Rama and his wife, Sita.

Triveni Ghat: The main ghat in the town area where most of the pilgrims take holy dip. Every evening hundreds of pilgrims attend the Ganga Arti at the Ghat.

Ram Jhula Area
Geeta Bhawan: It is one of the oldest temple complexes in the area. The famous Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are described here on the walls.

Parmarth Niketan: One of the most renowned temple complexes and ashrams in the area. Known for its substantial work on Hinduism, there is a school run on traditional Indian patterns. The ashram organizes excellent Ganga Arti and Hawan on the Parmarth Ghat every evening.

“When the orange sun, as if suspended, waits low amid the red/yellow streaked horizon, then all these combine to give this town a very special evening. The temple bells roar, priests chant mantras. Immersed in sublimation stand the pilgrims. Cupped leaves, with saffron marigold petals and a small candle flame, flickering ride the current of water of wisdom. Suddenly the sky darkens, spreading a blanket of stillness. Everything stops, except the sound of current, which has just sunk the tiny flames of cupped leaves, few minutes back”.

Transcendental Centre of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: Situated on the extreme end of Geeta Bhawan area, Maharishi’s TM centre is situated in the peaceful forest area. Once the most active branch, it has nothing much to offer to the visitors today. One can see the ruins of the TM centre from a distance.

Laxman Jhula Area

Tera Manzil Temple: A multistoried temple complex of idols of Hindu gods, and goddesses. Very popular among domestic pilgrims. One can have an excellent view of the entire area from the top floor of the temple complex. Sunset view from this place in winters is an excellent option.

Laxman Temple: On the right bank of the Ganga is situated the ancient temple of Laxman. Lord Rama with Laxman made a twig bridge here on the way to their journey to high Himalayas.

Outskirts of Rishikesh

Kunja Puri Temple
Drive to Kunja Puri, one of the 13 most important goddesses of Shivalik range, the lower Himalayas. One can witness excellent sunrise or sun set on the Greater Hiamalayan peaks and the vast Indo Gangetic plains. One can see almost all the peaks of Garhwal Himalayas from here e.g Banderpunch (6316 Mts), Swarga Rohini (6252 Mts) Gangotri (6672 mts) Chaukhamba (7138 mts) etc.

Vasishtha Gufa
One hour drive from Rishikesh up the river is situated Vasishtha Gufa, where famous saint Vasishtha meditated on the banks of the Ganga. The cave is very peaceful and is a perfect place for meditation. The entire drive to Vasishtha Gufa is along the river.

Devprayag:
One of the panchprayags (five confluences), Devprayaga is an ancient town situated at the confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi which combine to make the holy Ganga. Visit the ancient temple of Lord Rama at the beginning of the river. The entire drive is along the beautiful river Ganga up to Devprayag.

Surkanda Devi (10,000 feet)
Drive (2.5 to 3 hrs) to Kadukhal via Narender Nagar, the capital of Tehri Garhwal once. Now the palace is converted into a world famous Spa. Stop at the palace for sometime and continue to Chamba. The drive till Chamba is a gradual ascent through the forest and small villages. Stop at the small hill town of Chamba for a cup of tea and then drive along the ridge till Kadhuhla.

One can enjoy the panoramic view of mountains on one side and the big Doon valley on the other side. Arrive Kaddu Khal and commence trek (01-1.5 hrs) to Surkanda Devi. The trek is a gradual ascent till the mountain top. Visit the temple of Surkanda Devi, one of the 13 important goddesses of Himalayan foothills.

Enjoy the 180 degrees panoramic view of snow covered Greater Himalayan Range and the massive Doon valley. One can see almost all the major peaks of Garhwal Himalayas e.g Swarga Rohini (6252 Mts) Sudarshan Parbat (6507 Mts), Kamet (7756 Mts), Nanda Gunti (6309 Mts), Nanda Devi (7878 Mts.)

Trek down (01 hr) to Kaddu Khal. Picnic Lunch and little rest in the mountain tea shops. Later drive back to Rishikesh via Mussoorie (The famous hill station in north India) and Dehradun, the capital of Uttaranchal State.

Instead of driving via Mussoorie, one can also opt for visit to Tehri Dam Lake near Chamba

How to reach:

Air: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, 18km from Rishikesh on way to Dehradun. At present chartered planes operate.
Rail: Rishikesh is connected by rail with Haridwar, Delhi, Bombay, Howrah, Lucknow and Agra.
Road: Rishikesh is connected by road with most places of North India.

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    Outside of Rishikesh you could also visit Neelkanth temple – the place where Shiva became blue upon drinking poison from the ocean.