This article was contributed by guest writer David John Martin.
Nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas on the banks of the sacred Ganga River, Rishikesh is a bustling temple destination attracting thousands of pilgrims to its heart every year.
History of Rishikesh
Rishikesh's spiritual origins stem from Hindu mythology that Lord Rama was sentenced to penance at this spot, for killing Ravana the demon god of Lanka; the Laxman Jhula Bridge is named after Laxman, Ramas brother who is recounted as crossing the river at this point by jute rope.
Rishi, meaning "seer," was a name given to monks living in caves in the surrounding hills, holy men to whom the Vedas (Hindu scriptures) were originally revealed. The area is also referred to as Kubjamrak in the Skanda Purana - the largest Mahapurana, a major Hindu religious text.
The Beatles visited Rishikesh in 1968 and stayed at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram - they recorded many of their songs for the White Album here
Today, Rishikesh is known as the "the world capital of yoga." It is home to hundreds of internationally renowned ashrams, including the Sivananda Ashram of Divine Light Society, and thousands of meditation, yoga, enlightenment and spiritual courses.
What to See at Rishikesh
While the industrial heart of Rishikesh is as busy and dusty as any other provincial Indian community, take a rickshaw just 10 minutes north to Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula and you’ll be met by the thick, blue waters of the Ganga, dozens of temple towers, hundreds of orange-clad sadhus and thousands of Hindu pilgrims drinking and bathing in the holy waters.
Rishikesh is a key starting point for a trek to Gangotri Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the Himalayan range and the very source of the holy Ganga, a pilgrimage site where thousands of Hindus come to bathe every year.
Swarg Ashram is a complex of temples, shrines and schools on the north banks of the Ganga that is a key venue for Hindu worship. There are also beautiful orchard gardens, shops and events including music recitals and lectures.
Every evening on the north bank, the town gathers for Ganga Aarti– a Hindu ceremony to worship the Ganga. On the ghats in front of Parmarth Niketan, priests lead processions of chanting, saffron-robed monks to the edge of the river. Butter lamps are distributed amongst the crowd, the flame offered for cleansing, and small, flower dressed, candle-lit floats pushed out into the current of the water.
Located 2km upstream from Laxman Jhula, on the sandy banks of the Ganga, Phool Chatiis a small, traditional ashram offering very basic accommodation and yoga/meditation courses, evening puja, communal thali meals and a garden gate leading to the white sand and clean blue water of the river.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram (the one visited by the Beatles) is no longer open, but it's worth having a wander around the ruins.
With forest clad hills and white water rapids, the town is becoming increasingly popular as an adventure traveldestination and all manner of activities are chartered from here – including rafting and trekking, travelers are advised to check their travel insurance before participating.
The closest train stations to Rishikesh are at Haridwar and Dehradun, which have regular services running from and to Delhi. From here you can catch a bus, hire a jeep or share a taxi to Rishikesh.
On arrival at Rishikesh take a rickshaw to Ram Jhula where you can cross the river via the bridge, or catch the passenger boat from the jetty.
Quick Facts on Rishikesh
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||30.104519° N, 78.288746° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Rishikesh|
- Photos of Rishikesh - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Rishikesh
Below is a location map and aerial view of Rishikesh. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.