Rishikesh - Capital of Yoga and Meditation

Set against the backdrop of the Himalayas and with the pristine Ganga flowing through it, the ancient town of Rishikesh is one of the major tourist and pilgrimage hubs in northern India, where people from across the world arrive in search of peace. Rishikesh is commonly referred to as the ‘yoga capital of the world’ and rightly so. The destination is abuzz with visitors, who come here to learn yoga and meditation. Rishikesh has numerous ashrams, some of which are internationally recognised as centres of philosophical studies, yoga and other ancient Indian traditions of wellness. The Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board organises the annual International Yog Festival (IYF) here, which attracts thousands of yoga enthusiasts. There are several legends associated with Rishikesh. It is said Rishikesh finds a mention in the ancient text Skanda Purana, and in the epic Ramayana. It is said Lord Rama, along with his brothers, came to Rishikesh to do penance after killing Ravana.

Rishikesh is also known for its connection with The Beatles. In February 1968, members of the legendary English rock band visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram (now popularly known as the Beatles Ashram) to learn transcendental meditation. The band composed nearly 48 songs during their time at the Maharishi's ashram, many of which appear on the White Album (and a few from Abbey Road). John Lennon recorded a song titled, 'The Happy Rishikesh Song' after his visit. Several other international artists, including Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Paul Horn, Donovan and Gyp Mills, visited the site to contemplate and meditate.

Rishikesh is also a town of quaint cafes, which offer local and international cuisines and are mostly packed with tourists. Interestingly, in the last couple of years, Rishikesh has become very popular for its vibrant Holi celebrations, mostly organised by private hotels and resorts.

Places to visit in Rishikesh

  • Narendra Nagar: This small but picturesque hamlet is situated in the Tehri Garhwal district (it was the capital of the erstwhile Tehri state) and is just 20 km from Rishikesh. Perched at a height of 1,326 m, its salubrious climate attracts tourists throughout the year. And since it's not so popular, expect peace and quiet. It offers panoramic views of the Ganga and the Doon valley.
  • Byasi: This small village located at the banks of River Ganga is a rafting and water sports adventure hub, just 30 km from Rishikesh. The road from Rishikesh to Byasi is smooth, snaking up the mountains, offering stunning views of the Ganga and the hills.
  • Gita Bhawan: Near the Lakshman Jhula, is the newly constructed building of Gita Bhawan. It runs a free Ayurvedic dispensary and also has a branch of the Gita Press. The stories of the epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata are beautifully illustrated on its walls. 
  • Shivpuri: Located at a distance of 19 km from Rishikesh, Shivpuri has emerged as a popular tourist destination due to the thrilling white water rafting experience it offers. The commonest rafting stretch (around 11 km) is from Shivpuri to Lakshman Jhula.
  • Beatles Ashram: In the Swargashram area, nestled in a forest patch, is the former ashram of Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, also known as Chaurasi Kutia and Beatles Ashram, where the legendary musicians had stayed and learnt transcendental meditation. You can walk around the ruins of the ashram, with striking graffitti of the band members pianted on the walls, enjoying the peace and calm of the area.
  • Swargashram: A cluster of ashrams on the eastern bank of the Ganga is popularly known as Swargashram. Most of these ashrams offer courses on yoga and spiritual studies, and are well-known among tourists.
  • Bharat Mandir: Near the Triveni Ghat, stands one of the oldest shrines in Rishikesh, Bharat Mandir, said to have been built by sage Adi Shankaracharya. This ancient temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, whose idol is carved out of a single black stone, popularly known as Saligram. If you are lucky, catch the spring festival also called Basant Panchami celebrated here.
  • Triveni Ghat: Located at the heart of town, Triveni is the most well-known bathing ghat (stepped banks of a river), where most pilgrims take a holy dip before they visit the temples of Rishikesh. An amazing sight here is the evening aarti, a ceremony accompanied by lights, drums and chanting, with the entire ghat lit with flickering lamps. 
  • Parmarth Niketan: This is one of the largest ashrams in Rishikesh and one of the most popular too, specially for the annual yoga festival that it hosts. Established in 1942 by Swami Sukhdevanand Ji Maharaj, the ashram is located at the bank of River Ganga and is a serene site for yoga and meditation.
  • Lakshman Jhula: Built-in 1939, this 137-m-long suspension bridge at a height of 21 m above the river is considered to be at the same location where it is said Lord Lakshmana (from the epic Ramayana) crossed the river Ganges with the help of jute ropes. The Lakshman jhula is the most iconic structure in Rishikesh that most of us have seen in movies and on television. Nearby is the suspension bridge Ram Jhula. The 3-km walk from Lakshman jhula to Ram jhula is an interesting one, with the road lined by small shops selling attractive kick-knacks.

How to reach Rishikesh

By Flight: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest Airport to Rishikesh situated at a distance of 21kms. Taxis are easily available from Jolly Grant Airport to Rishikesh. Jolly Grant Airport is well connected to Delhi with daily flights. Rishikesh is well connected by motorable roads with Jolly Grant Airport.

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