Sightseeing in and Around Rishikesh
Legend says that many years ago Lakshmana had crossed the holy Ganga River with the help of thick ropes. Later, a suspension bridge was built at the same spot with iron. As you walk on the Jhula you get an enchanting view of the flowing river, the surrounding mountains, the colourful rafts passing by, the monkeys running around and the numerous ghats along the banks of the river. During aarti time you can listen to the holy chants and ringing of the bells. It is one of the most popular places to visit in Rishikesh.
Ram Jhula is an iron suspension bridge which connects the main land of Rishikesh to the other bank of the Holy Ganga river. There are several World famous ashrams situated on both sides of the banks like Sivananda Ashram, Geeta Bhavan, Swargashram and Parmarth Niketan. There are many shops selling colourful jewellery, clothes, gift items, sweet shops, restaurants, Yoga books and CD’s. You can also cross over with the help of a motor boat which runs periodically.
Swarg Ashram is located near Ram Jhula, on the opposite banks of Sivananda Ashram. There are many temples, caves and ashrams inside the complex. There are many rooms here where many saints, priests, students and pilgrims can stay. It is run by the Kali Kamliwala Trust. There are beautiful gardens along with many temples of various Hindu Gods. Yoga and Ayurveda programs are held here periodically.
Parmarth Niketan is the biggest ashram with over 1000 rooms in Rishikesh. It is headed by Pujya Swami Sachidananda. There are daily discourses, meditations, Yoga Courses, Satsangs, Kirtans and Sadhnas which are attended by Indian and Foreign devotees. Every evening there is a special pooja conducted by the little boys from the Gurukul at the Parmath Ghat which is attended by hundreds of spectators. There is a huge statue of Lord Shiva right on this ghat.
Geeta Bhawan is situated in Swarg Ashram near Ram Jhula. They have around 1000 rooms to accommodate devotees free of cost. There is a huge hall here where Sadhna, Satsang’s, Meditation and Discourses are conducted. Geeta Bhawan also has an Indian sweet shop, a book shop, a cloth shop and an ayurveda store in the premises. They have two bathing ghats where the pilgrims can take a holy dip in the Ganges. They have a huge library which houses ancient books on Hinduism like the Geeta, Ramayana, Puranas and Upanishads.
Sivananda Ashram is located at Ram Jhula. It was founded by Swami Shivananda and is run by the Divine Life Society. They conduct and train devotees in Yoga, Vedanta and conduct spiritual and cultural lectures. The society looks after the welfare, food, clothing and education of the poor, handicapped and homeless people. Daily pooja, bhajans and Ganga Aarti are held at the ashram. There is also a hospital built for the needy in the premises.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram
This ashram which is located in the Swarg Ashram area was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He introduced the transcendental form of meditation to the world. He has taught this kind of meditation to over 40,000 teachers globally who in turn imparted that knowledge to more than five million people. The famous music band Beatles had come to Rishikesh to learn this method. He built many schools and universities in many countries. The Uttarakhand government is planning to renovate the ashram so as to promote tourism.
Bharat Mandir is situated at Maya Kund, Rishikesh. It is believed to be the oldest temple in Rishikesh. Adi Shankaracharya had reinstalled the idol of Shri Hrishikesh Narayan at this temple many years ago. Shri Hrishikesh Narayan is also called as Bharat and is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hence the temple is called as Bharat Mandir. There is a very old tree here with the roots of three trees entwined together. They are the roots of a banyan, pipal and a bail tree. This is considered to be very auspicious by the Hindus and is one of the most important places to visit in Rishikesh.
Triveni Ghat is one of the most important Ghats of Rishikesh since the three rivers of Ganga, Yamuna and Sarawati flow from here. Thousands of pilgrims come to take a holy dip every morning and evening. The Maha Arti conducted every evening is attended by many tourists. There are beautiful statues of Shiva- Parvati, Gange Maa, Geeta Updesh of Lorh Krishna to Arjun at the battlefield of Kurukshetra, etc. During Dussehra the effigies of Ravan, Kumbh Karn and Meghnath are burnt amidst lots of celebrations and fireworks. The ghat is one of the most popular places to visit in Rishikesh.
Veer Bhadra Mahadev
Veer Bhadra Mahadev Temple is located at Veer Bhadra, Rishikesh. Legend says that once Lord Shiva had smashed his hair in anger, into the earth at this spot. The temple was constructed around 1300 years back. The backdrop of the temple is enchanting with splendid views of the mountains. Grand celebrations take place over here during Maha Shivratri. A huge mela is also held which is attended by lakhs of devotees every year.
Neel Kanth Mahadev
Neel Kanth Mahadev is located in the hilly forest region, around 32 km from Rishikesh. Legend says that Lord Shiva had consumed the poison that came out during Samudra Manthan. This poison had made his neck blue in colour and hence He is also called Neelkanth or ‘The Blue Throated One’. There are grand celebrations held here during Shraavan Shivratri and Maha Shivratri. Lakhs of Kawarians come to this temple during the Shraavan month by trekking for around 05 hours from Rishikesh.
Kunjapuri temple is located on the Kunjapuri hill which is 10kms from Narendra Nagar and around 25 km from Rishikesh. It is one of the 52 Shaktipeeths where Sati’s chest had fallen when the grieving Lord Shiva had carried her dead body on his shoulders. You can get a splendid view of the sunrise and sunset along with views of the Himalayan peaks of Gangotri, Swarg Rohini,etc… There are around 300 steps that you have to climb to reach the temple area. Thousands of devotees come here for darshan during the Navratras.
Vashistha Gufa is located around 25 km from Rishikesh in the Shivpuri area. Legend says that Sage Vashistha who was one of the seven great sages of India meditated here. Now adays Swami Chaityanandji looks after the ashrams welfares. People usually come here to do meditation inside the serene cave or to sit peacefully beside the flowing Ganges. There is a small Shivlinga with a burning lamp inside the cave. One should not miss the walk from the Vashisht Ashram to the banks of the river.
Neer Gaddu waterfalls is a natural waterfall located around 4km from Lakshman Jhula. There is an entry fee of Rs.30 to be paid at the entrance ticket point. You have to trek for around 2kms to reach the main waterfall. There is a stall where you can buy mineral water, tea, chips and biscuits near the falls. As you trek you can enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains and the lush greenery. The waterfalls are magnificent and it feels heavenly to take a shower under its cool waters.
Neemkaroli Baba Ashram
Neemkaroli Baba Ashram is located in Rishikesh. You can easily spot the 40 ft. statue of Hanumanji located inside as you drive into Rishikesh. There is a beautiful garden in the premises. Neem Karoli baba was also called as Maharajji. His followers are spread all over the world in various homes, temples and ashrams. Every morning and evening there are aartis conducted here. These are attended by several devotees. A new library has also been constructed in the ashram.
Aastha Path is a 3km pathway made right from Barrage to Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh. It is also called as the Marine Drive of Rishikesh. It has been constructed with beautiful carved railings, street lamps and benches. It is a path meant only for walkers and no vehicles are allowed. As you pass by you get mesmerised by the Shivalik Mountains and the gurgling waters of the holy River Ganga. In winter you get to see ducks and a variety of migratory birds in the area. There are several temples, ashrams and Yoga institutes on the way.
Where to Stay in Rishikesh
There are several hotels in Rishikesh for every budget. You can choose from budget to deluxe hotels. Many people also stay in various ashrams.
All kinds of accommodation from a lodge to 3 star luxury hotel are available in Rishikesh. Rishikesh is also famous for camping. The camps are located on the Ganga beach as well as in the jungle area. Tourists from all over the world come here for camping.
The city has a cluster of Ashrams all around and they offer basic accommodation for tourists. Some ashrams are private and they allow only sadhus for stay. Some of the ashrams also serve meals for everyone twice a day. All the sadhus and poor homeless people stand in the queue at the ashrams and get their meals every day.
Yoga, Meditation and Spirituality
There are some ashrams which organize daily yoga and Mediation classes for everyone free of cost and some ashrams also conduct certificate courses in Yoga and they charge a fee for the course. One can also stay in these ashrams and attend the classes. There are some private centers for Yoga and Meditation and they also conduct yoga and meditation courses.
The market of Rishikesh is not very developed. There are small shops that cater to the needs of every one. Shops of daily needs, cyber cafés, Mobile phones, ATMs, money exchange shops, Gems & Jewellery and travel agents are easily available.
Traveling to Rishikesh
Rishikesh is well connected by road, rail and air. It lies on the National Highway 58 which connects Delhi to Badrinath. You can take car rental for rishikesh. The Government is reconstructing this highway to 4 lane highway and almost half the work is completed. All types of buses like State Govt Buses, Private buses and Luxury buses operate from Delhi to Rishikesh.
Jolly Grand Airport at Dehradun is just 17 kms from Rishikesh. It connects Rishikesh to all parts of the country. Air India, Jet airways and Spice Jet operate daily flights to Delhi which connects to the other parts of the country. There is almost no traffic from Rishikesh to the airport and a car takes 20 mins to reach the airport.
There is no direct train available from Delhi to Rishikesh. But there are several good trains available from Delhi to Haridwar. One can get down at Haridwar and take a local bus or rishikesh car rental. The distance between Rishikesh and Haridwar is 24 kms/ 45 mins drive.
Uttarakhand is known as Dev Bhoomi (Land of Gods). Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit some of the most important pilgrimage places for Hindus and Sikhs in the state. The Char Dham Yatra is one of the most popular pilgrimage tours, followed by Do Dham Yatra, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Haridwar & Rishikesh. Hemkunt Sahib, the place where Guru Gobind Singhji meditated in his previous birth, attracts thousands of Sikhs every year.