Learn More About The Sacred City of Rishikesh, India

Rishikesh is a renowned place when it comes to yoga. Many believe that through the intense practices and Sadhana of great spiritual seekers like Swami Sivananda, Dayananda and Yogananda Maharaj Ji, they have created energy which makes Rishikesh a sacred place of spirituality.

Each individual has his or her own experience with Rishikesh life, but few things are common in each experience, and they are known to last forever.

WHAT TO EXPECT

“During my first visit to Rishikesh, the presence of Ganges and mountains was so mesmerising that in my mind, I thought of living some part of my life here.” Hemant Singh

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Rishikesh is a busy and buzzing town: one could expect to see many temples, yoga schools, daily drop-in yoga classes, loitering cows and dogs, hotels, motels, guest houses, chai corners, coffee shops, a German bakery, multi-cuisine restaurants, yoga massage places, fruits stalls, trekking tour guides, scooter and taxi rentals… you name it. Also, one could also expect to meet local tourists from various parts of India and travelers from all around the globe.

There are many popular ashrams here: Parmarth Ashram, Gita Ashram, and Sachidanand Ashram – all of which offer yogic food at a very minimal price.

There is also the Ganges Aarti: a ritual that uses fire as an offering. This proves to be a very popular event for anyone who is in Rishikesh. Parmarth aarti and Triveni ghat aarti is also known to draw in crowds.

Rishikesh becomes quieter as soon as evening arrives and the sun settles down. Shops shut down by 8 pm. There are a number of good cafes to explore around the area which is mostly open until 10-11pm.

BEST TIME TO VISIT RISHIKESH

September, October, November, February, March and April are the best months to enjoy the weather and learn yoga. However, teacher training programs are always taking place throughout the year.

December and January are a bit cooler and many people make their way down to other parts of the country, mostly south India, where the weather is warmer.

In May and June, the sun is at its peak and it attracts a lot of the locals to enjoy the river rafting and nightlife as they surely are a relief from the day-time heat.

SIGHTSEEING

Exploring new and exciting things is never ending in Rishikesh and there are many activities and sights one can enjoy during on a well-deserved day off from training.

Vashistha cave, Neelkanth Mahadev temple, and several waterfalls are nearby. Kunjapuri temple is the place to visit and see your first glorious sunset in this area. You have to get up around 3:30 and be there by 4:30 to see the sun rising – don’t worry, it’s worth it.

Here are other places we highly recommend one should visit in and around Rishikesh:

Parmarth Niketan

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Located in Ram Juhla, Parmarth Niketan — the largest ashram in Rishikesh — visitors can quickly notice its clean, pure and sacred atmosphere. The ashram is decorated with abundant and beautiful gardens. Thousands of pilgrims, who come from all corners of the World, visit this sacred place on a regular basis.

The daily activities at the ashram include: morning universal prayers and meditation classes, daily Satsang and lecture programmes, kirtans, a Ganga Aarti at sunset attended by hundreds of visitors each day, as well as nature cure and ayurvedic treatment and training.

Special cultural and spiritual events are often hosted in the ashram by visiting revered saints, acclaimed musicians, as well as spiritual and social leaders.

Beatles Ashram

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Known as the Beatles Ashram, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram (as it is properly called) is the ashram of the famous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who started the Transcendental Meditation movement. In 1968, the ashram rose to fame and placed Rishikesh on the global map when the famous rock band, The Beatles, stayed here. Although it was abandoned in 1997, it has now been taken over by the Ministry of Environment & Forests and is slowly being brought back to life. But even today, below the undergrowth of moss and grass, the impressive buildings, meditation huts and lecture halls can still be seen - including the Maharishi’s house and the place at which the Beatles stayed.

Neer Gaddu Waterfall

For a refreshing day in nature and a pleasant hike, (with a rewarding swim if you please), you can take a walk to one of the three famous waterfalls nearby: Neer Gaddu, Garud Chatti or Patna.

Temple of Kunjapuri

For panoramic views of the snow-capped Garhwal Himalayas in the distance and the Ganga River below, it is best to visit small white Shakti Temple of Kunjapuri. Go at dawn to experience an incredible sunrise as the sun shines atop the sharp point of an almost perfectly conical hill.

Positioned at a height of 1645 m, Kunjapuri lends a panoramic sight of the Himalayan peaks to the North and Rishikesh, Haridwar and the Doon valley to the South.

Vashishta Gufa

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Around 25 kilometres away from the buzzing town of Rishikesh, there is a very peaceful place known as Vashishta Gufa (cave).

According to Hindu mythology, Sage Vashishta (one of the seven great sages) is a son of Lord Brahma and the teacher of Lord Rama. After the death of his children, Vashishta was desperate and decided to commit suicide in River Ganga. But the Goddess Ganga didn’t accept his plea of suicide. Then Sage Vashishta and his wife, Arundhati, meditated here for hundreds of years to overcome their sorrow.

Nowadays, the cave attracts spiritual seekers who come here to feel the energy and meditative ambience this exceptional spot gives off.

Neelkanth Mahadev Temple

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Located 32 kilometres from Rishikesh, Neelkanth Mahadev Temple – one of the most revered holy shrines dedicated to Nilkanth, an aspect of Shiva – is a top Hindu pilgrimage site.

According to the mythology, the place where the Temple currently stands is the sacred location where Lord Shiva consumed the poison, which made his throat blue in colour. Thus, Lord Shiva is also known as Neelkanth, literally meaning The Blue Throated One.

The most important festival at Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is the Maha Shivratri. During the festival, a huge number of devotees visit the temple to pay their homage to the Lord and make an offering of flowers, honey, milk, water, coconut and Bael leaves. The festival falls two times in a year, once in the month of February-March (Maha Shivaratri) and in July-August (Shraavan Maas as per Hindu calendar). The temple is decorated beautifully during both the occasions. Beautifully located in the surrounding of dense forests, adjacent to the mountain ranges of Nar-Narayan, with a natural spring where devotees usually take a holy bath before entering the premises, Neelkanth Mahadev Temple makes a perfect destination for a half-day trip.

Other Activities

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Rishikesh is not only about religious ashrams and the sacred Ganga but a home for adventurous spirits as well. Here one can find a lot of high adrenaline sports activities going on throughout the year.

One such is paragliding, which is best done in the Kunjapuri region. Kunjapuri resides amidst the Shivalik ranges and overlooks the enthralling Gangotri, Banderpunch, Chaukhamba and Swarga Rohini peaks. This makes paragliding here a wonderful treat to the eyes, especially at the time of sunset, when the peaks glisten in hues of yellow and orange.

Situated at the foot of Himalaya Mountains, Rishikesh makes a perfect base for trekking and hiking tours. Uttarakhand is adorned with abundant natural beauty, emerald rivers, green-cloaked hills, snow-capped peaks and lush green forests. Divided into two regions, Garhwal and Kumaon, the state indeed offers an incredible opportunity for adventure. It is the home gorgeous glaciers, majestic Himalayan Mountains, breath-taking high altitude lakes, and surreal alpine meadows. With some easy and moderate routes, as well as more challenging trails, Uttarakhand has an option for every mountain adventure seeker.