Rishikesh: Spirituality, Yoga, River Rafting
Rishikesh has become the international capital of Yoga with tourists from all over the world making a beeline to this holy town.
However, Rishikesh’s real fame lies in it being the Gateway to the Uttaranchal Himalayas. Sight of Ganga rushing through the Himalayan foothills is an awesome experience. There are several temples dotting the banks of the Ganga at Rishikesh, which devotees visit in thousands each day.
Situated just 20 kms from Haridwar, Rishikesh is located 1,360 feet above sea level. Several yogis and sages are believed to have lived and practised penance here. On the other bank of the Ganga there is Tapovan, which houses a temple to Lakshman. It is believed that Lakshman carried out penances here. According to some stories, his brother Bharat also meditated here, and there is a temple devoted to Bharat here. The Swargashram and the Geeta Bhavan temples are other major attractions in Rishikesh. The scenic beauty of the area and the distant sound of bell chimes create an unforgettable experience for those who visit this pilgrimage town.
One of the most famous landmarks here is the Lakshman Jhula, a 450 feet long suspension bridge which was built in 1939. It is believed Lord Rama`s brother Lakshman had crossed the river on a jute rope. Visitors can enjoy the spectacular surroundings and cool breeze from the river while standing on the bridge.
A newer bridge, the Ram Jhula, has also come here. This suspended bridge was recently built between Shivanand Ashram and Sawarg Ashram. It is also known as Shivanand Jhula.
Rishikesh is also known for whitewater river rafting. The rafting stretch of the Ganga is from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh where the river has 12 rapids over 36 kms.
You can indulge in a host of activities at these camps. Other than rafting, you enjoy kayaking, forest walks, trekking, bird watching, beach volleyball, cricket or simply sunbathing.
12 km away from Rishikesh is the Nilkanth Mahadeo temple, at a height of about 5,000 feet, commanding spectacular views of the region. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Myth has it that Lord Shiva had consumed the effluent poison produced after Sagar manthan which had turned his throat blue and thus this place came to be known as Neelkanth Mahadev. During the months of July and August, this place gets thousands of pilgrims.
How to Reach: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun, 35 kms from Haridwar, which is connected to Rishikesh by train. You can hire a bus or taxi from here to reach Rishikesh. If traveling by train, Haridwar connects Rishikesh to Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Dehradun and other cities of India by trains. It is better to get to Haridwar by Dehradun Shatabdi and then hire a bus or taxi to Rishikesh. If you are travelling by road take the National Highway 58 passing through Modinagar, Khatauli, Muzzafarnagar, Roorkee, Haridwar and Raiwala. Rishikesh is served by well defined road networks and is connected by buses to other towns of Garhwal, UP and Delhi, which are further connected to other major cities of India by road.
Where to Stay: Rishikesh is full of hotels and dharamshalas. Hotels are mainly low to medium budget, catering to mainly religious tourists. There is one high budget hotel, the Glass Palace, which is situated ahead of Rishikesh. Belonging to Neemrana Hotels Group, this hotel offers rich experience being situated on the banks of river Ganga. For those visiting Rishikesh for adventure sports like river rafting, there are several camps on the banks of the Ganga.