Rishikesh 24 Kms. from Hardwar. Located in the lap of lower Himalayas, and is surrounded by scenic beauty of the hills on three sides with Holy Ganga flowing through it. The whole place is considered to be sacred as it is believed that meditation at this place leads to attainment of salvation. There are many temples-some ancient, some new along the river Ganges. Rishikesh is important not only as pilgrimage centre closely associated with the Ramayana, but also as home for many important centres of Hindu religious thought and spirituality, and as a very great Yoga Centre. There are a great many ashrams and Yoga institutes here. Rishikesh is also the gateway and the start-off point for journeys to important religious places like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
Rishikesh is also acquiring greater significance as a centre for white water rafting, other revering sports, a base for treks and hikes in the beautiful Garhwal Himalayas.
Rishikesh is an ideal destination not only for pilgrims but also for those who want to delve deeper into meditation, Yoga and other aspects of Hinduism. For the adventurous, Rishikesh is the place for starting their trekking expeditions and excursions towards the Himalayan peaks. The International Yoga week, which attracts participation from all across the world, is held here every year from 2nd to 7th Feb on the bank of Ganga river.
Lakshman Jhula, the famous hanging bridge across Ganga, is about 3 km from the main township of Rishikesh. It is 450 feet long and is situated at a height of 70 feet from the river. As per mythological tales, once Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Rama, crossed river Ganga at the same site where the bridge now stands. At that time, there was only a suspension bridge, made of jute. After this incident, the bridge came to be known as ‘Lakshman Jhula’. With time, the jute bridge eroded and a new iron bridge was built along the same path in 1939.
Lakshman Jhula is actually an adjoining bridge across the Ganga, along the old route to the holy shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath. The jhula has now become one of the most visited tourist spot of Rishikesh, not simply because of its ancient origin and religious sanctity, but also because of the grand temples and wonderful local market have come to be developed around it.
A thirteen storey temple, called Terah Manzil, near the Lakshman Jhula is very popular amongst visitors. The top floor of this temple gives a wonderful view of the surroundings.
Ram Jhula is situated 3Km north of Rishikesh. It’s a very popular place amongst people coming for religious purposes because it has very known Ashrams. Most known is Geeta Bhawan and Swarg Ashram and these temples are very important in Hindu society and you will see much more commotion here then in Laxman jhula. You can contact the ashrams for accommodation but if you like nature the Laxman jhula area is a better choice.
Everybody coming to the area of Rishikesh should go and see the evening prayer at Geeta Bhawan's ghat (Bank of the river). It’s a special experience to see how Hindus worship the river Ganga. The evening prayer will take about 30 minutes and you can take your camera along with you..
Neelkanth Mahadev is an ancient temple situated at a height of 1675 m, on a hill above Swarg Ashram. It stands adjacent to the mountain ranges of Nar-Narayan, at a distance of approximately 20 km from Rishikesh. It is enveloped between the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot and Vishnukoot. Pankaja and Madhumati, two perennial rivers, meet in confluence at this enormously-rich religious site. The place is surrounded by dense forests and beautiful rivers, making the location a mesmerizing scenic vista.
Mythological tales say that ‘Neelkanth Mahadev Temple’ is the sacred location where Lord Shiva consumed that venom from ocean. The temple was established to pay regards to him. The temple has an ancient architecture and a beautiful complex, comprising of a one natural spring where devotees take a holy bath before entering the premises of the temple. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple houses a ‘Shiv Lingam’, the idol of the presiding deity in a phallic form.
The devotees who pay a visit to ‘Neelkanth Mahadev' make an offering of coconut, flowers, milk, honey, fruits and water to the Lord and get ‘Parshad’, the holy gift from God, in forms of ‘vibhuti’ (ashes), ‘chandan’ (sandal-wood) and other holy things from the shrine. There is a special aura about the temple, which fills devotional hearts with celestial pleasure. This is the reason why it is visited by thousands of devotees every year.
Kunjapuri Devi temple is considered as one of the 52 Shaktipeeth / Shaktipeetha/ Shaktipeetham of our divine Mother. Shakti denotes power. To understand the meaning and significance of Shaktipeeth, let us go back to our Puranas (Hindu scriptures).
Goddess Parvati is the consort of Lord Shiva. In her previous birth, Goddess Parvati was known as Sati. She had married the Lord but her father King Daksha was not too pleased. He had organized a Yagna, a spiritual gathering where offerings are made to Agni Dev (Fire God). He had purposely not invited his daughter and her husband. When Sati came to know of this, she was furious and decided to go uninvited. Lord Shiva tried to persuade her to drop this idea but she was relentless.
King Daksha gave his reasons to Sati which was nothing but public humiliation of her husband. Angered by this, Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire and ended her life. Lord Shiva was torn apart. He destroyed and created havoc at the Yagna. Then carried the remains of Sati’s body on his shoulder and danced the dance of destruction-Tandav which would eventually destroy the Universe. While other versions state that in grief, the Lord carried her body on his shoulders and walked aimlessly in grief. He refused to complete the final rites.
Kunjapuri Devi, Rishikesh Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe felt that if Sati’s body did not receive proper cremation according to the Hindu Shastras then she could not take rebirth as Goddess Parvati. While Lord Vishnu was concerned that Lord Shiva’s grief would slowly cause the destruction of the Universe. They could not control or face Lord Shiva’s anger so Lord Vishnu took his Sudarshan Chakra (Disc) and cut the body into pieces. As Lord Shiva traveled her body part fell and last rites were done by the gods. The places where divine Mother’s body parts fell is known as Shaktipeeth. Temples have been built around it and worshipped daily. People travel across continents to seek blessings of Shakti.We have been very fortunate to seek blessings from one such Shaktipeeth located in Rishikesh where divine Mother’s chest had fallen. This Kunjapuri temple is located on a hillock, 15 kms from the main city.
Swarg Ashram is a small township located 5 km upstream from Rishikesh, on the left bank of the Ganges, opposite to Shri Shivananda Ashram. It can be reached by two ways - either by crossing river Ganges by boat or by walking through the Ram/Shivanand Jhula built across the river. The ashram was built in the memory of Swami Vishudhanand, the saint better known as Kali Kamli Wala (the saint with a black blanket) amongst the localities. There are lots of ashrams, temples and caves, inhabited by saints, inside the Swarg Ashram.
Swarg Ashram also encompasses several cafes, stores, shopping complexes, libraries, parks, meditation centers, Ayurvedic dispensaries, restaurants and hotels. The area lies amidst forest hills, with beautiful orchards and an atmosphere that is free from the pollutions of a motorized city. The area consists of a dozens of large ashrams, generally two or three-storey buildings, with hundreds of rooms that serve as residential quarters for priests, pilgrims, students and tourists looking for an economical accommodation.
Inside the ashram premises, there are several temples and numerous shrines, each of them depicting a number of Hindu deities. Every temple is headed by a priest who takes care of the shrine as well as the residing crew. Several religious ceremonies, like chanting, processions as well as birth and death ceremonies, regularly take place inside the Swarg Ashram. All these residential cells, temples, cafés and other complexes that form a part of the Swarg Ashram are maintained by a trust called ‘Kali Kamliwala Kshetra’.
Kali Kamliwala Kshetra trust has been organized by the followers of Swami Vishudhanand. It is a mammoth organization in the name of Swami Vishudhanand, embracing several activities. Swarg Ashram is very popular amongst foreign tourists as well, mainly because of the ethnic touch that it provides them. They basically visit this place for ‘Yoga tours’ and ‘a study of Ayurvedic medicines’. It is an ideal destination for all those people who love to have a word with nature and are spiritually inclined.
Triveni Ghat is the most popular place in Rishikesh where many people take a holy dip to wash away all their sins. What makes it more popular is the fact that it is believed to be at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Hundreds of people attend the Ganga Aarti every evening at Triveni Ghat.
Triveni Ghat has a significant place in Hindu Mythology and Puranas. This ghat was mentioned many places in Purana and great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is believed that Lord Krishna paid a visit to this holy spot after he was hit by an arrow shot by Jara, a hunter. This is a highly revered place in Samantha.
The aarati happens at a very picturesque place on the banks of Ganga, in front of a Shiva statue built on the river. You see some activity beginning at the riverbank around 5pm. People start cleaning up the area, lay carpets in preparation for the aarati. A few people are seen selling deep or diya – a flower bowl with a wick lamp to be floated down the river during the Aarti after prayers. It starts at 5.30pm, with children studying Veda, the Bhajan singers and the performers walking into the ghat in front of Parmarth Niketan. It begins with Bhajans and prayers for ‘Gangaji’ and Shiva.
The Aarati at Rishikesh is a contrast to it, held in a small place with a few people and is a relatively quite affair. You can sit quietly in a corner and witness the ritual or join the crowds singing Bhajans with them.As the sun sets and it gets slightly darker, the Shiva statue is lighted up and it looks beautiful. The aarti continues with lamps in various shapes and sizes lighted up, and passed on from people to people.