- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Rishikesh is town in the Dehradun District of Uttarakhand state in India. Total population of Rishikesh is 75,020 (53% male and 47 % female) as of 2001. Rishikesh is situated at 409 meters above sea level in the foothills of Garhwal Himalayan Range and surrounded by the Shivalik range. Rishikesh is 35 kms far from Haridwar, 90 Kms from Mussoorie, 25 Kms far from Jollygrant airport Dehradun, and 240 kms far from New Delhi.
Rishikesh has spectacular view of jungle-clad hills. Rishikesh has also confluence of River Ganges and Chandrabhaga. The glorious attraction of Rishikesh is none other than the great river Ganges herself, running rapidly throughout the city. In the ancient time and still so many yogis, rishis, sages and sannyasis attracted to Rishikesh to practice yoga in this peaceful location. Since then, Rishikesh has known as an abode of sages. Rishikesh is a holy town with so many Ashrams and it is famous for the yoga world wide. Rishikesh is now world famous as a Yoga Capital of the world. Every year during the March month one week long International yoga festival is hosted by Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is also known as gateway to the Char Dham. Char Dham is four popular holy temples on the hills (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri) Thousands of people attracted every year to Rishikesh for spiritual relief, peace, learn yoga, adventure and to take a dip for salvation. The famous among them were Beatles, Kate Winslet and many more others celebrities. It is believed that by meditation in Rishikesh one can get "Moksha" (liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth) as well as holy dip in the river Ganges.
Apart from spirituality now Rishikesh is also hub for the adventure activities such as rafting, camping, trekking and bungee jumping. Rishikesh is full of tourist every time. There are also big ashrams, centers for Yoga, Meditation, Ayurvedic Massage and astrology are here. Rishikesh is also known as the white water rafting capital of India.
Two big suspension bridges play a major role (such as nerve system in body) in day- to- day life of Rishikesh. These two bridges (jhulas) are know as Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula(Named after lord Ram and his brother Lakshman, the heroes of the Ramayana, who supposedly crossed the river Ganges at Rishikesh on their way up to the hills.). Rishikesh is divided loosely in many parts such as Rishikesh, Ram Jhula (Shivanand Nagar), Muni Ki Reti, Lakshman Jhula or Tapovan and Swarg Ashram, Pashulok Barrage, Dhalwala, 14 Bigha and Shisham Jhari.
From Ram Jhula one can take a boat on sharing basis or walk on the bridge to cross the river. Both sides of the bridge is always crowded with shops of cloths, holy beads, shawls, precious and semi precious stones, replicas of deities, astrological gems, Ayurvedic medicines and Vedic treatises as well as signs of marketing yoga, meditation classes and Ayurvedic massage. Other side of the bridge is known as Swarg Ashram area. So many big ashrams are here such as Swarg Ashram, Gita bhawan and Parmarth Niketan. When you cross the river temples welcomes you with their engraved deities and music shops greets you divine sacred ragas.
In evening beautiful Ganges Ceremony(Ganga Aarti) is organized at Parmarth Niketan and Triveni Ghat. The Brahmin Pundits (priests) performs Ganges Puja (ritual worship) with Vedic hymns, sound of hands clapping and the drums (tabla). Hundreds of people come to witness this Pooja and offer leaf bowls which are filled with flowers and small oil lamps to the goddess. The small sparkling lights floating lamps, river Ganges and auspicious atmosphere creates such a magnificent view and feeling that can attract anyone to join the prayer even the visitors from outside India who can't understand the vedic songs.
The whole area (Garhwal) was famous as Kedarkhand in the past as mentioned in the Skanda Purana. As per the Skanda Purana the area is named as Kubjamrak because here lord Vishnu appeared to Raibhya Rishi under a mango tree. Raibhya Rishi selected the place for his long penance (Tapasya or austerity) Lord Vishnu was pleased by his act and appeared to the sage as a "Hrishikesh." The word is combination of two word Hrishik and esh. Hrishik means senses and esh means god or master. It means god of senses. The Sthala Purana states as follows: "Raibhya Rishi preferred the sacredness and beauty of the place where Lord Vishnu appeared, so he remained there in the form of intense plants, which look like his matted locks. In consideration of this and the divine qualities of Raibhya Rishi, the area recognized as Rishi Kesha or Rishikesh, or the hair of the Rishi (Sage). Skanda Purana mention that the Lord Vishnu blessed Raibhya Rishi and gave him this divine message: "while you have performed supreme tapasya (austerities) by controlling your senses, let the place be recognized as Hrishikesha (Lord Hrishikesha, master of all senses).
The place is also mentioned as place where God Vishnu defeated the mighty demon Madhu. As per the Ramayana Lord Ram made hard penance for killing mighty demon Ravana. Lakshmana (Brother of Lord Rama) crossed the river by Jute Bridge which is known as Lakshman Jhula. The Jute Bridge was replaced by Iron suspension bridge in 1889. The bridge damaged in 1924 flood, than bridge was replaced by new bridge.
Legends also mention that the Lord Agni (God of fire) made penance for Lord Shiva. According to the legends Lord Shiva consumed poison (Halahal) which was obtained during sea churning (Samudra Manthan) along with the Nectar (Amrit). The place is now known as Nilkanth Mahadev Temple. Kunind was the first one to rule the area. Later Shak kings and Naga Kings ruled here. In 1398 Vatsraj was the king of the area. Ajaypal was the king during 1493 1500. During the 1804 to 1815 Gorkha Kings rule the whole area. After 1815 East India Company came here. After freedom the area is merged in Uttarpradesh. In November 2000 Uttaranchal became independent from Uttarpradesh. From January 2007 Uttranchal was named as a Uttarakhand.
In 1880 Swami Danaraj Giri established Kailash Ashram. Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) founder "The Devine Life Society" lived here in Muni Ki Reti for 03 decades. Parmarth Niketan is estab/>lished by Swami Shukdevanandji. The Beatles came to Rishikesh in the 1960s to study yoga, and since then the city has styled itself as the "yoga capital of the world.