Rishikesh in Brief
Rishikesh is the lap of Hinduism from thousands of years. Saints and Rishis came to this holy place and rested for a while before venturing into snow clad peaks for their spiritual practices. In a modern era, Rishikesh earned a meteoric name after famous British band Beatles joined the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 60s. Since then Rishikesh has had been witnessing a hordes of spiritual seekers from all over the world, and eventually the place is turned into a commercial hub with all kinds of yoga and meditation classes, shops, trekking club etc.
Unlike Haridwar, Rishikesh is quite lonely with exquisite setting on the olive fast flowing Ganges. The place is ideal for some inner contemplation because of its surroundings of forested hills, nearly deserted beach and lots of ashrams. The multitude of foreigners makes the place a bit eclectic and relatively clean. There are some good cafes where one can sit for hours overlooking Lakshman Jhula and pilgrims and tourists.
Rishikesh is not just a pilgrimage but more of a tourists’ delight because of adventure sports and trekking trails to the higher Himalayas. In the summer, white water rafting is a hot deal and thousands of enthusiasts throng the place in the season. There are numerous trekking agencies who conduct trekking to higher Himalayas, from moderate to tough.
Sights and Activities
Lakshman Jhula & Around – The capturing image of Rishikesh is a hanging bridge named Lakshman Jhula, which was built by the organisation of the guru Kailasanand. If one sits at the nearby ‘German Café’, the view across the Jhula and the huge 13 storey temples of Swarg Niwas and Shri Travanbakshwar is splendid. The café is the hangout place for foreigners, sitting there, reading, and looking at the crowds for hours. Watching sunset is brilliant while standing on the bridge overlooking the Ganges and temples.
Swarg Ashram - A pleasant 2 km walk south of Lakshman Jhula leads to a peaceful place called Swarg Ashram. It is not just a single ashram but number of ashrams, a crowded bazaar, a bathing ghat and a temple. A colourful Ganga aarti is specially “designed” for tourists performed in the evening.
Yoga and Meditation - With numerous ashrams and yoga centres, Rishikesh is self-styled yoga capital of the world. Almost every ashram teaches yoga, though teaching and yoga styles vary. It is not that the ashram or school where plenty of students is the best; there are a few ashrams who take resident student and teach original yoga lessons. Hotels offer a reasonable rate for one hour yoga lessons, but it’s better to be a resident of an ashram and experience the spiritual vibe.
Rafting, Kayaking and Trekking – Some travel Companies organize a full day or half day rafting trip, depending on the easy to moderate rafting. Some offer multiday rafting trips including stay in camps alongside the river bank. The rafting season starts from mid-September to end of June. Many trekking companies organize treks to far distance like Kuari Pass, har-ki-Dun, Gaumukh, Chandrishila and many other Garhwal Himalayan regions. Although the price is high but quite comfortable as they take care of everything including camping equipment.
Walking alongside the river bank is also fun. One can also walk 3 km north of Lakshman Jhula to reach two small waterfalls. For a longer hike, one can walk to Neelkanth Mahadev temple, another popular pilgrimage approximately 8 km from Rishikesh main market.