Named after the God Hrishikesh whose appearance is an answer to the lord penances by Rabhiya Rishi. The place also stands as a synonym to Haridwar, the Place of Sages. Located in the laps 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 center closely associated with the Ramayana, but also as home for many important centers of Hindu religious thought and spirituality
Ever since the Beatles rocked up at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late ’60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. Today it styles itself as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’ – with some justification – as there are masses of ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes. Most of this action is north of the main town, where the exquisite setting on the fast-flowing Ganges, surrounded by forested hills, is conducive to meditation and mind expansion. In the evening, the breeze blows down the valley, setting temple bells ringing as sadhus (spiritual men), pilgrims and tourists prepare for the nightly ganga aarti ceremony.
Rishikesh is very New Age: you can learn to play the sitar or tabla on your hotel roof; try laughing yoga; practice humming or gong meditation; experience crystal healing and all styles of massage; have a go at chanting mantras; and listen to spiritually uplifting CDs as you sip Ayurvedic tea with your meal.
But it’s not all spiritual. Rishikesh is now a popular white-water rafting centre, backpacker hang-out, and gateway to treks in the Himalaya.