On it's journey through the Himalayas, the Ganga rushes through the foothills in the gorges of Rishikesh. Surrounded by hills on three sides, Rishikesh is located on the right bank of the Ganga, 40 kms from Dehra Dun, at the confluence of the Ganga with the Chandrabhaga stream.
One of the many pilgrimage destinations in the Himalayas, Rishikesh is where Raibhya Rishi is believed to have done penance to please God who appeared as Hrishikesh, hence the name. Millions of Hindus come here every year hoping to absolve their sins by bathing in the holy Ganga.
Rishikesh can be defined by three areas: around the spot where the famous Laxman Jhoola bridge spans the river and lends its name to the locality; Muni-ki-Reti, literally Sands of the Sages, where yogis spent time in meditation; and the expanding township on the banks of the river. The whole complex is called Rishikesh.
Legends abound here of renunciation, meditation, penance and salvation. It has developed into one of the better known centres for schools of yoga and meditation. It is also well known for several Himalayan Ashrams or religious retreats and for the availability of treatment for a variety of stress-induced ailments using meditation practices and ancient herbal techniques.
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It has recently developed into a base for adventure sports enthusiasts. The exhilarating Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, near Rishikesh have become a popular stretch for white water rafting. Rishikesh is also the gateway and the starting point for journeys to the four dhams - Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri.
What to see:
Neel Kanth Mahadev
The temple situated at a height of 5,500 ft. above sea level is about 2 kms from Laxman Jhoola. The trek up to the temple gives a wide-angle view of the Himalayan peaks, Babhar forests and the plain below. This is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva drank the poison churned out of the cosmic ocean. lt turned his throat blue which is why he is also called Nilakanth. The temple is located atop a hill accessed by a 10 km walk or a 32 km drive.
This is the oldest temple in Rishikesh. The black statue of Vishnu here is supposed to have been consecrated by Sri Sankaracharya in the 9th century. This event is commemorated every year during Vasant Panchami to mark the onset of spring. Though the temple is dedicated to Lord Maha Vishnu, it holds a number of images normally associated with the worship of Lord Shiva.
Raghunath Mandir & Triveni Ghat
When to Visit
Road: Rishikesh is 238 km from Delhi by road and 23 kms from Haridwar.
Rail: Haridwar is well connected by rail to Howrah (1438 kms), Bombay (1574 kms), Delhi (199 kms), Lucknow (475 kms), Agra (365 kms).
Air: Jolly Grant airfield, 35 km from Haridwar, is the nearest Airport.
UP Tourist Office, Nehru Park, Railway Road (Tel: 30209)
Information compiled by Romola Butalia
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.