Rishikesh The Land of Peace & Thrill
Say Rishikesh and it instantly brings to mind images of the Ganges, temples and ashrams along its sacred ghats and wandering ascetics who have renounced the world. However, the town in the foothills of the Garhwal Himalaya has in recent times emerged as a destination that packs in a lot more than the spiritual experiences it offers.
Of course, the river, flowing in a majestic sweep here, is what brings most people to Rishikesh. Revered in myth and legend, the Ganges at Rishikesh has called out to rishis, sadhus and sanyasis through the ages, and there’s a definite spiritual vibe to the place that’s considered the abode of sages. It is here, according to the Puranas, that Raibhya Rishi did long penance and Lord Vishnu appeared before him in the form of Hrishikesh, ‘Hrishik’ meaning the senses and ‘esh’ denoting God or Master.
Two massive and much- photographed suspension bridges spanning the river mark the landscape of Rishikesh. The jhulas are named after Ram and Lakshman who, as legend has it, crossed the Ganges at Rishikesh on their way up to the mountains. Today, you can get to the other side of the river by walking across the jhulas or taking a boat. The Swarg Ashram area is where you’ll find the long-established ashrams of Rishikesh, such as Swarg Ashram, Gita Bhawan and Parmarth Niketan. The ashrams attract yoga practitioners by the score. Rishikesh is, in fact, considered the world’s yoga capital and hosts an International Yoga Festival every year in March.
Rishikesh also serves as the gateway to the Char Dham — four revered temples in the mountains, comprising Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Thousands halt here on their pilgrimage to the Char Dham. They seek salvation here, for it is believed that meditating in Rishikesh paves the way for moksha, liberating souls from the endless cycle of birth and death.
If seekers on a spiritual quest find they soar to another plane here, adventure seekers can find a different sort of high altogether. Rishikesh is now one of the country’s hottest destinations for activities providing and an adrenaline rush, such as whitewater rafting, kayaking and bungee jumping. You can test your cliff-jumping skills or skim the clouds in a hot-air balloon. There are also opportunities for mountain biking and rappelling. Later, you can soothe your tired muscles with an Ayurvedic massage by the river.