Rishikesh in India, detailed description and photos

Rishikesh

Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world and is also the starting point of the Himalayas and the long journeys along the mountain ranges to the four holy places.

It gets its name from the word “rishi”, meaning hermit, ascetic. The city gained its fame after the Beatles came to the ashram of Maharishi. Rishikesh is an Indian city, the birthplace of yoga. That is why there are a huge number of centers for the study of this spiritual practice (see Ashrams in India). This focus is not surprising, since the city is located at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, on the banks of the Ganges.

The air here is always fresh and the waters of the river are clean and clear. It is an ideal place for meditation.

That’s probably why the famous Beatles came here many years ago. The purpose of the visit, as you have already realized, were yoga classes and self-improvement. Initially

Rishikesh will be of interest to lovers of spiritual practices and meditation. Only here you can see people who have reached the highest levels of knowledge of yoga and themselves. And some tourists come to the city, in order to adopt the knowledge of local guards.

Most people who come here start their journey in yoga from the Himalayas, namely from visiting numerous Buddhist temples, situated directly on the mountain peaks. To learn the secrets of yoga, it is not enough just to admire nature, you need to live for a while in one of the settlements at the temples, soaking up like a sponge, all the knowledge from the teachers.

The name Rishikesh is one of the names of the god Shiva. The city even has his house, where, according to numerous legends, he attained nirvana. Therefore, the entire area of the house and the surrounding garden is now considered a sacred place.

Any tourist in this place can reach nirvana, and it can be even an inexperienced person. Perhaps because of such legends here come in droves wanderers from other places to know themselves.

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On the eastern side of the city is the ashram of Rishikesh called Parmat Niketan. It is world famous for its amazing gardens. It has its own ghat which opens up to the Ganges. There are daily sacred ceremonies – artis here.

Every year at the beginning of spring, Parmat Niketan hosts a worldwide yoga festival.

Near Parmat Niketan is another famous ashram – Ved Niketan. It is known not only for yogis, but tourists love to come here. This is due to the fact that within its walls for a nominal fee can always stay overnight. However, there is a nuance: it is forbidden for unmarried couples to stay in the same room. This is the end of all bans. By the way, after six months of training at this ashram, you can get a state diploma of a yoga teacher.

The Indian authorities are eventually going to open a yoga university based on Ved Niketan.

Living conditions here are fairly ordinary, however, in the kitchens, located directly in the rooms, you can cook only vegetarian food. But the eastern part of the city is touristy, so there are a lot of stores and entertainment venues, so there will be no problems with accommodation.

The west bank of Rishikesh is the exact opposite of the east bank. This is where the real Indian city is concentrated, with its bustle and constant noise. In this area there are two large ashrams, hidden from the surrounding area in a dense forest.

Yoga Niketan is allowed to stay if you sign up for at least a 15-day yoga class. There is an age restriction on the territory of the ashram: persons under 18 are strictly forbidden to enter. You can come to Yoga Niketan at any time of the day or night, you will always be welcomed and accommodated. Accommodation, including meals and tuition, will cost about $10 per day.

The second ashram is the world famous Sivananda Ashram. It was built by one of the saints of Rishikesh. This is where the order of visiting and settling in changes. To come to the ashram, you have to write a letter to the management explaining why you want to come here and what your goals are. The main condition will be knowledge of Swami Sivananda’s teachings. If they approve you, they will send you an invitation right away. And the amazing thing is that accommodation, food and training will not cost you anything. All expenses are taken care of by the ashram. However, to get such an invitation is very difficult, but for everyone who wants a free hatha-yoga classes in the morning and evening.

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Finally we got to the so-called “Beatles ashram”, aka Maharshi Mahesh Yogi ashram. Unfortunately, it suffered an unenviable fate. Situated at some distance, at the very edge of the city, the ashram has become a small abandoned town, completely empty and almost forgotten by everyone. It could be compared to a town from Kipling’s fairy tale. Very strange, because the architecture of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi is unique and very unusual. But despite the desolation, there are still tourists who consider this place the main attraction of Rishikesh and visiting the ashram for meditation.

Most likely, when you come to Rishikesh, you will decide to stay with your preceptor one-on-one. There is such a possibility, and for advice it is best to ask the local old-timers, who will either help you find a good teacher or give lessons themselves.

For a change, not to get bored, you can start dancing and learn to play the national musical instruments. In the evenings it is worth coming to the promenade, where incense is lit in honor of the Ganges. There is no point in telling about this mystery, you should just come once and see everything with your own eyes.

Every day in the holy city prayers to all 33 Indian deities, but not all of them have their shrines here.

Basically all the holy places are built in honor of Shiva and Vishnu. Here, for example, the oldest temple Bharat Mandir is dedicated to Shiva, and the Nilkant Mahadaev was built on the spot where Shiva took the poison that threatened to poison all living beings around.

The cuisine and restaurants of Rishikesh

For those wishing to improve their health or do yoga, the local cuisine will be the best option. Firstly, on the street you will find numerous stalls with fresh fruits, among which there are many exotics. Secondly, there are a lot of cafes with delicious inexpensive food.

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It is worth remembering that Rishikesh – a completely vegetarian city. However, the tourists went to meet, and in some restaurants also serve European cuisine. The local tradition is considered a gathering with friends in a cafe. Everyone drinks only medicinal teas, as alcohol is prohibited in the city.

There is one restaurant in town where you will be treated to delicious green macaroons, baked desserts, yogurts, and cakes in different flavors. If you want to taste authentic Indian cuisine, then feel free to go to one of the ashrams where the food is cooked according to the old national traditions.

Rishikesh

Rishikesh

Ever since The Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in the late 60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. Today it calls itself the “yoga capital of the world,” with a mass of ashrams and yoga and meditation classes of all kinds. The action takes place mostly north of the city center, where the exquisite setting on the swift Ganges River, surrounded by wooded hills, encourages meditation and expansion of consciousness.

Pilgrim City

The city of Rishikesh in India was part of the legendary region of Kedarkhand. Legends claim that the god Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, king of Asura Lanka. And Lakshmana, his younger brother, crossed the Ganges River at the place where Lakshman Jhula Bridge stands today, over an old jute rope bridge. Over the years, temples and ashrams were built here, and Rishikesh soon became a pilgrimage city and was considered one of the holiest places for Hindus. Hindu sages and saints have been visiting Rishikesh since ancient times to meditate in search of higher knowledge. Today it is a small town of 102,000 people. Its center, where the bus and train stations are located, is of little interest to most travelers. Further northeast are the two bridges over the Ganges River: Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula. The main centers of activity and interest are at the ends of these bridges.

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Pilgrim city

Rishikesh on a map of India

The city is located 200 km northeast of Delhi, in the state of Uttarakhand. The sacred Ganges River flows through it, leaving here the Shivalik Hills in the Himalayas and flowing into the plains of northern India. Along its banks within Rishikesh are several temples, ancient and new. Despite the overall pollution of the Ganges, the water in Rishikesh is relatively unaffected, as the main polluters are located downriver in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh.

Rishikesh on the map of India

When to go to Rishikesh?

The climate in the city is humid subtropical. In spring it is warm, about +25 ° C, but frequent showers. This time is suitable for hiking in the Himalayas. In summer it is hot, up to +40 ° C, but climbers are not afraid of it. In addition, this period begins the monsoon season, the Ganges gurgles and overflows, creating excellent conditions for rafting. Autumn – the perfect time for travelers: the heat dies down, the rains stop, but by winter the routes in the mountains are closed for the safety of hiking. In the evenings, a gentle breeze blows across the valley, causing the temple bells to ring, summoning pilgrims to prepare for a nighttime ceremony of worship of the river. In winter the temperature is around +20°C, and usually from August to May yoga lovers gather at the local ashrams.

When to go to Rishikesh

What to see in Rishikesh?

The main treasure of the city – the temples and ashrams, from the most ancient to the newest, but no less beautiful. Few people come to Rishikesh to see the sights, there are many in other parts of India. They come here for the yogic teachings, ayurveda, soothing meditation and comprehending the notorious Zen. Which place to choose is up to everyone, but definitely not to be missed:

What to do in Rishikesh?

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Many tourists want to be more active, and there is plenty of that here:

That’s what everyone comes here for. Many photos with the hashtag Rishikesh show visitors in bizarre yogic poses. Local yoga schools teach from scratch or give new practices to experienced instructors. Ashtanga Vinyasa, hatha yoga, yoga nidra, meditation and pranayama – instruction and experience for every taste. There are separate centers for children and people with disabilities, over 40 schools in all in such a relatively small space. The most popular are:

Rishikesh Hotels.

Visitors to the city prefer to live in ashrams, but if the purpose of the trip is not a pilgrimage or yoga practice, but specifically to get acquainted with the city, it is better to choose one of the hotels. Most of them are quite modest, but all are clean, comfortable and good food. There are meditation and yoga rooms almost everywhere, and some offer spa treatments and Ayurveda:

Rishikesh Restaurants.

Non-vegetarian food was banned in the city for years. Now the rules have been relaxed, but it is still the plant foods that predominate in local establishments. What worries many foreigners is the delicious ayurvedic and wellness restaurants, perfect for eating after yoga – there is no shortage of them:

What to bring back from Rishikesh?

As in most holy cities, rarified tourist destinations, there are plenty of religious paraphernalia, cheap clothing intended for foreigners, incense, bronze statues of Shiva, etc. The prices are generally reasonable. Tourists speak well of the Maayaa Eco Friendly Store, not far from the Dharam Raj Temple. Here you can buy organic clothing, essential oils for aromatherapy, Himalayan rock salt lamps, books and CDs about yoga and sadhna.

What to bring from Rishikesh

You can get to Rishikesh from Delhi by plane or by train. The first option is preferable – more convenient and faster. At 15 km from Rishikesh, in Dehradun, there’s an airport that takes flights from the capital four times a day. The railroad connects Delhi and Haridwar, a town 20 km from Rishikesh.

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