Rishikesh is in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, it is known as The Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas. and yoga capital. Rishikesh is surrounded by three other districts namely Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal and Haridwar. It is located approximately 25 km north of the city Haridwar and 43 km south-east of the state capital Dehradun.
Rishikesh It is known as the holy town and regarded as one of the holiest places to Hindus. Sages and saints have visited Rishikesh since ancient times to meditate in search of higher knowledge.
“Hṛṣīkeśa” is a name of Vishnu that means ‘lord of the senses’. The root words Hrishika and Isha join together to make Hrishikesha. Hrishika means Senses and Isha means Master or Lord. Hence the word means Lord of Senses or Lord Vishnu. The place gets its name after Lord Vishnu who appeared to ‘Raibhya Rishi’, as a result of histapasya (austerities), as Lord Hrishikesha. In Skanda Purana, this area is known as ‘Kubjamraka’ as Lord Vishnu appeared, under a mango tree. Another legend says that fierce fire broke out here. Lord Shiva was angry with Lord Agni and cursed him. Then Lord Agni prayed here for the expiation of his sins. Hence it is also known as ‘Agni Tirtha’ – The holy place to penance of Lord Agni or Fire God.
The name Rishikesh is loosely applied to an association of five distinct sections encompassing not only the town but also hamlets and settlements on both sides of the river Ganges. These include Rishikesh itself, the commercial and communication hub; the sprawling suburb Muni Ki Reti or the “sands of the sages”; Sivananda Nagar the home of Sivananda Ashramand the Divine Life Society founded by Swami Sivananda, north of Rishikesh; the temple sections of Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula, a little further north; and the assorted Ashrams around Swargashram on the eastern bank. The Ganga Arti performed at dusk at the Triveni Ghat is popular with visitors. Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, situated 28 km from Rishikesh, amidst forest is also a popular local pilgrimage, along with ‘Vashishtha Guha’, (Cave of Sage Vashishtha), 21 km up from the town by the Ganges. Over the years, it has established itself as the yoga capital of the world. From the US, Europe and China and Australia, serious yoga students come to learn asanas and kriyas that will help them lead a healthy life.
Rishikesh has been a part of the legendary ‘Kedarkhand’ (the present day Garhwal). Legends state that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka; and Lakshmana, his younger brother, crossed the river Ganges, at a point, where the present ‘Lakshman Jhula’ bridge stands today, using a jute rope bridge. The ‘Kedar Khand’ of Skanda Purana, also mentions the existence of Indrakund at this very point. The jute-rope bridge was replaced by iron-rope suspension bridge in 1889, and after it was washed away in the 1924 floods, it was replaced by the present stronger bridge. Another similar suspension bridge Ram Jhula was built in 1986 at nearby Shivananda Nagar.
The sacred river Ganges flows through Rishikesh. It is here that the river leaves the Shivalik mountains in the Himalayas and flows out into the plains of northern India. Several temples, ancient as well as new, can be found along the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh. Shatrughna Mandir, Bharat Mandir, Lakshman Mandir are the ancient temples established by Adi Shankaracharya. Shatrughna Temple is located near Ram Jhula and Lakshman Mandir is near to Lakshman Jhula.
As with Haridwar about an hour south, Rishikesh is considered by Hindus to be a holy city and is vegetarian by law. Meat and alcohol are not served within the city. Cows roam freely in the streets and always have the right of way if they stop traffic.