Rishikesh, Uttarakhand: Renowned as the Yoga Capital of the World, Rishikesh is a holy place situated in the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand state, India. It is located in the foothills of the Himalayas hence also known as ‘The Gateway to the Himalayas’. Geographically Rishikesh lies between latitudes 30°06'12'' N and 30°1033' N and longitudes 78°17'41'' E and 78°2947'. Perched at an average elevation of 372 meters (1,745 feet) above sea level, the city of Rishikesh is surrounded by Tehri Garhwal (76 Km), Pauri Garhwal (114 Km) and Haridwar (25 Km).
Rishikesh, located on the banks of river Ganga is a famous religious place. It acts as the starting point for salvation trip to the “Char Dham” namely, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. It is also well known for Yoga, Spa Meditation and adventure activities such as rafting, trekking, rock climbing, Kayaking, mountaineering and many more.
Rishikesh is made up of two words Hrishik and Ish. Hrishik means Senses and Ish means master or Lord. Hence the word Rishikesh signifies to Lord of Senses or Lord Vishnu.
In Skanda Purana this region is mentioned as ‘Kubjamrak’ as Lord Vishnu appeared before sage Raibhya in penance under a mango tree and told him to ask a boon. Then the great sage prayed Lord Vishnu to dwell in this place for ever. Listening this Lord Vishnu got impressed and said that he will be pleased to be present here forever as Hrishikesh. Further Lord Vishnu said to sage that Lord Bharat will reinstall me here in Treta Yuga and in Kalyug I shall be known as Bharat. He further added that Adi Guru Shankaracharya will install him here in due course of time.
Another legend mentions that fierce fire broke out here. Seeing this Lord Shiva got angry with Lord Agni and cursed him. Then Lord Agni prayed here for the expiration of his sins. Hence this holy place is also known as Agni Tirth.
Rishikesh is a holy place from where the sacred river Ganga leaves the Shivalik Mountains and flows out into the plains of north India. There are several temples both old and new situated along the banks of this holy river. In Rishikesh the Ganga Aarti is performed daily during dusk at the Triveni Ghat. Huge crowd of devotees throng this place to attend this religious activity. The region of Rishikesh is an association of five distinct sections which consists of towns, villages and settlements on both sides of the river Ganga. These sections include Rishikesh, extended region of town Muni-ki-Reti or the “sands of the sages”, Shivananda Nagar founded by Swami Sivananada, north of Rishikesh, the temple section of Lakshman Jhula and the assorted Ashrams around Swarg Ashram on the east of the bank of river Ganga.
Rishikesh besides being a religious place is also famous for its Yoga centres. It is also nicknamed as "the world capital of Yoga". People from all over the world congregate in Rishikesh to learn the lessons of Yoga and meditation in this sacred place. The city has numerous Yoga centres. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha. Every year Yoga festival is celebrated in this city of Rishikesh. It is one of the most popular festivals of India. Experts of this field give lectures and yoga lessons during this festival. Yoga teachers from different parts of the country participate and people from all around the country and abroad come here to attend this. Satsangs and meditation sessions are the prime attractions of this yoga festival in the city of Rishikesh.
Rishikesh also houses a 120 year old Kailas Ashram Bramavidyapeetham. It is an institute which believes in preserving and promoting the traditional Vedantic Studies. Well known personalities such as Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirths and Swami Shivanana have taken education from this institute.
Rishikesh is also becoming popular for Rafting and Adventure. Rafting enthusiasts both from India and abroad come to Rishikesh during the months of September to March to enjoy rafting as this place offers medium to rough rapids in the course of river Ganges. Rishikesh is also a centre for hiking and backpacking. In recent times, bungee jumping has also been introduced in the city of Rishikesh. It is the first and only bungee camp in India which has been introduced in this city.
The nearest big town to Rishikesh is Haridwar, at a distance of about 25 Km.