Rishikesh, is a tranquil town in northern Uttarakhand, surrounded by hills and bisected by the wide and sluggish Ganges, is often claimed as the `Yoga Capital of the World’.
Back in the 1960s Rishikesh gained instant fame as the site where The Beatles came to stay with their guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is an excellent place to meditate and study yoga. Rishikesh is also the starting point of treks to Himalayan pilgrimage centres such as Badrinath, Kedarnath , Gangotri, Yamnotri and hence is also called the Gateway to the Himalayan Shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
Rishikesh has long been a spiritual centre. It is said that the sage Raibhya Rishi did severe penance here and as a reward, God appeared to him in the form of Hrishikesh, hence the name. Rishikesh has numerous ashrams, some of which are internationally recognized as centers of philosophical studies, yoga and meditation. With its location in the foothills it has pleasant weather throughout the year. One can visit Rishikesh any time of the year.
Here are the best places to visit in and around Rishikesh
To be found in the heart of town, is the most famous bathing ghat, where most pilgrims take a holy dip earlier than they visit the various temples. This is done generally in the early mornings, with the pilgrims offering prayers and milk at the Ghat and feeding the fish in the water. An amazing sight here is the evening arati, a ceremony accompanied by lights, drums and chanting, with the entire ghat lit with lamps glowing from a distance.
Near the Ghat, is the temple known as Bharat Mandir said to be the oldest temple here built by the Adi Shankaracharya. This 9th century temple has the deity of Lord Vishnu carved out of a single black stone popular as Saligram, and is placed in the inner chambers of the temple. The original temple was said to have been destroyed in 1398 AD. If you are lucky, catch the spring festival also called Basant Panchami
Close to the Triveni Ghat is the very old place of Rishikund where the Saint Kubz is said to have been blessed by the Goddess Yamuna, who filled the pond with her water. The temple of Raghunath dedicated to Lord Rama and his wife Sita is sited here.
Lakshman Jhula a suspension bridge 450 feet long and built in 1939. Named after Lord Ram’s younger brother Lakshman, it has temples dotting its either side, including the famed Lakshman Temple at Tapovan. One more noteworthy ashram is the 13 storeyed Kailashananda Ashram, with each storey being dedicated to a different deity.
Ramjhula is situated 3Km north of Rishikesh. It’s a very popular place amongst people coming for religious purposes because it has very known Ashrams. Most known is Geeta Bhavan & Swarg Ashram and these temples are very important in Hindu society and you will see much more commotion here than at Lakshmanjhula.
To be found at a distance of 12 km from Rishikesh, this temple stands at a height of 926m on top of a hill across the river Ganga. It derives its name from Lord Shiva. According to mythological belief; the cosmic churning of the oceans (Sagar Manthan) for the potion of immortality (amrit) by the Gods and the Demons; produced a venomous liquid, which was consumed by Lord Shiva at this place. As a result, his throat became blue in color, which in Hindi literally means ‘Neelkanth’ (blue throat). The place is a favorite among the religious tourists.
There is a cluster of ashrams on the eastern bank of the Ganges, and the place is popularly known as ‘Swarga Ashram’. Most of these ashrams provide courses on yoga and spiritual studies, and are well-known among the tourists. Some ancient temples with beautifully carved statues are also located in the place. There are a few vegetarian food joints that serve various Ayurvedic food and refreshments. A few shops are also found, that sell various trinkets and souvenirs in the form of religious tapes, books, beads, beaded garlands, shells and clothes
Near the Lakshaman Jhula, is the newly constructed building of Gita Bhavan. It runs a free Ayurvedic dispensary and also has a branch of the Gita Press, Gorakhpur. There are more than a hundred rooms for visitors and this edifice houses various striking paintings and statues of ancient mythological characters. The stories of the ancient epics- the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are beautifully illustrated on its walls. The place is also popular among the tourists.
Nestled in the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, Dehradun is one of the most beautiful cities in the sub mountain tracks of India, known for its scenic surroundings. The name Dehradun is a collection of two words “dera” meaning camp and “dun” meaning valley.
It is also known as one of the oldest cities in India, it is believed that Lord Rama and his brother did penance here for killing Ravana, the demon king.
Under the British, Dehradun became an elite town with many fine institutions like Forest Research Institute, Doon School and Welham Schools for girls and boys, many more, like the ONGC and Wadia Institute of Himalayan Studies, were during that time. Dehradun has now become an important tourist destination.
Kanatal is located in Uttarakhand, very scenic setting surrounding by mountains and rivers, with breathtaking views and scenery. This is mainly because the town of Kanatal lies near Mussoorie, which is a popular tourist hotspot. Tourists mainly flock to Mussoorie, and the town of Kanatal is mostly left untouched.
Kanatal serves mainly as a weekend getaway for the local populace. It is located at an altitude of 2600 kilometers from Mussoorie. There are many places that you can visit during your trip to Kanatal, and the Surkhanda temple is the most popular religious destination.
Mussoorie gained popularity as a hill station back in the colonial era and came to be known as Queen of The Hills. It stands at an altitude of 7000 feet above sea level and has a cool, pleasant climate throughout the year.
Mussoorie’s colonial roots are reflected in its Neo Gothic and Greco-Roman architecture style. These styles are followed in quaint cafes, alluring churches and other buildings.
The colonial-era beauty is on full display at Mall Road, Mussoorie. Mall Road is a boulevard with eateries and other shops lining its entire stretch. Everything down to its lamp posts, Mall Road is tinged in colonial flavour.
Ranichauri is an upcoming destination, Ranichauri is a small hamlet, village in Uttarakhand which offers sweeping views of the Himalayas. It is a steadily-getting-popular hub for adventure activities and sightseeing.