Rishikesh in India, a paradise for yoga lovers

Rishikesh, also known as Hrishikesh is a city, municipal corporation and a tehsil in Dehradun district of the Indian stateUttarakhand. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, it is known as the ¨Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas¨ and ‘Yoga Capital of the World’. It lies approximately 25 km (16 mi) north of the city Haridwar and 43 km (27 mi) southeast of the state capital Dehradun. According to Census of India, 2011 Rishikesh had a population of 102,138 making it the seventh most populated city in the state of Uttarakhand. It is known as the pilgrimage town and regarded as one of the holiest places to Hindus. Hindu sages and saints have visited Rishikesh since ancient times to meditate in search of higher knowledge.

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In September 2015, the Union tourism minister Mahesh Sharma announced that Rishikesh and Haridwar will be the first in India to be given the title of “twin national heritage cities”. Due to the religious significance of the place, non-vegetarian food and alcohol are strictly prohibited in Rishikesh. The city hosts the annual International Yoga Festival.

History

Rishikesh has been a part of the legendary ‘Kedarkhand’ Legends state that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the asura king of Lanka; and Lakshmana, his younger brother, crossed the river Ganges, at a point, where the present ‘Lakshman Jhula‘ (लक्ष्मण झूला) bridge stands today, using a jute rope bridge. The ‘Kedarkhand’ 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. 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 Sivananda Nagar.

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The sacred river Ganges flows through Rishikesh. Here the river leaves the Shivalik Hills in the Himalayas and flows into the plains of northern India. Several temples, ancient and new, are 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 near Ram Jhula and Lakshman Mandir is near Lakshman Jhula.

Yoga center

Rishikesh, sometimes nicknamed “Yoga Capital of the World”, has numerous yoga centres that attract tourists. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it.

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The name Rishikesh is loosely applied to an association of five distinct sections encompassing the town and 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 Ashram and 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 Swargashramon the eastern bank. The Ganga Arti performed at dusk at the Triveni Ghat is popular with visitors. Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, amidst forest 28 km (17 mi) from Rishikesh, is a popular local pilgrimage, along with Vashishtha Guha (Cave of Sage Vashishtha), 21 km (13 mi) 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.

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Rishikesh is home to the 133-year-old Kailash Ashram Brahmavidyapitham, an institution dedicated to preserve and promote traditional Vedantic studies. Prominent personalities such as Swami VivekanandaSwami Rama Tirtha and Swami Sivananda have studied in this institution.

In February 1968, the Beatles visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi‘s ashram in Rishikesh. John Lennon recorded “The Happy Rishikesh Song” one of the songs composed by The Beatles but was never officially released. The Beatles composed numerous songs during their time at the ashram, many of which appear on the band’s self-titled double album, also known as the “White Album”.[24] Several other artists, including Mike Love of the Beach BoysPaul HornDonovan and Gyp Mills, visited the site to contemplate and meditate.  Former royal palace of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal at near by Narendranagar, now houses the Ananda–In the Himalayas destination spa and yoga retreat, established 2000.

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The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Rishikesh in 2013 and participated in the Ganga arti.They also conducted a special havan for world peace at the Parmarth Niketan. Charles said: “I am amazed by the experience of sitting on the bank of one of the ancients rivers of the world. It is the right time for us to rediscover our connection with nature.

Although Rishikesh is famous for yoga schools, the scope of yoga education in Rishikesh has now been expanded to Ayurveda too. There are many schools in Rishikesh which provide Ayurveda and Yoga teacher training programs. Thousands of students come to Rishikesh to learn and experience Ayurveda, Yoga and Panchkarma in Rishikesh.

 

Rafting camps

According to environmental activists, “These camps are not only in violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 but also the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 as well as the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as it is leading to pollution of Ganga by discharging effluent, throwing of solid waste directly and adversely affecting the ecological integrity of the river system.”

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Environmental activists alleged that these camps, which are established as temporary sites, do not have adequate sewage and sanitation facilities, disturb the habitat of wild animals and “affect the peace, tranquility and serenity of the forest area.”

“At the camp sites, the camp owners permit employees and the visitors to have food and alcohol. They leave empty bottles, cans, unconsumed food and waste including bones and filth in and around the camp site.”

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In a 2008 study on the beach camps between Kaudiyala and Rishikesh, experts from the Govind Ballabh Pant Himalayan Environment and Development Institute — R. K. Maikhuri, Nihal Farukhi and Tarun Budhal — found that wildlife conservation standards and norms, particularly for waste management, were routinely disregarded.

Transport

Rishikesh railway station is the major railway station in the city. The railway station was created in 1939, during the British era. A new railway line, connecting Rishikesh with Karnaprayag is under construction.  Rishikesh is also well connected with all major north Indian cities like Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida via bus. The condition of roads is very good.

Rishikesh also has air connectivity with Dehradun Airport at just 15 km from the city center.