Rishikesh A Quick Guide

Rishikesh has been an abode of ascetics since time immemorial
Aerial view of Rishikesh, Photo Credit Shutterstock
Aerial view of Rishikesh, Photo Credit Shutterstock
Rishikesh is renowned worldwide for various reasons&mdashits status as a temple town, a haven for hippies, the place where the Beatles discovered spirituality under Mahesh Yogi, and its reputation as an international hub for Yoga. However, above all else, the Ganga River truly defines this town. The river, which carries a name that resonates as a prayer, bestows profound tranquillity upon Rishikesh, despite the clamour of loudspeakers, the bustling lanes, and the presence of ascetics, backpackers, and spiritual tourists. Rishikesh has long been a sanctuary for ascetics, and it serves as the gateway to the sacred Garhwal mountains, including notable destinations like the source of the Ganga, the shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath, and much more.

Places To Visit
Rishikesh lies on both banks of the Ganga. You can easily access the ghats, and the temperature of the water is perfect most of the year. Spirituality is as evident here as the flow of the mighty Ganga. The best way to go around is on foot as the town is hilly and is crisscrossed by narrow lanes. To cross the river, take a motor ferry from the narrow iron suspension bridge known as Ram Jhula, which is near the Swargashram area, or walk across either Ram Jhula or Lakshman Jhula, 2 km upstream from the former. Autos and noisy tempos are available on the main road and are the best modes of transport. Auto drivers will even take you sightseeing, covering all the major temples in three to four hours. Take a look at the top attractions to explore

The Jhulas
Lakshman Jhula, the famous 450-ft long suspension bridge, was built in 1939. It is said that Lord Rama&rsquos brother Lakshmana crossed the Ganga on a jute rope from here. The Lakshman and Raghunath temples are located here. This part of town is better known for its busy bazaars and cafes.

The 13-storey Trimbakeshwar Mandir near the Lakshman Jhula has many shrines, chambers that house religious and Vedic texts, plus jewellery and gem shops. Nearby is the Swarg Niwas Mandir, a 12-storey temple with various idols of Hindu gods and goddesses on all its floors.

Just 2 km downstream from Lakshman Jhula, at Muni-ki-Reti, is the other suspension bridge, built after Lakshman Jhula&rsquos construction. This is Ram Jhula (or Shivanand Jhula), surrounded by a cluster of ashrams on both sides. It connects Sivananda Ashram on the east bank to Swargashram on the west. The latter is a bustling spiritual hub with many ashrams, temples, bazaars and ghats.

Ganga Aarti
While it has been a centuries-old tradition to worship the river in the morning and evening in small private ceremonies, the Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh has converted the evening aarti ritual to a spectacular show. Although many consider it to be a touristy spectacle rather than a spiritual exercise, it would be a shame to miss it. The diyas floating on the Ganga in the dark are a sight to behold.

Triveni Ghat
It is believed that the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati took place here. This ghat is large and clean, and has separate changing rooms for women. Nearby is the Rishikund, or sages&rsquo pond.

Bharat Mandir
Situated in the heart of Rishikesh, this is the town&rsquos oldest temple. It is devoted not to Rama&rsquos youngest brother Bharat, but to Vishnu, who is referred to as Bharat in Kalyug. The temple also has a collection of excavated artefacts dating from the 2nd to 15th centuries CE.

Rafting Shivpuri and Kaudiyala
Many rafting operators have riverside camps between Rishikesh and Kaudiyala. All the necessary rafting equipment, meals, games like volleyball or water polo and bonfires are part of the package. The GMVNL Tourist and Rafters Camp offers courses in trekking, rafting and water-skiing. Aquaterra Adventures&rsquo Camp Silver Sands lies on a sandy river beach and a portion of riverside forest. Himalayan River Runners operates a riverside camp on a white beach surrounded by sal forests, 17 km north-east of Rishikesh.

Where To Stay
Rishikesh has a wide range of hotels, ashrams and dharamshalas.  A peaceful hotel with spacious rooms facing the river, Hotel Ganga Kinare is an upmarket establishment with a private ghat. Ganga Beach Resort, situated in Tapovan, 3 km from Rishikesh, is a luxury hotel on the riverbank. An excellent budget option is Green Hotel, famous for the delicious meals served at its Little Italy restaurant.

GMVNL has three guesthouses. Bharat Bhoomi Tourist Complex is close to the Bus at Muni-ki-Reti, across the road from the riverbank, has similar facilities. Ganga Resort Tourist Complex in Sheesham Jhadi, has the best location, on the banks of the Ganga.

Neemrana&rsquos The Glasshouse on the Ganges, in Gular Dogi village on the Rishikesh-Badrinath Road, is the most luxurious option here. Run by the Group, it has 16 tasteful rooms and a spa, all set in an orchard along the Ganga. 

Where To Eat
Almost all eateries and restaurants in Rishikesh serve vegetarian food, mostly without onion or garlic. It is against the law to carry nonvegetarian food or alcohol into Haridwar. The landmark, legendary Choti-wala Restaurant near Shivananda Jhula has great thalis. The Great Ganga&rsquos restaurant serves great baked beans with cheese. Madras Cafe opposite the Sivananda Ashram, has fairly decent South Indian staples and some Continental options. The food at Bharat Bhoomi ranges from Indian to Continental.

The German Bakery at Lakshman Jhula has interesting dishes, including yak cheese sandwiches and fruit pancake. It has a small open-air seating area overlooking the Lakshman Jhula. Green Hotel&rsquos Green Italian Restaurant is worth a visit.

How To Reach
Air Nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun (18 km/45 mins).

Rail Rishikesh station and Haridwar Junction

Road Rishikesh is connected to Delhi by NH58 via Modinagar, Meerut, Khatauli, Muzaffarnagar, Manglaur, Roorkee and Haridwar. NH58 continues to Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Badrinath

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