There are lot of sacred temples in Rishikesh – you must visit each one of them.
Rishikesh is tapobhoomi and its original name is “Hrishikesh”. It is one of the name of Shri Hari as per Vishnu sahasranama. Also one among the Dwadasa nama (Twelve names) of Shri Hari (Twelve names are, Kesava, Madhava, Narayana, Shri Vishnu, Govinda, Madhusoodhana trivikrama, vamana, sridhara, HRISHIKESHA, Padmanabha, Damodhara).
Hrishikesha means, lord of senses. It implies that whoever worships him with utmost devotion, they will be able to control their senses. This may be the reason that most of our Rishis chose “Hrishikesh” to do their tapasya to win over their senses.
Currently, Rishikesh is being touted as a “Yoga capital of the world” owing to multiple yoga centres and Ashrams. Many foreigners are flooding Rishikesh nowadays. Currently, there is general feeling among pilgrims that usual peace is started disappearing from this tapobhoomi. But still the Ganga mata is equalising everything and spreading her divinity constantly. Ganga mata is submerging everybody into divinity whoever is getting near to her vicinity.
For Ganga, Rishikesh is the last point in Himalayas. Since Rishikesh is somehow at the foot of the Himalayas, Ganga is flowing here with unimaginable speed. After Rishikesh, it enters the plain area and reaches Haridwar.
Despite, entire city is being Tapobhoomi (Land for penance), presence of many temple enhances the prevailing divinity of Rishikesh. Despite many many temples are there, you must visit following temples in Rishikesh.
Temples in Rishikesh:
DesBharat mandir is approximately 1 KM from Railway station. The deity is considered as Kshetra Bhagwan. Devotees may initially think that this is the temple dedicated to Bharata younger brother of Prabhu Ram. But this temple is purely dedicated to Bhagwan Shri Hari. He is being worshipped here as a “Hrishikesh Narayan”. We can easily conclude the significance of this deity from the name itself.
According to the legends, Bhagwan Shri hari had appeared before Raibhya rishi. As per rishi’s wish, Shri hari said “I will stay in this place with the name of Hrishikesh Narayan. This place will be called Hrishikesh. Whoever worships me here, they will be entitled for mukthi”. This legend further denotes that Rishi Raibhya won the senses due to his devout penance. Hence, Shri Hari had given the boon to stay forever in this place to provide boon to devotees to win over their senses.
Pandavas along with Draupadi, Shri Prahlad swamy, Rishi Romasa were few of them who had dharshan of Hrishikesh Narayan.
“Hrishikesh Narayan” murthi is Saligrama shila with four hands and having Sudharshan chakra, panjachanya, Gathai and Padmam. It is really a bliss to worship in this temple atleast to get the thought process about winning over our senses. How difficult it is and our rishis are true legends. Currently, it is not even possible to think about it. Hence, we first pray to Hrishikesh Narayan to give us the wisdom to just think about controlling senses and then later, let us practice to control it.
It is around 2KM from Railway station. It is there on the banks of Ganga and very near to Ram jhula bridge. Swami Sivananda was born in “Pattamadai” village in Tamilnadu on the banks of Tamraparni river with original name of “Kuppuswamy”. He was doctor before becoming sanyasi. He later started “Divine life society” in Rishikesh and extensively propagated about Yoga and attained siddhi in 1963.
This Ashram is very ambient place and peace is filled everywhere here. When I reached there, morning Aarati just began and had dharshan of Aarati to Swamiji’s samadhi. For South Indian like me, we are used to worship Shiva mostly in linga form. However, in north, many places have Shiva’s murthi in marble and it was mesmerizing. I amazed about the murthi of Aadhi Sankaracharya’s in Sivananda Ashram.
I have then moved from Sivananda Ashram to Lakshman Mandir which is near to Lakshman jhula. It is around 4 KM from Sivananda Ashram and around 6 KM from Rishikesh railway station. I traveled through Auto rickshaw and witnessed huge crowd and traffic jam since it was “Shravan month”. During this period, people come to Ganga and take Ganga jal and return back to their native village Shiva temple and will do the Abhisheka. This Kanwariyas yatra is very famous in Northern India especially “Vaidhyanath Jyothirlinga” kshetra in Jharkhand.
After 10 mins travel, I reached Lakshman mandir and it is widely believed that Lakshmana did his penance here towards enlightenment. Earlier he constructed a bridge through jute ropes and currently, the present suspension bridge is there in same point and the same is called Lakshman jhula.
In Rishikesh, temples are there for all 4 Prabhu Shri Ram, Lakshman and Sathrugna. This temple is solely dedicated to Lakshman and few meters away from iconic Lakshman Jhula
This is the famous locality in Rishikesh and always spreading the divinity. Here, there is “Aidheegam (belief)” that River Yamuna and Saraswathi both are merging with Ganga as a antharvahini (merging under the earth) despite these both rivers are geographically merging with Ganga in Prayagraj city. Triveni ghat is the main place to bath in Rishikesh and we will be relieved off from all our sins. For Shrarddha rituals also, It is the main place in Rishikesh.
Here, evening Ganga Aarti is a treat for eyes and this is true, we can just do the Aarti directly to living legend Ganga mata, the one who is enriching our ancient civilization, the living civilization & the thriving civilization for lakhs and crores of years, the one who has witnessed the severe barbarian attack on our dharma, the one who also witnessed the resurgence of our ancient dharma, the one who is being a lifeline for half of the nation, the one who washes away all our sins on the moment of just thinking about her, the one who has an association with all of trimurthis Brahma, Vishnu and Shri Parameshwara, the one who is the holiest in the world, the one on whose lap the most sacred places are thriving,
Ganga Aarti is being performed in Rishikesh especially in Triveni ghat, Paramartha niketan and various other places. Every Bharathiya should come once in their lifetime to witness this.
.For me, the main attraction in Triveni Ghat apart from Maa Ganga is, “Arjuna chariot & Geetopadesham, Ganga Mata image and mainly the sculpture of the descendance of Ganga on Shiva’s head” what a Ghambiryam in Shiva’s face unforgettable.
This temple is there at heart of Rishikesh and near Ram jhula as well as Swarg Ashram. Usually local people throng by large numbers in this temple. The Rameshwar shiva ling is much wider linga and there is “Dhara patra” hanging over the Shiva linga and Ganga jal is continuously drizzling over the mahadev and unlike south indian temple, here we have the full freedom to do the pooja.
I have found one interesting analogy here, there are many temples in south India especially in Tamilnadu where the temple & name is “Kashi viswanath” and similarly in north India, there are many Shiva temples with the name of “Rameshwar mandir” and I myself have seen such temples in Kashi, Omkareshwar and now Rishikesh etc.
Yes, this unshakeable devotion only unites this great nation Bharata despite there are multiple culture, languages, food habits, Bharat is united by Sanatana dharma. North Indians are always intend to come to Rameshwaram and similarly South Indians are intend to go to Kashi even once in a life time which Is considered as a their life time achievement.
Lakshman Jhula & Ram Jhula:
These both bridges are being used now to move between western as well as eastern sides of Ganga. Both are hanging bridges over the Ganga and it is awesome experience to just walk over these bridges. We can understand the glory of Ganga if we stand just few minutes over this bridge, Lakshman Jhula bridge is earlier believed to be built by Lakshmana himself through jhute and current form of the bridge is built on 1929. Even, motorbikes are using this bridge to cross the river.
Meditation on the banks of Ganga:
Doing meditation / tapsya / nama japa in Rishikesh on the banks of Ganga are considered most sacred since many rishis have chosen Rishikesh for this purpose. Even we can understand this significance through the legends of “Hrishikesh Narayan” mandir.
Along with Ganga Snanam in Rishikesh, few minutes of doing nama japa or meditation is an amazing experience. Hearing Ganga mahatmiyam is the most pious activity on the banks of Ganga. If you all chose to go to Ganga (anywhere on the banks of Ganga, Rishikesh, Prayagraj or Kashi, Haridhwar etc) as a group, it is highly advisable to ask some known person in your group to do discourse on Ganga mahatmiyam. There is no need of separate knowledge, everybody in this country knows about the Ganga and her discendence to earth. The same story have to be told and to be heard with devotion. If people like me opt to go alone, it is better to do parayan (read) of particular chapters of Ganga descendence from Srimadh Valmiki Ramayan (42nd & 43rd chapter – Balakanda).
Discourse as well as hearing of Ganga mahatmiyam on the banks of Ganga is the most auspicious activity in the pilgrimage.
Neelakanth Mahadev Mandir:
This temple is around 25 KM from Rishikesh city and it will take around 40mins to 1 hour to reach. The temple is situated within the amazing Himalayan range. The serene beauty of this place is unexplainable. We will easily forget ourselves when experience the prevailing divinity in surroundings.
As per the legends of this place, Shri Parameshwara consumed the poison which emerged during samundhramandan and become Neelkanth.
Other Important Temples in Rishikesh:
Raghunath Mandir: This is one of the top temples dedicated to Prabhu Ram. This temple is in Triveni ghat.
Shatrugna Mandir: This temple is being near to Ram Jhula bridge. It is dedicated to Shatrugna the younger brother of Lakshman. There seems to be only two individual temples for Shatrugna in India. One is this in Rishikesh and another one is in Thrissur, Kerala.
Kunjapuri Devi Temple – This is one of the revered devi temple in Rishikesh. It is around 25KM from Rishikesh on western side. The sunrise view from here will be mesmerizing experience.
How To Reach Rishikesh:
Rishikesh is in Uttarakhand. Nearest airport is Jolly grant airport, Dehradun around 35 KM from Rishikesh. Dehradum airport is well connected with rest of India. Haridwar is 21 KM from Rishikesh. Haridwar railway station is well connected with rest of India.
There are lot of options to stay in Rishikesh across all budgets. Apart from pilgrimage, Rishikesh is now becoming famous for water sports, River rafting etc.
Photo source: Thanks much to @RishikeshTour @Uttarakhand_Tou and Mr. Karthik Venkat for pictures.