Rishikesh or Hṛṣīkeśa (Sanskrit for god / conqueror of the senses; with hṛṣīka: senses / sentiment and īśa: god) is one of India‘s most ancient, sacred, significant and iconic cities. It is here where since time immemorial yogis and rishis have been doing their tapasya (ascetic spiritual practice for purification and elevation). Tradition asserts that yoga practice as well as a bath in the holy Ganges here, leads closer to salvation (moksha). Hence Rishikesh attracts many pilgrims and visitors each year, from India and all over the world.
Behind its name stands Vishnu, the preserver and protector god, who appeared to the sage Raibhya – whose hermitage was on the banks of the river Ganges near Rishikesh – as the result of his austerities as the god named Hrishikesh. There exist many other legends about Rishikesh, also those linked to Shiva.
Rishikesh belongs to the state of Uttarakhand, known as ‚Dhev Bhoomi‘ (Land of the Gods), bordering Nepal and Tibet / China. The small town is located right on the banks of Ganga in the Himalayan foothills and is not only a popular destination but also starting point for pilgrimages to the spiritual powerspots higher up in the mountains. For example the famous ‚Char Dham Yatra‘ covering Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, Gangotri and Gaumukh (the source of Ganga).
Apart from the spiritual history and context, there are numerous temples, ashrams and meditation centres in Rishikesh. The city has therefore the reputation as yoga capital of the world.
Major attractions, apart from the fragrance of spirituality and the amazing vibrations that have lasted through the centuries: magnificient nature, clean air, clear waters, serene atmosphere, open air aartis (light ceremonies) with enchanting mantras and bell echoes on the banks of Ganga, and much more. Of course, you find also shops with religious paraphernalia (brass work and local craft), Indian clothing, instruments and spiritual books.
Note: Rishikesh is officially vegetarian and alcohol is prohibited.
The closest domestic airport from Rishikesh is Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport, just 15 km away.