Rishikesh located in the Tehri-Garhwal region of Uttaranchal is a gateway to the Himalayas. The town is situated at an altitude of about 1360 feet above sea level, and is surrounded on its three sides by hills. In Skanda Purana the region has been mentioned as Kubjamrak. Sprawling on the right banks of the river Ganga, Rishikesh lies at the confluence of Ganga and Chandrabhaga stream. The banks of the Ganga are dotted with several temples. Rishikesh represents the place where Lord Vishnu, vanquished the demon Madhu. It is said that many yogis and sages lived and praticised penance at Rishikesh. Legend goes that the Lord appeared here to sage Raibhya Rishi, in the form of Hrishikesh, being pleased with his severe penance. The place is known as the Tapo Bhumi or the place for meditation. Tapovan located on the other bank of the Ganga, houses a temple of Lakshmana. It is believed that Lakshmana carried out penances here. Rishikesh is not a single town, but the name is applied to an association of five distinct sections, that includes hamlets and settlements on both sides of the rivers.
Kubjaamrak (Hrishikesh) Teertha
Describing how Kubjaamrak teerth derived its name, lord Varah told Prithvi-“In satyayuga, at the time when the earth was still submerged in water, I had killed two mighty demons named Madhu and Kaitabh. After killing both the demons I looked all around and found sage Raimya engrossed in his penance. Sage Raimya was a great devotee of mine. I was extremely impressed and watched him hiding myself behind a mango tree. The mango tree could not bear the weight of my hands and became curved. This is how Kubjaamrak teerth derived its name. Very soon, sage Raimya found out that I was hiding behind that mango tree. He eulogized me and requested me to grant a special status to Kubjaamrak teerth among all the holy places. I blessed him and thus Kubjaamrak teerth became one of the holiest places. There are several other holy places situated in the vicinity of Kubjaamrak teerth-Manas-teerth, Maya-teerth, Sarvakamik- teerth, Purnamukhteerth, Agni-teerth, Shukra-terth, Manasar teerth, Sapta samudrak-teerth,etc. All these holy places including Kubjaamrak teerth are capable of giving salvation to man.”
Triveni Ghat : This is the main ghat of Rishikesh, where most of the pilgrims take their holy dip. Every day in the evening a large number of pilgrims attend the Ganga Arti at the Ghat.
Lakshmana Jhula : The 450 feet long suspended bridge, built in 1939, is a major attraction for visitors. It is believed that the bridge is built at the very place, where Lakshmana crossed the river Ganga, on jute ropes. The bridge offers the panoramic view of the river Ganga. One can enjoy the freshness of the air, cool splashes from the river, and the sound of flowing water, from here.
Ram Jhula : Ram Jhula is close to the Lakshmana Jhula.
Bharat Temple : Bharat temple is situated in the heart of the township of Rishikesh. It is approximately half kilometer away from the Triveni Ghat, the famous river bank in the town. Said to be the oldest temple in Rishikesh, it is also regarded as one of the most ancient shrines in India. According to historical evidences, Adiguru Shankracharya, the great acarya, laid the foundation stone of Bharat temple. The temple has been named after Lord Ram’s second brother ‘Bharat’; however the presiding deity of this temple is Lord Vishnu, ‘the Preserver’.
The statue of God Narayana (Vishnu), enshrined in Bharat temple, is of black stone, carved out from a single piece of Saligram. The image has a noticeably Himalayan appearance. The inner canopy above the statue is Shree yantra, which was installed by Adiguru Sankracharya.
Though the temple’s main deity is Lord Vishnu, it holds a number of other illustrations as well, generally related to Lord Shiva. The idol of Lord Hrishikesh Bharatji is also installed in this temple. The idol was obscured in the Maya Kund of the temple, in order to save it from the attack of the Buddhists.
Every year, on the day of Basant Panchami, the idol of Lord Hrishikesh is taken out, in a holy procession, for a dip in the sacred water of river Ganga. Followers from far off places come to Rishikesh for participating in this procession. The holy records of Bharat temple can be found in the ancient records of Kearkhand, a religious text of Hindus. It is said that the temple that stands now is actually a renovated image of the original temple, which was destroyed by Tamur, a bandit. Bharat temple is the perfect destination for tourists who have a love for ancient religious monuments and a desire to explore historical facts.
Kunjapuri Temple : The Kunjapuri is one among the thirteen most important goddesses of the lower Himalayan Shivalik range. The place situated on the Himalayan peaks offer the excellent views of sunrise and sunset as well as Indo Gangetic plains. The visitors can also view the peaks of Banderpunch (6316 mts.), Swarga Rohini (6252 mts.), Gangotri (6672 mts.) and Chaukhamba (7138 mts).
Rishikund : Located close to Triveni Ghat, Rishikund is the most ancient place. The past evidences relate this place to Kubz Saint, who was blessed by the Goddess Yamuna, by saturating this pond by her waters. On the banks of the pond the Raghunath temple stands, which is dedicated to Lord Rama and Sita.
Vasishtha Gupha (Cave) : The place is situated upriver, and can be reached by an hour’s drive. Vasishtha Gupha is the site where saint Vasishtha meditated on the banks of the river Ganga. The peaceful cave is a perfect place for meditation.
Nilkanth Mahadeo : Situated at a distance of 12 Kms from Rishikesh, the place is surrounded by tranquil forests. It stands adjacent to the mountain ranges of Nar-Narayan and is enveloped between the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot and Vishnukoot.
According to the scriptures, during the episode of the churning of the milk ocean (ref: SB canto 8) for ‘nectar’, first venom oozed out. Lord Shiva drank the venom at the place, which now is known as Nilkanth Mahadeo.
While at Rishikesh one can also visit the Rajaji National Park, which covers an area of approx. 820 sq km. Besides sheltering over 23 mammalian species it also features over 315 different species of colourful birds.