Rishikesh ऋषिकेश) is a city and a municipal board in Dehradun district in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. “Hṛṣīkeśa” is a name of Vishnu that means ‘lord of the senses’. Rishikesh is a holy city for Hindus located in the foothills of the Himalaya in northern India. Legend states that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Rāvaṇa, the demon king of Lanka. It is also known as the gateway to the Himalayas and is located about 25 kilometers away from another holy city, Haridwar. Rishikesh is the starting point for traveling to the sites that form the Char Dham pilgrimage — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
The sacred river Ganga flows through Rishikesh. In fact, it is here that the river leaves the Shivalik mountains Himalayas, and flows out into the plains of northern India. Several temples, ancient as well as new, can be found along the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh. The city attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year, from within India, as well as from other countries. Rishikesh, sometimes nicknamed “the world-capital of Yoga”, has numerous yoga centres that also 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. It is also becoming a popular spot for white water rafting enthusiasts, both from India and abroad, as it offers medium to rough rapids in the course of river Ganges.
The name Rishikesh is loosely applied to an association of five distinct sections encompassing not only the town but also 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”; Shivananda Nagar the home of Sivananda Ashram and the Divine Life Society founded by Swami Sivananda, north of Hrishikesh; the temple section of Lakshman Jhula, a little further north; and the assorted Ashrams around Swarg Ashram on the east bank. One can reach the famous Neelakanta Maha Deva Temple from here. The Ganga Arati performed at dusk at the Triveni Ghat is popular with visitors.
Rishikesh is home to the 120 year old Kailas Ashram Brahmavidyapeetham, an institution dedicated to preserve and promote the traditional Vedantic Studies. Prominent personalities such as Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha and Swami Shivananda have studied in this institution.
During the mid-1960s, The Beatles visited the now closed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram. Several other artists, including Mike Love of The Beach Boys, Donovan and Gyp Mills, visited the site to contemplate and meditate. More recently, the place has been of interest to celebrities including Hollywood star Kate Winslet.