Rishikesh is a small town located in the northern state of Uttarakhand in India. It is known as the “Yoga Capital of the World” and has been a spiritual center for centuries. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh attracts visitors from across the world who come to practice yoga, meditation, and other spiritual practices. It has been on my bucket list since I first got introduced to yoga in the early 1990s… and I am finally here! I haven’t stopped grinning since we got here Monday.
The Hare Krishna’s are hosting a Kirtan Festival at the Anand Dham Ashram at the moment. Several of the performers are close friends of our dear neighbours and travelling companions, Mark O’Brien and Nicky Prince. Nicky and Mark previously own the Qi Yoga centres in Sydney. Sri Prahlada and Madhava, close friends who played regular at Qi in Manly, performed the other. The atmosphere was truly amazing and the free buffet afterwards was fabulous. The Hare Krishna’s are so generous and really know how to cook. Maybe it’s the love they put into the food? Govinda’s in Sydney will be a must when we get back!
Rishikesh is home to many ashrams and yoga centres that offer a plethora of courses and retreats throughout the year. People from all over the world come here to learn and practice yoga under the guidance of experienced teachers. These centers offer various styles of yoga like Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga to name a few. From beginners to advanced practitioners, everyone can find something suitable for them in Rishikesh.
The town is also famous for being the starting point of the Char Dham Yatra, which is a spiritual pilgrimage to four sacred Hindu sites; Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. Rishikesh is also situated on the banks of the holy river Ganges, which is considered to be one of the most sacred rivers in India. The Ganges is revered by Hindus as the physical manifestation of Goddess Ganga and bathing in its waters is believed to wash away sins and purify the soul. The water here looks quite clean at the moment but I think I’ll only get my toes wet!
The spiritual significance of Rishikesh dates back to thousands of years when it was believed that this place was visited by sages and seers seeking enlightenment. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Rama did penance at Rishikesh after killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. It is also said that Lord Shiva meditated here for centuries and attained the ultimate knowledge.
In recent times, Rishikesh gained global recognition when the Beatles came to this town to learn transcendental meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. The band wrote many songs inspired by their stay in Rishikesh, and their visit helped to put Rishikesh on the world map. We visited the Ashram yesterday and despite a lot of deterioration after the lease was not renewed in 1981, it is still really beautiful. I loved the design of the Maharishi’s house and the small stone meditation pods are charming. It must have been very beautiful in its hey day.
The town of Rishikesh is a beautiful blend of modernity and ancient traditions. The streets are lined with shops selling yoga mats, clothes, and everything related to yoga. One can also find restaurants catering to all kinds of taste buds, serving cuisines from Indian, Italian, and Mexican to name a few! Along with yoga, Rishikesh is also known for its street food, such as the famous “Chaat,” “Lassi,” and “Kulhad Chai.” Yum!
I think I will be back… I don’t know when, but it feels like I will.
Ciao for now, GG