Neelkanth Mahadev temple is a holy shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located among the mighty Himalayan mountains, in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. The temple is just 32 km from Rishikesh and is situated at a height of 1330 meters. The hills of Brahmakoot, Manikoot and Vishnukoot surround the temple and the confluence of Pankaja and Madumati rivers, along with the lush greenery, adds to the natural beauty of the temple. The pleasant atmosphere and the divine power thus attract innumerable number of Indian and foreign tourists to the temple, each year.
Though there are many temples in Rishikesh, the Neelkanth Mahadev temple, just like the 12 Jyotirlingas, has gained a lot of prominence by Lord Shiva followers. The Hindu mythology also describes a legend, which gives us the details behind the creation of the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple.
According to legends it is believed that, the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is the auspicious location where Lord Shiva, drank the venom created by the Samudramanthan or the churning of the ocean by devatas and asuras. The venom or poison that Lord Shiva kept in his throat, turned his throat blue and as a result, got him the title of Neelkanth Mahadev.
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Hindu Mythology depicts that the poison in Lord Shiva’s throat, caused his forehead to become very hot and the devatas had to cool his forehead by pouring water on his head. This tradition of Abhishek or pouring water on Lord Shiva’s head, is continued even till date by a lot of Hindus. It is also believed that, Neelkanth Mahadev rested on one of the many mountains of Rishikesh until his throat got cleared of poison and upon the Devatas requests, went back to his home in Kailash.
Lord Shiva still resides at the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple in the form of a Silver Shiva Linga and the soot from the ever-burning fire is considered as Prasadam. One can also find statues of Lord Ganapati and Sri Kapila Muni in the inner complex of the temple.
As an honour and reminder of Lord Shiva’s great sacrifices for the betterment of the world, the holy Samudramanthan process is displayed on the outer walls of Neelkanth Mahadev temple with Dwarpalakas or gatekeepers depicted as guarding the main entrance. Also, wishes of devotees are said to be granted, if they tie a holy thread around the Peepal tree, located inside the temple surroundings and once their wishes are granted the devotees must come back to the temple and untie their thread.
Further, many devotees believe that Lord Shiva helps them to find a smooth transition from the cycle of their birth to their death, which in religious terms is called ‘Moksha’. Hence, many followers come with a significant belief that Lord Shiva will ease their pains and give them peace of mind from the worldly shackles and worries.
The Neelkanth Mahadev temple is located at a distance of 32 Kms from Rishikesh and one can find local buses transporting people to and fro, or even choose to reach the temple by jeep or car. There is also an option of hiring taxis or cabs which can take you to the temple from Rishikesh. The journey usually takes up to around 45 minutes from Ram Jhoola, which is a bridge on the other side of the Neelkanth Mahadev temple and one can enjoy the splendid view of flowing River Ganga on the way. Lot of tourists also visit the temple on bikes, to include some adventure and thrill into their journey.
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If you are a sports person and have good stamina, you can also trek to the Neekanth Mahadev temple by choosing a shorter route. Though the natural scenery surrounding the temple is beautiful, the route itself is quite steep and can be a bit tiring. Therefore, taking short breaks and energizing yourself with a cold drink, sold at many stalls on the sidewalk, can motivate you to reach the shrine quite quickly.
On the other hand, one can reach Rishikesh from Delhi by local buses, cars or taxis and the journey takes about 6 hours in total. You can also reach Rishikesh by Air from the Jolly Grant Airport, located at Dehradun or even choose to travel by train from the nearest railway station located at Haridwar.
The Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, apart from being most famous for its Shiva Linga, is also well known for its architecture and photographic spots and is open all through the year for its devotees. The temple can be visited anytime and every day between Sunrise to Sunset. But, the best time to have Darshan is in the summer months of April to June, when the weather is nice and sunny. Winter months are also relatively less crowded and cooler and is an optimum time, to make a peaceful trip to the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple. The temperature in Summer can be between 21°C to 40°C and in winters it can range from 5°C to 22°C. So, you also choose to visit the temple based on the months that suit you the best.
It’s better to avoid visiting the temple on the auspicious occasion of Shivarathri, as the temple will be heavily crowded with a large number of devotees and also during the rainy season of July and August, as natural calamities like landslides or roadblocks can affect the region, during that time.
There is no entrance fee for the temple, and one might take around half an hour to one hour to get Darshan, depending on the season of visit. Some people even take a bath in the waterfall near to the temple, before entering its premises.
Innumerable number of followers of Lord Shiva, come together at the Neelkanth Mahadev temple for its two most famous festivals which are the Maha Shivarathri and Shraavan Maas. While the Maha Shivarathri happens in the months of February-March, the Shraavan Maas occurs between the months of July-August. The Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is adorned with flowers and decorated very beautifully during both of these festivals and devotees sum up in huge numbers to give various offerings like honey, flowers, milk, water, coconut and Bael leaves to Lord Shiva and obtain the almighty’s blessings.
So, a total of two auspicious occasions are held at the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple and enthusiastic devotees also trek all the way from Haridwar to be a part of these events. Though the temple is flocked by devotees from all over India, it is a heavenly experience to watch the festivities being celebrated and rejoiced, during these months.
One can find a few Dhabas and tea stalls around the temple area, to grab a quick bite before or after visiting the temple. But if you want to eat a real good meal, you can find a lot of interesting options in Rishikesh. The place has some good cafes, and offers restaurants with Indian, Chinese, Continental and Tibetan cuisines.
If you are the kind of person who is interested in understanding the significance and history of the Neelkanth Mahadev temple in detail, you can hire a knowledgeable guide at the entrance of the temple or best is to book your guide prior to your travel. Guides are also usually a part of many packaged tours, which are offered by a number of travel agencies starting from Haridwar and Rishikesh. A full day tour, which covers the famous temples and religious spots can also be the best option for tourists visiting Rishikesh for the first time.
If you are planning on visiting the Neelkanth Mahadev temple you can also make note of some other popular locations which are pretty near to the temple area. Ram Jhula, Rajaji national park, Laxman Jhula, Triveni Ghat, Tera Manzil Temple, Bhootnath Temple, Gita Bhavan and Sivananda Ashram are a few spots that are quite famous and can be covered along with your Neelkanth temple visit.
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is thus known to give strength to weak souls and purify one’s life. The power of Lord Shiva pulls his devotees to this magnificent temple year after year and is a must visit location for everyone.