Rishikesh is one of the beautiful destinations to visit in Uttarakhand. It is popular for the beautiful hills, valleys, adventure, temples, ashrams and yoga. Rishikesh draws a number of International travelers via its popular Ayurveda and Yoga Ashrams. Know here about the culture of Rishikesh in details:
Rishikesh is a place with interesting ancient history. It is believed to be part of “Kedarkhand”. As per many legends and Mythology experts, Rishikesh is the place where Lord Rama penanced his sin of killing Ravana to free Sita. Ram’s brother Lakshmana crisscrossed the Ganges with the help of two jute ropes. It is the exact point where the present-day “Lakshman Jhula” stands.
According to the epic Skanda Purana, Rishikesh was previously called Kubark as Lord Vishnu appeared in front of a Rabhya Rishi. The present name “Rishikesh” was derived from “Hrishikesh”. Hrishikesh is one of the names of Lord Vishnu, which means “Lord of the senses”.
Rishikesh is situated in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand at the foothills of the Himalayas. The sacred Ganges River flows through the mountains of Rishikesh. It is situated at a distance of around 45 km from the capital – Dehradun and 20km from another holy city Haridwar. Rishikesh has good road connectivity to some of the major north Indian states. The temperature of Rishikesh ranges up to 40 degrees in summers and drops to a minimum of 7 degrees in winters.
Rishikesh has its roots deeply embedded in Literature and Art. Many renowned poets and writers from Rishikesh earn accolades from National and International sources. Most literary artworks originating from this region revolve around yoga and meditational practices, culture and traditions of Hinduism, Mythology and related topics.
People of Rishikesh are highly religious and conservative. Most of their day is spent in performing various rituals relating to their religion. They do not have any lust toward materialistic possessions and love leading a simple life. They are very kind and hospitable to their tourists. However, they are very protective of their religion and feel disrespected if anyone does anything to hurt their religious sentiments.
Hinduism is the major religion in the region. People of other religions like Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians also reside in this area. However, their number is considerably low. Hindu people account for more than 95% of the total population.
Rishikesh, being a holy pilgrimage site, celebrates all major Hindu festivals with great enthusiasm. Some of the festivals are Diwali, Holi, Basant Panchami, Dusshera, Ramleela, etc. Rishikesh is also an ideal spot for some grand International and National Festivals as under:
- International Yoga Festival: International Yoga Festival is an annual festival celebrated from 1st to 7th March every year to give knowledge about yoga.
- International Kayak Festival: This festival is organized to promote water activities on the Ganges. Three competitions are held, namely, Down River Rave, Mass boater Cross, and Boater Cross where professional level kayakers take part.
- Basant Panchami Spring Festival: Basant Panchmi is a harvest festival popularly celebrated in Bharat Mandir Temple attracting Hundreds of people to attend the ritual.
- Ganga Dussehra: It is celebrated on the 10th day of the Jaistha month. It is believed that Ganga came to earth from Brahma’s Kamandal on this day. The day is celebrated by people taking bath in Ganga in Rishikesh, Haridwar and nearby areas.
Rishikesh has been granted the “Yoga Capital” status of the world for it is where it all began in the first place. It is home to several top-class Yoga schools, ashrams, and meditation centers where one can indulge in meditational practices. The yoga schools are considered as the best yoga schools in the schools, which attract millions of tourists every year from across the world as students. Ranging from basic yoga to intense yoga, and intricate techniques, one can learn all. The serene topography of the region makes it an excellent destination for meditation and spiritual activities.
North Indian food is popular in Rishikesh like rice, dal, Roti, Parantha, Paneer, and Koftas. Being a holy place, non-veg food and alcohol are strictly prohibited. To satisfy the needs of foreign tourists, many cafes and restaurants are available serving international cuisines like Mexican, Chinese, Italian, American and more but only veg.
Being a holy place, traditional clothes are mostly worn in the city. Women wear traditional saree or Kurtis while men stick to Kurtas with dhotis or pajamas. Western clothes are not quite appreciated here. Even foreign tourists are seen roaming around in Indian wear.
10. Adventure Activities
Rishikesh is a favorite spot for adventure lovers. One can indulge in the following adventure activities in Rishikesh:
- Bungee jumping: Jumping into the water all the way from a mountain peak situated at a certain height with the help of just a rope tied to your back is an extreme water adventure. However, you need to have the courage for that besides being of sound health.
- River rafting: River rafting in the sacred white water of the Ganges is the best water sport here. There are multiple destinations that offer this water sport that too at affordable rates.
- Hot air balloon: All you need to do is step inside a hot air balloon and it will give you a tour of the sky. You have to drive about 18 km from Rishikesh to experience hot air ballooning.
- Trekking and camping: Another popular adventure activity is trekking through the mystic trails of the city and camping on the banks of the Ganges. Overnight stay at one of the camps beside the holy Ganges gives you a chance to connect with nature.
- Mountain biking: Rishikesh’s steep and hilly road through the mountains allow for an amazing spot for biking. Certain adventure packages are offered in Rishikesh for those who want to indulge in this sport.
- Waterfall trekking: Waterfall trekking allows you to trek up the waterfall while the water keeps falling on you. Let the fresh and pristine water refresh your mind and body.
- Giant Swing: It is a rope-based adventure, where you can swing across mountains with the help of an elastic cord. It is an amazing experience for adventure lovers.
- Kayaking: Kayaking or canoeing through the Ganges valley surrounded by Himalayan ranges and green forests is truly a bliss. But you need to have special preparation and great physical stamina for the same.
- Body surfing: Put on your life jackets, helmets and be ready to float on the surface of the cold river water.
- Rock climbing: Rock climbing in Rishikesh can be done in Shivalik Hills and other parts. You need to climb to the top of a tall mountain with the help of safety equipment, maintaining proper balance. The cost of rock climbing in Rishikesh starts from around Rs. 1000 only.
- The main reasons promoting tourism of the city are yoga and meditation centers, water activities, and high religious significance. Rishikesh serves as the starting point of the Chota Char Dham yatra. The presence of Hindu temples and other sites like Bharat Temple, Triveni Ghat, Lakshman Jhula, Neelkanth Mahadev, Vashisht Cave, Kunjapuri Temple, and Kailash Niketan Temple, etc attracts thousands of religious travellers every year.
- Foreign tourists are increasingly participating in yoga and meditational activities in the region. The stay of the popular Music Band “Beatles” is one of the ashrams also makes it a popular attraction among many.
- The myriads of water activities attract the young generation to pay occasional weekend visits to the region. Due to the availability of ample avenues for adventurous activities, the city is thriving as a major adventure hub in the country.