The self-described “yoga capital of the world,” Rishikesh, is where this widely practiced art thought to have positive effects on the body and mind originated. However, there is much more to do than perform vinyasas while mouthing “Om Shanti.”
The Hindu pilgrimage site, peacefully situated on both sides of the revered Ganges river, is a meeting place for intellectuals from all over the world and has recently developed into a center for outdoor activities.
TOP REASONS TO VISIT RISHIKESH FOR YOGA:
Embrace nature outside:
Rajaji National Park, just a 90-minute drive away, has more than 500 elephants, sporadic panthers, leopards, deer, and even anteaters. It also provides on-site lodging for those who want to explore for more than a day.
One of India’s 48 tiger reserves is in the park, but you’re more likely to see a shooting star in the night sky than a free-roaming Bengal Tiger.
The area around Rishikesh is covered in hiking trails, some of which are strenuous and others that connect into quick hikes to temples that offer breathtaking town views. The Red Chilli adventure company offers guided treks to the Himalayas that last between four and sixteen days.
Rafting has grown in popularity, and it is now possible to arrange half or full-day trips down the Ganges while taking up to 36 kilometers of breathtaking scenery.
Try bungee jumping from a specially constructed cantilever suspended from a cliff off the Ganges for even more adventure.
Experience enlightenment at Laxman Jhula:
Lakshman Jhula, constructed in 1929, is only six feet wide, 450 long, and rises 59 feet above the water. Despite being primarily used for foot traffic, pedestrians must avoid horn-blaring motorcycles, horn-blaring bicyclists, the occasional cow, and a family of monkeys swinging from the cables as they cross the bridge, which shakes noticeably.
Ram Jhula, a sister bridge that spanned 750 feet and was built in 1986, provides just as much adventure.
Sample the specialty sweets and the freshly made peanut brittle:
Unaware that a bustling street market is only a few minutes away from their peaceful surroundings, many pilgrims to Rishikesh pass by this miniature representation of India. The town of Rishikesh is a congested collection of eateries, candy stores, fruit and vegetable stands, mechanics, and bric-a-brac shops hugging either side of the busy Haridwar Road.
Make friends at the cafes:
Dining out is generally a sober experience because Rishikesh strictly prohibits alcohol and non-vegetarian food as a holy city.
Even though there are many restaurants, some of which make valiant attempts to serve international cuisine, the places that attract the most attention are the coffee shops.
Since Wi-Fi is free and generally reliable in these cafes, many travelers tend to stay there much longer than just for a meal. This can be a fun way to connect with other travelers, link to their Instagram accounts (practically required for tourists in the picturesque country of India), and keep tabs on their travels.
Enjoy the wealth of wildlife animals:
As in most of India, many animals, including sheep, cows, pigs, and dogs, live alongside people in urban areas.
When people are not looking, monkeys are infamous for stealing food from passersby or breaking into hotel rooms if they see open windows.
Even though it’s best to stay away from the monkeys, giving any leftovers to the peaceful dogs is a worthy cause for creating good karma.
Journey to the Beatles Ashram:
Technically, the former ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was famous for instructing Mick Jagger, Mia Farrow, and Mike Love of the Beach Boys in transcendental meditation. But the Beatles, who paid a visit to the Maharishi’s expansive 14-acre ashram in 1968, were the ones who gave the Maharishi and Rishikesh worldwide fame.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney found Rishikesh a creative haven.
The visit had a lasting effect on George Harrison both musically and spiritually, and the two would write over 30 songs there, including the majority of The White Album.
You can hike up a trail with a view of the Ganges inside and enter the domed meditation caves.
Participate in a ceremony of Ganges aarti:
Every evening at sunset, the Ganges, referred to in Hinduism as the “mother,” is offered music and fire during the Hindu religious rites known as aartis. At the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, a traditional Ganges aarti ceremony is held.
It’s not unusual to see bonfires blazing in the distance, signifying the cremation of a body whose ashes will soon be thrown into a river as part of a Hindu ritual meant to release the soul from the cycle of rebirth.
The custom includes full bathing for those who want a more genuine experience and dipping your feet in the Ganges while floating on a flower bed. However, caution should be taken due to the river’s rapid flow and the moss-covered banks.
It is worthwhile to take a day trip to Haridwar, a charming neighboring city, to contrast its aarti, which is less catered to western tourists.
But watch out for fake clerics who want to take advantage of you by asking for a “donation.”
Visit a kirtan gathering:
Several small temples in Rishikesh serve as impromptu stages for musicians to perform kirtan (prolonged call and response prayer chants), who play harmoniums, tablas, flutes, symbols, and whatever other instruments are lying around.
These sessions may last at any time, and participation is typically encouraged (though it is best to ask first with a silent nod).
Encounter ashram life:
One of the most significant ashram clusters in the world, which are essentially spiritual retreats, can be found in Rishikesh. You are the only person who needs yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. Yoga’s spiritual birthplace is India, so getting in touch with your roots is essential if you want to practice yoga professionally. Learning about yoga’s traditions and philosophies from those who have studied them from their origins is one thing; experiencing them firsthand is quite another.
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