Triveni Ghat:The Triveni Ghat, in the centre of town, is the most prominent bathing ghat in Rishikesh.
It is also the most important place for religious ceremonies in Rishikesh. With its modern images of Hindu deities and white sandy beach, the Triveni Ghat is ideal for a bathe in the holy waters of the Ganga. In the morning, pilgrims come to the Ghat for prayers. It is believed that the River Ganga is joined here by the River Yamuna and the Saraswati River (under earth). The evening, arati (worship) with oil lamps on the Triveni Ghat is most impressive. Barefoot devotees sit in rows on the steps of the Ghat. As the sun begins to set, covering the river with gold, bells and gongs ring and chants fill the air. A row of religious celebrants hold plates of flaming ghee (purified butter), moving them in a circular salutation to the Goddess of the River Ganges. Devotees also release flower-filled leaf boats carrying tiny oil lamps and let them float out on the river. It is a ceremony of worship, remembrance and hope. Whatever your religious background, you will find this a moving and emotional experience.
Bharat Temple: The Bharat temple near Triveni Ghat is reputed to be the oldest temple in Rishikesh. The temple’s presiding deity is a black stone carving of Lord Vishnu, which is believed to have been consecrated by Adi Shankaracharya when he visited Rishikesh in the 9th century.
Swarg Ashram: With its numerous ashrams, food stalls and shops, Swarg Ashram is a haunt for those looking for insights into religious themes. It is a very quiet place on the left bank of the River Ganga. The newly constructed Ram Jhoola (suspension bridge) straddles the Ganga at this point. One can also make a river crossing on the ferries that run during the day. Important shrines and ashrams at Swarg Ashram include Kali Kumbliwale founded by Swami Vishudhananda, Parmarth Niketan with large statues of gods and goddesses and the Gita Bhavan with its Ayurvedic dispensary and shop selling religious books and cotton Khadi clothing.
Lakhsman Jula-: Lakhsman Jula is the old footbridge, named after the brother of Lord Rama. It is a beautiful sight. Until 1889, it was just a hanging rope bridge across the River Ganga, but it was later rebuilt with iron ropes. Here one can enjoy the picturesque surroundings and the cool breeze from the River Ganga while standing on the bridge.
Muni-Ki- Reti : To the northeast is the area of Muni-ki-reti. Along the banks of the river, this area with its secluded white sand beaches is ideal for swimming. Boat rides on the river near Swarg Ashram are a pleasant diversion, and you can feed the fish that cluster around pilgrims throwing balls of wheat flour into the water. There are some good spots for white-water rafting.
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple: The temple of Neelkanth Mahadev is a place associated with Lord Shiva, and is situated at a height of 1700 metres (5,577 feet). It is a 4 hour walk uphill from Rishikesh and is a not-to-be-missed destination away from the crowds. The temple can also be approached by a jeep.
White water rafting: North of Rishikesh are some good places for white-water rafting, including Shivpuri 18 kms upstream and Kaudiyala 38 kms upstream. Both the sites are served by professional organizers who provide all the appropriate equipment.
Haridwar : Haridwar, literally Gateway to God, is one of the Hindu holy places in North India and has been a centre of Hindu religion and mysticism for centuries. Located on the banks of the River Ganga (Ganges), Haridwar is situated at a height of 250 metres (820 feet) above sea level, between Shivalik Hills and is 25 kms from Rishikesh in the state of Uttarakhand.
Haridwar attracts a large number of Hindu pilgrims from all over the world and presents a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and civilization. It is believed to be as old as Varanasi
(the oldest holy town in India). Being one of the oldest living cities, Haridwar is mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures and has a history stretching back from the period of the Buddha, to the more recent times of the British rule in India. Haridwar has a rich and ancient religious and cultural heritage. It still has many old havelis (traditional houses) and mansions bearing exquisite murals and intricate stonework. The Ganges, considered as the holiest river in India, is the star attraction of Haridwar. Pilgrims take back the water from the River Ganga, which is believed to remain fresh forever.
This place has maintained the ancient Gurukul tradition of teaching which is still practiced in Haridwar. Haridwar has since the ages been a source of Ayurvedic medicines and has provided herbal remedies. Haridwar was one of the first towns to be developed on the Ganga is still lush and green with forests and trees surrounding it. With Rajaji National Park in the vicinity, Haridwar has also been a favourite destination for wildlife and nature lovers. The city acquires a unique charm in the evening when the ghats become breathtakingly beautiful with thousands of Diyas (oil lamps) and Marigold floating in the waters of Ganga.
Being a place of intense religious significance, Haridwar also hosts several religious festivals throughout the year; popular among them are the Kavad Mela, Somvati Amavasya Mela, Ganga Dashara, Gughal Mela, in which around 20-25 lacs (2-2.5 million) people take part. Apart from this, there is the Kumbh Mela which takes place once in every twelve years, when the planet Jupiter (Brihaspati) comes into the sign Aquarius (Kumbha). First written evidence of the Kumbh Mela can be found in the accounts of the Chinese traveller, Huan Tsang or Xuanzang (602 – 664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 AD. The 1998 Maha Kumbh Mela saw over 80 million pilgrims visiting this city, to bathe in the holy river Ganga. The centre of all this activity in Haridwar is Har-ki-Pauri which literally means footsteps of God. Lined with temples and guesthouses overlooking the river, the ghats (river landings for bathing) have worshippers bathing early in the morning and the spectacular Ganga Arti (worship of the river Ganga with lamps) in the evenings. In the distance are the Himalayan peaks, and all around forests and hill shrines. The atmosphere, the rituals and the view around Haridwar all serve to give the uninitiated a glimpse into Hindu religious philosophy.
Places to visit in Haridwar
Har-ki-Pauri : To the north of the centre, this is Haridwar’s focal point, where devotees gather to bathe and worship on the River Goddess Ganga. According to legend, this is where a drop of nectar fell from the churning of the oceans when the world was created, and a stone wall has an imprint of Lord Vishnu’s footprint. Each evening around 7 p.m., thousands of people gather and worship the river Goddess by putting Diyas (floating oil lamps) in the river. Temple bells and gongs ring and chants fill the air.
Mansa Devi Temple : On the top of a hill near the centre of town is the Mansa Devi temple. It can be reached by cable car or by a road that gently winds uphill. The views of the valley and town are magnificent from the temple.
Rajaji National Park : The Rajaji National Park is a forest reserve area some 208 kms from Delhi and 9 kms from Haridwar, and lies in the Shivaliks hills close to the foothills of the Himalayas. It is spread over 820 sq kms. 23 different species of animals and reptiles – including tigers, leopards, elephants, deer, jungle cat, wild boar and sloth bear Pythons, King Cobra, Common Krait, Indian Cobra and the Monitor Lizard, and 315 species of birds are to be found in the Park. The most prominent avian species include pea fowl, woodpeckers, pheasants, kingfishers and barbets, and these are supplemented by a number of migratory species during the winter months. Besides that, the rivers which flow through the park harbour fish such as trout and mahseer.
The park has the largest population of Asian Elephants in Uttarakhand. It also has a number of Bengal Tigers and Leopards. Rajaji Park, which has several entry gates, is accessible from Dehradun, Kotdwar,and Haridwar: the Ramgarh Gate and Mohand Gate are within 25 kms of Dehradun; the Motichur, Ranipur and Chilla Gates are about 9 kms from Haridwar; and Kunao Gate is 6 kms from Rishikesh.
Best time to visit the national Park : The national park is open from November to June, seven days a week. The weather is pleasant from December to March. Park timings are: summer – 5.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.; winter – 6.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. The Park is closed from July to October.
Entry requirements : All visitors to Rajaji National Park need entry permits, which are available at each of the gates to the Park. Within the Park, the only way of getting around, is by elephant or by jeep. Elephant rides of about 2½ hours each are organized by the park authorities.