Hrishikesh is the most ancient pilgrim place. It is an abode of the Gods, a place of worship and penance of the sages and saints. The celestial stream, Ganga, descends here from the foothills of the Himalayas.
Hence it is regarded as India’s most sacred place of pilgrimage. The mystical powers of the earth and of the waters of this place, the spiritual vibrations of the area probably created by the penance of the sages and gods make it the supreme holy pilgrimage destination.
Rishikesh which is also known as the capital city of yoga is one of the most popular places for yoga in India along with Mysore, Goa. It is the birthplace of yoga, due to its location the place is popular to do yoga, meditate and learn about various aspects of Hinduism.
As Rishikesh is on the banks of the river Ganges and surrounded by hills, it is to believe that it is the best place to meditate as it leads to redemption. Each year the international yoga festival is organized and people from around the world come here and participate in it. In 2019, there were around 2000 participants from over 80 countries.
The scriptures talk of legends about this holy pilgrimage centre. The great sage Raibhya muni prayed to Lord Vishnu that He should dwell in this holy place forever. Lord Vishnu appeared before the sage who was in penance under the mango tree and told him to ask for a boon.
Lord Vishnu was pleased to be present here forever as Hrishikesh and said, “O sage! Lord Bharat will reinstall me here in Treta Yuga and I shall be known as Bharat in Kaliyug. Adi Guru Shankaracharya will install me here in due course of time.
What is mean by Rishikesh?
The root words “Hrishik” and “ish” join together to make “Hrishik+ish, Hrishikesh; “Hrishik” means “senses” and “ish” means “master” or “Lord”. Hence, the word means Lord of the Senses or Lord Vishnu.
Rishikesh is a name of Hindu god Vishnu that means ‘lord of the senses’ In Sanskrit. The place gets its name after Lord Vishnu who appeared to ‘Raibhya Rishi’, as a result of his austerities (Tapasya), as Lord Hrishikesh.
The sage Raibhya conquered his senses and attained Lord Vishnu, the Conqueror of the Senses. Hence, the place is known as Hrishikesh. However, later on, it came to be pronounced Rishikesh.
In Skand Puran, this area is known as Kubjamrak as Lord Vishnu appeared here under a mango tree. In religious rites, people still use this name “Kubjamrak” even today..
Another legend says that fierce fire broke out here in Rishikesh. Lord Shankar was angry with Lord Agni and cursed him. Then Lord Agni prayed here for the expiation of his sins. Hence, it is known as Agni Tirth – the holy place of penance of Lord Agni or the Fire God.
The sage som Sharma performed hard penance hare and prayed Lord Hrishikesh Narayan who was pleased with the sage and granted him a boon and thus he attained the Darshan of Lord Hrishikesh Narayan here.
In medieval period, very few people lived here. The pilgrim visited here during the pilgrimage session. Only a few poets and sages lived here. It was surrounded by the mango groves and shrubs of bamboo and Ber.
There were many temples during the eighth century here. The floods in the Ganga and earthquakes and iconoclasts demolished many of them.