Throughout ancient Hindu times, saints and sages have traveled to Rishikesh in search of a higher awareness through meditation. Hindu’s believe this beautiful city to be one of the holiest in all of India. Westerner’s commonly know it as the yoga capital of the world. And all those who visit know it to be a powerfully transformative and breathtaking place.
Located in northern India in the state of Uttarakhand, Rishikesh is the gateway of the Himalayas and it is here that Mother Ganga leaves the mountains, flowing out toward the plains on its way to Varanasi. Legends tell of Lord Rama doing penance here after killing Ravana, of Lord Agni meditating here after he angered Lord Vishnu, and other great Indian sages like Rishi Vashishta meditating in nearby caves for thousands of years, thus building up a powerful energy to the area that is still felt today.
Yoga capital of the world
Because it is a holy city, Rishikesh is vegetarian by law. You will not find meat or alcohol served within the city. What you will find are a cornucopia of yoga ashrams and studios, yoga teachers and students, and an atmosphere of learning and seeking. Famous yoga ashrams like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram, made famous by The Beatles, Shivananda’s Divine Life Society, and Kailash Ashram Brahmavidyapitham, a 133 year old ashram dedicated to preserving and spreading Vedantic studies, are some of many beautiful institutions found here.
Since 1999, the Parmarth Niketan ashram has been hosting the annual International Yoga Festival. The festival attracts serious yogis from across the globe who come to deepen and expand their yoga practice.
In Rishikesh, and throughout India, yoga practice is not simply about asana. Serious students of yoga come here to meditate, to learn kriya and pranayama, to study Vedanta, and to immerse themselves in the yogic lifestyle. It is here, in Mother India, that yoga moves beyond the physical and into the inner world. Though the practice of the eight limbs of yoga (yama, niyama, asana, meditation, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, and dhyana) students move deeper into their practice.
Source of the Mother Ganga
Each evening people gather on the banks of Mother Ganga near Parmarth Niketan ashram for aarti. Aarti is a Hindu ritual in which small fire offerings are made to various deities. In Rishikesh the aarti’s are lead by the children of the ashrams. The ceremony begins with chantings and prayers, followed by the ritual fire offerings. A beautiful statue of Lord Shiva overlooks the proceeds in Rishikesh and the entire affair is relaxed and yet charged with a wonderful spiritual energy.
Thanks to the energy of the holy sages and the seekers that have all been coming for thousands of years, it is believed that meditating or bathing in the Ganges here will help an individual to attain moksha much more easily. Those who visit will attest to the feelings of peace and calm that permeate the place and slowly begin to permeate the individual. It is this natural connection with nature and the interior world of the spirit that makes Rishikesh a magnet that pulls seekers back again and again.Yoga, Rishikesh, Ganga