It is difficult to understand today’s Rishikesh without some historical perspecitve. The name Rishikesh means: Place of Saints. But how did this come about? Rishikesh and Haridwar have been spiritual places since time immemorial, and have been immortalized in the great Indian epic The Mahabarata. There it is related that Lord Rama did pennance in Rishikesh for killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Lord Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana crossed the Ganga on a jute robe bridge at the place where Laxman Jhula stands today. The robe bridge was replaced in 1889 by one of iron chord. It was washed away in the flood of 1924, and was replaced by the current one, still known as “Laxman Bridge” for the ancient one who crossed there so long ago.
Haridwar’s various names tell us that it is an old Shiva and Vishnu place. It is considered one of the main holy centres of India, and is one of the four places that hosts the Khumba Mela. It is also the gateway to the main pilgrimage sites further up the Himalayas towards the source of the Ganga.
Rishikesh, being just up the river, was the undeveloped wild where yogis could practice near the Ganga in peace and solitude, often inhabiting the caves that dot the mountains on both sides.
And so it is at present that the many established ashrams and yoga centres attract practioners from around the world who come to study, or just to soak up the harmonious vibes that still exist here.