Rishikesh-World Capital of yoga
In September 2015, the Union tourism minister Mahesh Sharma announced that Rishikesh and Haridwar will be the first in India to be given the title of “twin national heritage cities”. Due to the religious significance of the place, non-vegetarian food and alcohol are strictly prohibited in Rishikesh. The city hosts the annual International Yoga Festival on the first week of March since 1989.
Rishikesh has been a part of the legendary ‘Kedarkhand’. Legends
state that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana,
the asura king of Lanka and Lakshmana, his younger brother,
crossed the river Ganges, at a point, where the present ‘Lakshman Jhula’
bridge stands today, using a jute rope bridge. The ‘Kedarkhand’
of Skanda Purana, also mentions the existence of Indrakund at this very
point. The jute-rope bridge was replaced by iron-rope suspension bridge in
1889. After it was washed away in the 1924 floods, it was replaced by the
present stronger bridge. Another similar suspension bridge Ram
Jhula was built in 1986 at nearby Sivananda Nagar.
The Ganges, one of the most sacred rivers
to Hindus, flows through Rishikesh. Here the river leaves
the Shivalik Hills in the Himalayas and flows into the
plains of northern India. Several temples, ancient and new, are along the
banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh. Shatrughan Mandir, Bharat Mandir,
Lakshman Mandir are the ancient temples established by Adi Shankaracharya. Shatrughan Temple is near Ram Jhula and Lakshman Mandir is near
The name Rishikesh is loosely applied to an association of five distinct
sections encompassing the town and hamlets and settlements on both sides of the river Ganges. These include Rishikesh itself, the commercial and communication hub; the sprawling suburb Muni Ki Reti or the “sands of the
sages”; Sivananda Nagar, the home of Sivananda Ashram and
the Divine Life Society founded by Swami Sivananda, north of
Rishikesh; the temple sections of Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula,
a little further north; and the assorted ashrams around Swargashram on the eastern bank. The Ganga Arti performed at dusk at the Triveni Ghat is popular with visitors. Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, amidst forest 28 km (17 mi) from Rishikesh, is a popular local pilgrimage, along with Vashishtha Guha (Cave of Sage Vashishtha), 21 km (13 mi) up from the town by the
Over the years, it has established itself as the yoga capital of the world.
From the US, Europe and China and Australia, serious yoga students come to learn asanas and kriyas. In February 1968, the Beatles visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh. John Lennon recorded “The
Happy Rishikesh Song” one of the songs composed by The Beatles but was
never officially released. The Beatles composed numerous songs during their
time at the ashram, many of which appear on the band’s self-titled double
album, also known as the “White Album”. Several other artists,
including Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Paul Horn, Donovan and Gyp Mills, visited the site to contemplate and meditate. Former royal palace of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal at nearby Narendranagar now houses the Ananda–In the Himalayas destination spa and yoga retreat, established 2000.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Rishikesh in 2013 and participated in the Ganga Aarti. They also conducted a special haven for world peace at the Parmarth Niketan. According to environmental activists, “These camps are not only in violation of Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 but also the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, as well as the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, as it is leading to pollution of Ganga by discharging effluent, throwing of solid waste directly and adversely affecting the ecological integrity of the river system.”Environmental activists alleged that these camps, which are established as temporary sites, do not have adequate sewage and sanitation facilities, disturb the habitat of wild animals and “affect the peace, tranquility, and serenity of the forest area.”
“At the campsites, the camp owners permit employees and the
visitors to have food and alcohol. They leave empty bottles, cans, unconsumed
food and waste including bones and filth in and around the campsite.”
In a 2008 study on the beach camps between Kaudiyala and Rishikesh,
experts from the Govind Ballabh Pant Himalayan Environment and Development Institute—R. K. Maikhuri, Nihal Farukhi and Tarun Budhal—found that wildlife conservation standards and norms, particularly for waste management, were routinely disregarded.
A bench headed by the National Green Tribunal chairperson
Justice Swatanter Kumar on 1 April 2015 heard a plea filed by the
non-governmental organization Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE).
The National Green Tribunal has sought explanations from the Government of India and the Government of Uttarakhand on the “unregulated” operation of rafting camps on the banks of Ganga between Shivpuri and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. The state government has assured the tribunal that it would not grant permission to any new camp till the next hearing in May.
As the seriousness of issue “The National Green Tribunal,” a bench headed by Justice U. D. Salve has rejected permission to rafting camps operating in Rishikesh and slammed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Government of Uttarakhand for not filing their replies in the case and directed them to file their response.