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Rishikesh: Getting Spiritual in the Capital of Yoga

If you're really, really in to yoga Rishikesh is the place to be, but there are far more interesting treasures to be found in this Himalayan retreat.

If you’re really into yoga, you already know Rishikesh. As spiritual and wellness locations go, the Capital of Yoga is the best on the planet – and probably all adjacent spiritual realms to boot. From the ashrams to that Himalayan air, Rishikesh is for the spiritual traveler.

The Beatles famously made a pilgrimage to Rishikesh in 1968, and for the traveler that wants to detox their soul, Rishikesh still has plenty to offer.

Give Thanks at Ganga Aarti

ABOVE: Ganga Aarti ceremony.

Every evening as the sun sets on the banks of the Ganges, devotees offer diyas (oil lamps) to Maa Ganga, goddess of the most holy river in India, during the divine light ceremony of the aarti. Aarti means “remover of pain,” and this ancient ceremony is a time to honor the light offered by the divine. The fire of the diya is an offering of thanks, a recipricoation of the gift of light. The transformative power of this ancient ceremony attracts travelers from around the world.

Rishikesh’s most renown Ganga Aarti ceremony takes place on the banks of the Ganges at Parmarth Niketan ashram. The ritual is performed by ashram residents, usually children who study the ancient Vedic scripts on the complex’s neatly manicured grounds. The ceremony also takes place at Triveni Ghat, a holy site where three sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati become one. As an important place in Hindu mythology, the Ghat draws pilgrims from all across India.

Swarg Ashram

ABOVE: Swarg Ashram, one of the oldest yoga ashrams in Rishikesh.

In the foothills of the Himalayas, Swarg Ashram is one of the oldest yoga ashrams in Rishikesh and serves as a meditation center for many eminent Hindu sages. Green forest hills, colorful orchards, and crisp air serve as the backdrop for this complex of cafes, stores, libraries, parks, meditation centers, restaurants, and hotels.

The library is home to ancient and contemporary moral, religious, and cultural texts, and the Ayurvedic medicines are prepared with pure, Himalayan herbs. The decorative temples and shrines are each headed by a resident priest. As a premier destination for the spiritual traveler, visitors to Rishikesh are drawn to Swarg Ashram for its yoga tours, Ayurvedic medicines, and holy processions.

Trayambakeshwar Temple

ABOVE: Trayambakshwar temple in Rishikesh.

This grand, red and white 13-storied temple is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva, making it one of the most important holy shrines in Rishikesh. Each floor is adorned with statues of Hindu deities, and the soft toll of bells welcome the devotees and travelers who visit this striking edifice to seek blessings and enjoy the scenic landscapes of the Himalayan hills.

White-sand beaches along the Ganges greet the visitors of this magnificent structure. Once inside, astrologers, gemstone merchants and local vendors selling pooja thalis (plates or trays decorated with prayer materials) line the walls of the ground floor. From atop the temple, one can take in a stunning view of the Laxman Jhula bridge suspended above the jade water of Ganga Mata (Mother Ganges).

Ananda Spa and Resort

ABOVE: Yoga at Ananda in the Himalayas. 

Situated on a 100-acre estate in the Himalayan foothills, this award-winning luxury spa resort overlooks the serene Ganges river valley. Ananda’s first-class services harmonize traditional Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta therapies with contemporary international wellness experiences and organic fine-dining. Ananda in the Himalayas is by far the most luxurious accommodation option in all of Rishikesh.

The resort’s luxurious suites and villas are elegantly designed in colonial architectural style and feature spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Ananda offers a variety of energizing and rejuvenating experiences designed to bring guests into their fullest physical and spiritual potential. These services include daily yoga, meditation classes, treks, and cuisine demonstrations. Therapy programs are individually customized to meet personalized goals of destressing, cleansing, and relaxing.

A highly qualified team of nutritionists, physicians, therapists, yoga, and fitness experts lead residents toward a more balanced, holistic lifestyle at this opulent spa and wellness retreat.

Do Yoga Everywhere

ABOVE: View of Ganga river in Rishikesh

As a world-renown haven for yogis, Rishikesh provides ample yoga opportunities everywhere the traveler goes. While yoga centers and ashrams abound, the area’s magical natural landscapes offer an alternative location for one’s yoga.

Beaches along the Ganges River, holy stepped platforms along the river’s banks, and serene forests in the Himalayan hills all serve to provide a peaceful and tranquil backdrop to the alignment of mind, body, and soul in the heart of one of India’s most revered spiritual havens.