Rishikesh is a city and a municipal board in Dehradun district now in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, it is known as The Gateway to the Himalayas. Rishikesh is surrounded by three other districts namely Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal and Haridwar. It is located approximately 20 km north of the holy city Haridwar. Rishikesh has a permanent population of around 75,000.
Rishikesh has been a part of the legendary 'Kedarkhand' (the present day Garhwal). Legends state that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the demon 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 'Kedar Khand' 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, and after it was washed away in the 1924 floods, it was replaced by a stronger present bridge. The sacred river Ganges flows through Rishikesh. It is here that the river leaves the Shivalik mountains in the Himalayas and flows out into the plains of northern India. Several temples, ancient as well as new, can be found along the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh. As with Haridwar about an hour south, Rishikesh is considered by Hindus to be a holy city and is vegetarian by law.
Rishikesh, sometimes nicknamed "the World capital of Yoga", has numerous yoga centres that also attract tourists. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it. Rishikesh is world famous for Rafting and Adventure. Rafting season starts from the month of March and ends in September. Rishikesh is also home to the 120-year old Kailas Ashram Brahmavidyapeetham, an institution dedicated to preserve and promote the traditional Vedantic Studies. Prominent personalities such as Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha and Swami Shivananda have studied in this institution.
In February 1968, The Beatles visited the now-closed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh. John Lennon recorded a song titled, 'The Happy Rishikesh Song'. The Beatles composed nearly 48 songs during their time at the Maharishi's ashram, many of which appear on the White Album. Several other artists, including Mike Love and Donovan, visited the site to contemplate and meditate. Former royal palace of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal at near by Narendra Nagar, now houses the Ananda–In the Himalayas destination spa and yoga retreat, estb. 2000.
The Tehri Dam is just 80 km uphill on the way to Gangotri. Rishikesh is the starting point for travelling to the four Chota Char Dham pilgrimage places - Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. Rishikesh is also famous for ayurvedic treatments. Many ayurveda centre are run where ayurvedic classes are given by ayurvedic doctors.
Rishikesh is becoming a popular spot for white water rafting enthusiasts, both from India and abroad, as the Ganges offers medium to rough rapids rated class 3 and class 4. It is also a center for hiking and backpacking. Recently, bungee jumping has also been introduced in Rishikesh, the first and only bungee jumping camp in India.