The Mystic Tales of Rishikesh
By Shivani Sharma
Everything is mundane until you go out and see the world; you realize how significant and comfortable home was, there is so much to that city but you never realized it, and then that nostalgia takes over. In those old golden days, Rishikesh used to be one peaceful place where people used to come to enjoy the solitude, to take a holy dip in the river Ganga and wash away their sins. Rishikesh holds that powerful character only because of this river that flows through the city and makes a perfect edge dividing the city into two distinctive parts. On one side there is a huge encroachment of people from different parts of the country over the holy Land of penance and salvation, on the other side resides a hope for the devotees who come to this city in search of the Divine within themselves. There is no question why the Beatles came to Rishikesh in late 60s, when our culture was hidden in the wilderness. Gradually, the art of meditation became so popular throughout the west that now if you go to Rishikesh; you’ll find people from all over the world who are there just to learn this powerful art.No, you can’t percieve the power until you have experienced it yourself; People constantly ask that what does meditation has to do with the River Ganga. You might have heard about spirituality, but surely, you don’t know its actual meaning. Some of you might even confuse spirituality with mythology; in actuality, spirituality has nothing to do with the legends of the Indian mythology, on the contrary, these tales explains the meditation in a better way. There is a story about Lord Ram that after he killed Ravan, he came to Rishikesh for the penance of his sin; a tale is about Lord Agni who got punished by Lord Shiva for a sudden outburst of fire on the earth after he got punished, he came to Rishikesh to seek forgiveness.
All of these endeavors lead to one single goal, and that is the search of the Divine within, and that is only through the spiritual path which confronts you with the ultimate truth of life. It works in a very scientific way, everything in this world works in a rhythm; earth rotates in a rhythm, wind blows in a rhythm, river flows in a rhythm and even living beings breathe in a rhythm. In the state of meditation, the breath gets synchronized with the universe and all the senses get activated while the mind is still concentrating on the inner self. This is why it is very important to have quiet and pleasant surroundings while meditating and undoubtedly, meditating by the river Ganga makes it a great experience. This is why Rishikesh got its name from Lord Vishnu, ‘Hrishik’ means sentiments and ‘ish’ means lord or master. Therefore, the word means Lord Vishnu or Lord of Senses; the Sage Raibhya occupied his senses and attained Vishnu, the defeater of senses. For this reason, the place is recognized as Hrishikesh. Though, afterward it was pronounced as Rishikesh. However, River Ganga is known to be the most powerful river on this Earth and is very important for the existence of mankind. It is said that even the holy sight of the holy River affects the life of people. Lord Vishnu himself has described the importance of river Ganges in the following way, he says to Garuda:
KEERTANAT PUNATYAPUNYANPURUSHANA SHATASHOTHA SAHASRASHAH”
This means, thousands of men’s sins get destroyed by the holy sight of the Ganges, and they become pure by the touch of the Ganges water, by having it, or by just pronouncing ‘Ganga-Ganga’. For this very reason, Ganges is also called Sansartarini (Savior of this world).
The power of the River Ganga made Lord Shiva receive Ganga in his matted locks to prevent this world from being destroyed by its powerful flow. After king Bhagiratha worshiped him, he released the River in divided into seven streams which are Bhagirathi, Janhvi, Bhilangana, Mandakini, Rishiganga, Saraswati and Alaknanda. All of them merge into Ganga in Devprayag. Although there is no evidence, it is still believed that ‘Triveni Ghat’, one of the bathing ghats in Rishikesh sets the confluence of the three sacred rivers, Yamuna, Ganga and Saraswati and because of this, Triveni Ghat is one of the most visited Ghats of Rishikesh.
Where the whole world wants to get some share from the treasure of Rishikesh, local people remain unaware of it’s worth. Maybe they shouldn’t be blamed because they are not the natives of this place. That is how the whole population if Rishikesh is. In the medieval period, there was no settlement in Rishikesh, it was the home for sadhus and few poets who loved to be in the lap of nature, but with time, the city got populated and everything changed, people migrated to Rishikesh and settled here and that is one reason why Rishikesh does not have a culture of its own. It always used to feel like the place is empty with very less things to learn and know about but the city is content on its own. From meditation to the wildest water sport, there is a lot more to it.
Having a home in a place like Rishikesh is more than a blessing; but with the time, Rishikesh is being flooded with human population which is more than a curse to this place. It has actually lost most of its charm and only God knows what will happen in the next few years. However, these stories and practices will remain the same because this is what Rishikesh is alive for.