Rishikesh - Etymology

Etymology

"Hṛṣīkeśa" (Sanskrit: हृषीकेश) is a name of Vishnu that means 'lord of the senses'. The root words Hrishik and ish join together to make Hrishikesh. Hrishik means Senses and ish means master or Lord. Hence the word means Lord of Senses or Lord Vishnu. The place gets its name after Lord Vishnu who appeared to 'Raibhya Rishi', as a result of his tapasya (austerities), as Lord Hrishikesh. In Skanda Purana, this area is known as 'Kubjamrak' as Lord Vishnu appeared, under a mango tree. Another legend says that fierce fire broke out here. Lord Shankar was angry with Lord Agni and cursed him. Then Lord Agni prayed here for the expiation of his sins. Hence it is also known as Agni Tirth - The holy place to penance of Lord Agni or Fire God.

The name Rishikesh is loosely applied to an association of five distinct sections encompassing not only the town but also 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"; Shivananda Nagar the home of Sivananda Ashram and the Divine Life Society founded by Swami Sivananda, north of Rishikesh; the temple section of Lakshman Jhula, a little further north; and the assorted Ashrams around Swarg Ashram on the east bank. The Ganga Aarti performed at dusk at the Triveni Ghat is popular with visitors. Neelakanta Maha Deva Temple (or, 'Neelkanth Mahadev Temple'), situated 28 km from Rishikesh, amidst forest is also a popular local pilgrimage, along with 'Vasishtha Guha', (Cave of sage Vasishtha), 21 km up from the town by the Ganges.

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