Swarg Niwas Temple
The defining image of Rishikesh is the view across the Lakshman Jhula hanging bridge to the huge, 13-storey wedding-cake temples of Swarg Niwas and Shri Trayanbakshwar . Built by the organisation of the guru Kailashanand, they resemble fairyland castles and have dozens of shrines to Hindu deities on each level, interspersed with jewellery and textile shops.
Just south of Swarg Ashram, slowly being consumed by the forest undergrowth, is what’s left of the original Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. It was abandoned in 1997 and is now back under the control of the forest department.
A pleasant 2km walk south of Lakshman Jhula along the path skirting the east bank of the Ganges leads to the spiritual community of Swarg Ashram, made up of temples, ashrams, a crowded bazaar, sadhus and the bathing ghats where religious ceremonies are performed at sunrise and sunset.
Follow the dedicated pilgrims who take water from the Ganges to offer at Neelkantha Mahadev Temple, a 7km, three-hour walk along a forest path from Swarg Ashram. Neelkanth (Blue Throat) is another name for Shiva, who once drank poison churned up from the sea by gods and demons, which turned his throat blue. A much longer road (17km) via Lakshman Jhula also goes to the temple.
An easy walk to two small waterfalls starts 3km north of Lakshman Jhula bridge on the south side of the river Ganges. On the other side of the river, it’s about 2km north to the signposted walk to lovely Neer Garh Waterfall .