Friday, July 7, 2017

Hrishikesh - An Ancient Indian Knowledge Centre Which Eventually Became Yoga Capital Of The World

The literature written during the 3rd & the 10th century AD by the Indian society is commonly termed to as ‘Puranas’  which were collectively like an encyclopaedia of that phase of Indian human development which wasn’t all about gods and goddesses as generally thought of as but they also discussed a wide range of disciplines like cosmology, astronomy, grammar, mineralogy, philosophy, etc, to name some making them one of the earliest multi-disciplinary writings of the mankind. The original content however was written in different interpretations by different writers over different phases making it highly inconsistent over the course of time. There are eighteen major Puranas out of which SkandaPurana is the largest one which alongside providing other informations compiles in itself an encyclopaedic travel handbook with meticulous Tirtha Mahatmaya (pilgrimage tourist guide) which contained geographical locations, historical contexts, etc, of pilgrimage centres of India, Nepal and Tibet. In SkandaPurana, one such pilgrimage site has been referred to as Kubjāmraka which went on to adopt its modern name of Hrishikesh at a later part of history when Raibhya Rishi, a sage is said to be given an appearance of Lord Vishnu, a Hindu God as Lord Hrishikesh as a result of his performed austerities. There are other versions for the etymology of its modern name as well but this is one of the most widely accepted ones. Hrishikesh literally means the lord of senses (Hrishik in Sanskrit means senses and ish is referred to as the lord) though its generally took as the hairs of a sage both by the local population & those visiting it from foreign lands in contemporary times.

Hrishikesh has traditionally been a pilgrimage site and was part of the legendary ‘KedarKhand’ of the above mentioned SkandaPurana but got into highlight when Adi Shankaracharya, a human visionary who later was responsible for the establishment of various Hindu Matths across all the directions of India visited the place in the eighth  century during his journey towards Kedarnath - a Shiva temple in the higher Himalayas and it thereafter became a common hotspot for the sages and the seers serving them with different purposes - as a stopping point towards their journey of the upper Himalayas and also as a discussion place for developing the knowledge and wisdom of the then collective human consciousness. He built the temple of Bharat (the brother of Lord Rama) whose is also said to have visited the place as per the Indian literary texts of Ramayana which was later on destroyed by Taimur in his Indian invasion of 1398. The famous jute rope bridge commonly known as Lakshman Jhoola, a 450 feet spanned bridge connecting the two villages of Tapovan and Jonk on two sides of the River Ganga was replaced by an iron rope suspension bridge in 1889 which subsequently was replaced by an another stronger version of it when it got washed away during the floods of 1924. Another similar bridge was built in 1986 at around 2 kms. downstream of the river from Lakshman Jhoola.

The largest river of India in terms of its in-boundary catchment area Ganga flows through the city which has been one of the main reasons behind the existence of human settlement over here from ancient times & it leaves the Shivalik Ranges of Himalayas here to flow through the great Northern Indian Plains. Hrishikesh lies in the Indian state of Uttarakhand 35 kms from Haridwar and around 250 kms from the national capital of New Delhi. Due to its historicity, there are various architectural built-ups in the forms of temples, aashramas, etc,. which has only increased its global presence over the period of time. In a recent development of 2015, the Indian government has announced to develop the twin cities of Haridwar and Hrishikesh as natural heritage twin cities to attract tourist furthermore - the nature of whom has transformed majorly towards being tourists with their primary interest in adventure tourism in present times especially that of the local visitors with the onset of various such activities providing agencies which has traditionally been a centre of serenity, knowledge & wisdom. 
The centres and institutions providing teachings of Yoga (a state of Union) has also increased substantially with the increasing number of foreign tourists visiting the place to decipher the Indian perspective of spirituality in the past couple of decades with the ever increasing globalisation which brings along with itself an ease in long distance human mobility - transforming it to as a Global Hotspot of Higher Spiritual Studies at first and as the Yoga Capital of the World eventually - a title which it rightly deserves in many senses. In recent times various other forms of therapy sciences & healing processes has also found their base in the boundaries of the city which are nothing but healing instruments for specific type of ailments or pains especially after the announcement of 21st June as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations. The population of the census town of Hrishikesh was 8,033 as per the Indian census of 2011 while that of the entire district was around 70,000 in 2011 which crossed the mark of 100,000 in 2016 as reported by different individual institutions. Hrishikesh imbibes in itself inspirational vibes of some higher order and its historicity provides it a perfect platform for flourishing the quality of ones consciousness level where historically the community of the mankind has lived along a life in the spheres of answering the questions of knowledge, spirituality & wisdom. It can also be stated to as one of the earliest identified and inhabited hill stations of the Indian subcontinent and the heritage of this nature shall be preserved and conserved to the maximum of our abilities so as to lengthen its role which it has played in the story of human development & settlements. 



Images from haridwarrishikeshtourismbizimages, ytimgmouthshuttapovanresort & yogainrishikesh (in the order from top to down)

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