It is a well known fact that people from across the country flock to Uttarakhand in search of an awakening in their souls. The state is commonly known as ‘Devbhoomi’ for its foray into spirituality and has its origins in history that dates back centuries. Many consider Uttarakhand to be the birthplace of spirituality.
One such place that is prominent on the spirituality map is Rishikesh. Every year, devotees and tourists from around the world visit Rishikesh to find salvation or an equivalent of inner peace. People arriving here have different objectives but the end goal is same – to connect with themselves and hope to come away a little more experienced and educated.
According to the legends, Rishikesh came into existence with the establishment of the sacred Bharat Mandir, a famous temple which is believed to be the place where Raibhya Rishi and Som Sharma performed intense tapasya and pleased by it, Lord Vishnu appeared before them. On the insistence by Rishi, Lord Vishnu showed His illusion (Maya) to them in various forms. The glory of this ancient temple is described in Kedar Khand (Vide Chapters 115 to 120).
Lord Vishnu then told Rishi that since the Rishis performed the tapasya by controlling all their senses (Hrishik), therefore, this sacred place will be called Hrishikesh and during the kaliyug, His incarnation will be known by the name of Bharat.
In about 789 A.D., on the auspicious day of Basant Panchmi, Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya reinstalled the presiding diety in the temple. Every year on this day the Shaligram is taken for a holy bath in the sacred Mayakund. A grand procession accompanies the idol through the city back to the temple for the symbolic reinstallation. It is also believed that on the day of Akshya Tritiya any believer who does 108 parikarmas (rounds) of Lord Shri Hrishikesh Naranyan attains the blessings equivalent to the pilgrimage to Badrinath.
The temple is situated in the heart of the city, Triveni Ghat. It is interesting to know that the temple also could not escape the attack of the foreign invaders and athiest, from time to time, reconstruction and renovation of the temple continued. Bharat Mandir has been mentioned in many religious texts including the Vishnu Puran, Shrimadbhagwat, Mahabharat, Vaman Puran and Narsingh Puran. Lord Hrishikesh known as Shri Bharatji Maharaj is different from Lord Rama’s younger brother Bharat. He is known by the name of Bharat because he is said to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Kaliyuga, the preserving force holding Shankh, Chakra, Gada and Padam in his four hands.
The main attractions of this temple are :
● Just opposite to the entrance of the temple there is an age old tree which is actually a combination of three different trees whose roots are entwined a way that it is impossible to visualize them as a separate entity. This include old banyan tree i.e vat vriksh, pipal tree and bel tree. All these trees hold a very scared space in Hindu mythology. It is believed that, these three trees represent Tri Dev, Brahama the creator, Vishnu, the preserver and Mahesh the destroyer. Devotees pray to these trees with ultimate devotion and belief.
● A broken Buddha statue is kept under this tree which was obtained during the excavation. It is believed that this statue dates back to Ashoka period when Buddhism was spreading all around the country. Though the actual age of this tree is not known but it is believed that it is more than twenty five decade old and was there in same condition since the inception of this temple.
● The most noteworthy attraction of Bharat Mandir is the museum. It containing sculptures, pottery and decorated bricks found during excavation. The estimated period of these precious objects fall between 3rd century A.D and 14th century A.D. The sculptures of Yaksha, Yakshini, a four armed Vishnu, loin figure man with curly hair deserves special mention.
● The intriguing museum in Rishikesh inspire historians and archaeologists for further study of the area and to acquaint the people with our ancient glorious traditions.
Thus, the history of this temple is the history of Rishikesh indeed. There are various popular myths and interesting stories related to the temple such as the Pandavas along with Draupadi visited the temple on their way to heaven. Having stayed here for some period and having worshipped Lord Hrishikesh Narayan, they set out on the pilgrimage of Uttarakhand. And also that the only four armed idol of Lord Hrishikesh Narayan in the temple signifies that Raibhya Rishi won over his senses and attained Lord Vishnu.
The sacred temple and the intriguing museum deserves to be on the list of every tourist who visits Rishikesh to learn more about our Indian culture and facts related to it.