Legend has it that the sage Raibhya Rishi did severe penance and as a reward, God appeared to him in the form of Rishikesh. Rishikesh also represents the site where Lord Vishnu vanquished the demon Madhu. This place is known as the Tapo Bhumi, or “the place for meditation of the Gods.” Tapovan, on the other bank of the Ganges, houses a temple to Lakshmana. It is believed that Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, carried out penances here. The Neelkanth Mahadev temple is believed to be the site where Lord Shiva drank the venom that came out during the churning of the ocean.
In the 1960s, the city experienced a surge in popularity when The Beatles made their pilgrimage to India to meet their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This is where John Lennon recorded “The Happy Rishikesh Song.” The Beatles composed nearly 48 songs during their time at the Maharishi's ashram, many of which appear on the White Album. Rishikesh is one of the most popular pilgrim centers and gateway to the Himalayan shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, & Yamunotri. It is also becoming a popular spot for white water rafting enthusiasts, both from India and abroad, as it offers medium to rough rapids in the course of river Ganges, with rapids rated class 3 and class 4. Additionally, it has become a center for hiking and backpacking treks.