In India, there is a tradition and common practice to have a family deity or Kula-Devata. So, we find a temple in most of the Ashrams and the main Deity of the temple is like the presiding Deity of the Ashram. In this sense, Lord Visvanatha (literal meaning is ‘The Lord of the entire Universe’, Lord Siva) is the presiding and protecting Deity of Sivananda Ashram and the entire Sivananda family of devotees spread all over the world. The temple has Lord Siva in the centre, and behind Him, there is Lord Krishna in the form of a very beautiful Murti (idol) of Murali Manohara (the charming One with a flute). As per the tradition, every Siva temple will also have Lord Ganesh and the Devi, and we have followed this tradition. We also have in our Temple, Lord Rama with Cosmic Mother Sita, brother Laxmana and His chief lieutenant Hanuman. The Temple complex houses a very beautiful Murti of Sri Sankarachaya and a Yajna-sala also. There is a very spacious porch also. Swami Sivananda the founder of the Sivananda Ashram was known for his very broad view and generosity. As such, special days of many deities are celebrated in the Ashram with the traditional fervour, zeal and gaiety in the Visvanatha Mandir. In other words, it is the hub of Puja, celebrations and all the traditional religious activities of the Ashram.
When Swami Sivananda came to Rishikesh and settled in Swargashram in the year 1924, the present sight of the Ashram was a dense forest and the only road was along the river bank. During his days of very intense sadhana, he used to remain in seclusion to the extent possible. But, his majestic, imposing yet magnetic personality attracted many aspirants. So he used to come to this steep hill and go deep in the forest and sit under a bilva tree for almost the whole day. The supreme Experience is possible only if the seeker transcends the three gunas. (attributes). The bilva tree gives leaves in a set of three. So, many seekers are offering the bilva leaves to the Lord in a symbolic way. Puja of Lord Siva is done with the oblations of bilva leaves. So, he used to start his sadhana with offering the bilva leaves at a particular spot, which he intuitively liked very much. It is believed that during his long hours of deep meditation and samadhi, he had the supreme Experience at this very spot. After a few years the King donated this land to the Divine Life Society. So, he thought that it is God’s Will that a temple should be established here.
There was another unusual point. Gurudev was extremely sensitive, kind and compassionate person. He sincerely wished an early end of the World War II. So, in order to spread peace currents throughout the world, he started round-the-clock non-stop kirtan of the Mahamantra in the Bhajan Hall from 3rd December 1943. And after a few weeks only consecrated the Visvanatha Temple on 31st December. This modern saint arranged for traditional Puja three times a day for World Peace. He was also doing peace prayers in the daily Satsanga. And he also made peace Yajnas as a regular feature of the Ashram activities.
This extraordinary background of the Temple created wonderful spiritual vibrations. Though, this unorthodox saint had resorted to the traditional Puja for World Peace, the Temple and its Puja inspired the devotees so much that it was continued in a systematic way. The number of devotees requesting for Puja is more than one hundred every day. The Temple opens at 4 in the morning, the first Puja commences at 5-45. While the Veda Mantras are recited in side the inner chamber of the temple, in the main hall, devotees are doing kirtan of the “Om Namah Sivaya” mantra in a sweet melodious manner to add to the spiritual vibrations and sanctity.
Celebrations: Special days of various Deities are celebrated in the Temple. The whole night Puja on the Mahasivaratri Day attracts a very large number of devotees. Sri Krishna Jayanti, special 9-day programme on Sri Rama Jayanti are other important functions. Occasionally, discourses on Srimad Bhagavatam, recitation of Ramayana, Akhanda (non-stop) kirtan and other programmes are also held here. But, the 9-day Devi Puja and Vijaya Dasami programmes, and Christmas and New Year programmes are arranged. And the 6-day annual Skanda Puja is continued in the Bhajan Hall.
Daily Programmes at Sri Viswanath Temple
opening time :- 4:00 – 11:00 (Morning) 2:30 – 7:30 (Evening)
First worship :- 5:45a.m. – 7:00a.m.(Feb-Nov) 6:00a.m. – 7:00a.m.(Dec-Jan)
Abhisheak, Puja, Archana and Arati
Second worship :- 9:30a.m. – 10:15a.m. Puja and Arati
Third Worship :- 5:30p.m.- 6:30p.m.(Summer) 5:00p.m.- 6:00p.m.(Winter)
Lalita Sahasranamam Archana
Puja and Arati
Abhisheak for General Public, Visitors & Visitors –
4:00a.m. – 5:30a.m. , 7:30a.m. – 9:30a.m. , 3:00p.m. – 5:00p.m.