Neelkanth Mahadev is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located about 32 km from Rishikesh. It is an important Hindu pilgrimage site.
It is said that during Samudramanthana (churning of the seas), the Halahala poison was produced whose toxic fumes caused unbearable distress to the gods (devtas) and the demons (asuras). At their request, Lord Shiva drank the Halahala poison but retained it in his throat & didn't allow it to flow down into his stomach. This poison caused Shiva's throat to acquire a Blue color. Thereafter, Shiva came to be known as Neelkanth (Neel means Blue color & Kanth means Throat in Sanskrit language). It was only after warding off the ill effects of the Halahala poison, the devtas & asuras could continue with the churning of the ocean and eventually obtain Amrita or Nectar of Immortality.
Neelkanth Mahadev temple is believed to have been built on the site where Shiva drank Halahala poison. Every year hundreds of devotees go to this temple on the occasion of Shivaratri (Feb-March). The Kaanwariyas (Shiva's devotees) carry the holy water of Ganges river by trekking from Haridwar to this temple during the auspicious period of Shraavan (August-September).
The temple is otherwise, open all through the year.
We had a very bumpy ride in our car as the road is not in a good condition & it took us around 90 minutes to cover the 30+ km distance. While going there we were wondering at the tenacity of the Kaanwariyas who undertake this journey on foot. But as they say, faith can move mountains !
Having reached the temple area, we witnessed a scene which is typical of many of our Hindu temples. Lots of vendors selling holy offerings / prasad, surrounded our vehicle told our driver that he must park the car about one kilometer before the temple as there is no car parking available close to the temple. Hence, we alighted there and trudged our way to the temple. On reaching the temple, we found that cars can actually drop people near the temple & be parked close by. We realised that the prasad vendors unnecessarily misguide the visitors and make them get down close to their shops so that they may sell their wares to them.
The temple itself is not too large. While there was a small queue at the temple gate, we were able to complete the darshan of the Shivalinga in 15-20 minutes. Devotees should carry some Ganga-jal (holy water), as they are allowed to offer it to the Shivalinga.
In view of its religious significance, this temple is a recommended visit for all serious Shiva devotees & those who have a penchant for exploring sites linked to our mythology. One would need to set aside half a day for this trip. Carry some snacks with you and ideally plan to have your meals in Rishikesh / Haridwar where there are ample good eating joints.