Neelkanth Mahadev Trek: Trail To The Place Where Lord Shiva Consumed the Poison

“A true pilgrimage requires letting go of the very things most people try to hold onto. In seeking after what the soul desires, we become pilgrims with no home but the path the soul would have us follow.”
Michael Meade


Treks have always fascinated me. I am not good at trekking and am slow. To me, every trek is a challenge where I test my limits and push them to the edge. I love the feeling when I finally complete a trek! It is like a personal badge that I show myself when I have phases of low confidence and self loathing. They are like happy pills to me.
Moreover, being in nature for a few hours and exploring on foot! Is there anything better that a Nature-lover can ask for?



On my first Solo trip to Rishikesh (October, 2016), I had made up my mind to trek to the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple as soon as I got to know about it. Two other people- a traveller and a student from Rishikesh whom I had met in a temple joined me for the trek.

We started at about 10.30 a.m. from the Parmarth Ashram Gate and reached the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple by 4.00 p.m. . However, the trek can be managed within 4.5 hours with ease. We stopped a lot on the way to have tea at the stalls and couldn’t resist waiting a few minutes to admire the view.

The trail to Neelkanth is very serene (unless, you happen to be there on a special occasion) and there is a lot of greenery. One can feel some spiritual presence on the way that has a calming effect. The trail is in the midst of hills and dense forests connected to the Rajaji National Park. The air is pure and the view of Rishikesh from that height is jaw dropping!

One must complete the trek before it gets dark as there is a chance of encountering wild animals post sunset. They give us humans our time in the day. We better not disturb them at night when they roam around and claim the land.

At one point, we encountered a group of students from a Martial Arts School. They jumped and ran down the steep shortcuts with ease! That gave me some confidence to take the shortcuts.

Midway on the trail, we happened to find this creature. Snake? Lizard? No Idea. But I freaked out!

Hot steaming tea and discussion about Indian Politics at the time of Independence, talking to the tea shop owners about the trek, being dead tired and asking the people on their way back about the remaining distance! Well, at one point, I thought that we would not make it before dark. But, we did!

Once, the uphill part of the trek got over, we were accompanied by this super cute and energetic Furry being on the downhill part. I love mountain dogs! They are friendly, smart and know the place better than any human. They are the best guides ever! (I remember the first mountain dog that I had encountered, in Himachal. I was initially very scared only to find out that he was guiding us on our way back. We named him Guide! 🙂 )

The temple had no rush when we reached. It was quiet, calm and peaceful (unlike the season times, when it is crowded and one has to stand in a queue to get a peek at the main idol of the Temple.) There was a natural spring there where most devotees took a bath before entering the main Temple.

After visiting the Temple, we had hot steaming masala maggi at one of the stalls there. Then, as it was getting darker, we could not trek back on the trail. Hence, we took the shared jeep back to Rishikesh. We struck up a conversation with the people in the Jeep and they told us about the concert by Krishna Das that happened every year in Rishikesh. We got down at the Lakshman Jhula, explored the area a little and then, bid farewell to each other.



(See page for image author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

“Neelkanth Mahadev Temple” gets its name from the incident when Lord Shiva drank the poison that came out during Sumudramanthan* (Churning of the Oceans). He couldn’t swallow the poison as in his stomach rested the entire universe that would be destroyed by the poison. Hence, he held the poison in his throat which was so potent that it turned his throat blue. Consequently, Lord Shiva earned the epithet- Neelkanth (Neel- Blue, Kanth- Throat). To calm his throat, the “Moon” came out of the churning process as well. And, that is how Lord Shiva acquired the moon on his hair. It is believed that the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is located at the place where Lord Shiva consumed the poison.

*The Devas and Asuras churned the ocean for “Amrit”, the drink of immortality. They used the “Mandara” Mountain as the churning rod and Lord Shiva’s serpent “Vasuki” offered to serve as the rope.



The Temple is located at the confluence of two perennial rivers- Pankaja and Madhumati and is surrounded by three valleys- Manikoot, Brahmakoot and Vishnukoot. It is located on a hill at the height of 1330 meters.

One can trek to the temple (12-14km, majority of it being uphill) from the Ram Jhula or take a shared Jeep (70-100 rupees per person on one way). It takes an average of 4.5 hours to trek and 1-1.5 hours to reach there by road (bus/shared taxi). It is advisable to leave by 9.30 a.m. at the latest for the trek. You need not carry water as there are plenty of small tea shops on the way that sell water bottles, juices and small refreshments. However, it is advisable to carry some chocolate bars for instant energy.

If you happen to reach Neelkanth early. There is the Parvati temple at a further steep trek of 2 km, post which there is Jhilmil Cave (2 more kms from the Parvati Temple).



It is my humble request to all the trekkers and travellers to carry a separate bag in their backpack to store all the wrappers and garbage that they wish to dispose off. Please do not litter the trail. Throw the garbage bag in a dustbin when you find one. Be a responsible traveller and respect Nature! 🙂



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38 thoughts on “Neelkanth Mahadev Trek: Trail To The Place Where Lord Shiva Consumed the Poison

  1. Prachi Ji,
    Thanks a lot for the article ,is it ok if we venture into the jungle by 8-am! , we intend to complete the trek to&fro the same day ??

    1. Hey!
      I am glad you found the post useful.
      Yeah, 8 a.m. is a perfect time to start the trek. But, make sure you begin the trek back to rishikesh by 2p.m. as it gets dark after 6 p.m. and you might encounter some wild animals on the way. If you get late, you can take a shared taxi back to Rishikesh from Neelkanth.
      Hope it helps! 🙂

      1. Yes It does help 🙂 , Thanks
        any idea about Jhilmil Caves, can it be covered even if we leave the car @Rishikesh ?
        Only 28 hrs on hand to & fro Delhi .

      2. Hey!
        Jhilmil Caves is situated at a trek of 4 km from Neelkanth Mahadev. Though short, the trek is more intense and steep as compared to the rest of the trek from Rishikesh to Neelkanth Mahadev.
        Whether or not you’ll be able to do it on the same day depends upon your speed and the time you begin the trek. 🙂

  2. Wow! The landscape along this trek looks incredible – so green and vibrant. I am not so great at trekking either, but I find the experience extremely rewarding as well.

  3. The more I read about India the more I want to go there. There is always an interesting story behind every destination like The Poison and the Elixir. It certainly seems like a beautiful trek. I love your photos!

    1. Thank You! 🙂
      There are indeed interesting stories behind most places in India. That makes the treks/ journeys even more interesting and meaningful. I always return with stories and legends about the places I visit! 🙂

  4. We have a policy called leave no trace: it means leave the trail in better condition than you found it. This looks like a lovely way to spend the day. I’m obsessed with hiking! Glad you enjoy the challenge too!

    1. It’s very satisfying to reach the summit! 😀
      And, the “leave no trace” policy sounds wonderful! I wish people begin to follow that policy everywhere and stop littering the trail with wrappers.

  5. Wow, what an experience! I agree with the mountain dog comment, they truly are the best guides. And so sad that you have to remind people to not litter. I’ve seen so much trash in places you would never expect it, you’d think people would use common sense!

    1. Yeah, the trash issue really makes me wonder! How can people throw wrappers in such beautiful places? Something must definitely be wrong with them!
      However, people are getting more aware nowadays.. It is good, I hope everybody begins to respect nature and stops littering the trail. 🙂

  6. Wow that sounds like a trying but rewarding journey. I love the idea of “mountain dogs” too! I haven’t meet one, usually I just see cats when I’m hiking…perhaps I’m doing something wrong haha

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