Haridwar or Hardwar are two names for the same place and both names are correct in their own ways. The entire Uttarakhand is dotted with temples of Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu is known as Hari and Shiva as Har. Dwar means gate, and it is for this reason that this place is known as Haridwar or Hardwar, as it is the Gateway to Shri Badrinath and Shri Kedarnath, the holy shrines of Hari and Har. Hinduism allows freedom to worship God in any form, and Hari and Har are two of His many forms. Uttarakhand abounds in shrines of gods & goddesses and Haridwar from time immemorial has been the gateway to these shrines.
Haridwar was also the place of meditation for many ancient sages. Sage Kapil meditated here and for that reason, this place was for some time known as Kapilasthan.
Haridwar is one of the four places where Kumbh is held every twelve years. Astrologically, dates for Kumbh at Haridwar become due when Venus and Jupiter coincide with Aquarius, and the Sun and Moon are in the house of Aries and Sagittarius respectively. I am not an astrologer to explain this happening of astrological science, but I thought it would be alright to borrow this version for the sake of readers. According to mythology, the gods and the demons churned the sea for acquisition of the fourteen precious items (14 Ratnas). These 14 Ratnas were:
SHRI, RAMBHA, BISH, VARUNI, AMRIT, SHANKH, GAJRAJ, DHENU, DHANAWANTRI, DHANU, TARU, CHANDRAMA, MANI and BAZ.
The churning of the sea was carried out for, among other ratnas, the procurement of Amrit, the nectar of immortality, and it was this nectar that was the last to emerge. Seeing the pitcher of nectar emerging out of the churning sea, the demons tried to grab it but Jayant the alert son of Indra captured the pitcher and ran away for the sake of the gods. Other gods accompanied Jayant, but the demons gave a big chase in order to snatch away the nectar. The struggle lasted for 12 days and nights during which time the gods kept the pitcher in hiding at Haridwar, Prayag Raj (Allahabad), Ujjain and Nasik. According to another story, during the struggle the pitcher broke and the nectar fell at these four places which became holy among the holy places. This is why Kumbh Mela is held at these four cities every three years in rotation, thus each place getting its turn only after twelve years. Aradh Kumbhas follow the Kumbhas every sixth years. Thousands of people from all parts of the country participate in the Kumbhs as if to see the God incarnate distributing nectar to all those who come from far and near and throng the ghats in large numbers.
Crowded as it is, Haridwar becomes more crowded during the Hindu month of Shrawan, coinciding the months of July-August or August-September. During Shrawan a large number of believers known as Kanwarias travel on foot to Haridwar. The roads get jampacked and at times the vehicular traffic has to be diverted to make room for the walking crowds. They are basically worshippers of Lord Shiva and carry on their shoulders ornamented pitchers filled with Ganga waters hanging on bamboo shafts. The water is offered to Lord Shiva in temples of their respective towns or villages. The cult of Kanwarias looks growing year after year. They can now be seen more often than in the month of Shrawan. They can also be seen as far as Gangotri for a long walk back home to make sure that they are doubly blessed.
Places of interest
Har Ki Paori
In a way, there is a kind of Kumbh in Haridwar every day. Hundreds and some times thousands of people throng the ghats and take a dip in the holy Ganga from morning till evening. Here at Haridwar the benign Ganga hurries down from the hills to the luxuriant foothills and finally to the Gangetic plains. Ganga is worshipped as the holy mother and the cleanser of all sins. Har Ki Paori, where it is believed the nectar spilled out from the pitcher and fell into the Brahma Kund, is the most popular place to take a dip. The footprints of Lord Vishnu are present on a slab of stone and it is said that Lord Vishnu blessed the gods and yakshas with darshan at this place.
Each evening hundreds of devotees attend the grand Arti performed at Har-ki-Paori, with pujaries holding oil lamps in one hand and chiming bells in the other. The emotionally charged atmosphere is most palpable. Prayers are offered to Mother Ganga flowing past the floodlit ghats, where the Mother is also worshipped as a deity in a small temple. Having come to Haridwar, Arti is something one must not miss.
In Haridwar, Ganga is the main attraction but the temples are of no less significance. Near Har-ki-Paori, devotees also offer prayers at the Ganga temple, Shankracharya temple, Nav Grah and Baraha Khamba temples in large number.
The Shakti temples of Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi are located atop two hills known as Vilwa Parvat and Neel Parvat, in picturesque surroundings. Each day a large number of devotees visit these temples and it is believed that their wishes are generally fulfilled. Both temples can be reached by ropeways or on foot. Other temples of legendary value are Sravan Nath, Mayadevi, Neeleshwar Mahadev, Bhuma Niketan and Kali Mata Mandir.
Bharat Mata Mandir
Four kilometers from Har ki Paori is the Bharat Mata temple which is a unique example of religion enthusing nationalism. Swami Satya Mitra Nand’s imagination has led to the concept of a beautifully structured temple housing the sanctum of “Bharat Mata” on the entrance floor and the idol of Lord Shiva on the top floor. This theme conveys the message that it is the duty of every visitor to worship “Bharat Mata” or Mother India before offering prayers to other gods and goddesses. In other words, loyalty to Bharat mata is the greatest religion.
Sapta Rishi Ashram
At 6 km is a picturesque spot where the Ganga is believed to have split into seven currents to make sure that the seven rishis meditating at seven different places are equally benefittd by the Ganga waters..
Followers of Swami Ramakrishna Param Hansa supervise this Mission, 2 km from Haridwar where they provide free medical services.
Gurukul Kangri University
At 6 km is this institution teaching Sanskrit and pharmacy according to the ancient system, and has an AyurvedicCollege as well.
This is a popular ashram for spiritual communion. Hundreds of believers assemble here every day for the pravachans or religious discourses.
Patanjali Yog Peeth
The Patanjali Yog Peeth is an important landmark located on Haridwar – Roorkee highway, which has become the talk of the nation and even some regions abroad. Haridwar is the Head quarter of Patanjali Yog Peeth with Swami Ram Dev as chief exponent and Acharya Balkrishna a senior colleague. The peeth has successfully sent the message of Yoga all over the world and now it draws large crowds to receive what it has to deliver, the science of Yoga. Its amazing to see the large following all over the world and it certainly can’t be without some efficacy that is – Treatment of illnesses through Yoga, pranayam and dietary descipline. Its not mere faith, its matter of fact.
Now the peeth has initiated work on herbology. Acharya Balkrishna has already visited Dronagiri Parvat north of Joshimath in search of herbs and has told the nation through media that he has found some and will go again to find more for the good of man kind. Herbs are in plenty in Dronagiri and other high altitude meadows and there is a good possibility that the Peeth may ful-fill this great mission for human welfare.
Raja Daksha Prajapati performed a Yagya, in which he invited all devas except his own daughter Sati and her consort Lord Shiva. Hurt by this neglect, Sati arrived uninvited at the Yagya and finding the welcome doors slammed, she burnt herself in the Yagya Kund. An enraged Shiva sent his ganas (warriors) to destroy the Yagya and He Himself began performing the dreaded “Tandav Nritya” (Dance of Destruction) which made the universe shake and tremble.
The ancient Daksheshwar Temple at Kankhal, 4km from Haridwar, symbolises this puranic story.
Note: Distances are from the Tourist Bureau at Haridwar.
Like all religious places, Haridwar too has its large community of Pandas. Pandas are the traditional custodians of Hindu faith and have contributed a lot in building up the edifice of pilgrimage in India. Most of the pandas are highly conversant with Hindu ritualism and are learned pundits. At all pilgrim places a Panda by tradition knows which towns, villages or part of the country comes under the prevue of his panda profession. For this reason a panda’s turf is usually hereditary and they keep detailed account of visits handled by them. It is quite interesting to find out from them the details of the pilgrimage of ones ancestors in the past. A panda has to be told of the visitor’s village, town and state, and the details are made available. If you get the details, you may rest assure that he is your Panda. They are extremely helpful to their yajmans and make all attempts to see that the yajmans’ stay becomes comfortable and the yajman is amply blessed. It is natural for the blessed yajman to reciprocate in making their Panda happy. Many of the educated Pandas are giving up their hereditary profession on the plea that people are losing interest in ritualism.
Rituals however are an inseparable part of Hindu religion and are popularly known as “Karma Kand”. No yatra could traditionally be considered complete without performing some minimum of rituals. I agree with those who feel that people are losing faith in ritualism. But at times it is also seen that the educated ones are more given to ritual practices of our society. It may be argued that even if ritualism is on the decrease among the educated masses it does not automatically imply loss of faith in religion. Ritualism and religion are two different things, the former is only a matter of finding a path to faith while the latter is more fundamental and deals with understanding the faith. With the spread of education ritualism or Karma kand can change, but religion will always remain a guiding force for life. The pandas are the guardians of Hindu faith; their contribution to religion should not be forgotten. Varna Vyawastha or caste system to a great extent has done much harm to the Hindu religion and it will be interesting to see how the pandas will adapt to the changing circumstances and contribute to the welfare of Hindu society by reforming the caste hegemony.
Haridwar has plenty of accommodation by way of ashrams and dharamshalas. The Uttarakhand Govt. has two spacious Tourist Bungalows overlooking the GangaCanal. Some good hotels have also come up during last few years. A complete list of hotels, Ashrams and other accommodations has been given in the appendix.
Delhi to Haridwar road map:The above map shown map is for the road route from Delhi to Rishikesh. The major destinations are as follows:Meerut – 70 km from Delhi (Meerut bypass is used here to skip the city), Muzaffarnagar – 140 km from Delhi (Muzaffarnagar bypass is used here to skip the city), Roorkee – 190 km ……….read more
|Delhi to Haridwar train : The most important junction for the tourists visiting the Garhwal region in Uttarakhand is Haridwar. The train service from Delhi to Haridwar is very regular and comfortable. The tourist destinations like Char Dham, Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib etc. ……….read more|
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