Haridwar, ‘Gateway to the Gods’, is one of the most ancient and famous Hindu pilgrimage centers in India. Situated on the banks of River Ganges, Haridwar is dotted with a number of temples, ashrams and ghats. Haridwar is one of the places where Maha Kumbh Mela is organized once every 12 years and Ardh Kumbha every 6 years.
How to Reach
Haridwar is well connected by both road and train. It can be reach in a little over 4 hours by road from New Delhi. It has train connections with all major Indian cities.
Nearest airport for Haridwar is Jolly Grant Airport located near Dehradun. It is some 45km from Haridwar and can be reached by a drive of just a little over an hour.
Places to visit
One of the first places to visit in Haridwar is Har Ki Pauri, which is said to have been visited by both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Ganga Aarti performed here at the time of dusk is a sight in its own.
Haridwar has a number of temples which prove huge attraction for visitors. Some of the most prominent temples here are Mansa Devi Temple, Chandi Devi Temple, and Maya Devi Temple. Other important places one should visit on a trip to Haridwar include Kanakhal, Sapt Rishi Ashram and Pawan Dham.
Haridwar is one of the most popular spiritual and religious place in India for the followers of Hinduism. Situated in Uttarakhand, some 220km from New Delhi, 52km from Dehradun, and around 21km from Rishikesh, Haridwar is the place where River Ganga enters plains.
Haridwar’s literal translation is ‘the gate to God’. And, it is indeed the gate to most visited religious places in India – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri which together are called ‘char dham‘.
In religious texts, Haridwar has been specified with names like Kapilsthan, Gangadwar and Mayapuri. Interestingly, Shaivites (devotees of Shiva) and Vaishnavites (devotees of Vishnu) call the city Hardwar and Haridwar respectively – Har meaning Shiva and Hari, Vishnu.
According to Puranas, Haridwar, along with Ujjain, Nashik, and Prayag, is one of four sites where drops of amrita, the elixir of immortality, accidentally spilled over from a kumbha (pitcher) while being carried by Garuda after the Samudra Manthan, or the churning of the ocean of milk.
Brahma Kund, the spot where the amrita fell, is believed to be located at Har Ki Pauri (literally, “footsteps of the Lord”) and is considered to be the most sacred ghat of Haridwar. This is why kumbh mela is organized here once every 12 years.
In recent years, Haridwar has also emerged as an industrial town with BHEL setting up its unit here and subsequently ancillary units coming up. Rajaji National Park is also situated at the periphery of the town.
Literally meaning ‘footsteps of God’, Har Ki Pauri is the most visited place in Haridwar. It is believed Brahma Kund, the spot where amrita fell is situated here. There are many ‘ghats’ at Har Ki Pauri for visitors to take bath. Taking a dip in the cool waters of River Ganga here is an amazing experience. Lots of followers come here almost everyday precisely for that.
Har Ki Pauri has gone major extensions over the years to accommodate the increasing number of visitors every year and during Kumbh Mela. This is the site of beautiful looking Ganga Aarti every morning and evening.
Ganga Aarti in Haridwar is quite famous in India. It is a visual treat to see this. It commences every evening just before sunset. There are 21 pooja aartis which are rotated at the same time in prayer to Goddess Ganga. The dance of the flames in air, the synchronized ringing of bells, thousands of people singing hymns at the same time and beautiful golden reflection of floral diyas in the flowing Ganga water – all these create a hypnotic ambiance. This is an experience of its own for everyone – followers or non-followers of Hinduism.
Mansa Devi Temple
Mansa Devi Temple, a temple dedicated to goddess Mansa Devi, a form of Goddess Shakti, is located atop the Bilwa Parvat on the Sivalik Hills. The temple, also known as Bilwa Tirth, is one of the Panch Tirth (Five Pilgrimages) within Haridwar. It is believed that the goddess Mansa fulfils all the wishes of a sincere devotee.
The temple can be reached by either a 3-km steep trek from Haridwar or by a Ropeway also known as Mansa Devi Udankhatola.
Maya Devi Temple
Maya Devi temple is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths of India. It was this temple after which Haridwar was called Mayapuri in ancient days, as referred in several religious texts. Maya Devi Temple, situated near Har Ki Pauri, is said to date back to the 11th century CE. It is a bit surprising to see it has survived centuries of wear and tear and is well preserved.
It is believed that the heart and navel of Goddess Sati fell here in the aftermath of events which occurred after she had ended her life in sacrificial fire at the religious ceremony conducted by her own father Prajapati Daksha.
Maya Devi is recognized as the Adhisthatri (Guardian) of Haridwar from the days the city was known as Mayapuri.