Haridwar, 214 km northeast of Delhi, is at the base of the Shivalik hills. Here the mighty Ganga comes down to the plains of India from the Himalayas. Amongst the many pilgrimage towns situated along the length of the holy Ganga, Haridwar is arguably the holiest in the land. Haridwar represents the gateway to the Himalayan pilgrimage shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath. The pilgrimage to the Himalayan shrines begins only when the sun reaches the zodiac sign of Aries.
Literally translated, Haridwar means the 'Gateway to the abode of the gods'. Its ancient history dates back to pre-historic times. In Hindu mythology, it was referred to as Kapilsthan. Legend has it, that the Suryavanshi Prince Bhagirnath, performed penance here, to salvage the souls of his ancestors, who had perished due to a curse o sage Kapila. His penance caused the bountiful waters of the river Ganga to revivie the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara. Amongst its other names, Haridwar has also been referred to as Gangadwar, and Tapovan. Known also as 'Mayapuri' in the Puranas, it is mentioned in the memoirs of the celebrated Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang.
According to mythology, drops of nectar or amrit, churned out from the primordial ocean, fell at the four sites at each of which the Kumbh Melas are held every 12 years. The Kumbha Mela is held here once when Jupiter transits to the zodiac sign of Aquarius. The Kumbha, and the Ardh Kumbha, held every six years are major religious events when millions of devoted Hindus take a holy dip in the Ganga.
The five sacred bathing spots in Haridwar are Gangadwara, Kankhal, Nila Parvata, Bilwa Theertha and Kusavarta. The main ghat at Haridwar is known as Harki-Pauri (known for a footprint of Vishnu on a stone in a wall).
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Nearby is the Gangadwara temple, the most important of the several temples in this town. The Ganga Aarti is a spectacular and touching sight, when the aarti ceremony is performed at all temples in Haridwar at the same instant. Hundreds of people throng to the ghats at Harki-Pauri to offer lamps and flowers that are floated down the river.
What to see:
The Maha Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years and an estimated 45 million people converge to bathe in the sacred waters of the Ganges as part of a purification ritual. Here you see a vast array of religious ascetics - sadhus and mahants - who come down from their abodes in forests, mountains and caves.
Virtually all devotees who visit Haridwar have a sacramental bath in the river Ganga. Though Har-ki-Pauri is the most popular place for taking a dip, there are other bathing ghats too. Steps have been built leading down to the specially-diverted waters of the river so that devotees can bathe in safety. Dedicated bathers then immerse themselves off the natural banks of the swift-flowing, and often very chilly, Ganga.
This is an imposing edifice dedicated to Guru Gorakhnath on the main road leading to Har-ki-Pauri. As might be expected in such an ancient pilgrim centre, Haridwar has temples for various denominations and sects.
Mansa Devi Temple
Canal Centenary Bridge
When to Visit
Road: Haridwar is 24 kms from Rishikesh by road. Bus services run by the UP Roadways, other states and private operators connect Haridwar with other towns in North India. Cycle-rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, tongas, vikrams, taxis are the means of local transport.
Rail: Haridwar is well connected by rail to Howrah (1438 kms), Bombay (1574 kms), Delhi (199 kms), Lucknow (475 kms), Agra (365 kms).
Air: Jolly Grant airfield, 35 km from Haridwar, is the nearest Airport.
Where to Stay
Aarti, Railway Station Road (Tel: 427456).
Regional Tourist Office, Upper Road (Tel: 427370).
Tourist Information Centre
Information compiled by Romola Butalia
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.