"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."
~ Edmund Hillary


Uttarakhand ~ Haridwar

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).

More on Uttaranchal
Uttaranchal Districts
Char Dham Yatra
Corbett National Park
Valley of Flowers
Festivals of Kumaon


Haridwar to Badrinath

Khedatal Trek

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:

This is one of the most famous bathing ghats at Haridwar. The best time to visit this spot, is at sunset, when the 'Aarti' is performed. A daily ritual, it is a breathtaking sight, with thousands of earthern lamps lighting up the evening.

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.

The Ghats

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.

Gorakhnath Temple
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.

Ghat Temples
There are a number of temples at Chandighat including the Kalika Temple which is best known. Across the main Ganga river is the Neel Parvat, on top of which is the Chandi Devi temple. The summit can be reached, after trekking for about 3 km on the hill.

Kankhal Temples
The Kankhal Temples are 3 km from the heart of Haridwar. There are a number of famous temples here including Birbhadreshwar Temple, Daksha Mahadev Temple and Sati Kund. Located at Kankhal, which is one of the five sacred places around Haridwar, the site has a story attached to it. Legend has it, that Daksh Prajapati, Sati's father, performed a yagna at this place. He did not invite Lord Shiva. Sati, feeling insulted, consequently, burnt herself in the Yagna Kund, here.

Mansa Devi Temple
Atop a hill Mansa Pahar overlooking Haridwar, this temple is dedicated to the goddess who grants wishes of devotees. It is connected by a ropeway to the heart of town. Views from the cable car are well worth the Rs 20 each way for the 5 minute journey. The temple is open from 8 am to noon and again from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Bhimganga Tank
On the way to Rishikesh, this tank is said to have been made by Bhim, with a jab of his knee, when the Pandavas were going to the Himalayas through Haridwar.

Canal Centenary Bridge
Located near Har-ki-Pauri, this bridge commands a beautiful view of the canal, and all the ghats.

Parmarth Ashram
About six kms away, on the way to Rishikesh, is this Ashram, housing a beautiful image of Goddess Durga.

Pawan Dham
The Ashram, here, is famous for its Hanuman temple, built with pieces of glass.

When to Visit
The best season to visit, is between May and October/November.

Getting There

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).
Amba Niwas, Choti Sabzi Mandi, Vishnu Ghat.
Hotel Teerth, Subhash Ghat, Har-ki-Pauri.
Suvidha, Sharavan Nath Nagar.
Mansarovar International, Upper Road, Moti Bazar.
Motel Rahi (U.P. Tourism), Near Bus Stand, Railway Road.
Tourist Bungalow (U.P. Tourism), Belwala, Hrishikesh Bypass Road.
Hotel Nanda Tels Haridwar-Hrishikesh Highway.
Hotel Himgiri International, Devpura.

Tourist Information

Regional Tourist Office, Upper Road (Tel: 427370).
UP Tourist Information Bureau, Near Bus Stand, Station Road.

Tourist Information Centre
Railway Station.

Ganga Sabha
Near Harki-Pauri.

Information compiled by Romola Butalia

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.