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Where the Ganga enters the plains
By: indian1969 | Jan 09, 2005 02:18 PM
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Pros:  Good climate, river Ganga, educational and cultural center
Cons:  Beware of Touts and aggresive pundits
When one speaks of Indian culture and tradition, one name reasonates every time throughout, the Ganga , holy river for millions of Indians, the banks of which have seen the rise and fall of empires and the changing of history. Be it mythology, history,literature, arts the Ganga will forever be a part of the Indian pyshce. In my previous article I had written about one of the holy spots on the Ganga, Rishikesh.

This article is on the other holy town Haridwar located on the banks of the river. Of course Haridwar is famous not just for the Ganga, but also for the Kumbh Mela and the Arth Kumbh Mela held every 12 and 6 years respectively. Haridwar along with Ayodhya, Kashi,Mathura, Kanchi,Ujjain and Dwaraka make up the 7 holy cities of India. Also called as Mayapuri, Kapila and Gangadwar the place is called as Haridwar( After Hari,Lord Vishnu) or Hardwar ( After Hara,Lord Shiva ).

Kumbh Mela
According to Indian mythology, when the Devas and Asuras fought for the nectar, one of the Devas, Jayantha assumed the form of a giant bird and carried away the pitcher of nectar. From the pitcher feel 4 drops of the nectar of immortality( Amrit) at Haridwar, Ujjain, Nasik and Prayaga. Hence this festival is considered one of the most auspicious in India and millions of pilgrims come here all over from India and abroad to take a dip in the holy river.

Legend of the city
Haridwar's legend is closely interwoven with that of the Ganga. According to Indian mythology, the Ganges descended on earth in response to the prayers of Bhagirath, so that his ancestors, would obtain salvation. Bhagirath was the great grandson of Sagara, the founder of the Surya Vamsh( or the Solar Dynasty). Hence the Ramayana has a lot of references to the Ganga. Vidur the wise minister of Dhritarasthra recited the Mahabharat to Rishi Maitreya here.

Haridwar was first described by Hieun Tsang in his writings in 634 A.D. where he called it as Mo-Yu-Lo. This region was under the rule of the Kushan and Maurya empires for some time. During Emperor Akbar's time, his historian Abul Fazl called it as Mayapuri, and Akbar used to drink only Ganga water especially transported from Haridwar. Another general of Akbar, Raja Man Singh rennovated the Har Ki Pauri and laid the foundations for the city. When India passed under the British Raj, Lord Dalhousie inaugurated the first Ganga canal here in 1854 A.D. Haridwar came onto the railway map of India in 1885 and in subsequent years became a major railway junction in itself. Great philosophers and leaders of modern India like Swami Dayananda, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Shraddhananda and Mahatma Gandhi visited this place during their lifetime.

Important Places::

Haridwar is a city abounding in temples and Ashrams. Some of the important temples in the city are :
_Mansa Devi_ : Located on the top of the Bilwa hill, this is dedicated to Manasa Devi one of the Shakti forms of the Goddess. One can go to the top of the hill using a cable car ride. You get a great view of the city from here.

_Chandi Devi_
Another temple dedicated to the Devi located on Neel Parvat, which is other side of Ganga. Constructed by a Kashmiri king Suchat in 1929, this can also be reached by a cable car.

_Maya Devi_
One of the holiest Shakti peeths of India. Maya Devi is also regarded as the patron deity of Hardwar. According to Indian mythology, when Lord Vishnu cut Sati's body into pieces, her heart and navel fell at this place.

_Daksha Mahadev Temple_
Located at a place called Kankhal ,which is about 4 km from Haridwar. This deals with the story of Daksh and Lord Shiva. Daksh was the father of Sati, and when he did not invite Lord Shiva to the Yagna, Sati,unable to bear the insult to her husband, burnt herself in the Yagna Kund. On hearing this Shiva's hordes attacked the place and Daksha was beheaded. But later Mahadev bought Daksh back to life and this temple is dedicated to this.

_Hari Ki Pauri_
One of the holiest ghats in Hardwar, this is believed to contain an imprint of Lord Vishnu's footprint. Many of the people who come to Haridwar bathe in the Ganga at this place, as they believe that a dip here washes away all sins. However do beware of the force of the Ganges here,its strong currents could sweep you away and most of the ghats are quite slippery. Also bewared of pundits and touts, who accost you to perform pujas, rituals and hawkers trying to sell you anything. Some of them can be quite aggresive and if you are not careful it could lighten your wallet.
And yes like in Rishikesh, the Ganga Arti is a must watch here.

_Dushera_ though celebrated on a grand scale here is more associated with the descent of the Ganga than with Ram's victory over Ravan.
Haridwar is not a holy town just for Hindus, but also for Muslims, many of whom congregate here to observe the Urs of Piran Khalier located just 23 km from Haridwar. It is observed at the Dargah of Hazrat Makdhum Sabir located on the outskirts of Roorkee.
For shoppers you do have a lot of handicraft emporiums here and the river stones used to make small idols.

Haridwar has a wide range of accomodation from Govt tourist rest houses to medium range hotels to free Dharamshalas and well maintained Ashrams.
If you are the adventorous kind, you can undertake trekking trips from here to places like Valley of Flowers,Dodital and Pindari glacier.

Haridwar is not just a spiritual and religious center, but an educational center also. Two of India's finest educational institutions are located here. One is the Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya which offers training in the true Gurukul tradition and stresses a lot on Indian culture, traditions and spirituality. The other is IIT, Roorkee, which is one of the oldest engineering colleges in India and is considered one of the best institutions in India.

Apart from ancient temples, Haridwar also contains one of the temples of Modern India, the Bharat Heavy Elecrticals plant here which has give a major impetus to industrial growth in this area.
A blend of the modern and traditional, the holy Ganga river, 2 famous educational institutions all combine together to make Haridwar a place that every Indian must visit in his life time to experience the soul of India.
Type of Travel:   Day Trip
Duration of Stay:   1 day only
Average Expenditure:   Moderate (less than Rs.2000/day)
Group Size:   Couple
Travelling company:   Families
Best Time to Visit:   Any time of the year
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