Haridwar („Door to God“) is an ancient Hindu city, located at the foot of the Himalayas mountain in the state Uttarakhand in North India. Its population is around 300 thousand people. The city is considered for one of the seven most holy places for the Hinduists, where they can reach moksha (spiritual liberation).
Haridwar has abundant, ancient religious and cultural heritage. In the city can be seen old haevli, which are a magnificent example of the Indian architecture from 18 and 19 century. The ancient houses with exquisite frescos and sophisticated stone facing deserve to be seen. The city is a famous center of the ayurvedic medicine and the traditional knowledge, and along Ganges river tower great number of ancient temples, ashrams (secluded places for living) and dharamsalas (inns for worshippers). The atmosphere in Haridwar is remarkable despite the city bustle. There are seen holy cows, having a walk calmly, masses of bright red holy powder, piled on the street stands, bottles with holy water from the Ganges river and much more colourful goods. Under the shadows of the religious India-rubber plant trees have made themselves comfortable holy men-sadhu, who meditate or play a chillum (whistle).
Haridwar – one of the four holy cities
Haridwar is one of the four holy cities, in which every 12 years is carried out Khumb Mela, the biggest religious festival in the world. According to the legend exactly in the Ganges river near Haridwar have got some of the drops of the immortality Amrit. Therefore at this time the city is visited by around 7 million people, who gather here, performing the ritual bathing at the banks of the Ganges river, in order to wash away their sins and to reach Moksha. Besides, every year in April in the city is celebrated the festival of the worshippers, but in the rest of the time the place is visited by many believers, who come here in order to pray and dip in the river waters from the holy stairs, called ghati.
According to one of the legends, the holy ghat Har ki Pauri was built by king Vikramaditya (1 century B.C.), in honour of his brother Bhartari, who meditated on the banks of the holy river. It is considered that god Vishnu has left the print of his foot on the stone, located on the upper wall of Har ki Pauri (literally meaning „a God’s step“ ), where the Holy Ganges river touches it at all times. Therefore this ghata in Hardiwar is one of the most honoured in India. Here is located and the 15-meter statue of the goddess Shiva with the trident, which is also seen from the highway, temples and the mountain. Every night on the bank of the Ganges river, at ghata Har ki Pauri is carried out the ritual Aarti. The most interesting moment is the end of the ceremony, when the worshippers release on the waters of the holy river their dias – small clay bowls with lit in them candles and decorated with flowers and fragrant resins. The glimmering flames are hundreds, which take away the evil and simultaneously they are belief in the good.
The interesting for city Haridwar is that here is served only vegetarian food without alcohol.
One of the greatest landmarks of Haridwar is Bharat Mata Mandir – an eight-storey temple, dedicated to Bharat Mata (Mother India), situated immediately to the Ganges river, opened in 1983 by Indira Gandhi. Each storey of the temple represents one epoch from the Indian history.
On the first storey is the statue of Bharat Mata. Higher up can be seen: a storey of famous heroes of India, a storey of the achievements of honoured women in India, a storey of great saints from different religions and their life together, different forms of the goddess Shakti, on the seventh storey are all incarnations of god Vishnu. The view towards the Himalayas Mountains and city of Haridwar from the last eight storey is magnificent.
The temple Mansa Devi is situated on the top Bilu Paut in the Himalayas and is a popular tourist destination. There is a cabin lift, which gives a pleasant traveling, and the view from the top is astounding. And because Mansa Devi literally means „the goddess, who fulfills the desires“ many people come here with the belief, that they shall possess what they are dreaming of.
The modern temple Pauan Dam is interesting, elaborated completely out of glass pieces.
The famous Shantikunj ashram is worth visiting, which represents a secluded place for living, where people come to learn yoga and meditation. It is located at 8 km from city of Haridwar.
Rishikesh is a beautiful mountainous town at 24 km from Haridwar, also a religious place.
For the lovers of the wild nature and adventures the Rajaji National park is an ideal destination. Occupying an enormous area, there are several entrances in the park. The closest to Haridwar is at 9 kilometers.