Gateway to God
Haridwar is a holy city situated in Uttarakhand, India.It is also called the Gateway to God, 'Hari' meaning god and 'dwar' meaning gate It is regarded as one of the seven holiest places to Hindus.
After travelling down from its source at the edge of the Gangotri Glacier, the Ganga enters North India for the first time at Haridwar. And it enters with a vengance. The river flows very swiftly- we saw two people being swept off the ghats while we were watching. They were saved by some nearby men, who jumped in on both occasions fortunately.
The spot where the mythical "Elixir of Mortality" is believed to have fallen is at Har-ki-Pauri, the most sacred ghat of Haridwar; thousands of devotees and pilgrims flock here to immerse themselves in the Ganga during festivals This ritual is considered to be the equivalent of washing away one's sins to attain Moksha.
Haridwar has a rich and ancient religious and cultural heritage. It has many old havelis and mansions bearing exquisite murals and intricate stonework. but these are not easily obvious to travellers.
I have to confess that I what somewhat disappointed in this little city.
It has some charm- but the overall feeling- to me, anyway,-was that there was not a lot to see or do in Haridwar, after seeing and/or taking part in the Aarti ceremony each sunset. The streets are confusing, and they have some strange rules regarding transport within the city.
I will explain this in my travel tip.
Internet Cafes & ATM's are hard to find- and the locals were not very helpful regarding the location of these. We saw only a handful of Western travellers on our visit. They all looked as frazzelled as we did.
There are row of shops & stalls in the narrow lanes near the riverbank- (Bara Bazaar) mostly selling religious artifacts- but we did see many food-stalls that looked good. The sweet shops were very colourful, and looked well kept. I was not tempted to shop in Haridwar.
There is fortunately a very lovely National Park (Rajiji) nearby, and this offers a good day out (see tip section). The rest of the time, we spent sitting on our hotel balcony, watching the Ganga rush by, soaking up some sunshine and reading. So Haridwar can be restful- something we really needed at the time after having been travelling for a month non-stop.
I may be doing Haridwar an injustice- maybe it was our frame of mind- and one day I would like to return here. Maybe we missed something. If its there, we will find it next time.
Even the Aarti Ceremony was a disappointment. We had been to Varanasi, and the atmosphere at Haridwar (certainly in the spot that we were told is for "tourists") was very contrived. We had a really unpleasant experience here. The area where the local people & pilgrims were gathered seemed much more realistic, and it was very pretty at night, with little candles glowing in the dark.
Haridwar will forever be in my memory though, because this is the only time ever in all our Indian travels that Richard TOTALLY lost his cool- I thought that he was going to toss one "priest" into the Ganges. More of that in my warning tip.
If you are driving between Delhi and Haridwar, make sure to have a rest-stop at CHEETAL RESORT- (halfway between cities) and see the beautiful gardens. In "Off beaten track" tip
Read about Yogi, the baby elephant- in Rajiji Park