Haridwar is one of the famous religious destinations of the country. This small urban city located at the foothills of the Himalayas with the holy Ganges running through it, is gateway to the four pilgrimages of Uttarakhand.
Haridwar is also known as Gangadwar, since the holy River Ganga after descending from the Himalayas enters into the plains through Haridwar. Tourists and devotees from all over the globe come to flock this holy destination for more than many reasons.
Religious significance & legends associated:
Haridwar is the place where people from across the India visit for pilgrimage and to take a holy dip into the River Ganges. Haridwar is an ancient and one of the most sacred cities in India. A large number of rituals from the ancient Hindu civilization are performed in Haridwar which also make it a much desired place for the foreigners to visit, as it gives them a close insight into the India's complex and diverse culture.
According to folklore, the city is one of the places where a few drops of Amrit fell while the sacred bird Garuda carried it to the heavens. Hindus believe that Brahma Kund at Har-ki-Pauri is the place where the drops of Amrit fell and hence every year, thousands of tourists visit the holy site. Also, according to a popular legend, Prince Bhagirath performed strict penance here to salvage the souls of his ancestors who had perished due to sage Kapil's curse. The penance bore fruit and the river Ganga trickled forth from Lord Shiva's locks and its bountiful water revived the sons of King Sagara. In the tradition of Bhagirath, Hindu devotees bring the ashes of their departed family members to Haridwar, in hope of their salvation by the water of River Ganges.
Haridwar is also one of the four places where the sacred Kumbh Mela is held once in every 12 years, drawing more than half a million pilgrims. Pilgrims believe that they can go to heaven by getting their salvation after a holy dip in the river Ganges at Haridwar.
Things to do/Places to visit in Haridwar:
1. Take a dip at the Har-ki-Pauri Ghat:
The Har-ki-Pauri Ghat is also known as Bhramakund and is regarded the most sacred and auspicious point to bathe in the Ganga, and taking a dip here is a sacred practice believed to wash away one's sins. There are several temples on the banks of the river here and special significance is given to a stone wall here which is said to have the imprints of Lord Vishnu.
2. Attend the Ganga Aarti
One spectacular sight that you should absolutely not miss while on a visit to Haridwar is Ganga Ji ki Aarti, performed every evening after sunset on the ghats of Ganga in Haridwar (usually begins at 6:30 pm). The reflection of the golden diyas floating on the river and the enchanting sounds of hymns and mantras resonating around during the Aarti are promised to leave you amazed and provide a mystical experience.
3. Trek to Mansa Devi Temple
Dedicated to goddess Mansa Devi, this temple can be reached either by cable car or by trekking up the 2 kms road stretch that gently winds up to the hill top. From the temple, you can have a bird's eye view of Haridwar.
4. Practice Yoga at Patanjali Yog Peeth
The famous ashram and yoga centre was set up by Baba Ramdev to propagate Yoga and is named after Maharishi Patanjali who invented Yoga 5000 years ago. Patanajali Yog Peeth provides visitors with several facilities including Yoga classes where they are taught ancient techniques like Tattva Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Ashtana Yoga. There is also a herbal centre in its premises where Ayurvedic medicine and health and wellness products are developed. Residential camps are also held to teach yoga and meditation.
5. Visit Sapt Rishi Ashram and Sapt Sarovar
It is believed that seven sages meditated here and hence its name. Also, as per the belief, Ganga split herself into seven streams to not to disturb these seven sages during their meditation.
6. Go to Maya Devi Mandir
This famous pilgrimage destination is one of the 51 'shakti peeths' related to Hindu faith. It is dedicated to Maya Devi, the presiding deity of Haridwar.
7. Enjoy wildlife at Rajaji National Park
If you want a drag from the crowd of this pilgrim city, you can visit Rajaji National Park, which is about 10 kms from Haridwar. The eco-system is believed to be 10 million years old. The park hosts a diverse range of wildlife such as elephants, deer and wild boar. Elephant Safari is also available at Chilla and Dholkand.
8. Pay obeisance at Neelkanth Mahadev Temple
The temple is one of the most revered holy shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. Situated 49 kms from Haridwar, Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is a popular Hindu pilgrimage site and witnesses heavy footfall of Hindu devotees throughout the year. According to Hindu mythology, the place where the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple currently stands is the sacred location where Lord Shiva consumed the poison that originated from the sea during the Samudramanthan (churning of the ocean). This poison that emanated during the event made his throat blue in color. Thus, Lord Shiva is also known as Nilkanth, literally meaning The Blue Throated One.
How to reach Haridwar:
Being a major tourist and pilgrimage destination, Haridwar is well connected to all the major cities of the country by road, air and railways. The nearest railway station is the Haridwar Railway Station. Local buses, taxis and autos can be easily availed from the railway station or bus stand to the city and other major attractions. The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, situated at a distance of 35 kms from Haridwar.