For centuries, Haridwar is a place that preserves Hindu religion and mysticism. Haridwar literally means ‘Gateway to God’, located on the banks of river Ganges, this small city is undoubtedly one of the holiest Hindu places in the world. This chaotic, unrelenting discreet city witnesses millions of pilgrims every year. The place is also a gateway to Char Dham or four religious centres – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, promising holy, adventure and cultural experiences for travellers.
Religiously Haridwar holds more significance than neighbourhood Rishikesh, with a clamouring crowd at Har-ki-Pauri at the time of evening aarti, impressive temples, ashrams and overall an aura of religious fervour, make it a religious potpourri. Needlessly to say, being a religious town it hosts various religious festivals throughout the year. Some of the renowned festivals are Kumbh Mela, Kavad Mela, Somvati Amavasya Mela and Ganga Dussehra.
Sights & Activities
Har-ki-Pauri – This is the signature attraction of Haridwar, which literally means the ‘Footsteps of God’. According to legend, Lord Vishnu dropped some heavenly nectar and left behind his footsteps here. Despite of fast current of Ganges, pilgrims take a dip holding chains fixed with the bar of ghats and donate money to the priests and shrines. Every evening an illustrious Ganga aarti (river worship ceremony) is staged here. This is best thing one can watch in Haridwar. The best times to visit the place are early morning and just before dusk.
Mansa Devi & Chandi Devi Temples – Mansa Devi temple is situated on the hilltop and can be reached through a cable car. The path is lined with stalls selling Prasad (food offering in religious ceremonies). Travellers can also walk down 1.5 km path, but monkeys are atrocious here. Another temple Chandi Devi temple is located on Neel Hills, 4 km southeast of Haridwar. Many pilgrims combine these two temples in a same cable car, or one can walk through 4 km and reach there.
Haridwar Ashram Stay – Many travellers, especially foreigners make a beeline for Rishikesh to learn yoga and Hindu spiritual practice. However, no one can deny a few but serious ashrams in Haridwar run by learned masters and less commercial pursuit. Two most notable ashrams are: Sri Prem Nagar Ashram and Mohyal Ashram
Rajaji National Park - This unspoilt park is located almost 13 km from Haridwar, covering 820 sq.km in the forested foothills a home to number of elephants, a few tigers, deers, leopards, a handful of sloth beers and some 300 species of birds. Unlike other national parks where elephant safari is predominant, this national park offers only jeep safari, accommodating a maximum of 8 people. If anyone wants to stay overnight in the forest, there are three historic but rudimentary rest houses in the park. Staying in one of the rest houses will make the entry fee valid for three days. There is no food available in the rest houses, so one need to arrange food from Chilla. The comfortable stay is in Chilla GMVN rest house outside the park.