Har Har Mahadev. Another name of Haridwar is Hardwar meaning the gateway to Har (Lord Shiva). One has to take up the pilgrimage of Kedarnath or Panch Kedar, from Hardwar. These are some of India’s most sacred Shiva pilgrimage circuits. So today on the auspicious occasion of Shivratri, I will share how I spent a day in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. Legends have it that the city of Haridwar has been blessed by Lord Shiva’s footsteps. Well, this place is of tremendous mythological significance and a gateway to numerous pilgrimage circuits like Chhota Chardham. Haridwar also stands for gateway to Hari (Vishnu) at Badrinath Dham.
As per Hindu Mythology, Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons), in search of Goddess Lakshmi and amrit, the elixir of immortality, churned the ocean (Samudra-manthan). But Halaahal, the poison, also sprang along. Shiva drank the poison impartially to save all lives and his throat turned blue. Therefore he is called Neelkanth and the place where he drank the poison is in Rishikesh, very close to Haridwar.The said spot is marked by the Neelkanth Temple. It is said that when Garuda, the celestial bird of Lord Vishnu, was carrying the amrit, it spilled the elixir on Haridwar, making it a pious city. Besides Haridwar, it is believed that amrit spilled at Ujjain, Nasik and Allahabad too. Every 12 years, Kumbh Mela takes place at these sites. As a day in Haridwar progresses, we come across numerous such mythological stories. After all, Uttarakhand is called Dev Bhoomi, the land of gods.
Early Morning at Haridwar
A day in Haridwar should begin with Har ki Pauri Ghat which is considered to be one India’s most sacred places by the Hindus. It is believed that elixir dropped at Brahma Kund in Har ki Pauri. A morning in Haridwar starts with a dip in the holy Ganga which is believed to wash away all our sins. Even though Ganga falls frivolously from the mountains and enters plains at Haridwar, the current of the river is extremely strong. So Har ki Pauri has chained embankments for the safety of the people taking a dip in the Ganga. There are numerous temples at the ghat for offering prayers. It’s better to finish off breakfast from the plethora of breakfast options near the ghat. Items like puri, halwa and chats are popular. Try ‘Bun mix’ at Bhagwati Chhole Bhandar, near Kotwali, some 7-10 minutes’ walk from the ghat. Riding rickshaws at Haridwar is also fun.
Mansa Devi Temple
After breakfast a day in Haridwar starts with site seeing, beginning with Mansa Devi Temple on on top of Bilwa Parvat. We took the ropeway to Mansa Devi Temple. The view from the ropeway is excellent; overlooking Haridwar city and the River Ganga. Inside the Mansa Temple complex there are several other temples like that of Devi Chamunda, Vaishno Devi, Ganesha, Shiva and Lakshmi. The Pujaris (priests) were giving the devotees coins or notes. This was a unique experience of getting money from a temple as we generally see daanpatra or donation boxes in temples where the devotees put in money.
Chandi Devi Temple
We had to cross a bridge across Ganga to visit the Chandi Devi Temple, on top of Neel Parvat. Here too we took the ropeway. It is one of India’s most ancient temples where Shankaracharya, the Hindu sage visited in the 8th Century. The mythological story behind this temple is that Goddess Chandi killed the two demons/asuras Shambhu and Nishambhu. We then went to the temple of Anjana Devi, mother of Hanumanji. It is very close to the Chandidevi Temple. When you have a day in Haridwar, you should cross the river and come to the other side to the Chandi Devi Temple and Kankhal area.
Kankhal and Daksh Mahadev
In Kankhal we went to see the Daksh Mahadev Temple, an ancient temple of Lord Shiva. By the puranas, King Daksha Prajapati, the father of Devi Sati, performed a yajna, without inviting his daughter and her husband. Devi Sati attended uninvited where King Daksha insulted Lord Shiva, her husband and therefore, she jumped into the flames of the yajna and gave her life. As a tribute to this legend, the Sati-Kundi where she jumped into the fire; is preserved and worshipped. At Kankhal Maa Anandamayee Ashram is also present. The ashram has a very serene ambiance.
Lunch at Haridwar
After visiting Kankhal, we returned back to Haridwar for lunch. Only vegetarian food is available in Haridwar but you will be spoilt for choice. Because we had a concoction of chats, puris, bun mix and sweets in the morning, we preferred a normal veg-thali for lunch. It included long grained Basmati rice which are also locally called Dehradun Rice and chapattis or rotis as well. They serve ghee generously on both rice and rotis. I have tasted the best ghee in Haridwar and its fragrance is out of the world for foodies. The thali consisted of daal fry, aloo subji, mixed ved or navratan korma and a gulab jamun (sweet) to end with. I forgot to mention, we also had some lassi during the site seeing. Even if you have only a day in Haridwar, focusing on food is essential.
Bharat Mata Temple
After lunch we went walking to the Bharat Mata Temple, an eight storey pure white colour building by the holy Ganga River. It is a temple dedicated to our mother land and the martyrs and freedom fighters. Each floor is dedicated to separate deities, with Bharat Mata being on the first floor or the base. The second floor is dedicated to Indian heroes and is named ‘Shoor Mandir’. ‘Matru Mandir’ is the third floor dedicated to the significant women of India. India is a land of saints and therefore the fourth floor is dedicated to them and is called, ‘Sant Mandir’. The fifth floor is dedicated to the beauty of peaceful multi religious coexistence in India. Sixth and seventh floors are dedicated to Shakti and Lord Vishnu respectively and Lord Shiva occupies the top floor. There is lift only for going up but you will have to come down by stairs. There are several temples and ashrams, yet you should not miss Bharat Mata Temple, even if you have just a day in Haridwar.
Since we had only a day in Haridwar, we were doubtful if we should visit Pawan Dham. Well, it was the right decision that we finally went there. The place is pretty close to Har ki Paudi and so we decided to quickly pay a visit to Pawan Dham and come back for the evening aarti at the ghat. Pawan Dham is a magical place, elaborately decorated with exquisite glass and mirror work and beautiful idols of Hindu gods and goddesses.
The Ganga Aarti at Har ki Pauri
A day in Haridwar is bound to begin and end at the Har ki Pauri. The Ganga Aarti in the evening is famous at Har ki Pauri. Watching evening aarti can be life changing. The spirit and energy of the place is beyond explanations, it needs to be experienced. Lamps are lit and Ma Ganga is worshipped. Flowers and lamps are floated in the Ganga. I only wish that with whole hearted prayers we must also look into the fact that we don’t pollute the ghats or the river. Our hearts were filled with warmth and joy after the aarti and we strolled around in the market a bit.In the market near Har ki Paudi you will find all kind of things, literally all kinds, from Puja items to toys. Woolens, bags, artificial jewellery and home décor; there is nothing that you won’t find.
Haridwar, the Energy Hub
So here I end my experience of a day in Haridwar. The next day we started our Char Dham Yatra from Haridwar, calling out ‘Har Har Mahadev’ with loads of energy that Haridwar breathed in us.