In the Land of Gods, Haridwar situated on the banks of River Ganga is one of the pinnacles of pilgrimage that every Hindu devotee must make to pay obeisance to the holy trinity as well as the ultimate Mother Goddess Adi Parashakti or Sati. Haridwar is a place with high spiritual value for it’s not only a place sacred to the Shaivites and the Vaishnavites but also an important site of worship for the devotees of the Shaktism sect.
The distinction can be observed by the interpretation of the meaning of the name Haridwar or Hardwar itself. Shaivites prefer the name Hardwar – “Har” being another name of Lord Shiva and “Dwar” meaning the Gate. Hardwar to them represents “Gateway to Lord Shiva’s abode”. The journey to reach Mount Kailash for devotees begins here. For the Vaishnavites, the name Haridwar means “Hari”, another name of Lord Vishnu and “Dwar” meaning the Gate.
The city is the gateway to reach Badrinath, one of the most important temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Haridwar is also believed to be the abode of Goddess Sati. It is a belief that Daksha, her father resided at Haridwar in a celestial palace.
The city of Haridwar is mentioned in several Puranas and holy texts. In the Devi Bhagavatam, Haridwar is mentioned as a famous pilgrimage center. The city is also mentioned in the epic Ramayana and several times in the Mahabharata. The Vayu Purana and the Nilamata Purana also mention the holy importance of the region of Gangadwara.
- The city of Haridwar is believed to one of the oldest inhabited city in the world. Several archeological findings have proved that human civilization existed and flourished in the region as early as 1200 BC.
- Haridwar was ruled by the Mauryas (322-185 BC) and then by the Kushanas (1st – 3rd century AD).
- Writings of the Chinese traveler Huan Tsang who visited India in 629 AD under the reign of King Harshavardhan state the existence of fort and several temples at the region.
- The first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak visited Haridwar and bathed in the Kushawarta Ghat (Kankhal),
- The famous Mughal Emperor Akbar visited Haridwar and took a dip in River Ganga and drank her water as a mark of respect. Raja Man Singh of Amber laid down the foundation for construction and renovation of several Ghats at Haridwar.
Significance of Haridwar
- According to the Garuda Purana, Haridwar is one of the seven holiest places or Moksha Sthalas as per Hinduism. The other six are Ayodhya, Varanasi, Mathura, Kanchipuram, Ujjain, and Dwarka. These places are of great religious and spiritual importance where either God has taken an avatar (Mathura and Ayodhya) or has great mythological value like Ujjain, Haridwar, Dwarka, and Varanasi.
- The city of Haridwar was also called Gangadwar in ancient times. The River Ganga enters the Indo-Gangetic plains of North India at Haridwar after its origin at Gaumukh at Gangotri.
- According to the Samudra Manthan event in Hinduism, Haridwar is one of the four places where drops of Amrit accidently fell to earth when carried by Garuda. The other three places are Allahabad, Nashik, and Ujjain. These four places celebrate the grand Kumbh Mela to commemorate the significance of the event.
- The city is also the gateway of the famed Chhota Char Dham pilgrimage of holy places in the state of Uttarakhand. These Char Dhams are Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
- Taking a dip in Brahma Kund, at Har Ki Pauri Ghat is considered the most sacred bath any Hindu could perform. This is the spot where the Amrit fell on the Earth. It is believed that taking a dip here will wash away all the sins committed in a lifetime.
- The holy surroundings of Haridwar are also believed to be the place where the holy Saint Kapila had an Ashram and did penance here. This place is also referred to as Kapilasthana in ancient scripts.
- At the Ghat of Har ki Pauri, one can witness Lord Vishnu’s footprints that are worshiped with great reverence here.
Places of pilgrimage in Haridwar
The pilgrims take the famed “Pancha Tirtha” pilgrimage within Haridwar to receive the blessings from all the Gods and the Goddesses residing here. These five places are:
Mansa Devi Temple or the Bilwa Tirtha
The Temple is located atop the Bilwa Parvat at approximately 2.5 km distance from the city center. The Temple is dedicated to Goddess Mansa or Manasa. The Temple is one of the three Siddha Peethas located in Haridwar. The Goddess is widely worshiped in Bengal, North-East and certain regions in Southern India.
The Sanctum or the Garbhagriha houses two idols of the deity that are worshiped – one with eight arms and the other with three heads and five arms.
Mansa Devi Temple Legend
- The parentage of Goddess Manasa is till date contested by several versions in the Puranas. Some believe that Goddess Manasa was the creation of Lord Shiva (hence his daughter) when his seed touched the idol erected by Kadru, the wife of Sage Kashyap. Kadru was the Mother of the Snake people. Goddess Parvati was extremely jealous of her. Suspecting Manasa of being a co-wife, she burned one of her eyes. Goddess Manasa became the chief of snakes and is believed to be the one who saved Lord Shiva from being poisoned during the Samudra Manthan episode. Tired of the constant fighting between Chandi and Manasa, Lord Shiva left her under a tree with a companion called Neto.
- The other theory related to her birth is that she was the daughter of Sage Kashyapa and Kadru and the sister of the King of Serpents, Vasuki. Goddess Manasa married Jagatkaru on Kashyapa’s advise on the condition that she will never disobey him. One day, she woke him up late and as a result left her. On the request of Gods, he returned later and they had a son together named Astika.
- Disgruntled by the disputed parentage, angered by Chandi’s (Goddess Parvati) ignorance and disappointed by her husband’s behavior, the Goddess demanded that the mortals worship her. She was calm and caring to the devotees who worshiped her and rained calamity on the devotees who did not worship her.
Significance of the shrine
- It is believed that a sincere wish of a devotee made to the Goddess never goes unfulfilled. The locals believe that as a mark of respect, one ties a thread around the branches of a sacred tree denoting the wish. After the wish is fulfilled, the devotee should return and remove the thread.
- It is believed that the Goddess controls snakes. Hence, devotees visit her to cure snake bites, curses and other snake-related issues in their horoscopes. She is also believed to bestow fertility and family harmony.
The Temple opens daily at 8 AM and closes at 5 PM. The Temple is closed for darshan between 12 PM to 2 PM.
How to reach the shrine
There are two routes to reach the shrine. One way is the traditional 1.5 km trek route to reach the peak. The other way is the cable-car service called as the “Udan Khatola” service in the local language.
Gangadwar or Har Ki Pauri
The world famous Ghat along the banks of River Ganga is an epitome of sanctity. The devotees religiously believe that this is the place where Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva visited the Brahma Kund. One can also view the footsteps believed to belong to Lord Vishnu at the Ghat premises. This is the site where River Ganga actually enters the mainlands of India from the Himalayan mountain range. This is also the site where millions of devotees take a holy dip in River Ganga during the grand occasion of the Kumbh Mela. Every evening, the highly spiritual Ganga Aarti is held at 6:30 PM where hundreds of devotees light small lamps and let them afloat in the holy River with a small prayer in heart.
Any devotee or a tourist irrespective of caste, creed or religion must come and visit this place to experience the ultimate spirituality and the peacefulness that descends on the people witnessing the grand spectacle.
The small town of Kankhal is located within Haridwar at a distance of 4 km from the city center. The site of Kankhal is mentioned in numerous ancient scripts and has a huge spiritual value. This is the place where it is believed that Goddess Sati immolated herself in protest of an insult to her consort Lord Shiva by her father Daksha.
Kushawart Temple Legend
The Daksheshwara Mahadev Temple is associated with the famous legend of Goddess Sati and Lord Shiva. This story is the basis of the Sthala Puranam and creation of Goddess Parvati herself. As per the legend, Daksha Prajapati, son of Lord Brahma did not want his daughter Sati to marry Lord Shiva. However, Goddess Sati married Shiva as she had always desired to do so. As a result, Daksha did not invite Goddess Sati and Lord Shiva to the Yagna he was conducting at the site. Sati wanted to participate in the Yagna and wanted Lord Shiva to accompany him. However, he refused. But against his wishes, Sati went to the Yagna. Upon arrival, she was humiliated and insulted by her father for marrying Lord Shiva. Daksha insulted Lord Shiva by calling him names. Unable to bear the humiliation of her husband, Sati fell into the Yagna Kund and immolated herself. When the news reached Lord Shiva, he was infuriated and sent his army to destroy everything in the Yagna. A huge fight ensued as Lord Shiva danced his Tandav. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had to intervene and calm him down. Lord Vishnu released his Sudarshana Chakra cutting through the corpse of Sati. Her body parts fell all over the land and are now known as the Shakti Peethas in Hinduism.
The Temple opens at 6 AM and closes at 8 PM.
Neel Parvat or the Chandi Devi Temple
The famous temple dedicated to Goddess Chandi Devi, a form of Goddess Parvati is situated atop the Neel Parvat. The Temple was built in 1929 by Suchat Singh, the King of Kashmir. The Temple is believed to be a Siddha Kshetra.
Goddess Chandi is worshiped primarily by the followers of the Shaktism sect of Hinduism. Even though there are no references to this particular form of Goddess Parvati in any Vedic texts, Puranas or Epics, the Devi Mahatmayam mentions the Goddess several times.
Neel Parvat Temple Legend
According to the temple legend, Lord Indra and other Gods of Heaven were overthrown by the demon kings Shumbha and Nishumbha. Lord Indra approached Goddess Parvati to return their kingdom and get rid of the demons to balance the power on Earth. As a result, Goddess Parvati took the form of Chandi, a beautiful woman who attracted the attention of Shumbha. He sent his chiefs Chanda and Munda to bring her to him. However, they were killed by Chandi. Enraged, he along with Nishumbha tried to kill Chandi but were slain by the Goddess. It is believed that the Goddess rested atop the hill and eventually a temple commemorating the event was built for her.
The Temple opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. The shrine remains closed between 12 PM to 3 PM.
How to reach the Chandi Devi Temple
There are two ways to reach the shrine. The older route involves trekking a distance of about 3 km to the shrine. The newer route involves boarding the cable-car at the mountain base.
Maya Devi Temple
The eleventh-century ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Maya, a form of Goddess Shakti is worshiped here with great reverence here. The importance of the shrine can be gauged by the fact that the city of Haridwar itself was called Mayapuri in ancient times. The deity worshiped here is in the form of a three-headed Goddess with four arms.
Significance of the shrine
It is contested but believed by locals that the shrine is one of the Shakti Peethas of Goddess Sati. It is a belief that her navel and heart fell at the site.
The site is also revered as a Siddha Kshetra along with the Mansa Devi Temple and the Chandi Devi Temple.
The Temple opens at 6:30 AM and closes at 9 PM. The Temple remains closed between 12 PM to 3 PM.
How to reach the Temple
The Temple is located just 1.5 km from the Bus Stand and the Railway Station. One can hire a taxi from there till the temple.
Festivals celebrated at Haridwar
- Kumbh Mela – As per the legend, Lord Vishnu’s vehicle, the Garuda spilled four drops of holy Amrit which he obtained by the churning of the milk on Earth. He was carrying the Amrit in a Kumbh (Pot). The drops fell in Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain. In Haridwar, the Mela is held on the banks of River Ganga at Har Ki Pauri. The Mela is celebrated once every 12 years. The Mela has been officially and internationally accepted as the largest religious gathering in the world. Millions of pilgrims from all over the world attend the festivities and take a dip in the holy River Ganga.
- Ardh Kumbh Mela – The Ardh Kumbh Mela is held once every six years. This Mela is held between two full Kumbh Melas at Prayag (Allahabad) and Haridwar.
- Kanwar Mela – The Kanwar Yatra is also called as the Kavad Yatra. This is an annual pilgrimage or Yatra undertaken by thousands of devotees especially in the month of Shravan (July-August). The devotees of Lord Shiva who participate in the Yatra are called Kanwariyas. They travel barefooted to cities like Haridwar, Gaumukh, and Gangotri to collect the water of River Ganga. This water is then poured over Lord Shiva at their respective homes and other temples. This yatra is extremely popular among the devotees especially from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
How to reach Haridwar
- By Air – The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport situated at Dehradun which is 37 km from Haridwar. The airport operates flights to and fro from major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Chennai and Lucknow. Apart from that, one can also reach the Indira Gandhi International Airport at Delhi which is well connected to all major cities in India.
- By Train – Several trains from around the country connect the station Hardwar Junction. The city is well connected to places like Delhi, Dehradun, Bikaner, Patna, Howrah, Lucknow, Jaipur, Allahabad, and Mumbai.
- By Road – The Haridwar bus station is located near the railway station. The state transport operates regular buses from Delhi, Rishikesh and Dehradun. Numerous private taxi operators provide connectivity to Haridwar from all towns and cities nearby.
Where to stay
The city is well developed and appropriate infrastructure for pilgrims as well as tourists has been constructed. Some of the budget options for a clean stay are Hotel Haridwar Residency, Hotel Gayathri Classic, and Hotel Bhagwati Nivas. Five-star options for stay are Country Inn Suites and Hotel Hari Heritage. It is advised to book accommodation in advance as the rush is always high.
Where to eat
The pilgrims and tourists can opt for a wide range of cuisine in hotels dispersed throughout the city. The food is mainly vegetarian. The cuisine ranges from South Indian (Hotel Dosa Plates, Madras Restaurant, and Kwality Mysore Restaurant), North Indian (Hotel Hoshiyarpuriwala), Continental, Punjabi, Chinese (Chotiwalas Asli), and Bengali (Dada Boudir Hotel).