Haridwar lies is in the Uttarakhand state of India. It lies in the Shivalik range amidst Bilva and Neel Mountains and is situated on the right banks of the river Ganga.
Haridwar means the Gateway to God, where 'Hari' - God and 'Dwar' - Gate. Haridwar is also known as Gangadwara or Hardwar. This is also mentioned in the Vishnu Purana. Haridwar was also known as Mayurapura ( Home of Peacocks) and Mayapura ( Goddess Maya Devi ) during olden times.
According to legend, Prince Bhagirath performed penance in Haridwar to purify the souls of his ancestors who had died due to sage Kapil curse.
The penance was answered by Lord Brahma. Goddess Ganga fell on the earth held together by Lord Shiva's matted locks and revived the sons of King Sagara.
Haridwar is also the starting point of the Char dham Yatra. It plays great importance in the life of the Hindus as they come here, and pray to goddess Ganga for the salvation of their ancestors and to wash away their sins.
The city is regarded as one of the seven holiest places of yatra by the Hindus.
During Samudra Manthan some of the nectar spilled in the Brahma Kund, located at Har ki Pauri ghat and so it is considered to be the most sacred ghats of Haridwar. Haridwar is also known as Mokshpuri as a place to attain salvation or moksha.
Haridwar has innumerable temples dedicated to numerous Hindu Gods and Goddess. The chief among the gods are Brahma, Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Maa Ganga has been flowing since time immortal purifying the hearts of countless of people and Haridwar the starting point for the char dhams Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. Sitting on the banks on the river Ganga or taking a holy dip creates an true spiritual nostalgia. Haridwar is also one of the four places where Kumbh Mela occurs after rotation of every twelve Years and Ardh Kumbh after every six years. All this combined together make Haridwar a truly gateway to Heaven.
The city of Haridwar is also one of the oldest cities in India and also one of the most scared of them all. Pilgrims from all over the world visit Haridwar in order to take a holy dip in the Ganga and to learn the simplicity of Hinduism, experience various Hindu rituals and also other aspects of India's great culture and civilization.
Haridwar is also a educational centre for learning different arts and studies related to Ayurveda, yoga, Herbal medicines, Palmistry and Vedic Maths and ancient Vedas. People from all over the world come to learn Sanskrit and Hindi. The Gurukul Kangri University provides unique Indian tradition teaching method known as Gurukul. Here the students are thought latest subjects in a traditional Indian background.
Apart from religious importance Haridwar is also a nature's paradise. It situated in the foothills of the Shivalik range in Garhwal Himalayas and is surrounded by lofty green forests and silver shining river Ganges create a sense of divinity in the air. It also shares its borders with the Rajaji National Park a wildlife destination with a diverse range of wildlife for animal lovers. Haridwar is also home of the Siberian Crane which come here during the winters so bird lovers can also enjoy bird watching here.
Haridwar is a vegetarian city by law and alcohol is also banned in the city. Shoes are not allowed in the temples and also near Brahmakund. The Bara Bazaar in Upper Road, is a big place to shop for birth stones, rudrakash, religious books and Ayurvedic medicine. You can carry gifts and memories back to your home and loved once from this place.
Haridwar is one of the biggest districts in Uttarakhand. It spreads over 2360 sq kms at an altitude of 315 meter from sea level. The population of Haridwar according to the 2011 census was 18,91,642 in which Haridwar city has 1,78,110 with a sex ratio of 880 female per 1000 male. The literacy rate of Haridwar is about 75 percent. Haridwar is 230 km from Delhi, 25 km from Rishikesh and 55 Km from Dehradun. Haridwar town is divided into several small sub areas such as such as Har Ki Pauri, Devpura, Bhupatwala, Mayapur, Ranipur, Jwalapur, Motichur, Haipur Kalan, Brahampuri and Shivalik Nagar.
Hindus form the majority of people in Haridwar and while Hindi and Garhwali are the major languages spoken by the people.
Haridwar has extreme climate so summers are hotter and winters colder. Haridwar does not receive snowfall. Cottons in summers while woolens in winters are the most suited clothing. Haridwar can be visited any time of the year..
BharatMata Temple is located around 4.5kms from Haridwar. This eight stories temple is deicated to Bharat Mata ( Mother India )
The first floor has statues of Bharat Mata. The second floor is the Shoor Mandir, is dedicated to the heroes of India. The third floor is Matru Mandir dedicated India's great women, such as Meera Bai, Savitri, Maitri etc. The fourth floor is Sant Mandir dedicated to the great saints from various religions, including Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. The fifth floor is dedicated to all the religions practised in India. The sixth floor is dedicated to Goddess Shakti, whilst the seventh floor is dedicated to all incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The eighth floor is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Maya Devi Temple is dedicated to Goddess Maya or Goddess Sati or Goddess Parvati. It is also one of the Siddhapeeth Temples as according to mythology belief the heart and navel of goddess Sati had fallen here. It is one of the well known and most revered temples of Haridwar. Goddess Maya is also the Isth Devi of Haridwar.
Gurukul Kangri University is a centre for herbal medicines and traditional studies. It is located on the Haridwar - Jwalapur bypass rd. The Gurukul Kangri University has a Ved Mandir Museum which exhibits archaeological artefacts. The University follows the ancient Gurukul method of teaching.
Rajaji National Park also known as Chilla is located 10kms from Haridwar between Haridwar & Rishikesh. The Rajaji National Park is spread over 820 sq kms. You can do the Jeep safari & Elephant safari in the park. The park is open only from November till June. Lots of tourist and animal lovers visit here every year.
Sureshvari Devi Temple dedicated to Goddess Durga is inside the Rajaji National Park. You can also visit this temple during your tour to the park.
Rishikesh is one of the top ten tourist destinations of the world. It is a famous religious city and a blooming tourism hub. It is also known as the Yoga Capital of the World.
Rishikesh has a large number of ashrams and yoga centres. They provide training in meditation, and help healing of mental and physical health.
Ganga Aarti in Haridwar is a big holy ceremony performed on the banks of the river Ganga. The aarti performed here is much bigger then the aarti performed in Rishikesh with thousands of tourists visiting the aarti every day.
Bhajans and prayers are offered to Goddess Ganga and lamps or diyas are floated in the river. The crystal clean water of the Ganga lined with hundreds of marigold flowers, hundreds of tourist and pilgrims, Hindu pundits chanting the Vedic hymns, devotional songs and prayers. On the banks of the river Ganga is a temple which is said to be have the footprints of Lord Shiva. All this is a very spiritual affair filled with divinity in the air.
People from all over the world come to Haridwar in search of internal peace and Nirvana. They try to search for their answers in Hinduism and its simple way of living with rich and high thinking. Lots of ashrams are available in Haridwar which try to provide a solution for the same.
Foreigners come to Haridwar to learn the ancient languages of Hinduism such as Sanskrit and Hindi and also show a vast amount of interest in the ancient and various dance forms and learn Indian music as well as to learn to play different musical instruments.
Haridwar is a store house of Hinduism and you can find many ashrams in Haridwar who teach and follow the Hinduism way of living. Lots of these ashrams also teach ancient medicines and different types of meditation.
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It is believed that during Samudra Manthan, Lord Vishnu spilled some of the nectar in 12 different places, Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Ujjain in Madhayapradesh, Nasik in Maharashtra and Allahabad in Uttarpradesh are the four sites on earth and the rest of the 8 sites are in Heaven.
That is why the Kumbha Mela is celebrated every 3 years in one of the 4 places mentioned above, and so every 12 years in Haridwar. .
The Ardh Kumba is celebrated every 6 yrs here. Millions of people come to Haridwar during these Kumbha to attain moksha.
The Kavad Mela is celebrated during the Shivratri festival according to the Hindu calendar. The pilgrims walk, or travel in groups and reach Haridwar and Rishikesh. They then collect the holy water of river Ganga and then bathe Lord Shiva with the water in Neelkanth or Tapkeshwar. Lakhs of Kavadiyas visit Haridwar during the Shivratri festival.
The Daksh Mahadev temple is located in Kankhal around 3kms from Har ki Pauri. The temple is dedicated to King Daksha the father of Parvati or Sati. The temple is one of the highly revered and ancient temples in Haridwar with thousands of pilgrim visiting here every year during the Maha Shivaratri festival.
The Parad Shivling is also located in Kankhal 03 kms Haridwar. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Parad Shivling is made from mercury and has an approx weight of 150kgs. The temple is also known as Maha Mrityunjaya Temple and Hari Temple. There is a Rudraksha tree in the temple complex Hari har Temple complex. If you are lucky you can find an ekmukhi rudraksh in the vicinity of the temple complex.
Located around 05 - 06 kms form Haridwar the Doodhadhari Temple is dedicated to Ramayana epic with temples of Lord Ram, Sita and Hanuman. The temple is part of the Doodhadhari Barfani Baba Ashram. The temple made of white marble is one of the most beautiful temple in Haridwar.
Some of the other temples for visit are Vaishno Devi Temple, Bhairava Temple, Ayyappa Temple, Kali Temple, Sriyantra Temple, Pashupatinath Mandir, Swaminarayan temple, 11 Mukhi Hamuman temple and much more
The Neel Dhara Pakshi Vihar around 4kms from Haridwar near Bhimgoda Barrage. It is home to the Siberian cranes and some other migratory birds visit here in winter season in Laljiwala. The atmosphere here is also very calm and peaceful and is far away from the city crowd.
The Neel Dhara Pakshi Vihar is a must visit when in Haridwar.
Patanjali Yogpeeth is well known Yoga and Ayurvedic Ashram. Spread across 20acres of land it is one of the largest Yoga Institute in India. Patanjali Yogpeeth is located 22 kms far from Haridwar at Delhi Haridwar Highway..
If you are interested in Yoga and meditation Haridwar is the place to be. Hardwar has a lot of Yoga ashrams where you can learn & practice different form of Yoga.
Some of the well know form of meditation are the TM, Kundali and Buddist forms.
Haridwar - JLochtefeld
Haridwar - Encyclopaedia of Ancient Indian Geography, Volume 2 edited by Subodh Kapoor
Image courtesy - Trek Earth Haridwar Ganga Aarti
Image courtesy - Trek Earth Haridwar Brahma Kund