There is much more to Haridwar or Hardwar beyond the ancient holy religious city. It is one of the 7 holy cities for Hindus as mentioned in the ancient Puranic texts. I had a brief stop over on the way to Valley of Flowers and tried to explore as much as possible. Haridwar is also referred as Gangadwar since River Ganga touches the plains for the first time in Haridwar and flows east to merge into the Bay of Bengal. I always thought Hardwar was a colloquial form of pronouncing Haridwar choosing to use the name based on whether I was speaking in Hindi or English. This Haridwar Trip trashed that belief and gave me a whole new perspective.
Haridwar or Hardwar : What’s in the Name
Haridwar is Hari+Dwar as in the Gateway to Vishnu since Hari is another name of Vishnu. The 300 km uphill journey to Badrinath through the Himalayas starts from Haridwar.On the other hand Hardwar is Har+Dwar as in the Gateway to Shiva where Har is another name of Shiva. The 240 km uphill journey to Kedarnath through the Himalayas starts from Hardwar. Whether it is Hari or Har this city is the gateway to experience the divine Himalayas and spend blissful time in the lap of nature.
Things to Do in Haridwar:
The first image of Haridwar seems to be of a crowded religious city with narrow lanes where people are jostling for space. Partly true but there is much more for anyone wanting to experience the city through the pulsating life along the many Ganga Ghats, the superlative vegetarian food and of course watching the convergence of nature at dawn and dusk.
Ropeway Ride to Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi
These are the 2 Temples located above the nearby hills that overlook Haridwar. Leaving aside the religious sentiments the ropeway ride to atleast one of the temples is rewarded with a fantastic aerial view of the winding Ganga and Haridwar. There is an option to buy a single ticket or a combination ticket for the shrines. The combination ticket includes ropeway rides as well as a bus ride between the 2 shrines. I loved the Ropeway (Udan Khatola) ride for my date with the Devi’s who like always blessed me for a blissful journey into the Himalayas.
Walk along the Ghats
There is a network of bridges connecting the ghats and enabling crossing the river in multiple places. There are shrines under the trees; seekers lost in their search, ascetics in trance, devout engrossed in prayer and some like me aimlessly wandering to soak in the ambiance.
There is a pulsating energy about the place that is pretty addictive that makes you want to sit by the eternally flowing river and just be. I was particularly attracted by the Ganesha painting comprising of the different names of Ganesha.
Har Pi Pauri named after Lord Shiva’s Feet is considered to be the holiest ghat where the Ganga Temple having a line in all Indian languages on its body is located. The clock tower on Malviya Dweep (Island) opposite Har Ki Pauri Ghat is a notable landmark and is synonymous with Haridwar. This set of brightly painted structures is Bholanath Ashram and stands out between the green tree cover while walking along the ghats.
Sit by the Ghat and watch the 5 elements of nature converge at Dusk
The evening arati or the worship of the river Ganga is performed in “Har Ki Pauri” Ghat at around 7pm to 7.30pm. Actually, the time is not fixed and is based on when dusk sets in. I sadly missed it it since it started way too early that day given it is was cloudy. Would advise reaching early and taking a comfortable position on the bridge to see the worship.
It is an unique moment standing on earth by the river, holding the camphor lit fire in hand, breathing mindfully under the sky. We sat on the steps post the prayer as the crowds dispersed; soaking in the moment. Ganga was fast and furious that evening. The lamps ensconced in leaves were thrown off the waves in a jiffy and everyone was wary of stepping in her way. One brave man was trying to fill her in a bottle to take it home somewhere. Ganga is our eternal life force cannot be contained in a tiny bottle 🙂 What we get in a bottle is a glimpse, a feeling, a part of her choosing to remain still for ever.
Indulge in some local Kachoris, Parathas and Sweets
Dont expect some fancy restaurant in Haridwar; the food in the street side or humble outlets is simply divine; the taste lingering on the tongue for a long time. If you are okay to sit by a fan to indulge your gastronomic senses then walk down the Upper Ghat Road from Har Ki Pauri Ghat. Sample some hot pooris and Samosas from Mohanji Poori Wale or walk a little ahead to find the legendary Hoshiyarpuri opposite the Gorakhpur Mutt.
The food from the 80 year old Hoshiyarpuri is deliciously Punjabi and worth the wait at peak times. The creamy lassi with an added dollop of cream is not to be missed. A few metres ahead Mathurawale is also a great option for local food. Take the steps down to the narrow lower ghat road where there are quite a few Dugdh Bhandars selling fresh sweets. I was rooted to the spot in front of one and the owner kindly allowed me to taste some in exchange of his photograph. The chilled layered Rabri was creamy sweet and was a steal for Rs 30/-
Where to Stay:
There is a place to suit every budget in Haridwar right from Dharamshalas to upmarket hotels. I would recommend a place close to the central ghats.
An ideal one day stop over for the journey into upper Himalayas. It is hot and humid during summer and monsoon and cold during the winter months.
How to Reach:
- Haridwar is easily accessible from Delhi and other parts of North India by bus.
- It is also well connected by rail to different parts of India.
- The nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport commonly known as Dehradun Airport is about 35 kms away roughly an hours drive. It takes about Rs 1200 by taxi.