Haridwar in Uttarakhand is among the seven holiest places for Hindus. It is one of the four sites where the Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years. Located at the foothills of Shivalik range on the banks of River Ganga, Haridwar, often referred to as 'Gateway to Gods', serves as the entry point for several pilgrimage centres located in the Himalayas including Chota Char Dham – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri – pilgrimage.
Ganga begins its journey through the plains at Haridwar. The pilgrim town’s most famous sight is Ganga itself with its ghats and temples. It is said that taking bath at the ghats, purifies the soul and opens the way for nirvana.
Haridwar is sacred as the place which was blessed by Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma and a the major Shaktipeeth.
Millions of pilgrims and tourists congregate in Haridwar to perform ritualistic bathing in river Ganga during Kumbh Mela. Hindus believe a dip in river will wash away their sins and guarantee Moksha. Haridwar is also popular among Hindus to perform obsequies.
Followers of Lord Shiva (Har) and followers of Lord Vishnu (Hari) pronounce this place Hardwar and Haridwar respectively. Haridwar stands for "Gateway to Lord Vishnu". Pilgrims going to Badrinath start their pilgrimage in Haridwar. Similarly, pilgrims headed for Kedarnath also start their pilgrimage in the sacred town and hence, the name Hardwar.
Archaeological findings have proved that terracotta culture dating between 1700 BC and 1200 BC existed in this region.
Haridwar is also sacred for Sikhs as Guru Nanak, founder of the religion visited the place twice. Gurudwara Nanakwara commemorates the occasion.
The foundation of present day Haridwar was laid by Raja Man Singh of Amber. The ghats at Har-ki-pauri were also constructed by him. After Man Singh’s death, his ashes were immersed at Brahma Kund by Mughal emperor Akbar himself.
The Ganga Aarti at Har-ki-Pauri shouldn’t be missed. Ganga is revered as a goddess and prayer ceremonies are held daily. Like Haridwar, Ganga Aarti is held at Varanasi and Rishikesh too.
Pandas of Haridwar are renowned for keeping genealogy records of most Hindu population. Known as vahis, the records are a repository of vast family trees of family especially in North India. For centuries when Hindus visited Haridwar, it was custom to go to the Pandas and update the family's genealogical family tree with details of all marriages, births and deaths.
Rudraksh, Gangajali (vessels containing Ganga water), pickles, kumkum (vermillion), Ayurvedic medicine and precious stones can be purchased here.
Best time to visit
During the summers the temperature usually hangs around 40 degree Celsius but winters sees the mercury dipping as low as six degrees. The best season to visit Haridwar is between September and June.