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SUSHMITA DUTTA

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 8/15/2016 |



Situated in the foothills of the Shivalik range of the Himalayas in Northern India, with lush green forests in the backdrop, crystal clear water of river Ganges entering the plains from its origin in bubbling, rippling sounds, innumerable temples embracing the unpolluted cerulean blue sky contrasting saffron clothes of hundreds of monks in the land, form the breathtakingly beautiful, picturesque milieu of India’s one of the most ancient holy cities, Haridwar – “Hari ka Dwar”, as they say in Hindi which means gateway to the God. Derived from two Sanskrit terms Hari and Dwar, the name Haridwar literally means gateway (dwar) to “Hari” God.

Haridwar is also called Hardwar where Har refers to Lord Shiva and Hari denotes Lord Vishnu. Hindus believe that both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu live here, and, hence, both Vaishnavites and Shaivites throng this holy place believing strongly in the spiritual strength of this ancient pilgrimage. This land holds a Shiva jyotirlinga - Kedarnath, one of the 108 Vishnu Dhams –Badrinath, the vibrating chants of Kumbh Mela, the origins of holy rivers like Ganga and Yamuna, innumerable temples dedicated to different Gods, the rising flames of sacrificial fires performed by sages years after years after years filling the air with vedic chants, the waters of Himalayan springs and “Kundas” that have purifying and cleansing effects… all of these have made Haridwar a unique place to be. Along with brief notes on highlights of Haridwar, we have also covered travel tips here. So, read on, do plan a visit to Haridwar, and, stay blessed.

Haridwar Temples, traditions and other religious significance

Haridwar is one of the oldest living cities in India and hence, has always been the place of interest for religious, scholarly and research activities.  Numerous temples of Haridwar tell interesting legacies to share. Legend has it that Mother Ganga (river Ganges) after carrying the purity of heaven from the pot of Lord Brahma, and then washing the feet of Lord Vishnu and flowing through the jata (pleated hair) of Lord Shiva came on this earth and made Haridwar a divine place.

Divinity lives at this place and miraculous cures happen. There are Kunds “storered water” and springs that are used for purification purposes. In Kedar Khand chapter of Shiva Puran a water reservoir named Udar Kund is mentioned as having mixture of five oceans. This water always remains fresh and pure and used for purification of ritualistic tasks. There are water tanks in the famous Gaurikund near Kedarnath. Of the two water tanks - one is hot with traces of sulphur and the other is a cold water spring which changes color in keeping with the changing time of the day.

Traditional practices:

A place for learning and practicing ancient Hindu traditions, Haridwar is well known source of Ayurvedic medicines & herbal remedies derived from the Himalayan range. The place has been a center for learning that follows the Gurukula teaching system. Here, Gurukula Kangri Vishwavidyalay is provides unique teaching in Gurukul system since 1902. 

Kumbh Mela:

Since ancient times, Kumbh mela is performed here attracting millions of people. It is believed that drops of amrit (elixir) fell here in to the Brahmkund of Har-Ki-Pauri. Hence, Haridwar is also one of the four places where Kumbh Mela occurs after rotation of every twelve years and Ardh Kumbh Mela after every six years.

Temples: Kedarnath and Badrinath are two major temples of Haridwar.
 

Kedarnath:

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kedarnath temple is also one of the 12 jyotirlingas. For devotees, the temple opens from April end or May first week on the day of Akshaya Tritiya and closes on the day of Bhai Duj around October end or 1st week of November. It gets cold after October as the temple is located about 11,755 feet above the sea level, surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

The temple is very ancient and gets renovated. Legend has it that the temple gets its name from a king named Kedarnath who ruled in the Satya Yuga. Also, legend from the era of Mabharata has it that Lord Shiva eluded the Pandavas and appeared in the form of a bull at the Kedarnath temple. When the Pandavas followed him, he dived into the ground and only the hump of the bull was made visible at the Kedarnath temple which is worshipped in the temple today in conical Shiva pinda form. The parts of the body appeared at four other places and together with Kedarnath this cluster of five temples is called “Panch Kedar”. The temples are as follows –

-        Tunganath temple where the arms are worshipped
-        Rudranath temple where the face is worshipped
-        Madmaheshwar temple where the naval is worshipped
-        Kalpeshwar temple where his hair is worshipped.



Gaurikhund: A natural wonder

Connected with Kedarnath and dedicated to Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati, Gaurikhund is another place of religious significance. It is a natural wonder that still remains un-touched by pollution of the industrial era.  Legend has it that Gauri performed penance to get Shiva’s love and affection. Shiva accepted her love and devotion and they were married at Triyugi Narayan near Gauri Kund. Local folklores say that Gauri lived here. Her son Ganesha was created here from soap suds of her body. 



Rudraprayag:

Rudraprayag lies at the point of convergence of rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini. It is another holy place that holds a tremendous sense of belief that a dip in the rivers cleanses one’s sins of present and past lives.



Badrinath Temple:

Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of the 108 Divya Dhams, Badrinath Temple is also one of the Char Dhams – four coveted pilgrimage centers for Hindus. It is one of the most visited pilgrimage centers of India, having recorded 1,060,000 visits.  From end of April through November, the temple remains open for six months. Located along the banks of Alaknanda River, the temple is in the Garhwal hills at an elevation of 10,279 ft. above the sea level. 

Lord Vishnu is worshipped at this temple in the form of a black stone statue named Badrinarayan. Hindus believe that this deity is one of the eight “swayam vyakta kshetras”, or self-manifested statues of Vishnu. The temple is mentioned in Hindu scriptures like Vishnu Purana and Skanda Purana. Legend has it that Vishnu has been meditating at this place for a long time when Lakshmi protected him from the sunlight until she turned to Badri-tree. Since then Lakshmi’s lord has been known as BadriNath.  Another legend says, in the Mahabharata era, the Pandavas had spent many years in austerity at this place. Emphasizing the importance of pilgrimage to Badrinarayan Temple, Hindu scripture Scanda Purana says, “There are a lot of sacred places on earth, in heaven and hell, but nothing compares to Badrinath”. Other than festivities dedicated to Lord Vishnu, “Mata Murti Ka Mela” is the most important festival celebrated at the temple to commemorate the descent of river Ganges on earth. There is a warm spring Tapta Kund near the temple. The ablution in it is necessary to get darshan from the Badrinath Saligram.



Gangotri Temple:

Situated at the origin of Ganges River, this beautiful temple reflects the serene and pure looks of river Ganga. Hindus believe it to be the home of Ganga – the giver of life, the goddess of wisdom and purity. Legend has it that king Bhagirath meditated at this place to seek Goddess Ganga’s blessing to be able to release the sins of his predecessors. After austere penances Ganga took the form of a river to free their souls and grant them salvation. Each year during April, Goddess Ganga returns to Gangotri from her winter shelter, the day is celebrated carrying the Goddess’s murti dressed in red and green cloths.



The Temple in Yamunotri

The Yamunotri temple is located on the left bank of the river Yamuna named after river Goddess Yamuna. The temple usually open from April through mid-October – November. There are two hot springs near the temple - Surya Kund with boiling water, where the pilgrims poach the rice for the Goddess, and Gauri Kund with warm water for ablution. Legend has it that sage Asit Muni bathed all his life in Ganges and Yamuna. When he was too old to go to Gangotri, a stream of Ganges appeared before him in Yamunotri.



Hari ki Pauri: God’s footprints

Hari ki Pauri – God’s footprints visible at this place makes it one of the most sacred bathing ghats in India. Har Ki Pauri is 02 kms far from the Haridwar Railway Station. Har means God & Pauri means footprints. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came here and there is a stone where his footprints are visible. Har Ki Pauri is also main place for holy bath during the Kumbh Mela.



Ganga Aarti:

Everyday there is ceremony called Ganga Aarti is organized in Haridwar. Ceremony is dedicated to River Ganga which is constantly providing life in the form of her water to people. Ganga Aarti is widely visited by thousands of people every evening.


Haridwar Travel Tips:

Delhi should be the destination to visit Haridwar. Take international or domestic flight to Delhi. Or, take a train to Delhi from any location in India. Haridwar is 230 km from Delhi, 25 km from Rishikesh, 110 km from Mussoorie, 55 Km from Dehradun, 110 km from Devprayag. Non vegetarian food & alcohol is strictly not allowed in Haridwar. Auto rickshaw and three wheelers are best options for visits within the city and, Hindi, Garhwali and English are the major languages spoken in Haridwar.


[SUSHMITA DUTTA]

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