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Haridwar
 
Haridwar
 

Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India. The River Ganges, after flowing for 253 kilometres (157 mi) from its source at Gaumukh at the edge of the Gangotri Glacier, enters the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India for the first time at Haridwar, which gave the city its ancient name, Gangadwára.

Haridwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places to Hindus. According to the Samudra manthan, Haridwar along with Ujjain, Nasik and Allahabad is one of four sites where drops of Amrit, the elixir of immortality, accidentally spilled over from the pitcher while being carried by the celestial bird Garuda. This is manifested in the Kumbha Mela being celebrated every 3 years in one of the 4 places, and thus every 12 years in Haridwar. Amidst the Kumbha Mela, millions of pilgrims, devotees, and tourists congregate in Haridwar to perform ritualistic bathing on the banks of the river Ganges to wash away their sins to attain Moksha. Brahma Kund, the spot where the Amrit fell, is located at Har ki Pauri (literally, "footsteps of the Lord") and is considered to be the most sacred ghat of Haridwar.

Haridwar is the headquarters and the largest city of the district. Today, the city is developing beyond its religious importance, with the fast developing industrial estate of State Infrastructure and Industrial Development Corporation (SIDCUL), and the close by township of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited in Ranipur, Uttarakhand as well as its affiliated ancillaries.

Places of interest

In Hindu traditions, the 'Panch Tirth' (Five Pilgrimages) within Haridwar, are Gangadwara (Har ki Pauri), Kushwart (Ghat in Kankhal), Bilwa Teerth (Mansa Devi Temple) and Neel Parvat (Chandi Devi Temple). There are several other temples and ashrams located in and around the city. Also, alcohol and non-vegetarian food is not permitted in Haridwar.

Har ki Pauri: This sacred Ghat was constructed by King Vikramaditya (1st century BC) in memory of his brother Bhrithari. It is believed that Bhrithari came to Haridwar and meditated on the banks of the holy Ganges. When he died, his brother constructed a Ghat in his name, which later came to be known as Har-Ki-Pauri. The most sacred ghat within Har-ki-Pauri is Brahmakund. The evening prayer(Aarti) at dusk offered to Goddess Ganga at Har-Ki-Pauri (steps of God Hara or Shiva) is an enchanting experience for any visitor. A spectacle of sound and colour is seen when, after the ceremony, pilgrims float diyas (floral floats with lamps) and incense on the river, commemorating their deceased ancestors. Thousands of people from all round the world do make a point to attend this prayer on their visit to haridwar. A majority of present ghats were largely developed in the 1800s.

Chandi Devi Temple: The temple is dedicated to Goddess Chandi, who sits atop the 'Neel Parvat' on the eastern bank of the river Ganges. It was constructed in 1929 A.D. by the king of Kashmir, Suchat Singh. Skanda Purana mentions a legend, in which Chanda-Munda, the Army Chief of a local Demon Kings Shumbh and Nishumbha were killed by goddess Chandi here, after which the place got the name Chandi Devi. It is believed that the main statue was established by the Adi Shankracharya in 8th century A.D. The temple is a 3 km trek from Chandighat and can also be reached through a ropeway.

Mansa Devi Temple: Situated at the top of Bilwa Parwat, the temple of Goddess Mansa Devi, literally meaning the Goddess who fulfills desires (Mansa), is a popular tourist destination, especially because of the cable cars, which offer a picturesque view of the entire city. The main temple houses two idols of the Goddess, one with three mouths and five arms, while the other one has eight arms.

Maya Devi Temple: Dating to the 11th century, this ancient temple of Maya Devi, the Adhisthatri deity of Hardwar, is considered one of the Siddhapethas and is said to be the place where the heart and navel of Goddess Sati had fallen. It is one of few ancient temples still standing in Haridwar, along with Narayani Shila temple and Bhairav Temple.

Kankhal: The ancient temple of Daksha Mahadev also known as Daksheswara Mahadev Temple, is situated in the south Kankhal town. According to Hindu texts, King Daksha Prajapati, father of Dakshayani, Lord Shiva's first wife, performed a yagna, to which he deliberately did not invite Lord Shiva. When he arrived uninvited, he was further insulted by the king, seeing which Sati felt infuriated and self-immolated herself in the yagna kund. King Daksha was later killed by the demon Virabhadra, born out of Shiva's anger. Later the king was brought to life and given a goat's head by Shiva. Daksha Mahadev temple is a tribute to this legend.

Sati Kund, another well-known mythological heritage worth a visit is situated in the Kankhal. Legend has it that Sati immolated herself in this kund.

Piran Kaliyar: Built by Ibrahim Lodhi, a ruler of Delhi, this 'Dargah' of Hazrat Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari, a 13th century, Sufi Saint of Chishti Order (also known as Sarkar Sabir Pak), in Kaliyar village, 7 km. from Roorkee, is a living example of religious harmony in India, visited by devotees from all over the world, during the annual 'Urs' festival, which is celebrated from 1 st day of sighting the moon to 16th day of Rabeeull month Islamic calendar.

Neel Dhara Pakshi Vihar: This Bird Sanctuary is situated on the main Ganges river, or Neel Dhara, at the Bhimgoda barrage, it is a paradise for bird watchers and home to many migratory birds during the winter season.

Bhimgoda Tank: This tank is situated at a distance of about 1 km from Har ki Pauri. It is said that while Pandavas were going to Himalayas through Haridwar, prince Bhima drew water from the rocks here by thrusting his knee (goda), to the very ground.

Ram Mandir: This mandir is under construction near Saptarishi marge, at Bhupatwala. Mandir is being constructed by Swami Ramanandacharya Smarak Seva Nyays headed by Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami Ramnareshacharya of Sri math, Panchganga Ghat, Varanasi. This Ram temple would be biggest in India.

Doodhadhari Barfani Temple: Part of the ashram of Doodhadhari Barfani Baba, this temple complex in white marble is one of most beautiful temples in Haridwar, especially the temples of Rama-Sita and Hanuman.

Sureshvari Devi Temple: Temple of Goddess Sureshwari, situated in midst of beautiful Rajaji National Park. Serene and religious makes this temple abode of worshipers, saints etc. Located at outskirts of Haridwar in Ranipur and permission from forest rangers is necessary.

Pawan Dham: A modern temple, made entirely of glass pieces, and now a popular tourist destination. The Temple complex was constructed by the effort of His Holiness Swami Vedantanand Ji Maharaj and the Institiute is growing under the Leadership of His Holiness Swami SahajPrakash Ji Maharaj. People of Moga ( Punjab) has put their efforts and Money to bring up this place.

Bharat Mata Mandir: A multi-storey temple, dedicated to Bharat Mata, Mother India, with each floor depicting an era in the Indian History, from the days of Ramayan till India's independence. The temple was built under the auspicious blessings of the honorable former Shankaracharya His Holiness Maha-Mandleshwar Swami Satyamitranand Giriji Maharaj. Swami Satyamitranand Foundation was registered in 1998. Since the inception of the Foundation, several other branches have been opened, namely in Renukut, Jabalpur, Jodhpur, Indore and Ahmedabad.

The Bharat Mata Mandir was inaugurated on 15 May 1983 by Rt.Hon.Smt. Indira Gandhi and stands along the River Ganges in Haridwar. It is situated adjacent to the 'Smanvaya Ashram', and stands eight stories tall to the height of 180 feet (55 m). Each floor is devoted to a particular theme.

On the first floor is the statue of Bharat Mata. The second floor ‘Shoor Mandir’ is dedicated to the well renowned heroes of India.

The third floor ‘Matru Mandir’ is dedicated to the achievements of India’s revered women; such as Meera Bai, Savitri, Maitri etc. The great saints from various religions, including Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism are featured on the fourth floor ‘Sant Mandir’.

The Assembly Hall with walls depicting symbolic coexistence of all religions practiced in India and paintings portraying history and beauty in various provinces of India, is situated on the fifth floor. The various forms of the Goddess of Shakti can be seen on the sixth floor, whilst the seventh floor is devoted to all incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

The eighth floor holds the shrine of Lord Shiva from which devotees can gain a panoramic view of Himalayas, Haridwar, and the splendour of the entire campus of Sapta Sarovar.

Jairam Ashram: Famous for its diorama exhibition, and a massive white statue depicting the famous Samudra manthan episode, a must-see for any visitor.

Sapt Rishi Ashram and Sapt Sarovar: A picturesque place near Haridwar, where seven great sages or Saptarishis, namely Kashyapa, Vashisht, Atri, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja and Gautam, said to have meditated. The Ganges split herself into seven currents at this place so that the Rishis would not be disturbed by the flow.

Parad Shivling: Situated in Harihar Ashram, Kankhal. Parad Shivling (Mercury Shivling) weighing about 150 kg and Rudraksha tree are the main attractions here.

Ramanand Ashram: Situated in shravan nath nagar of the town near railway station, this is the main ashram of Ramanand Sampraday in Haridwar. Mahant Bhagwan Das is the chief of this ashram.

Anandamayi Maa Ashram: Situated in Kankhal, one of five sub-cities of Haridwar, the ashram houses the samadhi shrine of Sri Anandamoyi Ma (1896–1982), a noted saint of India.

Shantikunj: Shantikunj is the headquarter of famous spiritual and social organisation All World Gayatri Pariwar (AWGP) established by Pt Shriram Sharma Acharya. Its located at a distance of 6 Kilometers from Haridwar railway station towards Rishikesh/Dehradun on NH58. At the bank of the holy Ganges and between the Shivalik ranges of the Himalayas, its also a place of attraction for tourists as well as seekers of spiritual guidance.

Festivals

Haridwar is the site of many religious festivals. Most notably, once every twelve years it is the venue for the Kumbh Mela, humanity's largest festival, which drew a record 70 million in 2003. (The festival rotates between Haridwar and Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik.) The Ardh Mela, or "half mela", is held every six years. The last Maha Kumbh Mela was in 2010, and the next Ardh Mela will be in 2016.

Other yearly festivals include:

Baisakhi, April.
Kanwar Mela, July. The largest yearly festival, drawing up to 300,000 visitors.
Somwati Amavasya, July. Almost as large as the Kanwar Mela.
Kartik Purnima, held 15 days after Diwali on the first night of the full moon in November.

See the Haridwar city website for a complete listing. While the festivals are colorful and fascinating, they also strain the town's limited infrastructure to the breaking point and sometimes beyond. Book rooms and tickets well in advance, and avoid travel by road as the traffic jams can be horrendous.

 
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    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haridwar
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