Haridwar, literally means "Gateway to the Gods", is a pilgrim center of Hindus, situated on the banks of river Ganga at the point where the river descends from the hills to the plains. It is considered to be blessed by the trio of lords Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva). According to Hindu mythology, Haridwar is one among the four sites (Ujjain, Haridwar, Nasik, and Allahabad )where drops of the elixir of immortality, Amrita, accidentally spilled over from the pitcher, in which it was being carried away by the celestial bird Garuda, after the Samudra manthan. The spot where the nectar fell is considered to be the Brahma Kund at Har-ki-Pauri (literally, "footsteps of the Lord," and symbolically the footprints of the Amrita), the most sacred ghat of Haridwar. It is also famous for the Kumbh and Ardh Kumbh fairs that are held once in every 12 and 6 years respectively.
The city of Haridwar is an ancient city of India, mentioned in several Upanishads and Puranas with different names such as Gangadwara, Mayapuri and Kapilasthana. The city’s name literally meaning the ‘Doorway of / to Gods’, is equally important to both Shaivites (Shiva followers) and Vaishnavites (Vishnu followers). Hence it is known as both Hardwar and Haridwar. Every six years the Ardh Kumbh Mela is celebrated here with great fervor here.
In Ancient Literature
Haridwar has been mentioned in the Mahabharata, in the Vanaparva chapter, where Sage Dhaumya tells Yudhisthira about the ‘Tirthas’ (pilgrimages) of India, including Haridwar. The next mention is in the fable of famed King Bhagiratha, who brought Ganga down to purify the souls of his 60,000 ancestors in the Satya Yuga. After this, the first dates in regular history come to 322-185 BC, when Haridwar came under Maurya Empire and then Kushana Empire continuously.
In Middle Ages
Well-known Chinese traveler Huan Tsang mentions Haridwar as ‘Mo Yu Lo’ in his travel chronicles dated 629 AD. Next came Timur Lang, the Turkish invader, on 13th January 1399 and invaded the city. Haridwar is also talked about in the 16th century ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ (written during Akbar’s reign) as Mayapuri. The first written evidence of the name Haridwara comes by Thomas Coryant, during Jahangir’s reign.
In Modern Times
After the Britishers arrival in the 1800s, two major dams were created, notably the Bhimgoda Dam in 1840. In 1868, the 'Haridwar Union Municipality' was constituted including the then villages of Mayapur and Kankhal. The first railway track in Haridwar was laid down in 1886, which extended to Dehradun by 1900. The first example of contemporary civilization is the industrial unit of BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited), also know as a ‘Navratna PSU’. Earlier in the state of Uttar Pradesh, it is now the pride of the newly formed Uttarakhand since November 2000 onwards.
By Air: Nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, which is a domestic airport located at about just 20 km away from city center. Nearest International airport is Delhi, which is about 200 km away.
By Rail: Haridwar railway station is a major station well connected to all major cities in India.
By Road: Haridwar is well connected by tourist bus services and state owned bus services. All cities in and around Haridwar are connected by state buses.
Shopping in Haridwar is also a delightful experience. The main market place is a long, winding street free of all vehicular traffic. The tiny but attractive shops on both sides of the road are full of religious items like bead necklaces, clay images of gods and goddesses, Shiva lingams, sacred texts and ritual designs. Other items include shells, pearls, bangles, chains, ear and nose rings.
Haridwar, being primarily a pilgrimage destination, has numerous shops along its streets selling all essentials that a pilgrim would need. The streets between the railway station and famous Har Ki Pauri are filled with such shops.
Haridwar, the holy city is one of the most renowned pilgrimage centers in India. Pilgrims form all over the world flock to this sacred city to take a dip in the holy waters of River Ganga.
Being a destination for pilgrimage tourism, shopping in Haridwar is not on the itinerary of the tourist.
However shops in Haridwar have some interesting things to offer to the tourist. The main shopping centers are Moti bazaar, Upper Road, Jwalapur and Kankhal. You can also check out the Government Handloom and Handicrafts Emporiums and the Gandhi Ashram. Here you will find a range of handicraft decorative pieces. If you are interested in jewellery, then you can choose from a variety of imitation ones which make good fashion accessory.
In Haridwar, you will find neatly and intricately carved stone idols, which make unique souvenirs. It is fascinating that these stones have traversed with Ganga all along and they are eventually deposited in Rishikesh as the river enters the plains. This gives the stones amazing shapes and a natural polish. Besides idols, there are kitchen set toys made from stone, which are interesting buys.
Moti Bazaar: One of the best and busiest shopping areas in Haridwar, Moti Bazaar is situated between the Har-ki-Pauri and the Upper Road. To make your trip to Haridwar worthwhile, make sure you visit Moti Bazaar and shop for religious items such as Rudraksha or sacred beads, Gangajal or water of the holy Ganges stored in a container, precious stones for prosperity, and vermillion to name a few.
Images of deities, food offerings, sacred threads, pickles, and ayurvedic medicines are among the other items that can be purchased. The numbers of tiny shops lined along the streets are best explored on foot.
Haridwar has a range of hotels to meet the demands of various kinds of tourists. The hotels in Haridwar offer packages with the best of facilites. Most of the Haridwar hotels are conveniently located near the main tourist attractions. Hotels in Haridwar provide excellent views of the picturesque and serene landscape around which infuses peace in you, making your pilgrimage to Haridwar a great spiritual experience.
Some of the prominent hotels in Haridwar are:
Three Star Hotels
Classic Residency Hotel
Government Approved Hotels
Sagar Ganga Resort
Haridwar is a holy city of India, where people come from all across the globe, to take a dip in the holy waters of the Ganges (at Har ki Paudi) and get rid of their sins. Apart from that, the city is also home to the famous Mansa Devi Temple, situated atop the Bilwa Parvat, which is dedicated to Goddess Mansa, the wife of Nag Vasuki and the brainchild of Saint Kashyap. Then, there is the Chandi Devi Temple, considered to be one of the Shaktipeeths of North India. In Haridwar, pilgrims also make sure to pay obeisance at Daksha Mahadev Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The temple city of Haridwar has been the reason for people of all faiths to kowtow since ages. Travel to Haridwar, one of the most important pilgrim destinations in India. You should visit Haridwar during the famous festival of Kumbh Mela, when a unique sense of religiosity plunges the whole town. Held once in twelve years, the town is throng with thousand of devotees coming from all over the world to participate in this mega event. During Maha Kumbh Mela special facilities are provided by the Uttaranchal Tourism, watch the crowd who gather during this time to sanctify themselves by taking holy dips in the Ganges. This is one of the largest congregations of mankind in the world. Take up pilgrimage tours of Haridwar to enjoy your festive holidays in this holy town of Uttaranchal.
Udan Khatola, or ropeway, is a mode of transport to reach the hill top temples of Haridwar. Also known as the ropeway to Gods, this facility came into effect more than a decade back. You can reach the abode of God in approximately five minutes by Udan Khatola, as against the one hour steep climb/trek. The Udan Khatola is operational in the area where Chandi Devi temple is located. As you rise in the air once atop the Udan Khatola, you can enjoy the marvelous view from greater heights. The Udan Khatola ride is for the strong hearted and not for those who fear heights.
Yoga & Meditation
Apart from pilgrimage purposes, there is one another reason why people flock to Haridwar and that is yoga and meditation. There are a number of ashrams in the city, where qualified gurus take classes in yoga and meditation. People come here from the various parts of the world, to learn yoga and lead a healthy and spiritual life. Many of them move towards Rishikesh as well, after staying in Haridwar, to deepen their knowledge of yoga and meditation, by staying in the renowned ashrams located at the Himalayan foothills.