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Its religious importance derives from various legends. All agree that nectar, or elixir, was dropped in the Har-ki-Pairi ghat and that Lord Vishnu left a footprint behind. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit Haridwar to bathe in this place and wash away their sins.
Every evening at sunset you can witness a fabulous display of ganga aarti as pilgrims send leaf baskets filled with flower petals, incense and candles down the Ganges as offerings to their deceased ancestors.
As an ancient pilgrim town, Haridwar has many spectacular temples, old and new, as well as dharamsalas (pilgrim rest houses) and ashrams for the visitor to take it. And while its bazaars and crowded streets make it at times chaotic, the reverent nature of the town makes Haridwar a pleasant and hassle-free town.
More recently, Haridwar has become a fast developing industrial hub, with the establishment of the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand Limited (SIDCUL) estate. SIDCUL is a state government initiative that promotes the development of industry and infrastructure.
The Kumbh Mela, which is a pilgim festival held in Haridwar every 12 years, is the world’s largest festival. It attracted 70 million people in 2003.
When to go:
You can visit Haridwar year round, although it is very busy in yatra (pilgrim) season from April to November.
- Wander down to the Har-ki-Pairi ghat at sunset to watch the ganga aarti and witness pilgrims wash away their sins.
- Take a cable car up the hill to Mansa Devi Temple, where your wishes will be fulfilled by the Goddess Mansa Devi. It’s a spectacular view on the way up too.
- While you’re up there, you can take another cable car and bus ride to visit the Chandi Devi Temple, which was built by the king of Kashmir in 1929 on the eastern summit of Sivalik Hills, the southern most chain of the Himalayas.
- Head along to Bara Bazar to buy all your Ayurvedic medicines and a good many other souvenirs.
- While in the Bara Bazar pop into Prakash Lok for one of its famous lassis.
- Take a trip to Rajaji National Park, 820 square kilometres of protected forest in the Himalayan foothills. It is about 40km from Haridwar and is famous for its wild elephants, tigers and leopards.
- See the Maya Devi Temple. Dating from the 11th century it is one of the few ancient temples still standing in Haridwar.
- Spend some time at the Bharat Mata (Mother India) Mandir learning about the history of India.
- Visit the Sapt Rishi Ashram, which is famous for having hosted seven sages. The Ganges is said to have split itself into seven currents here to avoid disturbing the meditating sages, which is why it is also known as Sapt Sarovar (seven streams).