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Haridwar

To experience Haridwar is to know that beyond the superficial sophistry of politically correct contemporary Hinduism lies a faith as simple as the contours of a lily in full bloom, as old as the abode of the Gods amidst the northern snows. Not for nothing is Haridwar called the ''Gateway to the Gods''. Situated at the base of the Shivalik hills of Uttar Pradesh, an aura of divinity surrounds this sacred town where the Ganga is believed to wash away the sins of millions who take a dip in its holy waters. Tradition traces the origins of the town to the great penance performed by King Shweta. Lord Shiva’s father-in-law, Daksha Prajapati also performed a yagna here. Again, it is here that the Devas brought the pitcher of nectar to foil the designs of the Rakshasas.

Besides being an important pilgrim centre of the Hindus, Haridwar is a major adventure sports circuit offering possibilities for river rafting, tracking and mountaineering. It is also known world over for its herbal remedies and Ayurveda (the ancient Indian science of medicine).

Sightseeing:

Chandi Devi:
The Chandi Devi Temple, situated atop the Neel Parvat, gives a panoramic view of the entire Haridwar town. The temple was built in the year 1929 by the then king of Kashmir Suchat Singh. According to a legend, Adi Shankaracharya established the main statue here during the eighth century AD. You can either trek the 3-km path to get to the temple from Chandi Ghat or take the ropeway that starts from the nearby Gauri Shankar Temple.

Bharat Mata Temple:
The Bharat Mata Temple is a massive eight-storey structure consecrated in 1983. Each floor of the temple houses statues of different mythological and historical legends, religious deities, leaders and heroes who played important role in the formation of the modern India. The temple was founded by Swami Satyamitranand Giri. The first floor of the temple has the statue of Bharat Mata or Mother India with a map of India on a raised platform. Likewise, the other floors also contain renowned figures of Indian history and mythology while the fifth floor serves as the assembly hall.

Shanti Kunj:
Shanti Kunj is another place to visit while you are in Haridwar. It is the most important centre for the Gayatri followers all over India. The temple here houses 24 images of Gayatri. Shanti Kunj is also famous for yoga practices.

Har-Ki-Pauri:
Har-Ki-Pauri is regarded as one of the major attractions of Haridwar. It is a sacred ghat built by the then King Vikramaditya in the memory of his brother Bhartrihari. This sacred bathing ghat is also known as Brahmakund. Thousands of devotees come here to take a holy dip in the river Ganga during the Kumbh Mela. Just near the ghat is the Gangadwar Temple which is regarded as the most important temple of Haridwar.

Maya Devi Temple:
The Maya Devi Temple holds great religious importance for the follower of Hindu religion. It is said that a vital part of Goddess Sati had fallen at this place during the process of divine dismemberment. The temple is also regarded as one of the Siddhapethas dedicated to the Adhisthatri Devi of Haridwar.

Bazaars:
Haridwar is also famous for its local bazaars or markets. The main Haridwar bazaar is a long, winding street, probably the oldest part of the town, free of all vehicular traffic. The road is no more than four yards wide. The shops spill over with sweets, pickles, bead necklaces, clay images of the gods, Shiva lingams, sacred texts, ritual designs, and pictures of the gods, gurus and gotamas in vibrant technicolour. You can also indulge in some items made of shells, pearls, rudraksha beads, and cane, jewellery like bangles, chains, earring etc.

Excursions From Hassan:

Chila Wildlife Sanctuary:
The Chila Wildlife Sanctuary is situated at a distance of 10 km away from Haridwar. It is a part of the Rajaji National Park and houses a good number of rare Himalayan flora and fauna. The sanctuary remains closed for tourists from June 15 to November 15 every year.

Kanva Rishi Ashram:
Situated at a distance of 42 km from Haridwar, the Kanva Rishi Ashram lies along the forested road to Kotdwar. The Malini River flows by the ashram.

Neel Kantha:
As the name suggests, the Neel Kantha is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is situated at an altitude of 1,700 metres and takes around 4 hours on foot if you decide on to walk from Rishikesh. According to a legend, this is the place where lord Shiva drank the poison churned out of the cosmic ocean. The Shivratri fair held here is famous all over India.

Rishikesh:
If Haridwar is the town of temples, Rishikesh is the ashram capital of Hinduism. Located at the confluence of the Ganga and Chandrabhaga at a distance of 28 km from the Haridwar town, Rishikesh is a sacred spot where the great sage Raibhya performed penance and was granted an appearance by God in his ''Hrishikesh'' aspect. Rishikesh is today a centre of Vedic, yogic, herbal medication and meditation studies. Along the east bank of the river lies a succession of ashrams in serene surroundings: the river is beautiful, the air is fragrant with freshness and there is benediction in the air. Rishikesh is a place to be, not do.

Sapta Rishi Ashram:
Situated just a few kilometres from main Haridwar town, the Sapta Rishi Ashram makes an important excursion spot. As the name suggests, Sapta Rishi is believed to be the meditation ground of seven sages named Kashyap, Vashit, Atri, Vishwamitra, Jaindayani, Bhardwaj and Gautam. Legends say that the holy river Ganga didn/’t want to disturb the sages in their meditation and so she split herself into seven streams around each one of them keeping her flow intact.

Triveni Ghat:
Known for its religious significance, the Triveni Ghat is an important bathing ghat. Here people come to worship the river with milk and diyas. After sunset, priests perform religious rites and set floating lamps on the water to mark the aarti ceremony.

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