The Gateway to Lord Vishnu
|Type of Tourism||: Pilgrimage|
|Area||: 12.3 square kilometers|
|Population||: 175,010 (As per Indian census- 2001)|
|Altitude||: 314 meters|
|Best Tourist Season||: October to March|
|Languages spoken||: Punjabi, Garhwali, Hindi, English|
|Telephone Code||: India (01334), International (+91)|
|Pin Code||: 249401|
|Clothing recommended||: Light cotton in summer, heavy woolen in winter|
|What to buy||: Artificial jewellery for idols, imitation jewellery, brass and copper puja utensils, glass bangles, wooded walking sticks, stoneware, containers for carrying Ganga Jal, handicraft decorative pieces, kitchen set toys, toys made from stone, stone idols, beads, cane baskets, Ayurveda medicines, sandalwood rudraksh, religious CDs and DVDs, yoga books, Kum Kum, Sindoor, Gemstones, Achaar, vermilion, pedas, bottles of churan (digestives), aam papad (sweetened dry mango preserve), etc.|
|Food Specialties||: Garhwal ka Fannah, Chainsoo, Kafuli, Jholi, Phaanu, Thechwani, Baadi|
|Local transportation||: on foot, cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, taxis.|
The term ‘Haridwar’ can be split as ‘Hari’ and ‘Dwar’ where ‘Hari’ refers to the Lord Vishnu while ‘Dwar’ means the door or the gateway. Thus, Haridwar implies ‘The Gateway to Lord Vishnu’. As Haridwar is the traditional starting point of the Char Dham Yatra and serves as an entrance to Badrinath i.e. one of the holy abodes of Lord Vishnu, this city is called Haridwar. Apart from this, the name of the civic Haridwar is also spelled as ‘Hardwar’, meaning ‘The Gateway to Lord Shiva’. Hardwar also furnishes as a preparatory to the Kedarnath, the domicile of Lord Shiva and one of the Chota Char Dhams of India. Furthermore, the term Haridwar can also be explained as the ‘entry to the land of God’ which means, you reach God as you perform a pilgrimage to Haridwar. Considered to be one of the holiest Hindu pilgrim destinations of India, Haridwar nestled on the sacred banks of the river Ganges is a municipal corporation and the district headquarters of the Haridwar District in the state of Uttarakhand. Moreover, this is also the vicinity where Ganga after flowing for 253 kilometers, for the first time enters the Northern Plains (Indo-Gangetic Plains) at Haridwar, i.e. the erstwhile Gangadwára.
Haridwar, the mythological home of the father of Goddess Parvati, i.e. King Daksha is also the blessed locale where a drop of Amrit (nectar) had fallen at the time of the legendary ‘Samudra Manthan’. Hence, Haridwar along with Nashik, Ujjain and Allahabad is the berth where the celebrated Kumbh Mela is held once in every twelve years. Brahma Kund is the most auspicious Ghat of Haridwar where the drop of Amrit is believed to have been spilled. It is said that if you bathe in the waters of River Ganga at Haridwar or take a dip into the Brahma Kund, all your sins will be washed away and you will attain the state of Moksha i.e. complete salvation from the circle of life and death. Haridwar is the very city referred to as ‘Mayapuri’ in the Sanskrit verse that depicts the seven Mokshdayini Nagaris.
Haridwar, the center of the Hindu religion, spiritualism and mysticism over the centuries beckons millions of pilgrims from different parts of the country and globe every year. And the city is undoubtedly thronged by the pilgrims and sages at the time of Kumbh Mela. Apart from the Kumbh Mela, the city is also venerated for its other fairs and festivals including The Ardh Mela, Kanwar Mela, Somwati Amavasya, Kartik Purnima, Kavad mela, Ganga Dussehra, and so on.
Haridwar, the treasury of temples and the potpourri of numerous pilgrim places is a conurbation blessed with tremendous religious significance and incredible ambience filled with piousness, faith and devotion. Countless glittering golden lamps floating in the river at the time of Ganga Aarti every evening is a spectacle par beyond the imagination of any painter, poet or artist. Haridwar is a sanctified and divine quarters of all Hindu deities to which every Hindu dreams of paying a visit at least once in a life time.
History of Haridwar
The mythological genesis of Haridwar leads us back to the allegorical episode of Samudra Manthan performed by Gods and Demons in order to extract the Amrit (nectar) from the sea. As the Amrit came out of the sea, both the Gods and the Demons started fighting over its possession. Lord Vishnu managed to get the custody of the Amrit Kumbh and made his divine vehicle: Garuda carry it to the heaven. While it was transporting the pitcher to the Swargaloka, Garuda flew over India and by mistake spill four drops of Amrit at four part of the country, one of them being Haridwar. Apart from this, Haridwar is also supposed to be the residence of the King Daksha, the father of Goddess Parvati and also the venue of the famous ‘DakshaYagna’ where Parvati had performed self immolation. Besides, Haridwar is also believed to be the location where the holy river Ganga had ascended from the heaven at the appeal of Prince Bhagirath to rescue the souls of his 60,000 ancestors and give them Moksha who had perished at the curse of Kapil Muni.
The ‘Vanaparva’ of the Mahabharata also cites the name of Haridwar as one of the ‘Tirtha Kshetras’ of India. Sage Dhaumya narrates the story of Gangadwar and Kankhal to Yudhisthira out of which Gangadwar is the present Haridwar. The Mahabharata also mentions that Sage Agastya along with his wife Lopamudra had performed severe penance here. Haridwar also served as the site of the Kapila Muni Ashrama. Lord Vishnu is believed to have left his footprint on a stone at Har-Ki-Pauri which is constantly touched by the holy river Ganga.
Talking about the documented history of Haridwar, this region belonged to the dominion of the Maurya Empire from 322 BC to 185 BC and it was under the governance of the Kushan Empire from 1st to 3rd century AD. The Archaeological surveys of India have deduced the existence of terra cotta culture which flourished here from 1700 BC to 1200 BC. First chronicled evidence of the Modern Era of Haridwar is found in the travelogues of Huan Tsang who visited India in 629 AD. He describes Haridwar as ‘Mo-yu-lo’ i.e. Mayapuri which was then under the supremacy of the King Harshavardhan. Huan Tsang has also described a temple named Gangadwara. Timur Lang, the founder of the Timurid dynasty and the 14th century conqueror of West, South and Central Asia also invaded Haridwar on 13th January 1399.
Haridwar is also a much esteemed locale for Sikhs as Guru Nanak Sahib had paid visit to this city on the day of Baisakhi in 1504 AD and bathed at 'Kushwan Ghat'. Genealogy records of the Hindu population of Haridwar kept by the Pandas of the city today provide the historical accounts of the vast family trees of North India. Abul Fazal, a Mughal writer during the reign of Akbar has referred to Haridwar as Mayapur in his Ain-e-Akbari. There was mint for Akbar's copper coinage at Haridwar during the Mughal era. It is believed that the foundation of the present Haridwar city was laid down by Raja Man Singh of Amber who also renovated the ghats at Har-ki-Pauri. It is said that after the death of Raja Man Singh, his ashes were immersed at Brahma Kund by Akbar Himself. An English Traveler named Thomas Coryat who visited this locus during the rule of Jahangir mentions this city as Haridwar.
Modern history of Haridwar records the constitution of ‘Haridwar Union Municipality’ which took place in the year 1868. In 1886 Haridwar was connected with railways, via Laksar when the Awadh and Rohilakhand Railway line was extended through Roorkee to Saharanpur. 20th century Haridwar was a part of the Roorkee Tehsil of Saharanpur district in the United Province and remained so till independence. The population of Haridwar was reported to be 25,597 in the year 1901. After 1947, Haridwar was a part of Uttar Pradesh and it became a district headquarters in the state of Uttarakhand from 2000. After 1960, Haridwar underwent a speedy development with the establishment of BHEL, IIT Roorkee and other such reputed institutions here.