By Swami Harshananda
Haridvāra means ‘gateway to God Hari’.
It is the gateway to the two well-known places of pilgrimage Badarīnātha and Kedāranātha in the Himalayas and both these places are sacred to Hari (Viṣṇu) and Hara (Śiva), hence christened as ‘Haridvāra’ and ‘Haradvāra’.
It is one of the most famous places of pilgrimage, situated at a distance of 263 km (164 miles) from New Delhi, on the right bank of the river Gaṅgā and at the foot of the Śiwalik range of the Himalayas in the Saharanpur district of Uttaranchal.
- According to the various accounts of the Purāṇa-s, it is one of the seven most sacred places of pilgrimage and was known as Māyāpurī in the ancient days.
- Here satī, the spouse of Lord Śiva, gave up her body in yoga during the sacrifice performed by her father Dakṣa.
- The sages Kapila, Bharadvāja and Sanatkumāra lived here.
- Arjuna and Bhīma, the famous Pāṇḍava heroes, had visited this place.
It comprises of proper Haridvāra and different areas around the place that are Māyāpurī, Kanakhala, Jvālāpura and Bhīmagouḍ. Hṛṣīkeśa (Hrishikesh) is situated 40 km (24 miles) away from Haridvāra and is a famous place of residence for many sanyāsins who have established their hermitages and practice severe austerities and spiritual studies.
- The main tourist attractions in Haridvāra are:
- The Brahmakuṇḍa, the place where pilgrims take bath in the Gaṅgā
- The temple of the river goddess Gaṅgādevī called ‘Prācīna-Gaṅgā-mandira’
- The spectacular ārati at the time of sunset with hundreds of oil lamps set afloat on the river by the devotees
- The Kumbhamelā which takes place once in twelve years, when Bṛhaspati (Jupiter) enters the Meṣarāśi (Aries) and here the pilgrims take their bath
- The bathing ghāṭ at Kuśāvarta , the place where the pilgrims offer piṇḍa (rice balls) to their ancestors
- The other places of importance for the pilgrims to visit are:
- also spelt as Haradvāra and Hardwar
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore