Friday, May 21, 2010

Haridwar and Rishikesh.

Haridwar and Rishikesh located in Uttarakhand State are holy places of importance for Hindus from all over the world. While every State in India has holy rivers and hundreds of Temples only a few of them are known all over the country. And not all of them are must visit places in one’s lifetime. But this is not the case with these places in the State of Uttarakhand, it has Haridwar, Rishikesh, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri which every Hindu considers as a duty to visit once.
Haridwar and Rishikesh are on the banks of the holy River Ganga. Haridwar is 200 Kms. from New Delhi and Rishikesh is further north, 24 Kms. from Haridwar. I have been to Haridwar and Rishikesh twice during my official visits to Deharadun.
“Haridwar” means “Gateway to God” and is regarded as one of the seven holiest places in India. In ancient times this place was also called “Gangadwara” meaning the holy River Ganga descends to the plains here. River Ganga starts at Gaumukh at the edge of the Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas and flows along the mountains for 253 Kms. to reach Haridwar. Haridwar is one of the four places where drops of the elixir of immortality (Ambrosia – Amrutam) accidentally slipped over from the pitcher that the celestial bird Garuda was carrying after it was extracted from the Ocean by the Gods and demons. These four places, Nasik, Ujjain, Prayag and Haridwar have become sacred places where the Kumbha Mela is celebrated. Kumbha Mela is celebrated once every three years in any of these four places and after every 12 years Maha Kumbha Mela is celebrated at Prayag in Allahabad. Not only during the time of Kumbha Mela but on any day around the year pilgrims perform ritualistic bath in River Ganga which is said to cleanse have the sins committed by the person and attain ‘Moksha’. The spot where the Amrutam fell at Haridwar is called Brahma Kund and this is at a place called Har ki Pauri meaning footsteps of God. And this is the most sacred bathing ghat at Haridwar. Every evening the Maha Aarti also called Ganga Aarti is performed here. You can see some awesome pictures of Aarti and the bathing ghats at the top of this article.
Rishikesh, another equally important place of pilgrimage is easy to visit once you are at Haridwar as it is just 25 Kms. away. Rishikesh is derived from Rishikesha one of the many names of Lord Vishnu. It means Lord of senses. Rishikesh is also known as the Gateway to the Himalayas as it is at the foothills of these mighty mountains and it is the starting point for the pilgrimage to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri which are all at an altitude of over 3000 metres. It is said that Lord Rama did penance here and that Lakshmana his younger brother crossed River Ganga here where we now have the famous Lakshmana Jhula. All along the banks of Ganga at Rishikesh we have ancient and new temples and ashrams of great saints from the past and present. Apart from the regular pilgrims to this holy land of Ganga and great saints several tourists from India and abroad visit Rishikesh for spiritual learning and yoga lessons. This is how Rishikesh has come to be called as the ‘World capital of Yoga”.

To read about my trip to Badrinath and view some magnificent photographs of Badri Narayan Temple and the Himalayas you may click on this link:

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