Haridwar popularly called "Gateway to God" is breathtaking city and is dotted with a large number of temples. The city aura of intense spirituality acts as a magnet for religious pilgrims from all around the world. It is one of the seven holiest cities of the country. The place is considered as the point of entry to Char Dham and Dev Bhoomi. The river Gang after flowing 253 kms from Gaumukh enters the Indo-Gangetic plains of North India for the first time at Haridwar, which gave it the name Gangadwara. With respect to legend it is the place where drops 'Amrit' accidentally spilled from the pitcher and while it was being carried by the Garuda bird.
The holy city of Haridwar is situated at a distance of 214 Km from Delhi and lies in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is one of India's most eminent pilgrimage sites and is spread over an area of 2360sq. Km. It is known as the "Gateway to the Gods' and is situated on the banks of the holy Ganges. Set at an altitude of 790m above the sea level the city is boarded by Bijnor and Muzzaffar Nagar district in the south, the Dehradun district in the north, Saharanpur district in the west and Dehradun district in the east. Haridwar is well connected to all the major cities of India by an excellent rail and road network.
If the archaeological excavations and findings are to be believed, Haridwar has been existing since 1700 B.C or 1200 B.C., pending for conformation. It is regarded as one of the seven holiest places of Hindu. Another popular tale related to its existence is that the city came to existence by the benediction of Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. According to legends the erstwhile emperor Bhagirath brought the holy water of Ganga in order to bear the penance on behalf of his ancestors and wash their sins. So the history of Haridwar has many legends associated with it.
The major festivals celebrated in the land of Haridwar are:
The most popular festival and fair in Haridwar is Kumbh Mela. During the Kumbh Mela congregation of millions of saints, monks, devotees, followers, tourists, journalists and photographers visit Haridwar to make the event an exceptional one. This pious fair is celebrated ones in every 12 years and the city prepares in full swing to arrange this event. Another major festival that is sure to attend is the Ardh Kumbh Mela, celebrated once in every 6 years people from all corners and walk of work visit Haridwar to take a dip in the holy Ganga River.
The festival of Holi and Diwali is celebrated with great pomp and show. On the Diwali evening the holy ghats of Ganges look mesmerizing with the reflection of golden lamps floating in the water.
The best time to visit this holy city is during winters, more specifically during the month from October to March. The months from October to March are also favorable for tourism from the festival point of view. Since festival like Diwali and Kanwar Mela are celebrated in the city with much festivity. During summer temperature range between 18 °C to 40 °C while in winter temperature shows a fall and can reach as low as 6°C. In the monsoon season the city receives moderate rainfall which leads to increase in humidity and make the day activities a challenge.
Haridwar the city famed as the "Gateway of God" is dotted with a large number of religious attractions which make it very popular amongst the Hindu followers. The major religious attractions to visit while being in this holy city are:
Har-Ki – Pauri, the most sacred ghat was commissioned by Emperor Vikramaditya in the memory of his brother Bhartrihari. The visit this pious ghat in the evening hours to attend the delightful art and observe an enchanting sight with the golden reflection of floating diyas in the mighty Ganges is mesmerizing.
The famous temple of Chandi Devi is situated atop the Neel Parvat was commissioned by Suchat Singh in 1929 A.D. Previously the devotees need to take a 3km trek starting from the Chandi Ghat to reach the temple. But now the temple can only be reached by a ropeway which starts near the Gauri Shankar Temple. According to legends the main statue in the temple was established by Adi Shankaracharya in the eighth century A.D.
Mansa Devi temple is built on the top of Bilwa Parvat and is devoted to divinity Mansa Devi. Standing at this height on can also enjoy the aerial view of the holy Ganges, Haridwar and the countryside from this point.
The newly constructed Vaishno Devi temple is a true replica of the original Vaishno Devi temple present in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pay a visit to the Gurukul Kangadi University to see how the education was imparted in the traditional Indian way. Within the premises of this center of the learning Veda Mandir is present which houses many archaeological exhibits.
The other prime attractions to visit during your presence in Haridwar are Maya Devi Temple, Shanti Kunj and Bharat Mata Temple.
Rishkesh is located at a distance of 28 Kms away from Haridwar. Visit Rishikesh for a breath taking experience. At Rishikesh one can also visit the exotic wildlife along with enjoying the tranquility of a landscape with sages. It is also a perfect place for the adventure avid people since one can enjoy rafting and flight different level rapids.
Deksehwar Mahadev is an ancient temple located in the Kankhal town and is situated at a distance of 4 Kms from the town of Haridwar. On the way to the Deksehwar Mahadev temple also pay a visit to Birbhadreshwar. The temple was commissioned by Queen Dhankaur in 1810 AD.
Sapt Rishi Ashram, situated along the Haridwar-Rishikesh road is an ancient ashram. According to the legend, river Ganga split itself into seven currents at this spot which in term gave it a popular name Sapt Sarovar. It is located at a distance of 5 Kms from the Har-Ki-Pauri.
Kanva Rishi Ashram situated on the banks of Malini River is located at a convenient distance of 42 Km from the holy city of Haridwar. It is a nice place to feel close to Mother Nature. Being on the outskirts, the Kanva Rishi Ashram is a treat for nature lovers.
Chila Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across in the area of 240 sq. Kms and is inhabited by more than 23 species of mammals and also has 315 fauna species. The sanctuary is located at a distance of 10 Kms from Haridwar. The tourist can get a chance to encounter elephants, bears and a wide variety of birds. The best time to visit this sanctuary is from November to June. The visitors can enjoy wildlife safari along with elephant rides.
Visit the Triveni ghat in at the dawn time for a splendid site observing people offering milk to the river and feeding fish. In the evening hours the sight on floating lamps on the water after Aarti is strikingly beautiful.
Neelkanth Mahadev temple situated at the height of 1700 Mt is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It takes four hours drive to reach the temple from Rishikesh.