Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India. The River Ganges, after flowing for 253 kilometres (157 mi) from its source at Gaumukh at the edge of the Gangotri Glacier, enters the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India for the first time at Haridwar. which gave the city its ancient name, Gangadwára.
Haridwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places to Hindus. According to the Samudra manthan, Haridwar along with Ujjain, Nasik and Allahabad is one of four sites where drops of Amrit, the elixir of immortality, accidentally spilled over from the pitcher while being carried by the celestial bird Garuda. This is manifested in the Kumbha Mela being celebrated every 3 years in one of the 4 places, and thus every 12 years in Haridwar. Amidst the Kumbha Mela, millions of pilgrims, devotees, and tourists congregate in Haridwar to perform ritualistic bathing on the banks of the river Ganges to wash away their sins to attain Moksha. Brahma Kund, the spot where the Amrit fell, is located at Har ki Pauri (literally, “footsteps of the Lord”) and is considered to be the most sacred ghat of Haridwar.
Haridwar is the headquarters and the largest city of the district. Today, the city is developing beyond its religious importance, with the fast developing industrial estate of State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand (SIDCUL), and the close by township of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited in Ranipur, Uttarakhand as well as its affiliated ancillaries.
Seven holy places
Haridwar is one of the seven most holy Hindu places in India, with Varanasi usually considered the holiest.
“Ayodhya Mathura Maya Kasi Kañchi Avantika |
Puri Dvaravati chaiva saptaita moksadayikah // – Garuda Purana / .”
A Ksetra is a sacred ground,a field of active power, a place where Moksha, final release can be obtained. The Garuda Purana enumerates seven cities as giver of Moksha. These are Ayodhya, Mathura, Puri, Maya, Kasi, Kañchi, Avantika and Dvaravati.
A paradise for nature lovers, Haridwar presents a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and civilization. In the scriptures it has been variously mentioned as Kapilsthan, Gangadwar and Mayapuri. It is also an entry point to the Char Dham (the four main centers of pilgrimage in Uttarakhand viz, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri), hence, Shaivaites (followers of Lord Shiva) and Vaishnavites (followers of Lord Vishnu) call this place Hardwar and Haridwar respectively, corresponding to Har being Shiv and Hari being Vishnu.
In the Vanaparva of the Mahabharat, where sage Dhaumya tells Yudhisthira about the tirthas of India, Gangadwar, i.e., Haridwar and Kankhal, with the help of his wife, Lopamudra (the princess of Vidharba).
Sage Kapila is said to have an ashram here giving it, its ancient name, Kapila or Kapilastan.
The legendary King, Bhagirath, the great-grandson of the Suryavanshi King Sagar (an ancestor of Rama), is said to have brought the river Ganges down from heaven, through years of penance in Satya Yuga, for the salvation of 60,000 of his ancestors from the curse of the saint Kapila, a tradition continued by thousands of devout Hindus, who brings the ashes of their departed family members, in hope of their salvation. Lord Vishnu is said to have left his footprint on the stone that is set in the upper wall of Har-Ki-Pauri, where the Holy Ganges touches it at all times.
Haridwar came under the rule of the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), and later under the Kushan Empire (c. 1st–3rd centuries). Archaeological findings have proved that terra cotta culture dating between 1700 BCE and 1200 BCE existed in this region. First modern era written evidence of Haridwar is found in the accounts of a Chinese traveller, Huan Tsang, who visited India in 629 AD. during the reign of King Harshavardhan (590–647) records Haridwar as ‘Mo-yu-lo’, the remains of which s till exist at Mayapur, a little to the south of the modern town. Among the ruins are a fort and three temples, decorated with broken stone sculptures, he also mentions the presence of a temple, north of Mo-yu-lo called ‘Gangadwara’, Gateway of the Ganges.
The city also fell to the Central Asian conqueror Timur Lang (1336–1405) on January 13, 1399.
During his visit to Haridwar, first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak (1469–1539) bathed at ‘Kushwan Ghat’, wherein the famous, ‘watering the crops’ episode took place, his visit is today commemorated by a gurudwara (Gurudwara Nanakwara), according to two Sikh Janamsakhis, this visit took place on the Baisakhi day in 1504 AD, he later also visited Kankhal enroute to Kotdwara in Garhwal. Pandas of the Haridwar have been known to keep genealogy records of most of the Hindu population. Known as vahis, these records are updated on each visit to the city, and are a repository of vast family trees of family in North India.
Shri Vyasa ashram, Haridwar :
More than an Ashram, it is a great temple close to Saptarshi Ashram, on the outskirts of Haridwar.
Erected as a monument to Shri Vyasa, this acts as a model temple combining religious activities with welfare activities. Consecrated on 26th Feb. 1988 by the Swamiji himself, the temple has Shri Vyasa as the presiding deity with his son, Shuka Muni, and disciples, Paila, Vaishampayan, Jaimini and Sumantu.
There are life-size idols of the mythological Saptarshis and also the trimurtis, Brahma Vishnu and Maheshwara. Interestingly, the traditional dwarapals or the guards are not the Jaya Vijaya here, but the characters in the Upanishads, the famous students, Nachiketa and Satyakama. Shri Swamiji has taken personal care to bring in many facets of Puranas and Mahabharat as a tribute to the great Vyasa who authored those immortal books.
In activities, this temple resembles an ancient ashram. Standing on the banks of the River Ganga, it has a big garden that gives flowers and fruits for the poojas and a bathing ghat to take holy dips in the river. There is a small shrine dedicated to Mother Ganga on the ghat itself to offer prayers soon after the bath. A gow-shala with 30 to 40 cows supplies milk, again for pooja. Viewing from another angle, it has a big auditorium for assemblies, a dining hall with free food for guests and inmates and a perpetual annadan arrangement for anyone who visits during lunchtime. There is a health care centre to cater to the needs of the locality which otherwise did not have any. Staying accommodation is available in the temple complex with good amenities on a modest rent.
The temple celebrates its annual foundation day on Phalguna Shukla Navami (mostly in the month of February) every year. The temple indirectly depicts the glorious heights that the GSB community has attained and deserves a visit by everyone.