Haridwar located in the foothills of the Himalayas, represents the point where the Ganga reaches the plains. Haridwar is an ancient pilgrimage site, held in reverence for centuries. The Chinese pilgrim Hyuen Tsang who visited India in the first millennium CE, describes Haridwar as Mayura, on the eastern banks of the Ganges. Several temples and ashrams dot this town and a visit to Haridwar is like stepping into a totally different world.
Legend has it that Bhagiratha, brought the Ganges into the earth, and into this point where his ancestors were burnt to ashes by the curse of the sage Kapila. Kapilastaan, a spot in Haridwar is pointed to as Kapila's hermitage. Haridwar was once known as Gangadwara.
Haridwar (and Rishikesh) represents the gateway to the Himalayan pilgrimage shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath. The pilgrimage to the Himalayan shrines begins only when the sun reaches the zodiac sign of Aries. Haridwar is also the site of celebration of the Kumbha Mela, once in twelve years, when Jupiter transits to the zodiac sign of Aquarius.
The five sacred bathing spots in Haridwar are Gangadwara, Kankhal, Nila Parvata, Bilwa Theertha and Kusavarta. The main ghat at Haridwar is known as Hari-ki-Pairi (known for a footprint of Vishnu on a stone in a wall). Nearby is the Gangadwara temple, the most important of the several temples that dot this town. The Ganga Aarti which is celebrated at 7 pm each night, is a spectacular sight, when the aarti ceremony is performed at all temples in Haridwar at the same instant (see image above). Hundreds throng to the ghats at Hari-ki-Pairi to participate in this festival. Offerings of lamps and flowers are made to the river immediately following this ceremony and it is a moving sight to watch hundreds of miniature lamps float along the river.
Near Haridwar are the towns of Mayapuri and Kankhal. Kankhal houses the Daksheswara temple, said to be the site of Daksha's yagna, which was destroyed by Shiva.
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