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Haridwar Travel Guide

Haridwar literally means Gateway to the Lord. One of the holiest Hindu pilgrim sites on the banks of the sacred river Ganga, Haridwar in Uttarakhand, is a bustling town with crowded markets, a multitude of temples, ashrams and ghats overflowing with pilgrims desirous of attaining a measure of salvation - in this life or in the next one. Most of Haridwar's visitors are temporary - mendicants and sadhus who stop here to offer prayers before venturing to greater heights, pilgrims seeking succour and foreigners in search of spiritual sustenance. Happily for its permanent residents, the turnover never stops and people keep flocking to Haridwar for the many spiritual delights that it offers.

The centre of all this activity in Haridwar is Har-ki-Pauri,which literally means footsteps of God. Lined with temples and guesthouses looking on to the river, the ghats (river landings for bathing) have worshippers bathing early in the morning and the spectacular Ganga Arti (worship of the river Ganga with lamps) in the evenings. In the distance are the Himalayan peaks, and all around forests and hill shrines. The atmosphere, the rituals and the view around Haridwar all serve to give the uninitiated a glimpse into Hindu religious philosophy.

Haridwar is one of the four sites where the great Kumbh Mela takes place every twelve years. Associated with the divine nectar of life churned out of the sea by the gods, Haridwar along with Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik was one of the spots where the urn was kept down and spilt some of its divine contents. Sanctified by the belief that visiting Haridwar during this period brings more nirvana to the Hindu soul than many years of penance and prayers do, millions of pilgrims throng the town for a dip in the holy Ganga during the Kumbh celebrations.

Beware of touts who pretend to be 'sadhus' and try to extort money from travellers and exercise caution when walking around the ghats as they tend to be pretty slippery.

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