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Devotion knows no time and hence flower vendors at Har ki Pauri ply their trade round the clock

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Strong currents make bathing a challenge as well as fun

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Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India,

15-16 November 2014.

Page 2

Achaar (pickles), squash and savouries at Moti Market


Rajaji National Park is 30 mins away. Hire a Maruti Gypsy and drive inside the forest

(Click  images to enlarge)

Har-ki-Pauri is probably the holiest part of Haridwar. This is where all the action is. Most of the temples, shopping, eateries and dharmashalas (guest houses) are located along the western bank of the Ganges. A few hotels as well. The swift waters that flows down the Har-ki-Pauri are not really the main Ganges. It’s a channel through which waters of the Ganges are diverted. The flow is regulated by sluice gates a bit further north. The steps along the banks on both sides (the ghats) are for the thousands who take a holy dip in the purifying waters. The entire facility has been created for the pilgrims. The main river is about 300 mts to the east, beyond the eastern banks of the channel.

We quickly checked in, changed and went down to the ghat (steps on the embankments) right in front of the hotel for the mandatory ganga-snan which literally translates to bathing-in-the Ganges. The holy dip is guaranteed to wash away all accumulated sins! Couldn’t resist the lure of that and thus braved the very swift waters at probably 16 or 17 Centigrades. Held on to the chains erected along the banks for dear life while taking a dip. Awesome experience.

Lunch at Hoshiyarpur Dhaba. Missi roti, Kumbh matar, Dal makhni

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A beer with a bit of fish finger would have been ideal after that invigorating dip. But in tune with holy sentiments, Haridwar is a strict vegetarian zone and alcohol is banned. So we made to with jal-jeera (delicious drink of cumin based spices) and pakoras (vegetable fritters) at the hotel.

For lunch we took a Rs 20/- rickshaw ride to Hoshiyarpuri Dhaba on Upper Road, near the lower station of the cable car going upto Manasa Devi temple. This vegetarian restaurant has been around for 8 decades and is a destination on its right. 20 or 30 deep que at lunch or dinner times. Fast, almost furious service. Delicious dishes doused in pure ghee (clarified butter). We had Mushrooms with peas, Daal makhni (rich lentils with cream), Paneer bhurji (cottage cheese), Tandoori roti and Missi roti, all of that washed down with Pepsi. Absolutely satisfying calorie and cholesterol laden meal. What the heck, I will be back again for sure. 

At dusk we went to witness the Ganga Aarti. Paying one’s respect to the holy Mother Ganges. The ambience, the aura, the all immersive audio visual experience is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. I was witnessing the Aarti for the first time and I did feel the wonderful experience was rather compromised by the brevity of the aarti itself and the rank commercialisation. You can find my review of the experience here.  

Most people would restrict their trip to Haridwar by praying at the temples, taking dips in the holy Ganges, shopping and visiting more temples. That’s fine but it would be a shame if you didn’t take half a day out for a visit to the nearby Rajaji National Park. I booked a car through the hotel’s travel desk and the vehicle arrived promptly at the crack of dawn. A leisurely 12 km drive along the foothills on the north-eastern bank of the Ganges. Stopping often to photograph the rich bird life. Onto the Chilla Gate of the Park. Hire a Gypsy (small 4-wheel drive open SUV) and drive into the park for a 3 hour safari. If you are lucky you might get to see leopards and elephants. Good chance to sight smaller animals and plenty of birds.

Haridwar is a microcosm of what India is all about. Sit on the steps at a Ghat and watch the world go by. See traditional as well as modern attires from every corner of the country. Hear dozens of dialects and languages from different States of India. Interspersed with ringing bells, chanting and conch shells. Smell the incense and the flowers, their fragrance drifting in from the temples. Often laced with aroma of Indian cuisine wafting in from the eateries. Sit till as late in the night as you want to. Ha-ki-Pauri never really goes to sleep. Experience devotion through diversity like nowhere else.

Gangaa aarti at Brahma Kund (Click image to enlarge)

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