In the centre of northern India is a city worshipped as a ‘gate to gods’ – Haridwar. However, this old city is so much more than a place name; it evokes deep meaning in many different guises. The mere mention of Mayapuri, Kapila, and Gangadwar adds spiritual potency to this land. To others, Haridwar is more than its geographical scope; it becomes a spiritual sanctuary. Here, Har the followers of Lord Shiva, and Hari their devotees come together in love. And the very pronunciation of its name whether it resounds as Hardwar or Haridwar also epitomizes a diversity of spiritual beliefs held by those who step upon this holy land.
Haridwar is not a city, it rather represents the holy gate leading to Dev Bhoomi and Char Dham. Imagine the enchanting scenery of Uttarakhand nurturing these four holy sites – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. Haridwar is considered an auspicious point of origin for pilgrims setting out on a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual journey. At its spiritual resonance and primordial rituals, the soul’s journey begins.
Haridwar: Where Divinity Resonates In Every Corner
In the old chronicles, there appears a story about King Bhagirath, a revered figure in the Hindu belief. It is said that he brought the celestial Ganga down from heaven to earth to ensure salvation for his forefathers. With the whisper of these timeless echoes, Haridwar is cradled in this celestial river. The significance of Haridwar is elevated by the presence of three gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh who have blessed this sacred place with their celestial power. A special place, the upper wall of Har-Ki-Pauri, has a holy rock carrying Lord Vishnu’s footprint with continuous touch by the Holy Ganga. This godly stone is the solid embodiment of a connection to heaven.
Haridwar serves as a gateway to the otherworlds for devoted believers. This perception is supported by the sacramental bathing in Ganga’s clear waters. It is believed that this purifying process not only helps in cleansing the body but also lays down an opportunity for a journey toward being spiritually endowed with a celestial home. The holy Ganga has a rhythmic flow that inspires its believers and connects with the spiritual current flowing through this city for a long time. In the rhythmic cycles of twelve years, Haridwar transforms into a spectacle of divine celebration during the Kumbh Mela, a gathering of souls seeking spiritual rejuvenation. The very air pulsates with the energy of this grand event, drawing pilgrims and wanderers alike to partake in the sacred rituals and blessings.
Legend has it that drops of the celestial elixir, Amrit, descended into the tranquil waters of the Brahmkund at Har-Ki-Pauri. The auspiciousness of this divine event is marked by a special day when taking a dip in the Brahma Kund is believed to be profoundly purifying. When Jupiter, or Brahaspati, graces the sign Aquarius once every twelve years, the city comes alive in a celestial dance known as the Maha Kumbh fair.
Erstwhile Rulers of Haridwar
Let us step back over two millenniums in history and visit the beautiful story of Haridwar. Imagine the shadows of the Mauryan Empire, around 322-185 BC, tenderly caressing a city that will be forever imprinted into the very weaves of a marker for empires and civilizations. Ok, let’s jump to the year 629 A.D.. Close your eyes and be in Haridwar with Hiuan Tsang; visualize the rule of King Harshwardhana who, at that time, had a hidden wonder in his city Gateway to Ganga temple known only by some but overflowing with spiritual power.
However, like any good story, Haridwar had its hardships. The city was far in the shadows of despair as it fell victim to Timur Lang’s conquests in 1398. The atmosphere was heavy with uncertainty like the indomitable Ganga water reflecting the continued spirit of Haridwar. Part of this tapestry was devoted to the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev. Picture the sage watering his proverbial fields in Haridwar, explaining the mystery of religious practices to an amazed devotee. The standing silent Nanakwara Gurdwara is now a living testimony to this story of illumination.
First, let’s delve into the splendour of the Mughal era. The doors of Emperor Akbar’s eyes open because his curiosity makes him go to Haridwar. The city under the name Maya or Mayapur mentioned in Ain-i Akbari, and the sacred waters of eternal life Ganga were praised. Sealed jars made from this elixir for Akbar’s trips mark the history of that city.
Enter Raja Man Singh of Amber, the storyteller who wielded his pen to continue the tale of Haridwar, molding it into the city we recognize today. Envision these dams, each with its unique identity or sometimes veiled in anonymity, as artists delicately sculpting the Ganga’s course. Their impact extended beyond the rhythmic flow of the river; it became an enduring signature on the city’s landscape, shaping not only its physical appearance but also the unfolding narrative of its history.
Ancestral Records of Haridwar
Haridwar has always been a magical place, but the Pandas give it an edge. The Pandas are not your regular temple priests, who do the big rituals of life at the temple: they have another business on the side, too. Because they keep a register of all the families of Northern India. And, yes, they do record everything in proper books. Big proper books called ‘Vahis’, or ‘Pothis’ as they call them. And all the Yagya Karya documents rolled up into one and another and another. They take very good care of it.
In other words, what’s at stake in this tradition is that family members from the upper part of India go to Haridwar to take a holy bath. When they go on pilgrimage, they search for the Pandas. Every family in Northern India has a Panda of their own. They keep writing and sticking details of families in the scrolls.
Haridwar Union Municipality And Other Developments
The ‘Haridwar Union Municipality’ was born in 1868 by merging Mayapur and Kankhal villages on the other side of Ganga. In 1886, the iron horse announced its first appearance with the laying of railway tracks, and by 1900, the trains knew only one direction, that to Dehradun. Today, Haridwar is not only captivating the hearts of travellers through ethereal experiences but also with its modern infrastructure and institutes that cater to the growth needs of the new generation.
Organizations like BHEL and Integrated Industrial Estate IIE were established at Haridwar under SIIDCUL (State Infrastructure and Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand). Haridwar has the best of both worlds when it comes to learning. There are many institutes like IIT Roorkee, which focuses on technology, and institutes like Gurukul which focuses on traditional learning. This contrast reflects the coexistence of traditional and modern educational approaches. The city’s development invites a diverse range of students and professionals, contributing to Haridwar’s overall growth.