June 16th 7:00 am, Haridawar, India
Arriving tired and groggy from the long 7 hour bus ride, we walked through the packed ancient streets of Haridawar. 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. Here’s a few photos as we walked through the streets, see if you can spot any monkies along the way.
Hardiwar contains many Dhramshala’s a sort of free hostel for Hindus who are pilgrimaging to the holy Ganga. The Ramshala’s look really ancient as I think many are. Deepak vowed he would stay in one next time…
As we continued walking through the crowded streets, it eventually opened up to a sort of ancient times square. The area was packed as ever with Riskshaws, people, blarring hindi music and smells of incense. I wish I could take more pictures of the colorful people that we passed. I quickly came to a realization that I did not get in Delhi of sense strong religious passion and variety that was Hinduism. The picture below is this center area of Haridawar which leads to the Ganga. That’s Deepak in the yellow and white stripes.
We took a quick left across the square towards the Ganga River, the most holy river in India. As we walked closer the crowds became even denser and I could sense the energy that was up ahead at the Ghats (steps) on the Ganga.
The Ghats were more crowded than any American Red-Sox game and far more colorful and crazy than any group of sports fans. The Ganga flows through this area of Haridawar and is split into a few channels. The flow of the river is quite strong and there are some that are daring enough to swim it.
Of course no trip to the Ganga would be complete without a dip and a Pooja. So we took off our shoes and pushed our way through the crowded steps towards an opening in the river. Tired but excited to see what it was like, I took off my shirt and walked into the cold river. It was as cold but not nearly as the beaches in New England! The people around me starred, as I was the only non-indian dude there.
Deepak shortly joined in, though he was really shocked by the cold water. Here’s an action shot of his expression!
The reason for the dip is that every dip washes away all your sins. People who live close by will do dip daily and perform the Pooja, which a the hindu prayer ritual and a blessing to the Ganga river. Deepak advised me to do a Pooja to ensure a good marriage so seeing as when in Hardiawar, do as the hindus…
After completing the, the local Pundit (preist, blessed me and charged me 100 Rupees for the blessing of myself and Ashley. He asked Deepak to charge me for each of my family members as well but Deepak restrained him from over blessing. 🙂
Finally, refreshed and with Ganga water in my belly, yes- the holy Ganga water we had a India breakfast and was on our way to Rishikesh, about 30 Km from Hardiawar. Another Holy city on the Ganga. Here’s another of the God Shiva who overlooks the Ganga river and ghats in Haridawar. The statue is quite big almost 8-10 stories in height.