05.10.2015 - 07.10.2015 31 °C
Haridwar is another of India’s most important religious cities. Located in the state of Uttarakhand which is mostly vegetarian and alcohol free, Haridwar is situated at the point where the Ganges emerges from the Himalayas. People flock here yearly to witness the daily Aarti (Ganges river ceremony) and to deposit ashes, pray and swim in the ganges. The whole town is lined up on both sides of the river with lots of bathing huts, food stands, markets and stands selling floral offerings and incense. There are people everywhere, many in the amazingly coloured Ganges.
Here, unlike in Varanasi, the river is a beautiful shade of blue, reminiscent of the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The colour is where the likeness ends however and this could not be more different to Italy. The river flows quite fast here and the cleaner water is more inviting however it would still take a lot of convincing and possibly money for me to ever jump in. People light candles in little bowls that float along the river and wash their bodies and clothing there. Everyone seems to have their own private relationship with their beloved river and all over you can witness different rituals. Behind the river there are loads of markets and further along a cable car that takes you up into the mountains to a temple perched on top.
It is a very unusual temple, not exactly somewhere that you would find a peaceful moment for reflection. There are several areas dedicated to the various gods and deities that Hindus worship and priests sit nearby to encourage the devotees to make a donation. There are also flowers to buy, food offerings and beads. It also costs money to visit the temple. Seems like their religion has a large emphasis on paying your way to salvation. We avoided being blessed serval times and dodged priests who wanted to smear a red dot on the middle of our foreheads by smiling and saying that we are just watching thanks. At night about 5.30pm everyone gathers back at the river for the evening ceremony.
There are so many people gathered in a small space, all wanting to worship the river. There is singing, chanting and some clapping. The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes and afterwards people are invited to approach the river and float their candles in the currents. It is a really interesting ceremony to watch, so unlike the ones we saw in Varanasi. We spent one day here checking out the only sights that Haridwar offers during our time. Most people only come here for the ceremony.
We are leaving tomorrow to travel one hour further North to Rishikesh, another spiritual centre and my favourite place I visited last time I came to India.