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The 4/01 BLOG by Michèle Béguin
Haridwar, gate to salvation



In Dev Bhoomi from Dev Prayag to Haridwar and Har ki Pauri.

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In the land of God, from the divine confluent and the birth of Ganga to the gate towards the Lord and the steps of the Divinity.

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Birth of Ganga from the Alaknanda and the Bhagirathi rivers meeting in Dev Prayag. The Bhagirathi with muddy waters and the Alaknanda with light emerald green water, there Ganga is taking its birth with light green waters...

Haridwar as old as time, is a fascinating place at the foothills of the Shivalik mountains in the Himalayas range with the river Ganga flowing through the city. It is the gateway to Lord Vishnu, Haridwar city of Vishnu -Hari -but also of Shiva -Har Har Mahadev- offers to free you from the eternal cycle of life and death and also if you bathe in Ganga's waters, to wash away your sins.

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Indians taking a bath in the Ganges to wash their sins.

It is the place where people come to immerse the ashes of their close ones who passed away, and it is also here that the ceremonies of Shraad, those yearly two weeks of rituals in memory of the departed souls are performed.
Religious and historical, Haridwar is dear to the hearts of Hindus since. always.

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The Ganges flows through the city and the Ghats are both sides. Pilgrims leaving the office of an astrologer near Ganga river.



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Here a shop where one finds everything a pilgrim needs.

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Streets of the old Haridwar with its fast food restaurants and pilgrims.

As per the Hindu mythology, "Haridwar dates back to the time when Brahma was creating the world". But it is because the gods and demons churned the ocean to get the lost nectar of immortality that the city became one of few most holiest cities of India-Bharat. When Garuda carried the pot of Amrit, he dropped a bit of the nectar at this particular spot, making it a place for eternal salvation. Since that episode, Haridwar is one of the seven sacred places of pilgrimage and one of the four places chosen for the Kumbh Mela.

The Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Here Sadhus
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on the ghats. It is the biggest show of the world with all its exuberance and utterly incredible Sadhus' fantasies....

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The Kumbh Mela is a sea of pilgrims who come to take a dip into Ganga Mà. It is a convergence of energies, untamable masses of people who come in groups to wash their sins and get liberation from the infernal cycle of life and death.

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Kanwar Yatra every year by the month of Shravan. A more and more popular pilgrimage to get Ganga Jaal to pour on the idol in the Shiva temple of their locality and keep some for great rituals. Haridwar is no doubt the place choking with the number of kanwarias. Unfortunately, nowadays, violence and turmoil have started for that festival.

It is also said that Lord Vishnu - Hari- left his foot print in Haridwar, one more reason to make the place holiest among holy.

The city was prosperous around 1200 to 1700 BC as we can see with the terracotta pieces found at this place and now in museum. It is in the Mahabharata that we find the most ancient mention of the city as well as the names of the sage Dhaumya, Yudhisthira of the five Pandavas as well as Sage Kapila and Agastya Muni had their ashram here.

Then came the Mauryans who ruled here from 322 to 185 BC, followed by the Kushans from the 1st and 2nd AD. Some other famous kings in the Indian history like Harshvardhan 590 to 647 AD did rule the place too.

Then some more violent character like Timur Lang overran the city from Central Asia. Guru Nanak, the peaceful and first Sikh Guru came over and bathed at the Kushwan Ghat before leaving for his pilgrimage.

Some great personalities of Rajasthan like Maharaja Man Singh of Amber   michele-beguin-blog


restored the Ghats and the famous Har ki Pauri.   michele-beguin-blog
Aarti at Har ki Pauri.

When Haridwar came under Mughal rule, its name was then Mayapur and the Emperor Akbar is said to have been fond of drinking the water of Ganga. He is also credited with establishing a copper coin mint in this area.

The British arrived in the 1800s and built the Bhimgoda Dam by 1840 AD and the Municipality of Haridwar was officially created around 1868 which was more or less the time a railway line was also laid.

After independence, the growth of pilgrims to the Char dham in Uttarakhand, Haridwar gained in importance as the entry point to these pilgrimage sites, Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath.

If the city is of great importance to devotees of Vishnu and Shiva, it is also equally important for the worship of Shakti since it is the site where the navel of Goddess Sati fell while Shiva was transporting her body into the cosmos. That place is now symbolized by the Maya Devi Temple, possibly dated to the 11th century or may have be even earlier.

Besides that dense historical and religious past, one should not forget that Bhagirath, thanks to his penance, brought down the Ganges from Heavens to the Earth and people can cleanse their sins here in Har Ki Pauri, freeing themselves from the cycle of life and death to attain Moksha, the ultimate goal.

Haridwar is also remarkable for the priests-genealogists, called Pandas   michele-beguin-blog
Panda writing the latest addition to the chronology of a family. They are specialized by communities and regions of India.

They can be met on the ghats, near Hari ki Pauri and also in the old market where they have some quarters there to dispense their knowledge.

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Here in the old market, the Pandas are sitting and handle some post cremation ceremony

There are also several religious towns where we can find the same professionals like Allahabad, Kurukshetra, Peohwa, Jawalamukhi, Chintpurni, Varanasi, Trimbakeshwar, Tarakeshwar. These genealogists are of good help if one wants to trace the past of the family which can be traced up to more than seven generations. In the past anybody coming to Haridwar for a post cremation ceremony or Shraad was updating the information to the family Pandit of the place he was from.

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Man with the ashes of a parent in the red bag.

They officiate near Har Ki Pauri just under the bridge up to the time of Aarti which is the last moment of the day, dispelling all kinds of darkness with the light offered to the Divine. All those datas are still hand written on huge books -Bahis or Vahis- They are the memory and History of the families.

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Vahis kept on the table the whole day, according to the need of the Panda.

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Room where all the Vahis are kept by the end of the day. Panda writing the latest information delivered by a customer on this huge book :a bahi/vahi.

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On the ghats, some Pandits are offering the purification with the burning flame against a minor contribution.

Haridwar is also very famous for its Ashrams. The basic meaning is a traditional place where one learns Hindu philosophy and the disciplines related to it. But with the western influence and its celebrities some Ashrams elsewhere are more towards a teaching designed for foreign life and that fashion of living. Haridwar is more Hindu oriented and provides more traditional kind of places made for the help of the Indian laymen. They teach different disciplines but also have health care at minimal prices, are away from all sophistication of all kinds and do not play on big renown names. It is all very simple. The people are either living in the Ashram or in town and have their daily duty in the organization or are just visiting when they want.

Sadhus coming to get food offered by an Ashram.   michele-beguin-blog


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Ashram students have to serve food

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twice a day to the Sadhus and Sadhvis. Sadhvi also taken care by the charitable organizations.

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Sadhus leaving the Ashram after meals.

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Sadhus and Sadhvi are served by young students of the Ashram Gurukul.

Charity is a base of the Hindu way of life and some Ashrams are organizing daily food distribution for the people who renounced the material world like Sadhus. The food products are usually offered by big organizations and other donators, cooked in the Ashram kitchen and served by the students of the Gurukul of the Ashram. The notion of "service" has a different and humble connotation here! To curb one's ego is important...

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A passerby has offered food to this man.This altruism is strong in Hinduism.

If you come to Haridwar to see beautiful works of Art, then you are not in the right place, but if you come to Haridwar to witness the beauty of what Hinduism can be, then you are at the right place.


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A Propos de Michèle Béguin

CNIL:1050096 2004 © Michèle Béguin