It has been really a long time since I last posted any travelogue on ghumakkar. Due to various official as well as domestic engagements I couldn’t write any post since almost 10 months. Though writing posts was stopped but ghumakkari was continuously going on. Also I was never detached from ghumakkar .com and almost daily I could steal some minutes to at least have a glance over new posts.
In last few months I have visited Haridwar and Rishikesh and recently I had been to my dream destination Jammu and Kashmir, so I have many stories to share with you. Let us start with Haridwar- Rishikesh trip.
After our last trip to Himachal Pradesh in May 2014, 5-6 months were passed and our ghumakkar heart started beating for a new trip. On the Rakshabandhan in August, 2014 we had visited my parents place to celebrate the festival of Rakhi and at a fine evening we all family members together were having chat on various subjects, obviously including our ghumakkari. During the discussion I asked my mother to join us in our next trip and she agreed happily which I didn’t expect because she merely agrees on going outside her place.
I asked her the place of her choice and she replied “I don’t know where to go but yes, I want to have Ganga Snan (Holy dip in river Ganges) once in lifetime”. It was a good clue for me which made it easy for me to select the destination. Two places came to my mind instantly, one was Varanasi and another Haridwar. The option of Varanasi withdrew automatically as we have already visited here two years back. Now only option was Haridwar and it was best too because we already had it in our wish list.
I was very happy that I was taking my parents for the first time with us on a trip and that too at such a sacred place. I started searching for the trains for Haridwar. From my home two railway stations are in vicinity, one is Indore and another is Ratlam but I always prefer Ratlam so I searched trains from Ratlam station to Haridwar and found Mumbai Haridwar SF Express suitable for me.
I got reservation in this train for the month of September 2014, this is because the school holidays of Navaratri were falling on these days. Return tickets I booked in Golden Temple mail from Saharanpur to Ratlam. You might be thinking why from Saharanpur ? Let me tell you, actually a senior author of ghumakkar Shri Sushant Singhal ji lives in Saharanpur and there has been a good understanding between us through the comments on ghumakkar posts. This understanding converted into friendship gradually and we were in contact with each other initially through comments than through e mails and finally through phone calls.
Once he had some official work at Indore, he came to our home specially to meet us and we had planned a trip for him to Mandu. Mandu is hardly 40 KM’s from my home. Sushant ji has written a series on that Mandu trip. When I informed him about our proposed Haridwar trip, he was very happy and gave me invitation to visit his home and we whole heatedly accepted it and we had planned to visit his home after finishing our tour. So this was the reason I had got reservation from Saharanpur.
Days were passing and we were waiting for our journey date to arrive. We had called my parents 5-6 days before the date of our leaving. Before two days of our journey suddenly I asked my father whether he carried any of his Id card or not, because I had booked their tickets in senior citizen quota and to my surprise he answered no…Now I was very anxious and requested him to go back home and bring the same as soon as possible. It is a 4-5 hour journey so it was possible to come back same day in night, He left immediately.
Next night our train was at 11.15 PM so I came home early because we had to do some preparations too. I had planned to travel Ratlam by my own car and keep it at railway station parking and then board train. Now there came a twist in the story, In Ratlam, communal riots were erupted following the firing and murder of a lady congress leader and consequently the local administration enforced curfew in the city which was supposed to last 3-4 days.
Since there was curfew in Ratlam and we had to board train from Ratlam only, our tour was on the verge of cancellation because as per the local newspapers the curfew was to continue for few more days and we had no option except waiting and watching. We were having constant watch on the activities in Ratlam through some of our relatives who reside in Ratlam. Finally just on the day of our departure we heard a good news that the curfew was withdrew but the section 144 was still in force and the personal vehicles from outside city were not allowed to enter city, though passenger buses were allowed. We were advised by our well wishers not to go there by our car and take bus and we did so. This bus left us 5 Kms before the city and from there after waiting for an hour we were taken to railway station by a police vehicle. Finally we reached railway station after a long struggle.
Now the season of desperation, distress, anxiety and anguish was over and we took a breath of relief and started enjoying the journey. The train started at right time and with lots of dreams in our eyes and lots of joy in our hearts we fall asleep on our berths. As per schedule the train had to reach at Haridwar at 4.00 PM but it got delayed and we reached there at 6.00 PM.
Let’s first get acquainted with Haridwar. A visit to Haridwar works as a soul cleanser and being a witness to the evening ‘Ganga Aarti’ with hundreds of lamps afloat on the Ganges is simply a celestial experience.
Situated in the Uttarakhand state of India by the banks of river Ganges, Haridwar is one of the seven most revered Hindu pilgrimages which are known as Sapta Puris. It has been referred to as Mayapuri, Kapila, Gangadwar and interestingly is pronounced distinctively by Shiva and Vishnu followers as Har-Dwar and Hari-Dwar (Har means Shiva and Hari is another name for Vishnu).
It is said that during the mythical churning of the sea when nectar was extracted, a few drops fell on Earth from the nectar urn and one of these spots was Brahma Kund at Haridwar. That is why every twelfth year the Kumbh Mela is celebrated in this holy place which draws hoards of visitors from both India and abroad. According to Hindu beliefs a dip in the Ganges during this period, especially in the Brahma Kund is enough to attain salvation and rids one of all the past sins. During this festival there is a congregation of sadhus (saints) and visitors alike to experience the surreal atmosphere.
Even on a normal day, Haridwar is abuzz with activities. The most unique and mesmerizing scene is certainly the Ganga Aarti at the Har ki paudi (literally meaning Lord’s steps) where Ganges is worshiped at dusk with hymns and chats accompanied by rhythmic sounds of the bells from the temples around the ghats (banks) adding to the holistic charm. It is the center of faith for the hundreds of devotees thronging these ghats, lighting up a prayer and setting afloat the lamps of faith in a floral basket.
The electrifying energy in the atmosphere is an experience that cannot be translated into words, it has to be felt and experienced. The ghat is dotted with temples of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and Ganga. On the walls at the Har ki paudi are footsteps believed to be that of the Lord himself from which the place derives its name.
From a pilgrim’s perspective Haridwar has numerous temples scattered throughout the city.
The famous Mansa Devi Temple and the Chandi Devi Temple are both atop two separate mountains- Bilwa and Neel mountains and the trip to these is facilitated by ropeway cable cars called the ‘udankhatola’ and the view of the city from the mountain tops is mesmerizing.
Let’s resume to my travel story. After we disembark the train at Haridwar station we hired an auto and asked auto wala to take us Hotel Swagat Palace which was located at Shiv Murti Chouraha which I had booked in advance through internet.
We had a plan to attend evening Ganga aarti at Har ki pouri. Since we were already late so immediately after checking in to hotel we took our cloths and some other necessary belongings and rushed towards Shiv Murti Chouraha and from there we took two auto rickshaws to take us to Har Ki Pouri. It was not much distant from our hotel so we reached there soon and by the time it was started darkening. We took bath in Ganges hurriedly and moved to attend the grand Ganga Aarti. It was really very peaceful, soulful and delighful to become a part of Ganga aarti at Har ki Pouri.
I don’t know why but I found Ganga aarti at Dashashvamedh Ghat Varanasi more cheerful and festive as compared to that of Haridwar. These were the moments of limitless ecstasy, happiness and triumph for all of us and we were living those cheerful moments. My parents were very happy and the joy and delight which I could see on their faces was priceless.
After Ganga aarti we returned back to hotel and after taking some rest came out of hotel in search of dinner. We found a very good Vaishnav Bhojanalay in the vicinity of our hotel. We took dinner and came back to hotel. After some time I came out of the hotel to inquire about the vehicle for our next day’s Haridwar Darshan program which included Manasa Devi Temple, Chandi Devi Temple, Har Ki Pouri, Daksh Temple Kankhal, Shantikunj etc. I booked a cab in the night only for our next day’s sightseeing and went to bed and set alarm for 5.00 AM. Being very tired I fell asleep in no time. I had instructed driver to arrive at 6.00 AM so that we can start early in the morning.
Alarm performed its duty and we woke up timely. We had decided not to take bath at hotel as we had to visit Har Ki Pouri first and take bath here only. At 7’O clock we reached Har ki Pouri. The weather was pleasant enough but the water in Ganges was extremely cold. As we dip our feet in he water we were shocked due to cold water but our religious belief, our will power helped us o overcome the fear of coldness of water. Taking a holy dip in river Ganges is one of he most important and sacred rituals in Haridwar.
It was feeling very cold initially but once we submerged in the water it was feeling normal. After enjoying a blissful bath in Ganges we came out of water and then we filled in 2 cans with Gangajal to carry with us, one for my mother and another for our home. After bath we had darshan at various temples located on Har Ki Pouri and got pooja done for our ancestors (Pitra pooja) through a pundit ji and did deep daan (offering lamps to godess Ganga). It was 9’o clock and our stomachs were asking for breakfast so we moved to find a good restaurant. I had seen somewhere on internet about Mohan Puriwala at Har ki Pouri. We inquire about it and found it in no time. We had Puri Bhaji here which was really delicious.
On Har Ki Pouri near Brahma Kund I found an unfinished and unpainted temple which was looking bad and destroying the beauty of entire ghat. I found the same temple in almost all pics of Har Ki pouri. I don’t know why authorities are not finishing that temple which looks like a blot on the landscape. If anyone of the readers know something about this temple, please share with me.
With these words I am ending this post. In next part I will take you to another attractions of Haridwar.