Haridwar – Stairway to heaven revisited

Our son and daughter in law decided to take us to Haridwar (does it seem repeat of Sudama/Shervan kumar story?) to celebrate their Wedding Anniversary, falling on Saturday the 7th January, 2017.

So many people visiting Haridwar have already written about Ganga and Haridwar, so why write about ones umpteen visits to the Ganges? I myself have written about our earlier visit ”Mahashivratri” at Haridwar.
Whether one believes it or not, GANGA at Har-Ki Podi is still believed to be one of the “Stairway to Heaven” !

My love for rivers started many years ago while driving from Delhi to Kullu in our Ambassador car, and we had to stop in the evening at Mandi. I think it was 1975,and that route had a number of PWD Dak Bunglows.

We were lucky to get a Dak Bunglow, hardly about 20 yards away from the banks of River Bias, just outside Mandi town. And it was located far away from the habitat. Beds were laid outside in the veranda, facing the river, and the only dim light came from the stars.

And that’s when it happened.

In the dead silence of the night, the gushing sound of the fast flowing river sounded like heavenly music. Soothing, mesmerizing and it deported you a heavenly bliss. It was like being hypnotized, lifting the spirits to incredible heights. I can’t recall when I went off to sleep; but when I got up early morning, I walked to the bank of the river and watched it flowing away gingerly. I have never forgotten that river sound since then.

The same experience I had at a camping sight at Rasan (?) where we spent a night ,rafting, before going to Kulu.

That’s why I go to Haridwar to listen to the blissful music of gushing and gurgling GANGA. You let yourself flow with it. Actually I had this sensational feeling of flowing with the GANGA this time,while sitting in the first floor long lobby where we stayed this time.

In the lobby, watching Ganga

Sitting there and watching the very fast flowing GANGA gave me the illusion of as if I was sitting in the moving lobby like a train against the flow of the river. I sat there in the early morning, before the other Yatris came along, and enjoy the same illusion of flowing with GANGA. At night, after the crowd disappeared, I would go down and sit on the bank, listen to the music of fast flowing river of eternity—The GANGES.

The similar kind of experience you feel when you sit on hills of Delhousie, Mclodganj, even Mussoorree or any other, and listen to the hustling sound of wind blowing through the wooded hills. You are almost one with your maker-whether you believe in the God or not.

That’s why I always love to visit places near rivers or on hills-at least feel the nearness to your creator. For few moments on those holidays.

Now back to earth and about our visit to GANGA and Haridwar.

Since there is already too much information about rout,roads etc flowing around, I am skipping the details to reach GANGA fast.

On Satureday,the 7thJanuary of the new year2017,we left Gurugram at 5,50 am. At 8.20 checked into Cheetal Grand.

Checked into Cheetal

Left Cheetal at 9.05 am. There was hardly any traffic ,and the roads, in good condition, driving was easy and fun. Must confess that GPS is a great helper, warning you about the jam and the alternate routes. Roorkee crossed at 10.30.

Reached the third Entry Gate at the Din Dyal Parking(as advised by the Hotel –HOTEL GANGA LAHRI. The Hotel sent their Cycle Rickshaw to take us there.

Ganga Lahiri

The hotel is just across the bridge. Right on river GANGA. The Entrance façade may not be anything to write home about it, BUT inside is 5Star! Linen. Bathroom supplies, sealed water bottles. American glasses et al.

Hotel Ganga Lahiri

And to the illusion of flowing with rive, there is a long corridor overlooking the river.

I and Ganga

Before leaving the hotel let me tell you little more about this place as we really enjoyed the hospitality, location and the atmosphere here.

The moment we entered the reception on the first floor, a pretty young lady offered us a 200 bead MALA and put around our neck. Then it was the hot soup. Dinner was a unlimited THALI with lot of choice with sweets and Coffee . While you are eating your dinner, there is a singer singing Bhajans.
And the morning breakfast was sheer delight. Great spread of everything you see at any good 5 star hotels.Unlimited.Chef making all kinds of South Indian offerings.

Now the City and other impressions:-

GANGA ARTI:

The sheer atmosphere transports you to another purified world, genuinely devoted people, young and old, children trying to launch their Diyas with lot of hopes and expectations flowing to heaven. BUT the disquieting factor is present in the form of “DAN COLLECTORS”.

Almost bullying everyone to give DAN “Can’t you give Rs11 for the welfare of your family “No receipt is given to people paying less than Rs11. May be they are genuine people collecting for Ganga maintainace, but their harsh and bullying ways vitiates the whole holy atmosphere

I don’t know how many people visiting Haridwar have noticed this “Tamasha: at a shop making and selling Puris? Just before the Chotiwala ,near Tirth hotel. The shop keeper and his people chase you to give GARIB LOGOAN KO KHANA KHILO; PUNAYA MILEY GA.

My son and I stood there to watch what happens. People visiting Haridwar are generally in emotional state being in holy place and are quite gullable, with almost suspended faculties. They do get coned.
At this Puri shop they get their victims, paying almost 500Rs for giving khana to ten twenty people.

Suddenly there is line of BHIKARI looking people waiting to be fed .They start giving away the khana to lined up people ,Letting the Devotee go who paid for it. The moment he is out of sight, the so called Bhikaris return the Puri Bhaji or whatever it was.Then the same Puri Bhaji is served for the new Gullible victim caught. Bhikaris are paid by the shopkeeper. They are always present there.

The Con Story

Here is another story.

We went in to this Chotiwala place for evening snacks and tea(you see my wife standing at the entrance).We were attracted by the –what we thought was Chotiwala-himself sitting inside welcoming guests. We met him.

In front of Chotiwala

Thinking he is the owner. See him yourself, talking to my son, Amal. Guess what. This Chotiwala is not the owner of this place, This is how his story goes. He is qualified Engineer, Had a good job, but couldn’t pull along with his wife. He divorced her and left his job and walked out of his home. After sometime he went back home and found that his parents had”defranchised” him from property.

Chotiwala

He eventually landed up at Haridwar. And Chotiwala offered him his present job. His job is to sit in the entrance of this shop, with all make-up, to attract customers. He is paid Rs.6000pm and all meals. He is getting fat sitting here and doing nothing for long hours.

Lanes of Haridwar

Lanes of Haridwar, that we roamed around-just behind our hotel, are no different from any old tourist places. It may be Udaipur, Gokul, Mathura, they are all the same. Narrow ,congested, cycles, mobikes, rikshas, all kind of vehicles compete with hundreds of tourists leisurely walking around.

Surprisingly,there never is an accident or mishap. Every one is an expert looking after oneself. Peeping into shop with more noise than the Jingling of Arti Bells. Although there is nothing new being sold, yet tourist stop at every shop, and do pick up some trinkets etc

There is one shop, run by two young brothers, selling all kind of “Jadi Butiyan”and ingredients for preparing homemade remedies of granny’s formulas.

Jadee Booti Shop

The young brothers are very knowledgeable about Vedic and Home Remedies. Very patiently explain to you in details the benefit of each and every ingredients.

Well back to Ganga Mia for which wetravelled to HARIDWAR.GANGA Revisited .Few more thoughts and pictures…

Senior Sethis with daw-in-law

Senior Sethis with son

One of myself at the Arti. And the “DAN COLLECTOR “looking for the Stairway to Heaven, the old man. Jai Ganga Maia.

Sethi looking at Heaven

FINALE

Before signing off, I would like to come back to my love for the sound of flowing rivers, especially at night, when there is only the sound of gushing waters, On the night of our first day stay (Saturday) I went down to the GANGA. When there were only the few people closing their tea stalls and young couple were left-It was around 10 at night.

I sat down, on the bank of Ganga, without putting my feet in the water. And not closing my eyes for the fear of dozing off and flowing off with the river. I don’t know how long I sat there but couple of thoughts came to my mind.

One was somehow an old song of Billy Joel , “In the middle of the night” which I heard long time back in America..

And since then somehow it has always been buried in my head. This River Ganga that night brought it back to Consciousness.

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

The first time I heard that river song, it was haunting.
The last point ,in fact, is more of a query if any one can add to my knowledge:
Like Billy Joels song ,the flowing Ganga Reminded me of Allama Iqbals famous Taranna

”Sare Jehaan say Achha Hindusthan Hamara.”
There is one couplet which is never included in the song even when the Army Bands play it. No one refers to it also while singing.

The couplet I am referring to broughtGang to my mind)

“aye ab,- raud,- ganga, voh din hen yad tujhko utara tere kinare, jab karvan hamara.”

ऐ आब-ए-रूद-ए-गंगा! वह दिन हैं याद तुझको?
उतरा तिरे किनारे जब कारवाँ हमारा

Iqbal,known as the originator of Islamic State and Pakistan, asking GANGA if she remembers

उतरा तिरे किनारे जब कारवाँ हमारा,

My query :-Is Iqbal reffering to the arrival of MUGHAL karvan landing in India.Or what else? Why is this never included in the singing of SARE JEHAAN ?.

I thought of it since I was at Ganga Kinare.

The Final GANGA ASNAN

SUNDAY, 8th January 2017
Although the Morning Arti starts at 7.30am,I went to Har Ki Podi at 5.30am, Surprisingly there were number of people, kids as well old ladies, already there, and having Asnan in the GANGA I think they were the real devotees.

Arti at 7,30 am was not what it is in the evening. It was a much shorter version of the evening one.I spent over two hours just looking at all devout people than I ever will be.. I walked back.Tea stalls had started opening up. I sat down at one of the stalls and had three glasses of hot tea before walking back to the hotel, GANGA was coming alive with Phool Wallas and the plastic container sellers setting up their wares at their regular places

Breakfast at Ganga At GANGA LAHRI

One of the finest breakfast we ever had ,was presented at this hotel,(Buffet) just before leaving to go back to normal life, Before leaving we had the final trip to the streets of Haridwar

Finally we Left the Din Dyal Parking at 10 minutes past One(1.10 noon)’Luckily it turned out to be very sunny day. We were back at Cheetal at 3,55 pm.Left Cheetal at 4.45pm and reached home at GURUGRAM at 9.25 at night having done 490km both ways. Crossing Gaziabad was sheer hell. Thats where we spent over two hours with slow and heavy traffic
But One Out Of Gaziabad It was smooth drive—thanks to our daughter-in-law

Till we meet again……

10 Comments

  • Sanjay Dodeja says:

    just my kind of sentiments , very well written and capturing the essence of gangaji and har ki pauri , i have been lucky to visit this holy ghat more than a few times some times for a break and others to do my “karje” (duty) have always wanted to re visit this place and my family knows
    any trip made to north (i stay at pune) the last few days will be reserved for haridwar

  • It doesnt happen often when we stumble upon such quality posts! Carefully written with every bit of information passed on to us as if we are witnessing it live!
    Such beautiful narration of a religious trip to the Ganges.. My salutations!

    Best regards.

    • Jatinder Sethi says:

      Archana,,
      I humbly accept your “SALUTATIONS”,as they seem to have come out of a sincere and pure heart.I bow to thee. I primarily write for myself,but at the same time want to share the joy with others. .I am certainly not as good a narrator as you,the ghumakkar are. Thanks once again

  • Sanjay Khera says:

    SUPERB DESCRIPTION ON MY HEARTBEAT GANGA…..MAIYA

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Sethi Saab (I do not know whether you have seen this movie, ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’, watch it, if you havent’. there is one Sethi Saab in that movie :-)), you are making us emotional.

    I have never stayed in any hotel in Haridwar (Rajaji National Park and Rishikesh not counting) but I have visited it a few times. Yes, there is this Chotiwala, actually many, and then this con job, the narrow winding streets, the sea of faith and what not. You did make me go and do all those things again, as I was reading this log.

    So instead of talking about stairway to…, lets talk about Billy Joel. I was in NY in Sep 2016, my first and only trip, and as it has it, I was doing the guided tour of MSG (Madison Square Garden). The guide told us that Billy is a regular. We were surprised since we thought that who would still pay for Billy J but it was heartening to know that he still performs, quite frequently and all of his shows are always ‘Sold Out’. Bravo.

    About, 30 years back, I caught fancy of this song…you are always a woman to me… and after reading you, I guess its time to re-wind some of old cassettes again (its a way of saying, in reaity its more like playing on youtube)

    Thank you Sethi Saab. Pls watch that movie, though Sethi Saab is played by Navin Nishchal, the phrase was made popular by Bomman Irani when he says, Sethi Saabh, Baithna hai kabhi aapke saath.

    • Jatinder Sethi says:

      Nandan,dr friend and admirer
      First I must thank you and give the due credit to you for this Post.
      Second. You see I heard Billy first time in New York in around 1993.This song. Now my son(now an American) has just written me that Billy still commands FULL STADIUMS for his Performances.
      Now talking about the nostalgia of old cassettes. I have SEVEN Video cassettes of HUMPHERY BOGARTS movies including Casablanca. .If you like I could give them to you .
      As far as the movie”Khosla ka ghonsla’ is concerned ,I saw it on TV, do you see any co=relation
      Hotels in Haridwar. This just for info. One of my elder brother, who was the Head of SHRI RAM SHERNAM,, Lajpat Nagar,after Swami Satyanand ji passed away,had an Ashram in Haridwar for their Annual Meet..But,somehow,I never stayed there.
      As they say,Heres looing at you kid.

    • Jatinder Sethi says:

      Nandan,I am SORRY that ,first time , like an idiot, I missed the PUNCH LINE “Sethi Saabh, Baithna hai kabhi aapke saath” whenever in Gurugram,Shout, and we will have a Tumbler .Here is sharing it with you.https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7efe4ad972b2f0a25df7e47477a3a5b74796ebb1219d9ffb2906531b62454acc.jpg

  • Vibha says:

    Dear Mr Sethi, I could not stop after reading the passage about Mandi. I read the entire post and also all the comments. The post is so lyrical. Nostalgia is such a beautiful emotion, and your writing brings it out so well.

    About our home in Mandi, it is in a small village called Rohini or Badahin on the way from Mandi to Hamirpur. It is quite close to Jahu. You will probably find it strange, but I have never actually been to Mandi town. But will probabky go there soon.

    It is always such a pleasure to receive your comments. I so look forward to them. :)

  • Jatinder Sethi says:

    Vibha
    I always cherish your comments,.And in fact I wrote to you about your reference to Mandi &the birds in FB with the specific purpose of getting you to read my Haridwar blog;and get your appreciation ,that makes me feel great. ,sincere Thanks

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