Haridwar is situated in the district of Haridwar in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Haridwar meaning ‘Gateway to God’ is regarded as one among the holiest of the seven centres of pilgrimage for the Hindus. It is the first town where the river Ganga, emerging from the mountains, touches, on her descent to the plains of North India. Haridwar is the entry point to the Char Dhams or the four pilgrimage centres of Uttarakhand. Once in every 12 years, the famous Kumbh Mela, takes place here, drawing lakhs of devotees from all over India. The ‘Ardh Mela’ or half mela is held every six years. Believed to be one of the oldest cities, Haridwar is referred to as Mayapuri, Mokshadwar and Gangadwar in many Hindu scriptures.
The river Ganga is the main attraction in Haridwar along with the temples and the bathing ghats on the river bank. The bathing ghat of Har-ki-Pauri on the banks of the river Ganga is visited daily by thousands of devotees who come here to take a dip in the holy river. The evening turns magical and a worshipful air pervades the atmosphere when the Ganga Arti ceremony is performed at all temples at the same time and offerings of flowers and lamps are made to the river. The river lit up with the oil lamps gently floating in the water in the midst of flowers and the air resounding with the chanted mantras is a spectacular sight.
The Har-ki-Pauri Ghat was constructed by King Vikramaditya to honour the memory of his brother Bhartrihari who came to Haridwar to meditate. This bathing ghat is also known as Brahmakund. The famous Chandi Devi temple, on top of the Neel Parvat on the river bank is 6 km from Haridwar and 3km trekking distance from Chandi ghat. On the hill top of Bilwa Parvat stands the Mansa Devi temple with the twin idols of the Goddess Mansa. From the hilltop, the panoramic view of the city spread out below is fascinating. The eleventh century Maya Devi Temple is considered as one of the Siddhapeethas.
The Sapt Rishi ashram and Sapt Sarovar where the river Ganga is said to have split into seven currents so that the Sapt (seven) sages worshipping there would not be disturbed, is an interesting place to visit. The Bhimgada Tank, situated on the way to Rishikesh, said to have been made by Bhim with a blow of his knee when the Pandavas were passing through Haridwar en route to the Himalayas is another interesting spot.
The Canal Centenary Bridge near Har-ki-Pauri affords a picturesque view of the canal and all the ghats. As Haridwar is associated with both Lord Vishnu and Lord Rama, it is a sacred city of the Hindus with many temples and ashrams such as the Bharat Mata Mandir, Vaishnav Devi Temple, Shanti Kunj, Jairam Ashram et al, which are visited by the pilgrims.
Haridwar is also popular with lovers of nature and wildlife enthusiasts. The Chila Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a part of the Rajaji National Park, houses a diverse collection of wildlife including tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bear barking deer etc.
Haridwar is also famous as a centre of arts, science and culture and for its unique Gurukul school of traditional education. A visit to Haridwar is like stepping into a totally different world. As a travel destination, Haridwar attracts visitors from all over the world.