Haridwar, located in the foothills of the Himalayas, represents the point where the Holy Ganges meets the plains. An ancient pilgrimage site, Haridwar is held in reverence for centuries.Legend has it that Bhagiratha, brought the Ganges into the eart, and into this where his ancestors were burnt to ashes by the curse of sage Kapila. Haridwar was once known as Gangadwara-Gateway to Ganges.The great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, has many of its episodes set in this river city, which has also been mentioned in the writings of the Chinese Travellers Xuan Zhang (Hieun Tsang). Pilgrim bathing in Ganga Photo Haridwar is also the site of celebration of the Kumbh Mela, once in twelve years, when Jupiter transists to the zodiac sign of Aquarius. According to ancient Mythologies it is regarded that during a scuffle between the devas, the gods and detyas, the demons, amrita, NECTOR, sprinkled at some places in some parts of India. Of these places, which became site for Kumbh Melas, Haridwar endows highest esteem among the Hindus.
The five sacred bathing spots in Haridwar are Gangadwara, Kankhal, Nila parvata, Bilwa Tirtha and Kusavarta. The main Ghat at Har ki pauri (Known for a footprint of Vishnu on a stone), The "Maha-Arti" (Great Prayer) is offered every evening at Sun Set, is a spectacular sight, when the arti ceremony is performed at all temples in haridwar at the same instant. Hundreds throng to the ghats at Har-Ki-Pauri to participate in this festival. Offering of Divas, (lamps) and flowers are made to the river while priest perform choreographed movements, swinging the torches to the ages-old beat of Gongs and other music amidst uproar of sankhas is how they bid adieu every evening. It is a moving sight to watch hundreds of miniature Divas, (lamps) float along the river. A bath at Har Ki Paudi is regarded as one of the most sacred baths to the Hindus. It has history attached to Indus Valley Civilization. Various other Ghats, and Ashrams, mansa Devi Temple, Pareshwar Mahadev temple are visited by the pilgrim and tourists.
Situatead 24 km upstream from Haridwar, at the confluence of the chandrabhaga and Ganga, Rishikesh has long been a spiritual centre. It is said that the sage Raibhya Rishi did severe penance here and as a reward, God appeared to him in the form of Hrishikesh, hence the name. Rishikesh has numerous ashrms, some of which are internationally recognised as centres of philosophical studies, yoga and meditation. An international yoga week is organised here every year by U.P. Tourism between 2nd and 7th February.
Places of Interest: Lakshman Jhoola
A suspension bridge across the Ganga along the old route to the holy shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath.
Also known as Ram Jhoola, this is a recently completed suspension bridge which spans the river near Swarg Ashram.
Ashrams & Yoga Centres
The main Ashrams at Rishikesh are Shivanand Ashram, Muni ki Reti; Mahesh Yogi Ashram, Shankaracharya Nagar; Swarg Ashram; Gita Bhawan; Parmarth Niketan; Ved Niketan, Yoga Study Centre, Shanti Kunj, Maa Anand Mai Ashram.