How and why does one small patch of river and land spanning a mere few hundred metres become the holiest site in all of the country? The answer—faith. What else can explain the millions of Hindus from across the country who make the coveted pilgrimage to the brown placid waters of the River Ganges washing 2,100-year-old steps in a pilgrimage town nestled in the plains of Uttarakhand. Day and night. Hail or rain. Year after year. For thousands of years.
When alive, it is the belief that this one tract of the Ganges at Har ki Pauri [steps to Hari] in Haridwar [doorway to Hari] has the prowess to wash away karmic sins and inch souls that much closer to god. Upon death, it is said the waters here carry the deceased’s ashes [and thereby the soul] straight to Hari. The supreme god here, namely, Hari, is Shiva. There are no questions in Haridwar. Nor any answers. Just an uncanny acceptance of the cycle of life.
A sea of humanity perpetually bathes Har ki Pauri. Partly meditative. Partly celebratory. The ablutions punctuated with chants and bells. According to legend, Shiva and Vishnu, both visited the site in Vedic times (1500 – 500 BC). It is also believed the River Ganges ends her travels through the Himalayas and enters the plains at this very spot.
I had reached Haridwar late in the evening last week, just in time for the Ganga aarti [worship of the River Ganges] when the crowds were about to burgeon to a peak. The picture above is my first impression of Hari ki Dwar. It was enough to make me glad I had made the journey. ❤