On route to Rishikesh we stopped off in Haridwar for a few days where we got our first (but not last) look at the holy river Ganga.
Hardiwar, translated as “Gateway to God” is one of the holiest places in India. As the river Ganga flows from the Himalayas this is the spot where it first enters the plains. Legend has it that this is also where a drop of nectar (the elixir of immortality) accidentally spilled, and where Lord Vishnu passed through, making it a haven for dedicated worshipers to have a holy dip in the waters.
All during the day pilgrims and devotees flock to the banks of the river Ganga to bath in the holy water and wash away their sins. The Ganga flows pretty fast in this area so chains have been installed along the banks for worshippers to hold onto. Chains are also hung from bridges giving any floating devotees a final chance to grab onto before they get washed away by the mighty force of the river.
Haridwar was a perfect example of the true India. Absolute mayhem and absolute delight all intertwined at once. We constantly fluctuated between frustration and happiness throughout the day.
Our buttons and patience were definitely pressed as we tried to push our way through the busy main street surrounded by constant high pitched horns and noise – something Joey still isn’t quite used to. But then we’d find ourselves by the Ganga for hours amazed and fascinated by all the Hindus getting their holy on. Everyone was just so happy to be bathing in these holy waters.
Every evening the banks of the river would come even more alive, as thousands gathered to worship the river Ganga by putting diyas (floating lamps) in the river.
When we were there it wasn’t a particular holiday or festival, nor a weekend but the streets were packed with happy devotees, many carry bottles of the holy water to take home. Once again we were one of only a few other Westerners in this town, and everyone was very friendly to us, wanting to know where we were from. It was a nice change from the pushy Indians that only want to get a selfie with a white tourist.
After 3 days in Haridwar it was time to move on. Next stop a few weeks of yoga in Rishikesh.