Of note, Rishikesh is purely philosophical while Haridwar is overtly spiritual. About 2-3 hours of a bus ride from Rishikesh, we reached the holy place by noon. Our train back to Delhi was at night. We had ample time to kill. Our itinerary demanded that we roam the streets of Haridwar and visit the famous Har Ki Pauri (locals told us that this was the place to go and so we duly obliged.). So we locked our baggage and put it in the Railway Station’s cloakroom and we were on our way.
Haridwar offered a different experience. Tuk-tuks, pedal cycles, roads cluttered with shops. Roads becoming smaller and smaller as we went inside. Even if 2 tuk-tuks were stationed in parallel, chaos. The sheer diversity in the items in the shops was mind-blowing.
We reached the place (Har ki Pauri) where the holy river Ganga connected to the temple. This is a place where people come to offer prayers for the departed family members. The aura in the place is eerie. For a Traveller. It is merely brilliant. Similar to Rishikesh, the temple priests perform an aarathi (prayers and offerings) every evening.
Fire and water. Speaking to the gods. The light turning into dark, water sparkles with the subtle shade of the fiery red. Small lanterns were made to float along the water current by the pilgrims, crying out for help from the gods. The light and the darkness merging in the distance. The light only reaching the gods.
When the process of the aarathi starts, security guards stand in front of the pilgrims and shout “Ganga Maiya ki Jai ho” (Translation – “All hail mother Ganga” if I am not wrong). Once they start to shout, everyone shouts in tandem. Astonishing.
My cousins decided to explore the holy water here as well. My fear for water, (should be evident by now) prevented me from diving into the shallow waters. While sitting and guarding the baggage, two random girls came up to me with 2 nail polish brushes with the tips having 2 different colors. What happened next was totally beyond me. Poor me. One of the girls just smudged some yellow color above my nose and demanded money. They told me that if I didn’t give the money, god will punish me,(What??) hence, believing that, I wanted to give her the least denomination I had in my pockets. Unfortunately, a 50 rupee note was taken away. The other girl stepped up and smudged some red color on top of the yellow. The first girl said, “isko bhi” (Translation – this one also). Another 50 rupees down the holy river. I was under a major shock and utter disbelief that money would disappear like this. The same set of girls came to my cousins and said the same thing. But! But! They simply nodded and said “Nahi” and the girls went away! I glared at my cousins for a good 2 minutes. What followed was just a simple laughter making my innocence look outright stupid.
Before this unusual donation, we roamed around the backside of the temple. The backside was filled with food stalls on all sides of the streets! I had a rabdi/rabadi/rabri ( A sweet dish made from the cream of milk, I call it Rabadi) which in my view, probably the best rabadi that I have had anywhere in India. Rabadi was followed by light snacks which were consumed in large quantities because of the travel that was ahead of us in the night.
Post that we spent our time shopping. From lavish bedspreads to nimble handicrafts. We wanted to buy them all. As is with the ending of every trip, we had no money and had to be content with buying something really worthwhile. Needless to say that bargaining happened aplenty back in Haridwar.
While Haridwar may not be the pick of the bunch in the magnificent state of Uttarakhand, it showcases the very might and the powerful spirit of the river Ganga which flows seamlessly for all eternity, blessing everyone who wants to befriend her.
Pure, unwavering and forever holy.