Waking up this morning was tough we didn’t reach our hotel back in Delhi until around midnight and had to be ready by 9am for our 6 hour car ride to Haridwar. Luckily this is the last long car ride we have in India. There is still a 13 hour sleeper train in the days ahead, but I’ll talk about later.
Haridwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places to Hindus. The Hindu religion believes that Garuda a celestial bird and mount of Vishnu accidently spilled Amrit, the elixir or immortality here (4 other locations as well). There’s also a foot print in front of the temples that was believed to be Vishnu’s himself.
We had a new driver today and he seemed incredibly uncertain about a lot of things (the schedule, where our hotel was, how much things were, etc.) and he also had terrible English, this made us incredibly miss our precious driver.
Once we made it to our hotel in Haridware we proceeded to visit the shores of the Ganges River to see the Hindus practice their Ganga Aarti. An aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. It's usually made in the form of a lit lamp, and in the case of the Ganges River, a small diya with a candle and flowers that's floated down the river. The offering is made to the Goddess Ganga, also affectionately referred to as Maa Ganga, goddess of the most holy river in India. They practice this at dusk in the three major cities of the Ganges in Haridware, Rishikesh, and Varanasi in India. It's a very powerful and uplifting spiritual ritual. We will be traveling to all three of the cities so it will be interesting to see how they all differ.
The Hindus also believe the water has healing properties and you can see a ton of people bathing in the water. The Ganges is suppose to be the cleanest at Haridware being the first city coming off the Himalaya mountains (when bottled by the local it looked pretty clear as well). We read that in Varanasi that it was tested to be incredibly unsanitary. So we decided this was our chance to dip our feet in and feel the Ganges for ourselves, if was a bit chilly.
We also bought a diya of flowers and floated it down the river, while being blessed by a young priest. We saw bunch of men and boys get their beard and hair trimmed on the floor in front of the Ganges, this was used as an offering in exchanfe for a wish.
This place was incredibly overwhelming with the number of people, stalls of vendors, poor people begging, locals asking donations, the priests asking you to make sizeable donations per loved one, and knowing that this was a hot spot for pickpocketers. I have to say bring barely able to see anything and being on the lookout made this seem less spiritual for me. Another tourist said the Rishikesh Ganga Aarti was less manufactured feeling and more spiritual.
Afterwards we headed to a dinner and ordered a bunch of small dishes that we’ve seen in the street carts (we heard other tourists say that street food made their stomach hurt): aloo chat, mix pakora, puri baji and gulab jamun. This was about $5.50 US total and we were stuffed. After this India trip I can definitely go for a low carb and avoiding fried food diet.