Ghats of India, Part 3

KNOCKING THE DOOR OF HARI AT HARIDWAR

The famous Har-ki-Pauri on the banks of the Ganga at Haridwar in the foothills of the Shivalik range in Uttarakhand is the holy city’s main landmark. The ghat is said to be the exact spot where the Ganga leaves the mountains and enters the plains.

Brahma Kund is located at Har-ki-Pauri (literally, “footsteps of the Lord”) and is considered to be the most sacred ghat of Haridwar. King Vikramaditya is said to have built Har-ki-Pauri in the 1st century BC in the memory of his brother, Bharthari who had come to meditate here on the riverbanks. Brahmakund, an area within Har-Ki-Pauri, where the daily evening Ganga aarti is held is considered to be the spot where drops of amrit fell from the sky while being carried in a pitcher by the celestial bird, Garuda after the Samudra Manthan.

Every day pilgrims in the thousands take a holy dip in the swift flowing Ganga waters at Har-Ki-Pauri. Over the years the ghats have undergone major extension and renovation as the crowds have kept increasing, especially during the Kumbh Mela held every 12 years and the Ardh Kumbh every six years. There are several temples on the ghats, most built in the late 19th century.

Each evening as the sun sets, priests perform Ganga aarti at Har-ki-Pauri. Pilgrims set afloat clay diyas which drift along the rippling waves. Pilgrims gather on both banks of the Ganga to sing praises of Goddess Ganga. Priests hold large brass diyas in their hands as they pray to the river-goddess. The sound of many temple bells and gongs and the chanting by pilgrims fill the air.

Every year generally on the night of Dussehra the waters in the Ganga Canal in Haridwar are partially dried to cleanse the riverbed and undertake repairs of the ghats. The waters are generally restored on the night of Diwali. But the Ganga aarti is held as usual every day.

The other bathing ghats are VIP Ghat, Vishnu Ghat, Ram Ghat, Kusha Ghat, Laltarao Pul Ghat, Pram Nagra Ghat, Singh Dwar Ghat and Pul Jatwara Ghat.

Subhash Ghat is close to Har-ki-Pauri with a statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, one of the greatest freedom fighters of India. There is a voluntarily-organized Sewa Samiti dispensary here which provides helps to pilgrims.

Gau Ghat is south of Subhash Ghat. In Vedic description, Kamadhenu is a goddess manifesting as a divine cow, one considered to be “mother” of all cows who could grant any wish to the true seeker. The ghat is visited by those wanting to pay obeisance to their ancestors. The ashes of Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi were also immersed at this ghat.

Asthi Visarjan Ghat is next to Har-ki-Pauri. The ashes of the departed are immersed in the waters of a flowing river. This practice is a must for Hindus, as the Ganga is their most sacred river.

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