Our fourth trip to Haridwar was in the month of December. An unexpected short visit but cherishable ,you can say. The Ayyappa Mandir which lies in a small by lane very close to the railway station is our favourite place ( more so my husband’s) where we usually stay in Haridwar . It has neat rooms sufficient for a comfortable week stay and the serene atmosphere in the premises with the hymns of Lord Ayyappa always playing in the background at dawn and dusk fills one with devotion.
Haridwar is one of the holy places in India situated on the banks of the river Ganges. As it was almost 6pm the day we reached, we just moved around the vicinity of the temple, had a look at all the bhojnalayas (dining places) around (as we relish eating at these food outlets) and returned back after having a cup of strong tea from the vendor situated just on the other side of the road. His stall open from 5 in the morning to 11 at night even in the chilly weather is something worth mentioning. Every Saturday evening, the people from the vicinity gather in the temple and sing bhajans (hymns) in praise of the Lord ,and following it, prasad is served to whomsoever who come to or stay in the temple. We decided to sit with the group and the devotion with which they sang literally transported us to another world.
We had decided that we would mainly visit the nearby temples, Mansa Devi ,Chandi Devi and the Ganga Aarti at Har ki Pauri (All the places were covered during the last three trips but as we had a day’s time we decided to do these again).
The next morning as we took the darshan of Lord Ayyappa, the temple priest informed us that breakfast was ready and we could go in for it. That was quite a relief as the weather was too chilly and searching for hotels at such times is terrible. After savouring the sumptuous idlis with chutney and sambar and a steaming cup of coffee, we started for Mansa Devi.
Mansa Devi temple is dedicated to Goddess Mansa Devi (who fulfils one’s wishes) and it is situated on the sivalik hills. One can reach there by trek or by ropeway. Due to time constraints,we preferred the ropeway and ,honestly, it was an enchanting experience. The panoramic view of Haridwar and the river Ganges as we go up was very captivating. As it was a Sunday,the crowd was surging in every minute yet the darshan (view of the Goddess) was quicker than expected. Unfortunately,we could not visit the Chandi Devi temple nearby as it was closed for repairs.
As it was almost 11.30 am ,we took a cycle rickshaw (they charge a meagre amount of Rs 15 per head) back . It sometimes pains to see them riding us through the crowded places, sometimes getting down and manually doing the job. There were umpteen hotels in the vicinity of Lord Ayyappa temple who serve sumptuous meals, unlimited for a reasonable amount showering all the love and care that leaves us craving for more. We had a good filling lunch at one of these.
Back to our room we had a short nap (quite obvious with such full stomachs and the cold weathers) as we had to leave for the ganga aarti (worship of the river Ganges) in the evening. As getting a place to witness the aarti was difficult ,we had to reach there well before time but as usual we were a bit late and just managed a seat on the slightly wet steps of the ghat diagonally opposite the place where the aarti takes place. Thousands of worshippers (locals as well as tourists) gather every evening to witness this aarti at Har ki Pauri (steps of the Lord), the ghat where this ritual is performed. The way to Har ki Pauri is lined with innumerable shops selling everything under the sky and a real visual treat for the visitors . The huge crowds thronging the place to witness this famous ritual was overwhelming . We could anticipate the restlessness in them with men in blue uniforms moving around asking for donations which supposedly goes towards the ganga aarti .
Some having a dip in the water ,some adjusting the cameras, some floating diyas in the river, some chanting “Ganga mata ki jai” and some in a meditative position with folded hands and closed eyes . The river ,glittering with the rays of the setting sun ,an indicator that it was time for the aarti to begin. The temple bells start ringing, the chants filling the air, the priests with large fire bowls performing the aarti ( though we could not see this at close quarters), the river twinkling with the flickering diyas set afloat by the worshippers was all divine, a thing to be experienced.
My husband busy clicking photos ,I spent a few quiet peaceful moments, drenched in the magical ambience that surrounded me. On our return ,as we climbed the stairs of the ghat, we were confronted by many shopkeepers to serve food to the less fortunate. Without any second thoughts, we agreed as we always had an intense desire to do this .Here ,this system is widely practised and many shopkeepers do this for an earning and we do it for our satisfaction.So, in a way it benefits both sides.
On our way back to our rooms , we had two large glasses of lassi and samosas at one of the shops that lined the way to Har ki pauri, the last dinner of our trip as we had an early train to Delhi the next morning.
Our each trip to Haridwar gives us varied experiences and this trip ,too left us craving for more.