Religious Places


Haridwar

Haridwar is an ancient city and important Hindu pilgrimage site in North India’s Uttarakhand state, where the River Ganges exits the Himalayan foothills. The largest of several sacred ghats (bathing steps), Har Ki Pauri hosts a nightly Ganga Aarti (river-worshipping ceremony) in which tiny flickering lamps are floated off the steps. Worshipers fill the city during major festivals including the annual Kanwar Mela.

The spellings of the city’s name is Hardwar or Hurdwar and not Haridwar according to the official British Survey records. It is called so because of the worship of Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are believed to have visited the Brahmakund in Har Ki Pauri in the Vedic times and thus the name.

It features among the four venues for the Kumbh Mela, which witnesses the world’s most peaceful gatherings.

It is a hub of Yoga and Meditation along with Rishikesh.

Temples like Mansa Devi on the hill top holds special place in the hearts of the devotees.

A temple here is dedicated to Mother India and is called the Bharat Mata Temple.

It has several ancient names including Kapilsthan, Gangadwar and Mayapuri.

It serves as an entry point to the famous Char Dham Yatra.

What Scriptures Say

“At the gates of Ganga (Gangadwara)
Daksha held his feast;
Called the gods unto it,
Greatest as the least.”

Valmiki Ramayana, Ravan Doomed, Section XIII. 545:2

“Bathing in Gangadwara (Haridwar) and Kusavarta.as also in Kankhala, one is sure to become cleansed of all one’s sins and then ascend to heaven.” 

The Mahabharata, Book 13: Anusasanika Parva: Section XXV, p. 130.

“In former times, Daksha commenced a holy sacrifice on the side of Himavan, at the sacred spot Gangadwara, frequented by the Rishis. ”

Vayu Purana

Rishikesh

Rishikesh, also known as Hrishikesh, in Uttarakhand. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, it is known as the “Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas” and “Yoga Capital of the World”.

It is known as the pilgrimage town and regarded as one of the holiest places to Hindus. Hindu sages and saints have visited Rishikesh since ancient times to meditate in search of higher knowledge.

Ganga flows through Rishikesh. Here the river leaves the Shivalik Hills in the Himalayas and flows into the plains of northern India.

Rishikesh has been a part of the legendary ‘Kedarkhand’. Legends state that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana;

Lakshmana, crossed the river Ganges, at a point, where the present ‘Lakshman Jhula’ bridge stands today, using a jute rope bridge. The jute-rope bridge was replaced by iron-rope suspension bridge in 1889. After it was washed away in the 1924 floods, it was replaced by the present stronger bridge. Another similar suspension bridge Ram Jhula was built in 1986 at nearby Sivananda Nagar.

Rishikesh is also a hub of adventure sports in India like Rafting and Bungee Jumping.

It has several ancient names including Agnitirtha, Hrsikesa and Kubjamraka.

What Scriptures Say

The area is named as Kubjamrak because here lord Vishnu appeared to Raibhya Rishi under a mango tree. Raibhya Rishi selected the place for his long penance (Tapasya or austerity) Lord Vishnu was pleased by his act and appeared to the sage as a “Hrishikesh.”

Skanda Purana

“Raibhya Rishi preferred the sacredness and beauty of the place where Lord Vishnu appeared, so he remained there in the form of intense plants, which look like his matted locks.

Sthala Purana

Agni deva had prayed in Rishikesh during penance, after earning the wrath of Shiva.

Folklores and legends

Shri Hemkund Sahib

Hemkund Sahib, formally known as Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib Ji, is a Sikh place of worship and pilgrimage site in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, India. It is devoted to Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

The tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Govind Singh Ji mediated at Hemkund Sahib for years. The word Hemkund literally suggests ‘Lake of snow’ and the immaculate water of this lake is as cold as snow. Hemkund Saheb is located at an elevation of 4,329mts above sea level amidst several snow capped peaks, which are collectively called Hemkund Parvat.

A star shaped gurudwara near the lake is visited by thousands of devotees every month. A temple dedicated to Lakshman, brother of Lord Rama is also located here. One must complete a trek of 6km from Ghangharia to reach Hemkund Sahib

What Scriptures Say

Ab mai apni katha bakhano


Tap sadhat jih bidh muh ano

Hemkunt parbat hai jaha

Sapatsring sobhit hai taha.

(Dasam Guru Granth Sahib Ji 1952: 54-55)

Lakshamana did his penance here. Thus a temple (dedicated to him) is situated near the Gurudwara and river that flows through the valley from GovindGhat to GovindDham is called Lakshamana Ganaga.

Folklores and legends

A number of sages like Rishi Medhasa of the Puranas  did their penance at Hemkund Sahib.

Folklores and legends

The Char Dhams of Uttarakhand (chota char dham)



Yamunotri

Yamunotri is the source of the Yamuna River and the seat of the Goddess Yamuna in Hinduism. It is situated at an altitude of 10,804 ft in the Garhwal Himalayas and located approximately 30 kilometers North of Uttarkashi.

The temple of Yamuna, on the left bank of the Yamuna, was constructed by Maharaja Pratap Shah of Tehri Garhwal. The deity is made of black marble. The Yamuna, like the Ganges, has been elevated to the status of a divine mother for the Hindus and has been held responsible for nurturing and developing the Indian civilization.

It is usually the first stop in the Char Dham Yatra.

The actual source is a frozen lake of ice & glacier (Champasar glacier also known as Yamunotri Glacier) located on the Kalind mountain at the height of 4421 m above sea level, about 1 km further up, is not frequented generally as it is not accessible and hence the shrine has been located on the foot of the hill. 

What Scriptures Say

Sage Asit Muni had his hermitage in Yamunotri. All his life, he bathed daily both in the Ganges and the Yamuna. Unable to go to Gangotri during his old age, a stream of the Ganges appeared opposite Yamunotri for him.

Folklores and legends

Yamuna is the twin sister of Yama, the Lord of Death. It is believed that anyone who bathes in her waters will be spared a torturous death. Yamuna is also the daughter of Surya the Sun.

Folklores and legends

Jaya Jaya Shri Yamuna,

Ma Jaya Jaya Shri Yamuna Ma,

Jotaa Janama Sudhaaryo,

Naata Jivane Udhaaryo, Dhanya Dhanya Tame Yamuna,

Ma Jaya Jaya Shri Yamuna Ma

Excerpt from Yamuna Aarti

Gangotri

It is the origin of the river Ganges and seat of the goddess Ganga.

The original Gangotri Temple was built by the Nepalese general Amar Singh Thapa.

The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga (the Ganges) from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda.

The origin of the holy river is at Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and is a 19 km trek from Gangotri.

During the break time in winters, the idol of the goddess is kept at Mukhba village, near Harsil. Ritual duties of the temple are supervised by the Semwal family of pujaris. These pujaris hail from Mukhba village.

What Scriptures Say

Goddess Ganga took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagiratha’s predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries.

Folklores and legends

Bhagiratha, the grandson of King Sagar, is believed to have meditated to please the Goddess Ganga enough to cleanse the ashes of his ancestors, perished by the curse of sage Kapila., and liberate their souls, granting them salvation or Moksha.

Folklores and legends
A statue of Ganga from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India, 5th century CE

Badrinath

Badrinath is a holy town and a nagar panchayat in Chamoli district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. It is one of the four sites in India’s Char Dham pilgrimage and gets its name from the temple of Badrinath.

Badrinath was re-established as a major pilgrimage site by Adi Shankara in the 7th century.

The temple has been repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes and avalanches in the past.

The Badrinath area is referred to as Badari or Badarikaashram in Hindu scriptures. It is a place sacred to Vishnu, particularly in Vishnu’s dual form of Nara-Narayana.

What Scriptures Say

There in Badrikashram the supreme being (Vishnu), in his incarnation as the sages Nara and Narayana, had been undergoing great penance since time immemorial for the welfare of all living entities.

Bhagavata Purana

When the Pandavas were said to have expired one by one, when ascending the slopes of a peak in western Garhwal called Swargarohini. The Pandavas passed through Badrinath and the town of Mana, 4 km north of Badrinath, on their way to Svarga(Heaven)

Mahabharata

From badrinath numerous Jain Muni got Moksha(Nirvana) by doing Tapsya.

Nirvankand

Kedarnath

Kedarnath is a town in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and has gained importance because of Kedarnath Temple. It is a nagar panchayat in Rudraprayag district.

Kedarnath Mandir (Kedarnath Temple) is a Hindu temple (shrine) dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open to the general public only between the months of April (Akshaya Tritriya) and November (Kartik Purnima, the autumn full moon).

During the winters, the vigraha (deity) from Kedarnath temple is carried down to Ukhimath and where the deity is worshiped for the next six months. Kedarnath is seen as a homogenous form of Lord Shiva, the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’, the historical name of the region.

According to Hindu legends, the temple was initially built by Pandavas, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, expounded in Tevaram.

2013 Disaster : From 16 June 2013,Uttarakhand and adjoining areas received heavy rainfall, which was about 375% more than the benchmark rainfall during a normal monsoon. This caused the melting of Chorabari Glacier at the height of 3800m, and eruption of the Mandakini River which led to heavy floods near Gobindghat, Kedarnath, Rudraprayag district and nearby places. It killed and destroyed lives and livelihoods of many local people as well as the devotees.

What Scriptures Say

Kedara is the place where Shiva released the holy water of river Ganga from his matted hair

Skanda Purana 

After Mahabharata War, Pandavas went to Kedarnath to meet lord Shiva to ask for forgiveness. Lord Shiva tried to disappear by sinking himself head-first into the ground in the form of a bull but was caught. The Pandavas then built the first temple at Kedarnath. The portions of Shiva’s body later appeared at four other locations; forming “Panch Kedar”

Folklores and legends

Many hundreds of years ago…The Kedarnath temple did not have a local priest: the priest of the Badrinath temple used to hold services at both the temples, travelling between the two places daily

English mountaineer Eric Shipton Records


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