Monday 11 April 2016

Haridwar- A Photo-essay

On the way back from the Deoriataal-Chopta-Chadrashila peak trek, I had a few hours in Haridwar in the evening. So I decided to attend the grand Ganga aarti at Har ki Pauri ghat and explore the markets at much as I could. Markets, because I love the riot of colours, shapes and fragrances in Indian markets and that is a great indicator of the culture of the place too. 

Read my posts on the Mahabaleshwar market and the Juna Bazaar in Pune. 
The Ganga aarti at Hari ki Pauri ghat. 
The Ganga aarti begins at 6.30 pm and lasts for around 20 minutes. But the crowd starts gathering much before that. The day I had visited was the eve of the 'maha-snaan' or main dipping ritual in the Ganga since it was the time of the Ardh-Kumbh, the religious Hindu congregation that happens once in 6 years ('ardh' meaning half). So I was mentally prepared for the crowd. But I needn't have been petrified of the crowd, sine the local Police, the Army and ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) were doing a commendable job of managing the same. I went to the Har ki Pauri ghat at 5.45 pm to secure a good place from where I could view the aarti. There are 2 options. One is you go to the Har ki Pauri ghat itself where the aarti happens. The second one, which I chose, is to stand right opposite the Har ki Pauri ghat to get a clear and direct view of the ritual. The crowd gathered, the priests assembled and the chanting began. One thing that I liked was that before the aarti all the people gathered are asked to raise their palms to take an oath that they will not pollute the river and will help maintain its sanctity. 

Let me allow the pictures to do the talking :-) 

The sun sets on the river Ganga.
People gathering for the evening aarti. 

The aarti in all its grandeur. The place looked ethereal with the lights of the lamps. 

Since it was the 'Maha-snaan' the next morning, everything was lit up. 

The crowd dispersing after the aarti. 

I was hungry after the aarti and headed to the first shop outside the Har ki Pauri ghat to devour some aloo-puri. (fried bread and potato curry). The quantity was huge as you can see and was served on a leaf. The eatery has no seating arrangement so I had a hard time balancing the food on my left palm, pulling out the puris from under the bowl of curry and eating it..:-) 

Look at the crowd outside Mohan Ji Puriwale, from where I bought aloo-puri. Even Tripadvisor gives it a high rating. 

The neighbouring shop Prachin Mathurawale was quieter and he asked me to stand next to his shop, fearing I would be trampled by the crowd outside his competitor's shop. 

I washed down the heavy dinner with some much need salted Punjabi lassi. Burrp!! 

As I started exploring the market, I spotted several other eateries with their wares stacked interestingly. 

Haridwar, being a religious place, there has to be rosary beads and crystals for the devout. 

Lamps of different shapes and sizes. 

Dupattas and cloth pieces to drape one's shoulders, inscribed with holy names. 

Flower sellers. 

I saw a decent crowd lined up outside this shop. He was selling Basundi (thickened milk) from the big cauldron and pedhas (milk based sweets). Seeing me take a picture, he offered me a free sample. Seeing the delighted expression on my face after tasting it, he asked me if I wanted to buy. I so wanted to eat that, but did not because the aloo-puri had occupied all the space in the stomach. I just bought some pedhas to take back home. 

Making of a pedha. 

In another shop there were colourful bangles. 

And conches to herald the start of a prayer. 

And other offerings to the Gods such as puffed rice, and sugar balls and incense sticks. 

This shop had a collection of walking sticks and damarus, the 2 sided drum used by Lord Shiva. This was the last interesting shop I saw before I arrived at a street with shops stocked with cheap plastic goods.
I was glad I could at least walk around and explore the market in the 4 hours I had in Haridwar. May be I will come back to spend some more quiet time by the river, on a less crowded day. 

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