I was awaiting my joining with Satyam and I had some time to spare in the middle. My mom and dad along with Dada and Dadi were eager to go on a trip to Haridwar. We had booked early tickets for Haridwar from Ahmedabad in the Haridwar Express. The train starts off on Sundays at 11:00 am or so in the morning. I had a lot of difficulty taking my grandparents to the railway platform. The lift was for luggage/old people and since very few old people actually arrive through the lift, it wasused only for luggage with the last preference being given to the old people. The wheelchairs were not to be found anywhere and even if they were found, it was going to be impossible to carry them up the stairs.
Finally, we made it to the train. It was largely empty and since we were 5 people, we occupied one whole compartment and sat and enjoyed the journey. The diesel engine driven train chugged us through the large barren areas of North Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi before finally arriving in Haridwar. The train took another 5 to 6 hours before we finally reached Haridwar.
The moment we got off the train we were besieged by rickshaw pullers or cycle rickshaw drivers as is the norm in any Indian city favored by tourists. Not having experienced such a ride before, it was a unique experience for me. I had heard about rickshaws being pulled by men in Calcutta, but had never seen anything like this in Maharashtra and Gujarat. I wasn't really comfortable sitting merrily being pulled by a thin, scrawny fellow twice my age.
We finally got to our guest house and set up the luggage there. After some rest, I went out for a short walk in the surprisingly cool weather of Haridwar - Gandhinagar was really hot then in October.
While on the walk, let me tell you some interesting things about Haridwar. Haridwar means Hari ka Dwar or Gate to God. Haridwar is considered to be one of the 7 holiest cities by Hindus. Haridwar is the place where the river Ganges enters the plains of Northern India. Haridwar is also an entry point to the Char Dham or four centers of pilgrimage of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Jamnotri. Haridwar is also one of the oldest living cities. There are many ashrams dotted alongside the various tributaries of Ganges that sprawl across Haridwar. The headworks of the Upper Ganga Canal are located in Haridwar. The IIT Rourkee is located in Haridwar district and the huge campus of BHEL - Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited is also a part of Haridwar. Another fun fact is that in spite of being home to so many people and travellers from all over the world, Haridwar is a town that does not serve non-vegeterian food anywhere. The whole town is vegetarian. I can see my Chicken Tikka loving friends' scowling faces as I write this. :-)
Besides being all this and more as we will know in further posts, Haridwar is also very beautiful and a nature lover's delight. Owing to the Ganges, it is a very green city.
As seen in the picture here, there are a few old gentlemen feeding the fish at a ghat in Haridwar. Ghats are a series of steps that lead to the river. The ghats help people to perform a lot of activities on the edge of the water. Feeding the fish is considered an auspicious act in Haridwar and hence largely practiced by the local population and pilgrims.
Here you can see an even better picture of a ghat. Many such ghats dot the banks of the Ganges all along Haridwar. These ghats are used for bathing by pilgrims and also for washing clothes, frolicking in the water etc. Some hotels in Haridwar have their private ghats too.
And now a last snap of the beautiful Ganges.