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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

View of Evening prayers at Har-ki-pairi in Haridwar
Holy Bath at Har-ki-Pauddi
Hardwar – An Aerial View

Haridwar (हरिद्वार), (also spelled Hardwar), is a holy city and municipal board in the Haridwar District of Uttarakhand, India.

Variou names and their oigin

Tehsils in Haridwar

The district is administratively subdivided into three tehsils-

Six development blocks in Haridwar: 1. Bahadrabad, 2. Bhagwanpur, 3. Khanpur, 4. Laksar,5. Narsan Kalan, 6. Roorkee

Villages in Haridwar tahsil

Haridwar district map

Ahmadpur Grunt, Ajitpur Mustakam, Alawalpur, Alipur Ibrahimpur Urf Ikkad, Aneki Hetmapur, Atmalpur Bangla, Aurangabad, Badshapur Sher Pur Bhatti Pur, Bahadarpur Jat, Banganga No. 2, Bhagtanpur Abidpur Urf Ibrahim, Bhogpur, Bhuwapur Chamrawal, Bishanpur Jharada Mustakam, Bodaheri Mohiuddinpur, Dadpur Govindpur, Daluwala Kalan, Daluwala Mazbata, Fatwa Must, Gadowali, Gaindikhata, Gajiwali, Garh, Hardevpur Sahdevpur Urf Rani M, Hazara Grunt, Jasawa Wala, Jasodhar Pur, Jiya Pota, Kangari, Kasampur, Katarpur Alipur, Khedali, Kotamurad Nagar, Laldhang, Meerpur Muwazarpur, Missarpur Mustakam, Mohammadpur Kunhari, Mustafa Bad, Nagla Khurd, Nasir Pur Kalan, Noorpur Panjanhedi, Padartha Urf Dhanpura, Peeli Padav, Peetpur, Pherupur Ramkhera, Puranpur Salhapur, Rajpur, Ransura, Rasool Pur Mithi Beri, Ruhalki Kishanpur Urf Ikkad, Sahdevpur Shahwazpur, Sajanpur Peeli, Sanghipur, Sarai, Shahpur Shitala Khera, Shivdas Pur Urf Teliwala, Shyampur Nauabad, Sitapur Mazara Jwalapur, Siv Nagar, Sohalpur Sikrodha, Subhashgarh,


Visit by Xuanzang in 636 AD

Alexander Cunningham[1] writes that Hwen-Thsang describes the town of Mo-yu-lo, or Mayura, as situated on the north-west frontier of Madawar, and on the eastern bank of the Ganges.[2] At a short distance from the town there was a great temple called "the gate of the Ganges," that is, Ganga-dwara, with a tank inside, which was supplied by a canal with water from the holy river. The vicinity of Ganga-dwara, which was the old name of Haridwara, shows that Mayura must be the present ruined site of Mayapura, at the head of Ganges canal. But both of these places are now on the western bank of the Ganges, instead of on the eastern bank, as stated by Hwen Thsang. His note that they were on the north-west frontier of Madawar seems also to point to the same position ; for if they had been on the western bank of the Ganges, they would more properly be described as on the north-eastern frontier of Srughna. I examined the locality with some care, and I was satisfied that at some former period the Ganges may have flowed to the westward of Mayapura and Kankhal down to Jwalapur. There is, however, no present trace of any old channel between the Gangadwara temple and the hills; but as this ground is now covered with the houses of Haridwar, it is quite possible that a channel may once have existed, which has since been gradually filled up, and built upon. There is therefore no physical difficulty which could have prevented the river from taking this westerly course, and we must either accept Hwen Thsang's statement or adopt the alternative, that he has made a

[p.352]: mistake in placing Mayura and Gangadwara to the east of the Ganges.

There is a dispute between the followers of Siva and Vishnu as to which of these deities gave birth to, the Ganges. In the 'Vishnu Purana' it is stated that the Ganges has its rise "in the nail of the great toe of Vishnu's left foot;"[3] and the Vaishnayas point triumphantly to the Hari-ki-charan, or Hari-ki-pairi (Vishnu's foot-prints), as indisputable evidence of the truth of their belief.

On the other hand, the Saivas argue that the proper name of the place is Hara-dwara, or " Siva's Gate," and not Hari-dwara. It is admitted also, in the ' Vishnu Purana,' that the Alakananda (or east branch of the Ganges) " was borne by Mahadeva upon his head."[4]

But in spite of these authorities, I am inclined to believe that the present name of Haridwar or Haradwar is a modern one, and that the old town near the Gangadwara temple was Mayapura. Hwen Thsang, indeed, calls it Mo-yu-lo, or Mayura, but the old ruined town between Haridwar and Kankhal is still called Mayapur, and the people point to the old temple of Maya-Devi as the true origin of its name. It is quite possible, however, that the town may also have been called Mayura-pura, as the neighbouring woods still swarm with thousands of peacocks (Mayura), whose shrill calls I heard both morning and evening.

Hwen Thsang describes the town as about 20 li, or 3⅓ miles, in circuit, and very populous. This account corresponds very closely with the extent of the old city of Mayapura, as pointed out to me by the people.

[p.353]: These traces extend from the bed of a torrent, which enters the Ganges near the modern temple of Sarvvanath to the old fort of Raja Ben, on the bank of the canal, a distance of 7500 feet. The breadth is irregular, but it could not have been more than 3000 feet at the south end, and, at the north end, where the Siwalik hills approach the river, it must have been contracted to 1000 feet. These dimensions give a circuit of 19,000 feet, or rather more than 3½ miles. Within these limits there are the ruins of an old fort, 750 feet square, attributed to Raja Ben, and several lofty-mounds covered with broken bricks, of which the largest and most conspicuous is immediately above the canal bridge. There are also three old temples dedicated to Narayana-sila, to Maya-Devi, and to Bhairava. The celebrated ghat called the Pairi, or "Feet Ghat," is altogether outside these limits, being upwards of 2000 feet to the north-east of the Sarvvanath temple. The antiquity of the place is undoubted, not only from the extensive foundations of large bricks which are everywhere visible, and the numerous fragments of ancient sculpture accumulated about the temples, but from the great variety of the old coins, similar to those of Sugh, which are found here every year.

The name of Haridwara, or " Vishnu's Gate," would appear to be comparatively modern, as both Abu Rihan and Rashid-ud-din mention only Ganga-dwara. Kalidas also, in his ' Meghaduta,' says nothing of Haridwara, although he mentions Kankhal ; but as his contemporary Amarasinha gives Vishnupadi as one of the synonyms of the Ganges, it is certain that the legend of its rise from Vishnu's foot is as old as the fifth century.

[p.354]: I infer, however, that no temple of the Vishnupada had been erected down to the time of Abu Rihan. The first allusion to it of which I am aware is by Sharif-ud-din,[5] the historian of Timur, who says that the Ganges issues from the hills by the pass of Cou-pele, which I take to be the same as Koh-pairi, or the " Hill of the Feet" (of Vishnu), as the great bathing ghat at the Gangadwara temple is called Pairi Ghat, and the hill above it Pairi Pahar. In the time of Akbar, the name of Haridwar was well known, as Abul Fazl speaks of "Maya, vulgo Haridwar, on the Ganges," as being considered holy for 18 kos in length.[6] In the next reign the place was visited by Tom Coryat, who informed Chaplain Terry that at " Haridwara, the capital of Siba, the Ganges flowed amongst large rocks with a pretty full current." In 1790 the town was visited by Hardwicke, who calls it a small place situated at the base of the hills. In 1808, Raper describes it as very inconsiderable, having only one street, about 15 feet in breadth, and a furlong and a half (or three-eighths of a mile) in length. It is now much larger, being fully three- quarters of a mile in length, but there is still only one street.

Hwen Thsang notes that the river was also called Fo-shui [7] which M. Stanislas Julien translates as I'eau qui porte bonhcur, and identifies with Mahabhadra, which is one of the many well-known names of the Ganges. He mentions also that bathing in its waters was sufficient to wash away sin, and that if corpses were thrown into the river the dead would escape the

[p.355]: punishment of being born again in an inferior state, which was clue to their crimes. I should prefer reading Subhadra, which has the same meaning as Mahabhadra, as Ktesias mentions that the great Indian river was named ύπαρχος, which he translates by Φέρων πάητα τά άΎαθά [8] Pliny quoting Ktesias calls the river Hpobarus, which he renders by " omnia in se ferre bona."[9] A nearly similar word, Oibares, is rendered by Nicolas of Damascus as άΎαθάΎΎελος. I infer, there-fore, that the original name obtained by Ktesias was most probably Subhadra.

Haridwar and Jat history

Haridwar was one of the most ancient Jat republics under the rule of Virabhadra with capital at Haridwar. The state of Haryana gets its name from Shiva (Hara). The name of Haryana means 'Hari ka Desh' or the land of Lord Shiva. There is mention of ganas is in the form of attendants of Shiva in the story of creation of Virabhadra and destruction of Daksha in Hindu mythology. The story goes: One day Daksha made arrangements for a great horse sacrifice, and invited all the gods omitting only Shiva. Shiva's first wife was Sati and daughter of Daksha Prajapati. Sati, being greatly humiliated, went to the banquet and Sati released the inward consuming fire and fell dead at Daksha's feet. Narada bore this news to Shiva. Shiva burned with anger, created Vīrabhadra who bowed at Shiva's feet and asked his will. [10]

Shiva directed Virabhadra: "Lead my army against Daksha and destroy his sacrifice; fear not the Brahmanas, for thou art a portion of my very self". On this direction of Shiva, Virabhadra appeared with Shiva's ganas in the midst of Daksha's assembly like a storm wind and broke the sacrificial vessels, polluted the offerings, insulted the priests and finally cut off Daksha's head, trampled on Indra, broke the staff of Yama, scattered the gods on every side; the he returned to Kailash. [11]

Deva Samhita mentions that after the destruction of Daksha's sacrifice by Virabhadra and his ganas, the followers of Shiva, the defeated gods sought Brahma and asked his counsel. Brahma advised the gods to make their peace with Shiva. Shiva accepted his advice and restored the burnt head of Daksha and the broken limbs were made whole. Then the devas thanked Shiva for his gentleness, and invited him to sacrifice. There Daksha looked on him with reverence, the rite was duly performed, and there also Vishnu appeared. A compromise was achieved between Vaishnavas and followers of Shiva.

The above story of creation of Virabhadra from the Shiva’s lock and destruction of Daksha by Virabhadra and his ganas is mythical and not scientifically possible but has some historical facts in it. Thakur Deshraj has explained that there was a clan of Jats named Shivi who had a republic ruled by democratic system of administration known as ganatantra. Kshudrakas had formed a sangha with Malavas. Shivis formed a sangha with a big federation or sangha known as Jat, which is clear from Paninis shloka in grammar of Aṣṭādhyāyī given below. [12]

The historian Ram Swaroop Joon explains that Shiva lived in Gangotri Hills which, due to Shiva's popularity, came to be known as Shiva's Jata. The mountain ranges in that area is now known as Shivaliks. Raja Virabhadra of the Puru dynasty was the ruler of 'Talkhapur' near Haridwar, which also formed part of the area known as 'Shiv ki Jata'. [13]

This is the area around Haridwar. King Bhagiratha brought the Ganga to the plains in this region. According to legend the Ganga flows out from Shiva's Jata. Actually this also means that the Ganga flows out from the area known as 'Shiv ki Jata', the birthplace of the Jat Raja Virabhadra who was a follower and admirer of Shiva. On hearing of Sati's tragedy, Shiva went to the durbar of Virabhadra and pulled at his hair in fury while narrating the story. This infuriated Virabhadra and with his army, are invaded Kankhal and killed Daksha. [14]

Kankhal, ancient town near Haridwar, was the summer capital and Thanesar (Kurukshetra) the winter capital of Shiva. [15]Shiva after ascending to the throne visited plain areas, the present Haridwar. To give a warm welcome to Shiva the site of Haridwar was made a welcome-gate hence called Haridwar (हरिद्वार) . The country below it was known as Haryana in the memory of Shiva coming to this region. In sanskrit language applying the yaṇa sandhi rules we find that Hari + Ānā = Haryānā. Examples of yaṇa sandhi are:

इति+आदि = इत्यादि

हरि+ आणा = हरयाणा

The region of Haryana in those days covered the areas of 30 districts of Uttar Pradesh, Brajmandal, present Haryana, part east of River Sutlej and Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Nagaur, Bikaner, Churu and Jhunjhunu districts in Rajasthan. [16]

In Hindu Mythology

According to Hindu mythology, Haridwar is one among the four sites where drops of the elixir of immortality, Amrita, accidentally spilled over from Kumbha, in which it was being carried away by the celestial bird Garuda. These four spots -- Ujjain, Haridwar, Nasik, and Allahabad -- have today become places, where the Kumbha Mela is celebrated once every 3 years in any of these 4 places and after a period of 12 years, the Maha Kumbha Mela is celebrated on the 12th year at Prayag in Allahabad. Millions of pilgrims, devotees, and tourists congregate here from all over the world to celebrate the event. They perform ritualistic bathing on the banks of the river Ganga.

The spot where the Amrita (nectar) fell is considered to be the Brahma Kund at Har-ki-Pauri (literally, "footsteps of the Lord," and symbolically the footprints of the Amrita), the most sacred ghat of Haridwar; thousands of devotees and pilgrims flock here during festivals or snan from all over India to take a holy dip. This act is considered to be the equivalent of washing away one's sins to attain Moksha.

Jat Dharamshala Hardwar

The Haridwar district came into existence on 28 December 1988, with the creation of new state of Uttarakhand, and is developing beyond its religious importance, as a major industrial destination of state, with development works of SIDCUL. This city is also well known for many other attractions apart from the holy river Ganges, such as the township of BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals India Ltd.) and fast developing Industrial Estate developed by SIDCUL. Haridwar is adjacent to the neighbour district Roorkee known for educational institution IIT Roorkee.

Haridwar in scriptures

Prince Bhagiratha in penenance for the salvation of 60,000 of his ancestors.

A paradise for nature lovers, Haridwar presents a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and civilisation. In mythology it has been variously mentioned as Kapilsthan, Gangadwar [17] and Mayapuri [18]. It is also a entry point to the Char Dham (the four main centers of pilgrimage in Uttarakhand viz, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri), hence, Shaivism (followers of Lord Shiva) and Vaishnavism (followers of Lord Vishnu) call this place Hardwar and Haridwar respectively, corresponding to Har being Shiv and Hari being Vishnu [17][19].

Archaeological findings have proved that terra cotta culture dating between 1700 BCE and 1200 BCE existed in this region [19]. Though first written evidence of Haridwar is found in the accounts of a Chinese traveller, Huan Tsang, who visited India in 629 AD. [20]

The legendary King, Bhagiratha, the great-grandson of the Suryavanshi King Sagara, is said to have brought the river Ganga down from heaven, through years of penance in Satya Yuga, for the salvation of 60,000 of his ancestors from the curse of the saint Kapila [21][22], a tradition continued by thousands of devout Hindus, who brings the ashes of their departed family members, in hope of their salvation [23]. Lord Vishnu is said to have left his footprint on the stone that is set in the upper wall of Har-Ki-Pauri, where the Holy Ganga touches it at all times.

During his visit to Haridwar, Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) bathed at 'Kushwan Ghat', wherein the famous, 'watering the crops' episode took place [24], his visit is today commemorated by a Gurudwara, besides this third Guru, Sri Amar Das also visited Hardwar twenty two times during his life time [25]. Being one of the oldest living cities, Haridwar finds its mention in the ancient Hindu scriptures as it weaves through the life and time stretching from the period of the Buddha, to the more recent British advent. Haridwar has a rich and ancient religious and cultural heritage. It still has many old havelis and mansions bearing exquisite murals and intricate stonework.

Present Haridwar

The headworks of the Ganga Canal system are located in Haridwar. The Upper Ganga Canal was opened in 1854 after the work began in 1840, prompted by the famine of 1837-38. The unique feature of the canal is the half-kilometre-long aqueduct over another river at Roorkee, which raises the canal 25 metres above the original river.

Haridwar has been an abode of the weary in body, mind and spirit. It has also been a centre of attraction for learning various arts, science, and culture. The city has a long-standing position as a great source of Ayurvedic medicines and herbal remedies and is home to the unique Gurukul school of traditional education.

Haridwar already has a temple of modern civilization, BHEL, a 'Navratna PSU' to its credit. The Roorkee University at Roorkee, now IIT Roorkee, is one of the oldest and most prestigious institutes of learning in the fields of science and engineering. Another university of the district, Gurukul Kangri, which has a vast campus, gives traditional education of its own kind.

Many Government administration offices like Lok Sewa Ayog and Sanskrit Academy are established here. Prior to its inclusion in the newly created state of Uttarakhand, this district was a part of Saharanpur Divisional Commissionary.

Jat Gotras in Haridwar district

Bargoti, Beniwal, Dhama, Jatrana, Jatri, Kharb,

External links


  1. The Ancient Geography of India/Central India, p.351-355
  2. Julien's ' Hiouen Thsang,' li. 230. See Map No. X.
  3. Book ii. 8. Hall's edition of Wilson's translation, ii.73.
  4. Ibid
  5. ' History of Timur,' translated by Petis de la Croix, iii. 131.
  6. 'Ayin Akbari,' ii. 516.
  7. Julien's ' Hwen Thsang,' ii. 217.
  8. Ctesia3 Indica, Excerpp. ab Photio, 19, e.lit. Lion.
  9. Hist. Nat. xxxvii. 11.
  10. Sister Nivedita & Ananda K.Coomaraswamy: Myths and Legends of the Hindus and Bhuddhists, Kolkata, 2001 ISBN 81-7505-197-3
  11. Sister Nivedita & Ananda K.Coomaraswamy: Myths and Legends of the Hindus and Bhuddhists, Kolkata, 2001 ISBN 81-7505-197-3
  12. Thakur Deshraj: Jat Itihas (Hindi), Maharaja Suraj Mal Smarak Shiksha Sansthan, Delhi, 1934, 2nd edition 1992 page 87-88.
  13. Ram Swarup Joon: History of the Jats (1938, 1967)
  14. Ram Swarup Joon: History of the Jats (1938, 1967)
  15. Bhaleram Beniwal, Jāton kā Ādikālīn Itihāsa, 2005, Publisher - Jaypal Agencies, Agra, p. 39
  16. Bhaleram Beniwal, Jāton kā Ādikālīn Itihāsa, 2005, Publisher - Jaypal Agencies, Agra, p. 39
  17. 17.0 17.1 Places of peace and power sacred sites.
  18. Hardwar sanatansociety.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Hariwar History haridwar.nic.in.
  20. Kumbh Mela
  21. "Uttarakhand Information Centre - Gangotri Information" The Complete Uttarakhand Travel Guide
  22. Mankodi, Kirit (1973) "Gaṅgā Tripathagā" Artibus Asiae 35(1/2): pp. 139-144, p. 140
  23. Hardwar, About City
  24. Watering the Crops Guru Nanak Sakhis at sikhiwiki.
  25. Gurudwara NanakpuraGurudwaras in Uttarakhand at sikhiwiki.

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