Known as the Dwar of Hari or Gateway to Lord Vishnu, this holy city is of humongous importance due to various reasons, the most important reason of it being the first plain to be bathed in Ganga as it leaves the mountains and begins its descent downward. The precise spot where Ganga first hits the plain is known as Har Ki Pauri, the largest among other several ghats (bathing steps). It is considered to be one of the four spots where the drops of Amrut fell from the sky while being carried in a pitcher by the celestial bird Garuda after the Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean) in primordial times. This ghat is also said to be sanctified by the presence of three Gods; Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, and Lord Vishnu is said to have 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. It is believed that by taking a dip in this holy water, one can be cleared of his sins and devout believers feel that they can go to heaven by getting their salvation after a dip in the sacred Ganga. Har Ki Pauri is also the area where Kumbha Mela takes place every twelve years and the Ardh Kumbh Mela which takes place every six years( attended by millions).
SAMADHI OF LAHIRI MAHASAYA, KESHAV ASHRAM, HARIDWAR
Haridwar is blessed to have the samadhi of the great Master, Lahiri Mahasaya, situated inside the ashram of Swami Keshvanandji Maharaj. Shri Lahiri Mahasaya was born on September 30, 1828, in the village of Ghurni in Bengal, India. At the age of 33, while walking one day in the Himalayan foothills near Ranikhet, he met his Guru, Mahavatar Babaji. It was a divine reunion of two who had been together in many lives past; at an awakening touch of blessing, Lahiri Mahasaya became engulfed in a spiritual aura of divine realisation that was never to leave him.
Mahavatar Babaji initiated him in the science of Kriya Yoga and instructed him to bestow the sacred technique on all sincere seekers. Lahiri Mahasaya returned to his home in Banaras to fulfill this mission. As the first to teach the lost ancient Kriya science in contemporary times, he is renowned as a seminal figure in the renaissance of yoga that began in modern India in the latter part of the nineteenth century and continues this day.
Rishikesh – Named after one of Lord Vishnu’s name, known as Abode of Gods and Yoga Capital of the World, a sacred town at the foothills of the lower Himalayas, is blessed with the flowing of the holy Ganges. It is a land of sages, powerful meditations, yoga, and adventure. Among many places of religious and spiritual importance, it has the famous Triveni ghat on the banks of the Ganga, which attracts a lot of pilgrims for dips as well as performing the Ganga aarti in the evening. The popular belief of devotees is that performing austerities in this holy town and offering prayers in the holy temples and during the dip brings the much needed attainment of “Mukti” (salvation).
Rishikesh is famous for the Ganga aarti which is carried out at dusk, where the devotees can perform themselves by floating earthen lamps in the holy Ganga. The Ganga aarti is known to evoke different emotions in devotees and the people. The whole atmosphere is immensely invigorating and spiritually gratifying.
Lakshman Jhula is an iron suspension bridge across the river Ganges, located 5 kilometres north-east from the town Rishikesh in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The bridge connects the two villages; Tapovan in Tehri Garhwal district to Jonk in Pauri Garhwal district crossing the river from west to east. However it is near to the Rishikesh city thus creating ambiguity in its location, the bridge is one of the iconic landmarks of Rishikesh.
It is said that Lakshmana crossed Ganges on jute ropes between the place where this bridge is built. Lakshman Jhula was completed in 1929.
A powerful Master with unconditional love towards his followers, Neem Karoli Baba known as Maharaj ji to His followers, was an ardent devotee of Hanuman ji. He travelled the northern India extensively as a saint and during this time, He was known by many names.
Maharaj ji brought grace into the lives of countless suffering human, but remained elusive from the public eye. His ashram at Rishikesh has a 40 feet tall Hanuman idol, which is visible from Haridwar and Rishikesh.
Vashishta Gufa (cave), a meticulously maintained cave for meditation and situated on the bank of River Ganga, is one of the most beautiful and powerful places of meditation in Rishikesh. One of the Saptarishis and Lord Brahma’s manas putra Vashishta and his wife Arundati meditated for hundreds of years in this cave after being bereaved due to the death of all their children. The cave, as expected, has a lot of positive vibrations and is heaven on earth for spiritual seekers and meditation lovers, as you can meditate in the cave. The cave also has linga which can be worshipped. The peace and tranquility will stay inside your hearts for a long time to come after visiting this cave.
Valley of Flowers, a World Heritage Site, will be visited enroute to Badrinath, subject to weather conditions, by a helicopter from Govind ghat to Ghanghria. At 3352 to 3658 meters above sea level in the Garhwal Himalayas, it is famous for its charming meadows of alpine flowers, being picturesque in its beauty. Legends believe it to be the place from where Hanuman had collected the Sanjeevani herb for curing Lakshmana. Indian yogis (saints) have been known to have visited this valley for meditation. This place has floral pastures, running streams, and beautiful backdrop of the mountains.
Rudraprayag – Named after the incarnation of Lord Shiva as Rudra, The Lord of Music, to bless Narada being pleased with his worship, this is one of the Panch Prayags (five confluences), marking the phase of confluence of River Mandakini coming down from the slopes of Kedarnath merging with River Alaknanda flowing from the Badrinath hills, is the gateway to Badrinath and Kedarnath and holds immense religious and spiritual importance. The bathing ghats at Rudraprayag allow for sacred dips and offering prayers to ancestors to seek their blessings. As the two rivers are starkly different from each other, their confluence can be appreciated distinctively.
The most important of the Panch Prayags (five confluences), it is here that the divine Ganga takes its form, after the merging of two holy rivers, the roaring Baghirati and the calmer Alaknanda. This confluence is named after Deva Sharma, a Brahmin, who performed “rigorous religious austerities” here and was blessed by Lord Shri Rama.
It is believed that Lord Rama chose this place to serve his period of penitence for killing King Ravana. The dip in this holy confluence is spiritually rejuvenating. Also, carrying out rituals for the deceased at this powerful confluence or just praying while taking a dip is said to work toward the salvation of the ancestral souls.
After attaining its form at Devprayag, the divine Ganga flows ahead, purifying and blessing many, many lands.
Welcome to Badrinath !!!! In the lush valley of Himalayas, relatively pollution-free, this power center is said to be the most famous attraction of Char Dham yatra. The Badrinath temple remains open only for six months in a year due to extremely harsh weather conditions in the Himalayan region. The shrine of Badrinarayan is made of Shaligram stone, a highly sacred stone.
The Shaligram is worshipped for six values of life – Righteous Living, creation of wealth, protection, sound health, pleasures, and spiritual attainment and the Badrinath shrine reflects these values for perfect reasons. The temple is highly energized and the meditative powers and vibrations of Lord Vishnu are highly palpable.
Tapta Kund (literally hot water spring) is located between Badrinath and the river Alakananda at a short distance below the temple complex. It is fed by a natural hot water sulfur spring and has a temperature of around 45 degree celsius. It is regarded as the abode of Lord Agni. The water for the hot spring comes from “Garur Shila” which flows into a concrete water tank that has been constructed for bathing.
It is a wonder of nature that hot water is available in the midst of freezing temperatures as well as snowfall. It is believed that a bath in the pool is very beneficial since it has amazing healing properties. Pilgrims also believe that a holy dip in the pool clears away the debris of the soul. This water is said to be very nourishing for the body. The devotees first take a dip in this medicinal water and then enter the temple.
The hot blessing in the cold Himalayas! The warm and loving GIFT of GOD.
A maha-abhishekam will be performed on Lord Vishnu with ghee, yogurt, milk, sandalwood, saffron, etc. amidst continuous chanting of mantras.
In the evening, Lord Vishnu will be woken up to the chanting of sacred hymns (aartis). One of the most important aspects in prayers, aarti symbolizes removal of darkness and spiritual enlightenment. First, aarti would be camphor aarti. In addition to counteracting negativity and purifying the environment, it also symbolizes destruction of ego and union with God. Then there would be chanting of Vishnu Sahasranama, which consists of 1008 names of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that nothing evil or inauspicious will befall a man here or hereafter who hears daily and repeats these names. Recited by Bhishma to Yudhistara, Veda Vyasa stringed all the names into a poetic form. Chanting of the Vishnu Sahastranama produces profound vibrations which help with mental cleansing when chanted with complete faith and sincerity. The last of sacred hymns (aartis) would be a Shayan aarti, which is chanted before the deity is put to rest for the day.
Pind-Daan rituals will be performed for the salvation of your ancestors. As per Hindu Vedas, no work can be successfully achieved without the blessings of your ancestors. Pind-daan (ancestor ceremony) is the only religious and spiritual process that helps fulfill parental desires and bring peace and contentment to departed souls.
This ritual of pind-daan (ancestor ceremony) will be performed at Brahma Kapal Ghat on the bank of the Alakananda River to alleviate the effects of ancestral/lineage karma. It can be considered like paying off some debts of your forefathers. This ancestral ceremony will be performed in five to six groups.
Visit to Charan Paduka (footprint of Lord Vishnu’s foot). Charan paduka is situated at a height of 3,380 ft and is located 3 km from the Badrinath Temple. It is said that when Lord Vishnu descended from Vaikunth (the heavenly abode of Lord Vishnu), he stepped on this sacred boulder. The area is a steep climb from the town and this path leads to the foot of Nilkantha peak, which derives its name from Lord Shiva.
The luminous Nilkanth peak is the site where the sun casts its first ray. Reflecting the first glow of dawn into the valley & glittering like a golden temple, Nilkanth embodies all the divinity of this divine land.
Visit to Mana, the last Indian village, located 3 km from Badrinath situated at the Indo-China border, has the historical importance of housing the Vyas Gufa (cave) where Mahabharata was dictated by Veda Vyas to Lord Ganesh and Ganesh Gufa (cave) where Mahabharata was composed and penned down by Shri Ganesh.
Mana is situated on the banks of Saraswati River, which can only be seen here, another prime importance !!!! This river after touching Vyas Gufa, gets merged in the Alaknanda at Keshav Prayag.
Bheem Pul or the Bheem Bridge, a bridge over River Saraswati on the outskirts of Mana village is made of a huge rock. It is believed that when the Pandavas and Draupadi were on their way to Swargarohan (ascent to heaven), Bheem bridged the river with the huge slab to get his wife Draupadi across as she found it difficult to cross the river. The view from the bridge is truly spectacular as it offers an enchanting view of the pristine valley. Vasudhara Falls is only 3 miles from Bheem Pul, but due to extreme climate, going there is difficult. The wind is said to be so strong that someone standing just under the falls will not get wet.