At Haridwar, "God's Gateway," the Ganges leaves the Himalayas and enters the plains.  It has a long history, but was undeveloped until about 1800, and even now the summer (when it serves as the gateway to the Himalayas) is much busier than the winter "off" season.  In recent years this pattern has shifted as Delhi residents buy second homes around Haridwar, both for religious reasons, and because it is relatively unpolluted (unlike Delhi). 

This July 1996 photo shows the bathing ghat at Har-Ki-Pairi, the town's most important site.  Note the domed temple at far left.

Here's close-up shot of some of Har-ki-Pairi's temples.  The British enlarged the bathing ghat in the 1820s, and these temples date from that time or later.  The upper left temple has a dome rather than a spire, which is unusual for contemporary Hindu temple architecture.  Since the 1820s the ghat has been enlarged several times, most recently in 1986.



These steps here are the oldest part of the ghat (built by the British in the 1820s), which in earlier days was a narrow fan-shaped stairway between various buildings.  The little platforms (takhts) are the "offices" for pilgrimage priests called pandas, who sit on them to wait for their clients (the umbrellas are to keep the scorching summer sun off them).  Aside from facilitating rituals, pandas also safeguard peoples' things while they bathe

This picture was taken in June 2002.


The larger temple to the left is the Lakshmi-Narayan temple; even though it bears a sign claiming to have been built in 1867, photographs from the mid-1930s clearly show it being constructed then.  The smaller of the two small spires lies over the footprint of Vishnu, from which Har-ki-Pairi gets its name.  This was taken early in the morning in June 2002, this is the busiest time of day in a busy time of the year. 


Hindu tradition tends to value the old over the new, and presents itself as uninterrupted from ancient times,  but the reality is more complex.  The unfinished temple in the center (with the Lakshmi-Narayan temple is the Ganga temple.  Local tradition recounts that it was built by Raja Man Singh, who was a vassal of the Moghul emperor Akbar (d. 1605).  Although this claim cannot be historically verified, I do believe that this is the oldest temple in Haridwar, and the bathing pool to the left of the temple is the most important bathing place.  Still, as with many sites, the original building (the one with the domed room at far right in the first photo on this page) has largely disappeared. 

This temple also reveals other sorts of things.  This renovation began in late 1997, but was halted in February 1008 by a lawsuit filed by several local groups claiming that the temple guardians did not have the right to make such sweeping changes.  This picture was taken in June 2002, but the case was not yet resolved in summer 2006, and may not be for some time. 

This, of course, shows the way that differing local interests attempt to control temples and their resources (such as the pilgrims' offerings), revealing the economic and social forces working hand in hand with religious ones. 


The temple in the center is one of the few privately owned temples on this ghat; most of the temples are owned by the Niranjani Akhara, who lease them out at to local people at an annual rate. 


These are the final temples in the line, which is effectively ended by the pedestrian bridge at the left.  The temple on the far left is a Ganesh temple, and there are a collection of small "storefront" temples to the right.  This whole complex is always beautifully kept up, since presentation is an important element in generating patronage.

More photos of Haridwar

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Last modified 25 December 2003