Friday, 28 November 2014

Haridwar - City of Colours

It's pretty cool that after leaving Varanasi, which must have been the greyest, gloomiest, most shadowy city that we visited in India, our next destination was Haridwar, easily the most multicoloured, vibrant city on our journey. Like Varanasi, it's a holy city where people from all around flock to bathe in a river, though up here in the mountains of Uttarakhand, it's a much cleaner affair. In Varanasi, the Ganges looks like a fetid, moving swamp, whereas in Haridwar it's much cooler and more crystalline. Granted, this is India so I'd be surprised if it's that clean, but at least it looks the part. In any case, while it might not have the same wow-factor as Varanasi, it's a much more accessible, relaxing place for a tourist to explore, with fewer touts and a much more sanitary atmosphere.

We took an overnight train from Varanasi to Haridwar.
Catching a train in India: an exercise in tackling crowds and attempting to read signs in Hindi.
Passing some countryside in the evening.
We forgot to bring snacks, and around dinner time we were pretty hungry. So while the train stopped at one station, I rushed onto the platform to buy a pre-packed meal. Once back on board, it turned out Angela had also bought some meals from a vendor walking down the aisles. In any case, we ate the one I bought, and saved the other for the morning. After we finished, I looked for a trash can to get rid of the plastic dishes. A man on the train told me just to throw them out the window. I was a little taken aback at first, but seeing as that's exactly what Indians do, I flung the trash outside, and saw some homeless people scramble across the tracks to collect it.
The next morning we woke up right at the moment the train reached Haridwar, almost missing our stop! We soon took a tuk-tuk to our hotel.
Soon enough, it was time to explore Haridwar. We started by walking along the river, which was filled with orange flowers that were part of a riverside blessing.

Just like at Varanasi, there were lots of people in the water, either bathing or committing rituals or gathering something from the riverbed.

Soon we reached Har Ki Pauri, the revered ghat that draws the largest crowds of pilgrims in Haridwar. Hindus regard it as the exact spot where the Ganges leaves the mountains and enters the plains.
If Varanasi seemed like an eerie bathhouse for ghosts, then Har Ki Pauri seemed like a multicoloured family water park.

A huge Lord Shiva statue guards the town to the east.

While Haridwar was cleaner than many of the cities we visited in India, it still had its share of poverty, with hundreds of beggars lined up along the ramparts surrounding the main ghat.

As if the ghats hadn't already been colourful enough, Haridwar's main shopping street was a kaleidoscopic explosion of pigments, paints, and pandemonium.

That evening we ate another delicious Thali Set for dinner. This one was especially delectable. That raita, man. That raita.
Back on the streets, we went for a tour of the nightmarket.

We also saw some of the evening Aarti ritual, in which people place lighted wicks soaked in ghee onto the river as offerings to their gods.

Back into the busy markets.

We got some street food, something we've avoided for the most part in India, but this was dessert food and it looked pretty clean.

Coming next, my last blogpost from Asia: the mountainous capital of yoga, Rishikesh.


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