Excerpts from my Study Abroad in India journal...
During our month-long intensive language sojourn in Mussoorie, we were given weekends off. Every weekend, we set out to a new neighboring destination to witness a different facet of Indian society and life. One weekend, we really wanted to go to Varanasi, but the 14-hour train ride was enough to deter us and change our destination. We were told Haridwar would be a cleaner and much closer alternative to Varanasi, so Hardiwar it was.
Stampedes of people. Everywhere.
We headed to the riverbanks of the Ganges River for the nightly prayer ritual where scores of sadhus (saints) and devotees flocked together, and as daylight segued into dusk, the number of people flooding the ghats only seemed to quadruple. Though overpowering, yet amazing, we were not able to see even one inch of concrete on the ghats by the time the sun started setting. People were bathing in the holy river, laying out ashes of loved ones to float away, chanting Hindu prayers, and getting blessings from Hindu priests. The sacred river was the ultimate panacea, for many.
While learning about the idea of cremation, I had always heard about the holy Ganges River where people dumped ashes of their loved ones and now I finally got to see it, and what a sight it was to behold. You can go at any time of the day, but especially at night when the prayers and chants are going on, and you’ll be met with hordes of devout Hindus, foreigners, spiritual gurus, yogis, etc. The scintillating sight practically brought chills down my spine, but I imagine it would resonate even more if I were Hindu, or even just religious/spiritual for that matter.
With that said, I would highly recommend Haridwar. It’s worth a visit at least once, just to experience the city’s vibrant aura. Yet another colorful part of !ncredible India.
Read another excerpt :: Living High: A Himalayan Experience