Haridwar, Rishikesh & Neelkanth - a short excusion
Haridwar - Haridwar is approximately 210 Kms. from Delhi and around 5 hours drive from Delhi. Ithas been ahot bed of Hinduism over the eons and even it's name elicits strong response from its followers, whereas Shivaites (Har)prefer to call it Hardwar, followers of lordVishnu (Hari) prefer to call it as Haridwar. At Haridwar you can watch the confluence of Hindus coming from all over the country belonging to every strata of Society. Mythologically also it finds mention in the Skand puran and has been referred to as Mayapuri, Kapila and Gangdwar(being the first Cirty to emerge on banks of Ganga when it emerges from the mountains - Himalayas). Terracotta findings in the place establish its existence between the 12th to 17th Century B.C. It is beleived that one drop of Amrit (Elixir of life) spilled over from the Kumbh and fell at Bramhkund in Har ki pairi (footsteps of Lard Vishnu are said to be imprinted here and Ganga touches the feet here) and devouts believe that a holy dip in the river here leads to eternal bliss/heaven and washing away of all their sins. The city is also known for its Mahakumbh which takes place every 12 years, last one being heldin 1998. The evening Aarti of Ganga is a treat to watch and is held during the evening every day.
Around Haridwar - Around Hardwar there is the Chandi DeviTemple situated at a hill top opposite Har ki pairi called the Neel Parvat. According to the legend the Commander of the Army of demons called Chanda-Munda was defeated in a battle by godess Chandi and hence the name. Just behind the Har ki pauri on top the hill known as Bilwa Parvat is situated the famous Mansa Devi temple. She is the benefector godess / Adhisthatri of Haridwar and it is said that it is one of the sidh peeth where the heart & navel of Sati fell. The other note worthy visiting sites are Daksh Mahaadev Temple & Sati Kund situated in Kankhal which is 4 Kms. away from Haridwar. Bhim goda tank - 1 Kms. from Har ki pairi. Sapt Rishi Ashram which is around 5 Kms. away from Haridwar on Rishikesh Road where Ganga is said to have split into seven distributaries so as not to disturb the seven Rishis meditating there.
Rishikesh - is situated 30 Kms. upstream from Haridwar. The place is associated with lord Ram who is said to have done penance here on advise of sage Vashistha before embarking on his mission to kill Ravana. Mythologically it is beleived that after long penance by sage Rabiya Rishi, god named Hrishikesh appeared before him and the place derives the name from this. It is the starting point for the Char dham yatra in Uttranchal. There are many ashrams in the vicinity of this quaint township.
Neelkanth Mahadev - is 32 Kms from Rishikesh and is connected by Taxis which run on shared basis as well as can be hired individually. The place derives its name from the mytholigical event of Samudra Manthan wherein the venom/vish generated during the manthan /churningwas gulped down by Lord Shiva and held in his throat (Kanth in hindi)because of which his body turned blue (Neel in hindi) and hence the place is known as Neelkanth. The temple situated here boasts of South India style architecture and has a huge silver Shivling situated inside.