Hinduism is perhaps the most complex of all the religions. With 330 million deities Hinduism sure can be difficult for any non-Hindu to comprehend. Although it is limited to only a handful of countries, the mere fact that it is the main religion in the second most populous country in the world, India, means that there are millions of followers of Hinduism. Varanasi and Haridwar two of the most important seats of Hinduism and both of them are part of the Sapta Puri, the seven sacred cities of Hinduism.
If you have heard somewhere or from someone that Varanasi and Haridwar are one and all then you are misinformed. These two are completely different places. If someone wants to know Hinduism in depth, a visit to both these cities is a must for them.
Varanasi is a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and is situated on the banks of the holy River Ganges (Ganga). It is also known as Kashi or Banaras. It is not just the oldest city in India but is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities worldwide.
Varanasi first found mention in the Rigveda where it was called the city of Lord Shiva, one of the three primary deities in Hinduism, the other two being Brahma and Vishnu. For the Hindus, death in this holy city brings salvation. This is the reason why so many Hindus have their last rites conducted in Varanasi.
Also called the religious capital of India and the city of temples, Varanasi is also famous for being one of the most important seats of learning. The Banaras Hindu University is located here and it is one of the prominent academic institutions in the country.
Apart from being an important city for Hindus, Varanasi is also important for two other religions – Buddhism and Jainism. Sarnath is a place close to Varanasi and this is where Lord Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon.
Haridwar is one of the most ancient cities of India and it is situated on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. This is the city where the River Ganges enters the great Indian plains. Haridwar is, thus, also known as Gangadwara.
Along with Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjain, Haridwar is believed to be the place where Amrit drops or drops of immortality were spilled. The exact spot where the drops fell is known as Har ki Pauri, the most sacred ghat in Haridwar. A ghat is a series of steps that lead to water, the River Ganges in this case.
Haridwar is the location for the most important Hindu congregation of all, the Kumbh Mela. This event is held every 12 years and attracts millions of devotees not only from India but outside too. During the Kumbh Mela the devotees take holy dips in the River Ganges to wash off their sins.
Varanasi is said to be founded by Lord Shiva. The earliest settlement, as per the archeological remains, is believed to be in the 11th or 12th Century BC.
The foundation of Haridwar is sometimes attributed to King Bhagirath. King Bhagirath, to remove the curse of Kapila Muni on his 60,000 ancestors, is said to have brought the Ganges from the heavens and this is when Haridwar was formed.
Locations of Varanasi and Haridwar
Varanasi is located to the 200 miles south-east of Lucknow, the state capital. Haridwar is located 157 miles from the source of the River Ganges. The distance between these two cities is about 530 miles.
Areas of interest
Both Varanasi and Haridwar are known for their temples. A visit to these temples is a must for a tourist not only to know about Hinduism, but also from the cultural and historical points of view.
In Varanasi the main areas of interest are the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Sarnath, Ramnagar Museum and Ramnagar Fort, Asi Ghat, Dashaswamedh Ghat and the Asoka Pillars.
In Haridwar one must visit the Bharat Mata Temple, the Chandi Devi Temple, Har Ki Pauri, Neeldhara Bird Sanctuary and the Vishnu Ghat.
Varanasi and Haridwar are the two most important cities for Hindus. The former is in Uttar Pradesh and the latter is in Uttarakhand.
Varanasi is situated in the Indian plains and Haridwar is where the River Ganges enters the Indian plains.
Apart from the Hindus, Varanasi is also important for Buddhists and Jains while Haridwar is one of the holiest cities for Hindus.
- The areas of interest in both these cities are important from religious and historical aspects.