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 II The Ganges Tour II

The Ganges in India is the most sacred river. Hindus belive its waters to have flowed eternally, for its source is said to be the submit of "Mount Meru", the mysthical mountain at the center of universe and the abode of the gods. From there the river descends to the earth via shiva's matted hair, which supports its fall. It is worshiped by hindus as Goddess Ganga (Prayer of Ganga : Gangaji ki Aarti). The great cities of Varanasi, hardwar and Allahabad on its banks are most important pilgrimage sites in India. Pilgrims bathe in the Ganges to clean themselves of the karma of previous and current lives, and to ensure an auspicious rebirth.

Hardwar:
Hardwar's Importance as a sacred city is derived from its position and the supposed spiritual purity of its water, which is carried by the pilgrims to every corner of the subcontienent for the use of purification ceremonies. Haridwar is considered as one of the seven holiest places according to Hindu mythology. According to the legends, when the Gods left their footprints on the land of Haridwar, metaphorically they also left an indelible mark on the spiritual ethos of every Hindu - more so, the devout, who would later follow their holy paths all across this blessed land. Haridwar, due to its geographical location stands as the gateway to the four pilgrimages of Uttrakhand. Mentioned as Mayapuri, Gangadwar, and Mokshadwar in the ancient scriptures and epics, Haridwar has always remained as a major Shaktipeeth for the devotees. Of such significance is Haridwar in the thought of India's traditional Hindus that it has earned its sobriquet of honor, `the gateway to the Gods' The Ganga leaves the mountains and enters the plains with Hardwar being the first major town on the plains. Though the Ganges does not lose its rapids completely nevertheless it becomes very quite and calm here. The water is clean and people prefer taking bath on the numerous ghats built on the river shores. It is said that taking bath here purifies the soul and opens the way for the ultimate freedom, Nirvana. Though all the Hindu festivals are celebrated here with pomp and gaiety, it is the Ardh Kumbh which attracts the mind of any tourist to this place. The Ardh Kumbh is held every six years. It is said that a holy dip in the river Ganges during the Kumbh gives you Moksha or Nirvana. Kawad is other major event which takes place in Hardwar every year.Ten days before Shivteras, during the Hindu months of Shravan & Phalgun, corresponding to the months of July and August, thousands of devotees throng Haridwar, all the way walking bare feet, to collect holy waters of the river Ganga. Then they carry it back to their hometown & offer it at the local Shiv Temple.
Varanasi
Varanasi attracts more pilgrims than any other sacred tiratha in India. Auspiciously situated on the bend of the Ganges where the river flows northward,its ancient name is Kashi "the city of light"; it is presided over by Shiva in his manifestation as Vishvanatha, the lord of universe. The ganges water is said to symboloze Shiva's immanent power (Shakti). Varanasi is also sacred to buddhist and Jains.
Allahabad
Allahabad also known as prayag ("Place of sacrifice"), as Lord brahma is said to have perfermed sacrifice there.Its importance as a great pilgrimage site derives from its situation at the confluence of the Ganges and yamuna rivers and the mysthical river of Sarasvati, which is supposed to have flow invisibly into the ganges from its sacred underground course.



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