Haridwar, Uttar Pradesh
The city of Haridwar is spiritually dominated by its famous Har-Ki-Pairi Ghat. However, the city is also home to many temples. Among these are three of the best known temples in India that are dedicated to goddesses. These are the Chandi Devi Temple, the Mansa Devi Temple and the Maya Devi Temple. Built across many centuries, these three temples represent both old and new architecture, as well as one of the most easily accessed mountaintop temples in India.
Worship of the various Hindu goddesses in Haridwar can be traced back well over a thousand years. In fact, many of the temples here honor various incarnations of the goddess Shakti. Shakti, also known as the Great Divine Mother, is one of the greatest of deities in the Hindu cycle, and few places honor her with more enthusiasm than Haridwar.
Early temples to Shakti can be traced back at least as far as the 8th century BC. One of the oldest, the Chandi Devi Temple (dedicated to the incarnation Chandi) is long gone. According to tradition, it is said that the Goddess Chandi did battle a pair of demon kings here and defeated them. While the original temple commemorating this event is no longer standing, a newer temple constructed in the 20th century can be visited.
The Mansa Devi Temple and the Maya Devi Temple, dedicated to the incarnations Mansa and Maya respectively, were both built in the Middle Ages and still active. The Maya Devi Temple is said to have been constructed on the spot where remains of the immolated body of another deity, Sati, ended up after her death.
While Haridwar had been a major pilgrimage destination since the legendary days of the arrival of the Ganges River, it really took off in the Middle Ages as a major worship center for Hindu’s goddesses. Most pilgrims to the city make a point of visiting one or more of these temples when they come to Haridwar to bathe in the Ganges.
The Chandi Devi Temple is generally considered to be Haridwar’s most important, if not most visited temple. A relative latecomer, the current temple was completed in 1929. Architecturally it is a less-than attractive, run-down looking modern structure. What it lacks in aesthetics however it makes up for in its magnificent views from its high mountain purchase.
The Mansa Devi Temple, also located on the mountain near the Chanda Devi, is a much more impressive building. Its red walls and white spire-domes peak out from the surrounding foliage like a beacon over the city. Both of these temples are on the north side of Haridwar and represent the last bit of civilization before the Himalayas. They are accessible both by a climb on foot and by a breathtaking cable car ride.
The Maya Devi Temple is a more ancient and simple shrine, located in the city along the Ganges River about a half-mile south of the Har-Ki-Pairi Ghat. It is home to shrines of the goddesses Kamakhya and Kali as well as Maya. As of this writing no visitor information was available for these temples. Web: www.haridwartourism.in (official website).
Haridwar has many temples and sites of religious interest, the most important being the Har-Ki-Pairi Ghat, where Vishnu left a footprint and the Ganges reaches its most sacred point. Other sites include the Pawan Dham Temple and the Bharat Mata Temple.