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Wishes Granted In Haridwar, India
The Mansa Devi Temple
High atop a hill, overlooking one of the holiest places in all of India, sits the Mansa Devi Temple. Inside devotees worship the Goddess Mansa Devi who, it is said, will fulfill the wishes of anyone that makes the pilgrimage to see her.
Located in Haridwar (in the state of Uttaranchal Pradesh) the Temple is reached by a brightly colored cable car that winds its way up Bilwa Parvat hill. For the more adventurous there is also a trekking trail complete with numerous mischievous monkeys who enjoy stealing tourists cameras, bags, hats and any other objects they find particularly appealing. In the morning light the views over Haridwar and the river Ganges are stunning.
Once inside a host of vendors greet you. There is a small marketplace where you can buy all manner of offerings to give to the different deities installed at the Temple. Beautiful flower garlands, coconuts, incense sticks and jewellery are just some of the wares for sale.
Around every corner, tucked neatly into alcoves, you will find a statue representing the many Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu religion. They are each dressed and covered in devotional offerings, the vibrant colors and fragrances intoxicating. Holy men sit along the route to the inner sanctum just waiting to give blessings to the pilgrims.
Make A Wish
In a small room in the back of the Temple the final Holy man sits to aid you in your offering to the Goddess Mansa Devi. He blesses the string that is part of the ritual to have your wish granted. The offering consists of tying a string around a sacred tree that stands in the corner and asking for Mansa Devi's help in fulfilling your secret desire. Whenever your wish is granted (however long that may take) you are then required to return to the Temple, make an offering and untie a string from the sacred tree. If you do not return to pay homage to the Goddess, it is said that she becomes angry and turns your good fortune into a curse. So, as the old adage says "Be careful what you wish for."
Haridwar is located at the foot of the Himalayas where the river Ganges first flows onto the plains. It is one of the seven holy sites in the Hindu religion and one of the four sacred places to hold the Kumbh Mela every 12 years. The 'gateway to the Gods' Haridwar was blessed by Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, with Vishnu apparently leaving his footprint behind embedded in a stone near Har-ki-Pauri ghat.
Every evening at dusk along the ghat the incredible ceremony of Aarti is performed. The combination of fire, drums, bells, chanting and prayer is a spectacular display not to be missed. Watching the thousands of flower and candle offerings bobbing out of sight in the darkness is sublime.
Along with the Temples and Aarti, Haridwar offers a unique glimpse into Indian culture and traditions. Many Sadhus (renunciates covered in ash) live in makeshift shelters along the banks of the Ganges here and will provide a rather painful blessing to you if you so desire. (The blessing consists of being pinched where your third eye is located and then hit over the head.) Pilgrims come with their families from all over India for a chance to bathe in the clean flowing waters of Mother Ganga and you witness many people ritually shaving their heads down by the rivers edge.
The spectacular natural beauty of this spot is also something to behold. Witnessing the purity of the Ganges and the foothills of the Himalayas you can begin to understand why this place is held in such high regard within the Hindu community.
The closest airport to Haridwar is the Jolly Grant in Dehradun. From there you make the rest of the journey by car. Trains are the usual mode of transportation into Haridwar and run frequently. The best time of year to visit is October-March.
And remember on your trip to Haridwar to beware the devilish monkeys. They are quick and bold!