rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Getahead » Photos: In heaven's gateway

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Last updated on: March 28, 2013 17:11 IST

Photos: In heaven's gateway

     Next

Next
Subir Roy

Haridwar keeps sprawling out, but lives round its core — the Ganga.

Ringed by green hills, the river's light blue waters keep racing night and day so as not to be late for their appointment with mortals after having risen from amidst the gods.


Photographs: Reuters Photographer/Reuters
Tags:

     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Little has changed at this core around Har ki Pauri in the four decades since I first visited as a college student along with my parents. This time, the peace is broken by the clanging of heavy machinery, deployed after an administrative order, demolishing the ashram of a land-grabbing mahant.

Greed and its consequences are very much present in today's "gateway to the gods".


Photographs: Ekabhishek/Creative Commons
Tags:

Prev     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The two kilometre-odd promenade on the eastern bank of the river should take pride of place among the key spots in this pilgrim town. But it stops short. Wide and evenly paved, with mountain-fresh water flowing rapidly on one side, it is peopled by all manner of dropouts.

They are mostly men, usually thin (the ganja has taken its toll), bearded and wrapped in evil-smelling blankets. Every so often there is a whiff of urine.


Photographs: Naresh Dhiman/Creative Commons
Tags:

Prev     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The best face of Haridwar is its shopkeepers and street vendors. Helpful and not out to con you, they will happily direct you to where you can get exactly what you are looking for. I enter a basic restaurant after a vigorous morning walk and ask for puri, and then casually enquire about the best puri shop in town.

I am carefully directed to Mohan Ji Puri Wale. They lose custom and win esteem.


Photographs: Liz Highleyman/Creative Commons
Tags:

Prev     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The high-water mark of a regular day in Haridwar remains the aarti to the Ganga at Har ki Pauri as the sun sets. In the gathering dark, the offerings and lamps that are floated into the water by the devotees bob up and down and race ahead like dancing fireflies.

The idyll is partly spoilt by aggressive, intimidating, ID-tagged, modern-uniformed volunteers of the temple collecting "donations".


Photographs: Ekabhishek/Creative Commons
Tags:

Prev     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The faith of the devotees is palpable, seemingly unchanged since pre-history. Modernity has come through the myriad cell phone cameras capturing the aarti, even as the phones are held high and impede the view.

This is bearab#8804 but then a gauche young man comes and stands right in front of a group of women, ruining their view. They look severely disappointed, but say nothing.

I am ready to pick a fight, but realise that I am far behind the level of tolerance and equanimity these women have achieved.


Photographs: Gerardo Diego Ontiveros/Creative Commons
Tags:

Prev     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Modernity and tradition also blend in the young boy in English-medium school uniform, complete with a necktie, who rushes out to the halwai next door to buy milk and deposit it home, just in time to pick up his satchel as the school bus trundles.

I wonder if Sanskrit is part of his curriculum.


Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
Tags:

Prev     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Our day is made by our friends, the couple from Kolkata, who have settled down there. They are veteran foresters and nature lovers, having honed their knowledge from the jungles of Palamu.

They take us for a long drive across the river through a part of the Rajaji National Park. If God's in his heaven, then it must be nearabouts. They point out to us trees laden with red berries, which used to yield the dye to make sindoor before chemicals came.


Photographs: Fubu19/Creative Commons
Tags:

Prev     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

While driving us around, our friend gives us a long lecture on the migratory paths of elephants and how these have been vivisected, creating trauma for the beasts, who wreak havoc on nearby villages. He relishes not having to meet very many people. In a day, sometimes he gets a single phone call. He and the spouse are poles apart. She is a dynamo whose cup of things to do will be running over once the large free hospital being built by their ashram nearby gets going.

The highway we take to get back to Haridwar is being widened. It is littered on both sides with the stumps of tree trunks, felled to make way for the growing number of cars bringing more and more people  to the gateway to heaven. Then tumbles out the critical factoid: property prices are shooting up.


Photographs: Sabyk2001/Creative Commons
Tags:

Prev     Next

Photos: In heaven's gateway

Prev     More
Prev

More

But pilgrim towns have a way of remaining eternal. Early in the morning, the main road from the railway station to Har ki Pauri carries streams of villagers, headmen herding their flocks, walking to get a glimpse of Ganga Mai and a dip that will wash away life's sins and sorrows.

Should you wish to make a permanent retreat to Haridwar, you will need an effort -- determinedly fashion a world out of the pluses and minus at hand as an act of faith.

But that is what faith is.


Photographs: Wolfgang Maehr/Creative Commons
Tags:

Prev     More
Source: