Haridwar vs. Varanasi

#1 Dec 1st, 2007, 02:01
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#1
I'm trying to convince myself that if I see Haridwar, I don't need to go all the way to Varanasi because the two are relatively similar. It seems like most people feel that Varanasi is the most intense and interesting holy city and a must-see, but from what I've read Haridwar also sounds like an extremely interesting place and has a lot of similarities to Varanasi.

Care to compare/contrast?
#2 Dec 1st, 2007, 02:14
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spent nealy a month in varanasi some years back, have been to haridwar a few times have stayed there for a few days or go for the day from rishkesh but no way will i want to stay along time there.
but varanasi is a long haul (but worth it)
#3 Dec 1st, 2007, 02:52
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I've been to Haridwar . . . but have lived for just over a year (over two trips) in Varanasi. I wouldn't go out of my way for Haridwar . . . I'd travel half way around the world for Varanasi.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure - Marianne Williamson
#4 Dec 1st, 2007, 03:37
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OK, good feedback -- why? What is it that makes both of you feel that way?
#5 Dec 1st, 2007, 03:43
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If your time is short and you're up around Haridwar for the rest of the time, I wouldn't try and cram Varanasi in just because you think you have to. Wait til next time and take your time.

Varanasi's bigger and there's more going on. But actually (isn't it weird I feel a bit guilty saying this?) I think I preferred Haridwar. But then I only spent a few days in each place, unlike the previous posters!

Not that I disliked Varanasi, and really the dawn boat-rides and evening arti are very happy memories, but I loved the crowds at Haridwar, the people hanging on chains in the rushing water, going up the hill on the ski-lift to the temple and the wonderful view from the top, and the riverside at night, still pulsing with people.

Ultimately though, they are not the same. Far from it.
#6 Dec 1st, 2007, 05:13
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Tough question tesser . . . has something to do with the fact that Varanasi has been lived-in continuously for over 3000 years . . . one of the three oldest cities on earth . . . but that's not it . . . it's first name was Anandavana - the Forest of Bliss, the Buddha spent winters in the groves of trees that gave it it's name; taught his first sermon after enlightenment nearby in Sarnath . . . but that's not it . . . maybe because it is THE place in India to die; to die there takes you out of samsara . . . Kashi is another of it's names - The City of Light, internal light but external too . . . I've seen over 350 sunrises there, most of them from on the river . . . I wrote the first draft of a book there . . . but those aren't the reasons . . . my flute teacher is there . . . there are no "sites" there, no (in my book) grand glorious examples of this-style-or-that-style of architecture; it is a city of sights; I'm 52 but still a kid when it comes to sunrises; and Varanasi has colors I've never seen anywhere . . . but that's not it . . . it's distilled India, the best of it, the worst . . . every one of my senses gets overrun there . . . it's vibrant . . . it hums . . . and it hums a song I was humming only to myself until I first visited . . . it's all those things . . . but as a whole it exceeds the sum of it's parts . . . amidst the chaos and confusion I can hear my heart beat there . . . maybe that's it . . .
#7 Dec 1st, 2007, 21:48
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#7
Quote:
Originally Posted by tesser7 View Post I'm trying to convince myself that if I see Haridwar, I don't need to go all the way to Varanasi because the two are relatively similar. It seems like most people feel that Varanasi is the most intense and interesting holy city and a must-see, but from what I've read Haridwar also sounds like an extremely interesting place and has a lot of similarities to Varanasi.

Care to compare/contrast?
Depends what your previous India experience is. If you have none, I would recommend just a few homeopathic doses of Varanasi (i.e. a few days only) because it is a very intense city and it can get to you easily. Haridwar is entirely different in that it is in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the Ganga enters the plains. In Haridwar the Ganga is clean, and even you could take a bath (albeit very cold and the river is rapid), while in the stinking broth of Varanasi you don't even want to touch the water.

It also depends on your religious sentiments, if you have any. Haridwar is more natural. Varanasi is extremely touristy. The Ganga-arati there is a sham-imitation of the one in Haridwar and Rishikesh, an embarrassing circus show, clearly just done for the tourists.

The people in Haridwar are the shy type of mountain-dwellers, which i find attractive, being one myself.

Haridwar is the more quiet, relaxed place. If you have time, visit both Haridwar and Varanasi for just a few days each. If you do not have time, take Haridwar, and go to Varanasi next time, because you will come back at any rate.
#8 Dec 2nd, 2007, 00:05
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#8
atala,
Most of what u say about Haridwar wud be correct if u substitute it with Rishikesh.
Just driving from R to H it becomes clear that one is already in the plains, notwithstanding that if u drive on the left bank from Lakshmanjhula/Swargashram via Chila to Chandighat, there is a little undulating terrain initially.

The Ganga clean at Haridwar? That is a very complimentary statement, maybe true in a relative sense compared to the general state of Indian rivers, but in real terms, no! Just that one doesn't notice it as much because of the flow.

Mountain-dwellers? They wud have to have very different names to be considered such. These are not the people of Kedarkhand, if I might get all Puranic for a minute. Their cultural and linguistic affinity is more with the people around them, i.e. plains-folks, streching to Najibabad, even Bijnor, in one direction; Muzaffarnagar in the other. Into the Dun as well, but certainly not uphill.

Geographically and traditionally Rishikesh has always been recognised as where the hill country begins. Or ends.

I have nothing to say on the thread title, becos I have no interest in the religious experience. Haridwar wud get my vote still, simply becos it means I'm very close to where I want to go, up them thar hills! Just being there is a plenty religious experience for me, heheheh.

In fact let me throw in a quote here (I cud only remember the first part, how weird that I see when reading the whole just now that it talks of Varanasi as well):

"He who thinks of the Himalaya, though he should not behold them, is greater than he who performs all worships in Kashi...As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of mankind by the sight of the Himalaya"
- Skand Puran

Going by that, I receive absolution many times a year!
#9 Dec 2nd, 2007, 00:33
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#9
Okay, they may not be mountain-dwellers, but they have an earthier feel than the city folks further down. Anyone travelling thru the rest of India would know what I mean. The Ganga not being clean - well, which river is then in the rest of the world, with acid rain everywhere. Haridwar is the place where the Ganga hits the plains. But you define it as you like, if you want to go at it with a microscope. I was writing for the benefit of someone sitting in New York City, not for someone in Delhi who knows all the answers to everything already.
#10 Dec 2nd, 2007, 01:14
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#10
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Haridwar is the place where the Ganga hits the plains.
Umm, no it's not, as a quick study of the lay of the land suggests, and any number of sources I've read (English and Hindi) say it's Rishikesh. In large print, or large enough to read "normally" anyway. But u have it your way - Haridwar it is then.

I'm sure the heavy sarcasm in the following 2 sentences is quite misplaced.
It's a game 2 can play, BTW.

PS: Nevertheless - I didn't realise that I wasn't supposed to read your post becos it wasn't meant for me, much less respond to it. I do apologise for any inconvenience caused.
#11 Dec 2nd, 2007, 01:46
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#11
Maybe it's because I'm not a believer in homeopathy, but I would not think detouring to visit Varanasi for a few days only would be very worth it. Of all the places I went, it's the one where I really, really wished I had had more time, where I felt I had seen hardly anything. That's true of everywhere I went, but I felt it more in Varanasi for some reason. I still would not recommend detouring wildly to get there for just a couple of days, if that's what the OP would need to do.

Yes, it can get to you, but so can many other places (Agra and Jaipur spring to mind for me, but even landing in Delhi can be a shock.....).

I personally didn't feel people were any different or more "shy" in Haridwar (not that I would caricature people in such a way, or particularly want or expect them to be something anyway).

Finally, I'm fairly sure that bathers and worshippers in the Ganges at Varanasi are as devout and genuine as bathers and worshippers in Haridwar, and the tourist crap is equally touristy and crappy at each. Varanasi's just bigger, so it's got more.

My two penn'th.
#12 Dec 2nd, 2007, 02:46
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#12

Just some context

The OP has 3 weeks (first trip apparently) in India and in a previous post wanted to visit a hill station (Simla) and Varanasi (both from Delhi). Another poster suggested that Simla is not a good intro to Himalayas and suggested some hill stations in Uttarakhand (I agree). I then mentioned that Haridwar is similar to Varanasi (as sacred holy places on the banks of Ganga, places to watch Indian pilgrims) and very close to a variety of fantastic Himalyan experiences (I even gave train distances, Delhi- Haridwar and Delhi Varanasi).
#13 Dec 2nd, 2007, 03:57
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#13
I was not fond of Haridwar. It did not feel especially spiritual to me there, sounds strange, I know, but other places in India have felt overwhelmingly so. Haridwar felt a bit more like an amusement park to me. If I had to choose, it would be Varanasi.

Ok, that said, yes - it IS a fascinating place with interesting people watching. I am sure you would not be bored there for a day or two.
Last edited by machadinha; Dec 2nd, 2007 at 04:46.. Reason: merged posts
#14 Dec 2nd, 2007, 11:52
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Haridwar vs. Varanasi
A contiuation from previous post.
First time spent a few days in Varanasi,felt it was not enough so in a later visit spent a much longer time.
Nearly every visit we have to India end up in Rishkesh, (quite a few times have friends there) and apart from spending once two days in Haridwar dont feel the urge to travel to Haridwar (1/2 hour away from Rishkesh)- they do have a lovley market but so do other places,and as far as a holy place -intresting but nothing to compete with Varanasi
Did a quick poll with wife,without thinking the reply was Varanasi, SO.....
You are getting so many conflicting replies! - Toss up a Coin! and the next time go to the one you didn't see
#15 Dec 2nd, 2007, 11:57
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#15
Thanks everyone for your replies -- I really wish I could just fit them both in, but I guess I'm going to go to Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Mussoorie instead of Varanasi this time. Just makes more sense for such a short trip.

I really appreciate the responses and am already looking forward to going to Varanasi at some point in the future!

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