Haridwar is like Varanasi Light. It too is a major Hindu pilgrimage destination along the Ganges River with lots of pilgrims praying and holy men smoking hash along the sacred river, yet Haridwar is much smaller and there are no corpses being burned next to the water. Plus it's upstream where the river enters the plains from the mountains so the sacred Ganges' water is freezing, fully rejuvenating and relatively clean. Haridwar also hosts humanity's largest festival, Kumbh Mela, which brought together more than 70 million visitors in 2003 and takes place every 12 years.

Receiving blessing

Donation boxes and altars

There were plenty of officials in Haridwar soliciting donations from pilgrims and tourists. They were especially active before the daily evening aarti as seen here...They way they spoke and then went around the crown reminded me of the guys collecting money in the mega-churches of the Bible Belt. Yet here in Haridwar some of these money collectors were quite aggressive. After encouraging one to come over for a blessing and prasad, the priests also demanded money. One guy grabbed ahold of my arm and demanded money in a crowded temple and so I gave him a rupee coin (like two cents) before I managed to squirm away.

These guys would provide a receipt so that you had proof of your donation's legitimacy and to have evidence of your devotion I guess?

Aarti at dusk in Haridwar, a vivid religious celebration lining the banks of the River Ganges.

The riverside was busy with activity. Hindus come from all over the country to get in the water and purify themselves.

Following the evening aarti, Indians gathered around to touch the sacred fire and to spread its energy into themselves.

So many humans begging...old ladies, holy men, boys and girls missing limbs...supposedly it is common for beggar children to be maimed at a young age so that they will earn more begging. And there are a wide variety of amputees with their hands stretched out in Haridwar...

Staircases to the ghats were lined with beggars.

I love the ORANGE that is everywhere in India...on these temples, the clothes of holy men, etc.

Fresh orange and pineapple juice

red tikka powder

Shaving on the street

Though it often seems that trash pick-up does not exist in India, here it is in action...

On the train

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