A day or two should suffice to see the sites in Haridwar but the Ganga easily lures the visitor to stay longer.
Har ki Pauri
This ghat is believed to be the exact spot where the holy Ganga enters the plains. This is also the site where divine nectar fell from the celestial kumbh. The Kumbh Mela is held here. The River Ganga enters the sacred Brahmakund from one side and exits from the other. Nowhere is the water in the kund more than waist-high. But the Ganga flows very swiftly and only the expert must try swimming unassisted. Chains and rails have been provided to enable pilgrims to hold on to, and have a safe snan here. The Ganga Mandir and Haricharan Mandir are here. Har ki Pauri gets its name from the feet (pauri) of Lord Vishnu (Hari). The footprints of the lord, the Vishnucharanpaduka, are believed to be imprinted on the wall beneath the swiftly swirling waters of the Ganga at this ghat. A priest will be able to guide you to reach and touch it.
Attending the evening aarti at the Har ki Pauri is a must for any pilgrim, several times over if possible. Author Khushwant Singh is known to have declared that he had not come across a more moving and beautiful ceremony than this. As the crowds begin to gather and the loudspeaker announcements keep getting more strident, the ab se kuch hee der mein (in just a little while) stretches to three quarters of an hour. Be wary of people walking around with receipt books trying to take donations. While the aarti itself is held on the promenade above Brahmakund, running southwards from Har ki Pauri, a better view can be had from the other side of the stream. Timings vary as per season, but the aarti is always held soon after sunset, and it's sensible to reach about 30 mins before sunset to secure a place in one of the best viewing spots.
On a clear day, the pilgrim should not forget to look directly northwards from Har ki Pauri where, from a distance of over 150 km, snowy Himalayan peaks can be seen. This sight can be enjoyed in relative peace if the visitor walks northwards along the river, away from the crowds.
*Location 11/2 km from railway station
*Related info Pilgrims on the Char Dham Yatra are traditionally required to have a bath at the Har ki Pauri at the beginning of their journey. The first day of Visakha (Apr-May) is considered very auspicious for a Ganga snan and thousands throng to the Har ki Pauri then. Other important days are Purnimas, especially Karthik Purnima in December, Amavasyas, the solar and lunar eclipses, Ekadashis and Ganga Dussehra (the day on which the Ganga is said to have been given to Bhagirath as Bhagirathi by Lord Shiva). Rituals are performed for ancestors and the ashes of the dead cast into the Ganga at the southern end of the ghat. Since the Ganga's flow has been curtailed by the controversial Tehri Dam Project, peak water flow periods coincide with farm irrigation periods in areas downstream of Haridwar. When the flow of the river to the Ganga Canal is restrained, as it sometimes happens, the Brahmakund becomes a muddy decoction of water and litter. The Ganga aarti is still held but if you happen to be in Haridwar at such a time, the disappointment will be great. Non-Hindus are not allowed on the Har ki Pauri Ghat but can bathe in the river and view the aarti from the platform-like island here