Haridwar, literally Gateway to God, is one of the Hindu holy places in India and a center of Hindu religion and mysticism for centuries. Located on the banks of River Ganges Ganga, at the point where the Ganges descends from the hills to the North Indian plains, Haridwar attracts a large number of Hindu pilgrims from all over the world.


Haridwar is the site of many religious festivals. Most notably, once every twelve years it is the venue for the Kumbh Mela, humanity's largest festival, which drew a record 70 million in 2003. The festival rotates between Haridwar and Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik. The Ardh Mela, or "half mela", is held every six years. The last Maha Kumbh Mela was in 2010, and the next Ardh Mela will be in 2016.

Other yearly festivals include:

Kanwar Mela
July. The largest yearly festival, drawing up to 300,000 visitors.
Somwati Amavasya
July. Almost as large as the Kanwar Mela.
Kartik Purnima
held 15 days after Diwali on the first night of the full moon in November.

While the festivals are colorful and fascinating, they also strain the town's limited infrastructure to the breaking point and sometimes beyond. Book rooms and tickets well in advance, and avoid travel by road as the traffic jams can be horrendous.