Difference between Varanasi and Haridwar
Varanasi, better known as Kashi or Benaras, is one of the prime Hindu pilgrimage centers of India. Varanasi is believed to be the oldest city in the country and its origin is until now, unknown. Varanasi was referred to by Mark Twain as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.
Referred to as the ‘Gateway of God’, Haridwar is a holy place and another Hindu religious center. Haridwar is located on the banks of the Ganges at the point where the river descends from the hills towards the North Indian plains.
Varanasi attracts a large number of tourists from all corners of the world thanks to its ancient charm and spirituality. Spiritualism, philosophical and religious ideology and mysticism are reflected in its temples and ashrams. Besides Hinduism, Varanasi can also be linked with Buddhism and Jainism. The museum at the Sarnath (which is a short distance away) houses remnants of the age-old tradition of Buddhism such as the Ashoka pillar and other Buddhist relics. Along with the Durga temple, Sankat Mochan, Viswanath and Bharat Mata temples, there’s also the Alamgir mosque which is a culmination of Hindu and Islamic architectural beauty.
Haridwar, on the other hand has a long chain of temples that are very important to Hindus. It attracts tourists to other places around it like Rishikesh, Chila Wildlife Sanctuary and Triveni Ghat. The surrounding temples of Vaishno Devi, Neelkanth Mahadev, and Mansa Devi are also prominent pilgrimage destinations.
Fairs and Festivals
Due to its religious and cultural heritage and importance, Varanasi is always abuzz, almost year round, with numerous fairs and festivals. The weather here makes it convenient for tourists to visit this place. The festivities never seem to end in Varanasi and are celebrated with the utmost gaiety. Haridwar, being one of the holiest places in the country attracts devotees from all corners of the world. Kumbh Mela is the most special event here and it is said to date back to the creation of the Universe. Hindus assemble to take a dip in the Ganges River with the belief that it washes off their sins.
Ganges and the Ghats
People throng to the ghats of the Ganges, whether in Varanasi or in Haridwar for morning prayers, funerals and various other religious functions and events. Daswamedha Ghat of Varanasi witnesses the most fabulous evening prayer, alight with hundreds of oil lamps every evening, while the Triveni Ghat of Haridwar is the most interesting during dawn where one gets to see people flocking to feed the fish and offer milk to the Ganges.
Similarities and Differences
- Varanasi has comfortable temperatures all year round, ensuring a great influx of visitors.
- Several temples, pilgrimage centers and ancient ghats form places of interest for tourists in Varanasi.
- The best time to visit Haridwar is between October and March.
- Kumbh Mela is the most important event and Haridwar flourishes during this time.