Haridwar is synonymous with the famous Ganga Arti at Har ki Paudi, rope ways at Chanda-Mansadevi. Every where you go there are hordes of pilgrims, which have given birth to hundreds of Vikram Rickshaws and Cycle Richkshaws blocking the road with hotels, dhabas, shops selling religious paraphernalia and offices of private tour operators on both the sides. An ordinary pilgrim wonders if he will really find peace of mind in this chaos. Even I was posed with the same question and I found an answer for myself that too in the affirmative.
The best way to know a place is by foot. After having visited all the tourist spots shown by the local sight seeing bus, I wanted to embark upon something which is not there on the tourist itinerary. So I ventured out and serendipitously stumbled upon a paradise, in the crowded pilgrim city, known as Gauri kund.
Gauri kund is located near the famous temple of Bilkeshwar. Gauri kund is the place where Mata Parvati carried out a penance for three thousand years to have Shiva as her husband.
Bilkeshwar temple is located on a hillock. On my way to the hillock I found a small shrine devoted to Panchmukhi Mahadev. I had seen panchmuki, dashmukhi elephant but Shiva Lingam with five faces was a rarity.
The climb to the hillock was pleasant with trees every where you saw. The atmosphere was pleasant. There were hardly any visitors. Locals boys played cricket in the courtyard. I entered Bilkeshwar temple and paid by obeisances. The temple appears to be built rather renovated during the recent times.
A small arch from the Bilkeshwar temple premises leads to the Prachin Gauri Kund. As I entered the arch I was enter a different world. I was surprised to have entered into a forest. A rocky path way took me to Gauri kund, which is located at the foot of another hill. The air was dry. The leaves fallen from trees crackled as I stepped upon them. There was silence everywhere.
Why do all the forests have peculiar smells and sounds? As I pondered over it, I could see a sage with long locks of hair stomping towards me. His neck was tilted and he babbled words which I was unable to comprehend. He kept on jerking his neck with every step of his brisk walk. Sadhus and sages have always fascinated me. But this time I was bit scared. He crossed me and went into the woods without giving me a single look. I wanted to capture him in my camera. But his sight was so intimidating that I did not dare to do so.
I moved further. Surrounded by dense forest, with two huts housing the sadhus, the place was scenic and serene. The huts had rounded stones from the river bed nicely placed over one another as their wall compound. The rounded stones added to the beauty of the place and were not sore in the eyes like renovated temples with marble. I could hear the peacocks mow but was not fortunate enough to spot one.
A small bridge upon a creek took me to Gauri kund shrine. On alighting a few steps, there was an old bilva tree standing devoid of any leaves. With only its fruits like balls hanging it stood out.
On the left was a marble statue of Shiva. On the right was the Gauri kund. Gauri kund is like a small well housed in a temple. It is covered with glass and I was able to see the fresh water deep down. There were idols of gods and goddesses near the kund. I came out and spoke to the young Sadhu who was the caretaker of the shrine. He asked to take the holy water from the kund. The kund was covered with glass. I wondered how I could have water from it. He pointed out to the tap. Water was drawn from the holy kund by a pipe. I had it with much reverence. Another tap also provided an opportunity to take a dip into the holy water. I thanked the young swami. He refused to be photographed.
A very small path along the creek took me to see the holy cave. The cave had an iron gate at the entrance with a lock. I pushed my nose into the iron bars to have a close look at the cave. I could see some idols installed inside. I prostrated before the deity and came back to the Gauri kund shrine.
There was something about this place. There were no sounds to disturb. It was hard to believe that this place was sitting on the lap of a bustling city called Haridwar. The silence brought me closer to the divinity. I was able to feel that this shrine was indeed living. Its holiness, purity and positivity entered into every pore of my body making me realise the purpose of making holy pilgrimages. I had come to Haridwar – the door of the Gods and was not going empty handed.