Hardwar, some seven hundred miles north west of Allahabad, is a bustling pilgrim center nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the Ganga leaves the mountains and enters the expansive plains of north India. The town lies on the right bank of the Ganga as she flows south. Look north and see the giant pillars that are the Shivalik Hills, entrance to the Land of the Gods; look south and see the plains, the hot, dusty world of mortals. Hardwar is a gateway. Dwar means door. It even sounds like the English word. That door was not an accident of nature but a link between the worlds. Har-dwar is the gateway of the great god, Shiva, also called Har or Hara.
“Hara Hara Mahadev!”
Hail to the Great God Shiva,
Whose name is Hara!
Some call the town, Haridwar, the gateway of the sustaining god, Vishnu, also known as Hari, while others call it Gangadwar, the gateway of the Ganga, or even Brahmadwar, the gateway of the creator god, Brahma. But the most ancient name of Hardwar is Mayadwar, the door of illusion.
The gateway wasn’t always there; neither was the Ganga. The Shivalik Hills stood as a proud wall sealing off the Land of the Gods until they were ripped apart by the ferocious assault of the fertile river goddess on its ramparts, so that she could carry her fecundity down to the north Indian plains and the human race.