Think of Haridwar and the visuals of Har Ki Pauri come to our mind, with the chants of evening Arti surrounded by as many people as the banks of Ganga can fit in. We know Ganga is the most revered deity here, as she comes down from the Himalayas and enters the plains to nurture the whole of Gangetic plains. We know if Ganga is there, Shiva cannot be far apart. Yes, the city of Haridwar is full of Shiva temples. However, what is not popular knowledge is that there are some of the most ancient and powerful Shakti Temples or Devi Temples in Haridwar.
Come with me to explore the Shakti or Devi Temples in Haridwar.
Sati Temple at Kankhal
We know that Sati – the first wife of Shiva immolated herself at her father Daksha’s home. Well, her father Daksha’s home is right here in Kankhal, one of the oldest living areas of Haridwar. At a temple called Daksheshwar Mahadev Temple, the story of Sati continues to live. Behind this temple is a small temple that is supposed to be the birthplace of Sati. Located right at the banks of Ganga, this is a small non-descript temple. However, if you know the story of Shiva and Sati, this is where it all happened. This episode led to the creation of 52 Shakti Peethas around the Indian Subcontinent.
The Agni Kund in which she immolated herself can also be seen. The temple is not very old but the structure hardly matters in the matters of faith.
Sheetala Mata Temple
This is a small temple behind the Daksheshwar Mahadev Temple, dedicated to Sheetla Mata. The importance of this temple is that this is one of the three Shakti or Devi temples in Haridwar that form the triangle along with Mansa Devi and Chandi temples.
Dash Mahavidya Temple
Next to Daksheshwar Mahadev Temple is a lovely temple dedicated to Dash Mahavidyas – the 10 forms of Devi that include – Kali, Tara, Tripursundari, Buvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinmasta, Dhumavati, Bagulamukhi, Matangi, Kamala. This is the first time I saw a temple dedicated to these Dash Mahavidyas, before this I had just read about them. Made in the glass like some Jain Temples, it is a small but beautiful temple.
The temple has 10 forms depicted with their respective mantras. On the wall is a giant Sri Yantra.
Sri Yantra Mandir – Youngest Of Devi Temples in Haridwar
This is a fairly new temple. I could not find its name so I call it Sri Yantra temple. What I found unique was that this temple is constructed in the form of a Sri Yantra – the geometrical representation of the universe with the Goddess sitting on the top. Inside the temple, there is an idol of Devi as Lalita Tripursundari but there is a beautiful and a large Sri Yantra along with a smaller one.
In the premises, some Yagnas were being performed. In another hall, a lecture was going on. Visit this temple for its unique construction. To me, this temple indicated the continued reverence of Devi in Haridwar. It is also a rare temple where aesthetics are a part of the design.
Chandi Devi Temple
The Chandi Devi Temple is situated on the hill called Neel Parvat on the eastern bank of Ganga. You can either hike to the temple or take a ropeway. I took the ropeway and reached the base of the temple in 10 minutes. You still have to climb the stairs to reach the main temple.
It is believed that Goddess Chandi took rest at Neel Parvat after she killed the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha. In fact, two peaks on the Neel Parvat are named after these two demons.
Close by there is a temple dedicated to Anjani – the mother of Hanuman. All the temples are small and structures are fairly new, but the idols and the spaces are ancient and if you are sensitive enough, you will feel the vibes.
Bang opposite across the Ganga on the Bilwa hill is Mansa Devi Temple. It looks like the two Devis are looking at each other or may be guarding the city of Haridwar.
It is believed that the main idol of the Chandi Devi was installed by Adi Shankaracharya.
Mansa Devi Temple
The Mansa Devi temple is on Bilwa hill on the western bank of Haridwar. It is closer to the bustling heart of the city. You can hike or again take a ropeway. When I visited this temple around 8 AM, it was so crowded that I almost thought I am going to die of suffocation. So, choose your time of visit wisely. Early morning is always a good time to go.
Mansa Devi is a benign Devi who fulfills your wishes. She is born from the mind of Shiva and hence his daughter as well.
Maya Devi Temple
Maya Devi is the presiding goddess of Haridwar. In fact, one of the names of the city Mayapuri comes from Maya Devi. She is at the heart of Haridwar. Maya Devi temple is a Shaktipeetha – this is where the heart and navel of Devi Sati fell after the Daksh Yagna event.
This is one of the few ancient temples that are intact. The temple is small as most old temples used to be. In the sanctum is the image of Maya Devi surrounded by the images of Ma Kali on the left and Ma Kamakhya on the right. Outside the sanctum, on the pradakshina path, there are images of all the 10 Dash Mahavidyas. Name and Beej Mantra of each Mahavidya is written below each image.
Maya Devi Temple is located at the center of the triangle formed by the three Siddhapeetha temples of Mansa Devi in the north, Sheetala Devi in the South and Chandi Devi in the East. In the center of the triangle, towards the north is Maya Devi temple and towards the south is Daksheshwar Mahadev Temple.
Being the Adhishtatri Devi, this is the most important Devi Temple in Haridwar.
Sureshwari Devi Temple
This is an ancient temple dedicated to Devi as Sureshwari. She is supposed to bless people with children and cure them of communicable diseases. Sureshwari Devi temple marks the place where Indra did penance to please the goddess when he was expelled from his own kingdom. This is the place where Goddess gave him the darshan.
A little above the Sureshwari Devi Temple there is a Kali Temple.
Located on Sooroot hill inside the Rajaji National Park, you will have to take a forest vehicle to visit the temple. You must visit this during daytime only.
This is the most famous of Devi temples in Haridwar. Ganga enters the plains from Devbhumi here in Haridwar and hence it is also called Gangadwar. Located almost at the edge of Ganga near Brahmakund, it is a really small temple with an idol of Ganga. In scriptures, Ganga is a Devi in dravya or liquid form. At Haridwar, she is the prime Goddess whom the pilgrims come to meet.
There is no greater motivation for a Hindu pilgrim than to take a dip in Holy Ganga at Haridwar and at Ganga in Kashi.
In fact, most temples in Haridwar have an idol of Ganga somewhere, making her look omnipresent on land surrounding the river.
Bilkeshwar Mahadev Temple
Bilkeshwar Mahadev is a small temple located not too far from the city. It is a Shiva temple beneath a tree that was once a Bilwa Tree but a Neem tree now. This is the place where Parvati did the penance to get Shiva and probably where they met for the first time. What remains of that is a Gauri Kund – the place where Gauri used to take bath. It is across a small stream that you can cross using a bridge.
To see there is nothing much but if you believe in Shiva and Shakti, this is a pilgrimage. It is not to be missed Devi Temples in Haridwar.
Sri Dakshin Kali Temple
This Kali temple is located almost in the wilderness, next to Chandi Ghat and on the banks of Ganga where it is known as Neeldhara. The Ganga gently flows southwards and this is why this temple is called Dakshin Kali (Dakshin is South in Sanskrit). The temple is small and its premises a little bigger than the temple. Marble Lion seems a recent addition. The idol in black seems old, how old is difficult to judge – but then it hardly matters. The specialty of this temple is that the Pooja is done at the midnight here when Ma Kali is offered Khichadi.
An elaborate board tells us that this is the place where Shiva drank the poison that came out of Samudra Manthan or churning of the ocean. After drinking it and holding it in his throat, he felt the immense heat, and he took bath in the Ganga here – giving it the name Neeldhara. Shiva, as we know, is also called Neelkanth for holding the blue poison in his throat. The board further tells you all the rituals and their dates as per Indian calendar at the temple.
For the followers of Devi, this is the first Siddhapeeth of 10 Peethas of Dash Mahavidyas.
Visiting Shakti Temples in Haridwar
The good part about visiting these Shakti Temples in Haridwar is that most of them have the story of the temple written on a board. The story not only tells you what happened here but also gives references to the scriptures that mention this place, besides telling you which lineage of saints takes care of the temple. All the boards are in Hindi though.
I never knew there are so many Devi Temples in Haridwar. However, I did read about this in a book called Aghori and I must thank the authors of the book.
For me, Devi Temples of Haridwar were a discovery. Did you know about them or are you discovering them with me?