Throngs of pilgrims flock to Mansa Devi temple in Haridwar in hopes of getting their wishes granted. The goddess Mansa is considered to be a form of shakti (female energy) who emerged from the mind of Lord Shiva, the powerful Hindu god of creation and destruction, while he was having erotic thoughts. Alternatively, according to some Hindu scriptures great Sage Kashyap manifested her from his mind to control snakes that were creating havoc on earth.
Lord Krishna is said to have made Mansa Devi a goddess and provided her with special powers after she worshiped him. She's believed to be kind to her devotees and will fulfill their wishes.
Read on to find out more about Mansa Devi temple and how to visit it.
How to Get to There
Haridwar can be reached in about six hours by road from Delhi, or four hours by train. Here are the best options.
There are two ways to get to Mansa Devi temple from Haridwar town: on foot or by aerial tramway (also referred to as a rope-way, or Udan Khatola locally). Walking requires a strenuous hike uphill. The track is sealed but the exertion can be draining in the heat. Hence, most people prefer to take the aerial tramway up and then walk back down. It starts running at 5 a.m. during peak season. The boarding point is centrally located off Upper Road in town near Hari ki Pauri, and the one-way journey takes about five minutes.
The temple gets very crowded during peak pilgrimage season (April to June), so it's best to get an early start. If you go later and take the aerial tramway, you'll also have to wait hours in line unless you pay extra for an expensive premium VIP ticket.
To save time, aerial tramway tickets can now be booked online here. The cost is 100 rupees per person round-trip.
How to Visit the Temple
Mansa Devi temple is open daily from 6.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. during April to October, and 8.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. during November to March.
It's common practice for devotees to take prasad (offerings) for the goddess. Sellers are plentiful at the aerial tramway boarding point and at the temple entrance. Expect to pay between 20 and 50 rupees for plates of flowers, and bags containing a coconut and flowers. The entry to the temple is also lined with vendors peddling everything from jewelry to music.
Unfortunately, the temple is commercialized and poorly managed. Be prepared to deal with money-hungry pandits (Hindu priests) and swarms of disorderly devotees that behave in an unruly manner. It's not the place for quiet contemplation.
Inside the temple complex, you'll be required to pass by several smaller shrines on the way to the main shrine where the goddess resides. The pandits will openly demand donations accompanied by threats of unfulfilled wishes if you don't comply.
After reaching the footsteps of the goddess, you'll be herded into the inner sanctum where the prasad will be taken and you'll be given some broken pieces of coconut in return before being quickly herded onward.
At the exit, there are other gods and goddesses (accompanied by eager pandits) that you can pray to as well.
Devotees who want to get a wish fulfilled should tie a thread to the branches of the holy tree in the temple complex. After your wish is granted, come back to the temple and remove the thread.
What Else to Do Nearby
Mansa Devi temple is one of three wish-fulfilling temples in Haridwar. The other two are Chandi Devi and Maya Devi temples. Chandi Devi temple, atop neighboring Neel Parvat, can be visited by aerial tramway or bus from Mansa Devi temple. It's possible to buy combination tickets for both.
The walk downhill offers panoramic views over Haridwar. Beware of the monkeys though, and men dressed up as monkeys! (When I visited, there were men dressed up as Lord Hanuman, earning money by giving devotees a tap on the head with their mace).