Shri Gangotri Temple
Gangotri, the spiritual source of Ganga, the holiest river in the country is the second pilgrim site on the traditional ‘Char Dham’ Yatra route. It is believed that goddess Ganga first descended on the earth over here and hence the place is known as Gangotri.
The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga from Devprayag onwards where it meets the river Alaknanda.
Gangotri Temple : This 20 ft. high white granite temple on the left bank of Bhagirathi is set at an altitude of 3415 metres. According to legends, Pandavas, the heroes of epic Mahabharta performed the great ‘Deva Yagna’ here to atone the death of their relatives killed during the battle of Mahabharta.
The temple was built in early 18th century by Amar Singh Thapa, a Gorkha General and was renovated in 20th century by the ruler of Jaipur.
Goddess Ganga is worshipped at the shrine and a holy dip in the river is a must before performing the puja rituals. The priests of the temple belong to Brahmin community from Mukhwa village. The shrine closes for the winters due to heavy snowfall. The last puja at the shrine is performed on Diwali (Oct./Nov.) and then the goddess retreats to Mukhba (12 kms. downstream), where daily prayers and rituals are conducted. The temple re-opens on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritya (Apr./May).
Submerged Shivlinga: It is believed to be the site where Ganga descended into the matted locks of Lord Shiva. The natural rock shivlinga submerged in the water here is visible during early winters when the water level goes down.
Legends of Ganga
Ganga is of great religious importance to every Hindu and is an inseparable part of Hinduism. It is not only the ‘River of Life’ but also the ‘River of Death’ as every Hindu wishes to die on the banks of Ganga or at least have his ashes immersed in the the sacred waters of the river.
Mythological legends suggest that goddess Ganga manifested herself in the form of a river over here to absolve the sins of King Bhagirathi’s predecessors. It is said that once King Sagar performed the holy Ashwamedha Yagya to establish his supremacy. His 60,000 sons born of Queen Sumati and one son Asamanjas of Queen Kesani accompanied the horse released after the ‘yagya’. Lord Indra felt jealous and threatened by king Sagara’s act. He stole the horse and tied it in the ashram of sage Kapil, who was in deep meditation. The 60,000 sons of king Sagar stormed into the ashram of the sage to recover the horse and disturbed him.
The angry sage opened his eyes and reduced the 60,000 sons of Sagar, except Asamanjas into ashes. Anshuman, the grandson of king Sagar successfully retrieved the horse and was told that Sagar’s sons will attain heaven only if Ganga descends on the earth and their ashes are washed by the water of the holy river. Then the herculean task of bringing river Ganga on the earth began.
Anshuman and later on his son failed in their attempts, but his grandson succeeded after undertaking severe penance for 5,500 years. Lord Shiva was requested to receive the Ganga into his matted locks to minimize the impact of her fall on the earth. But, the river remained suspended in the locks of Shiva.
Bhagirath then prayed to Shiva to release the river and finally Ganga came on the earth from Shiva’s hairs in seven streams and the most sacred stream on the earth came to be known as Bhagirathi.
Gaumukh (19 kms.)
The snout of Gangotri glacier at an altitude of 4,200 metres is regarded as the physical source of Bhagirathi (Ganga) and is of great importance to the pilgrims. The Gangotri glacier is nearly 24 kms. long and 6 – 8 kms. wide. The glacier is believed to receding at the rate of 5 metres a year. Pilgrims trek from Gangotri to Gaumukh and take a holy dip in the ice cold water.
The scenic trek route passes through lush valleys, dense forests and towering peaks. Chirbasa, 9 kms. from Gangotri is the popular camping site on the route. It affords awe-inspiring views of the glaciated heights of Gaumukh. Bhojwasa, 14 kms. trek from Gangotri is known for the forest of Bhopatra trees. In ancient times the bark of the Bhojpatra trees was used as a substitute for paper for writing.
Kedartal (18 kms.)
The trek to this enchanting lake surrounded by majestic peaks is quite tough. The Thalayasagar and Sphatikling peaks in the background add to the beauty of the lake.
Bhaironghati (10 kms.)
The beautiful site amidst thick forests is famous for the temple dedicated to Bhairon devta, the gateway deity of Gangotri. It is the last base camp for Gangotri and affords fine views of the snow-clad peaks, deep gorge of Jahanvi and Bhagirathi rivers.
Nandanvan-Tapovan (28 kms.)
These two attractive spots opposite to Gangotri glacier lie further up from Gaumukh and can be reached after a difficult trek. Nandanvan is the base camp or Bagirathi peak and provides a spectacular view of the majestic Shivling peak. A trek across the south of the Gangotri glacier leads to Tapovan famous for its beautiful meadows encircling the base of the Shivling peak.
- Altitude: 3,415 metres (11,204 ft)
- Best Time: May-June & Sept-Nov
- Darshan Timing: 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM
- Places to visit: Bhagirath Shila, Bhairov Ghati, Gaumukh, Tapowan, Shivling Parvat, Harsil Valley , Gartang Gali
- How to reach: Haridwar – Uttarkashi – Harsil – Gangotri Temple.
- Where to Stay : Gangotri, Harsil & Uttarkashi
- Trek / Walking : 500 meters walking distance from parking to Gangotri Temple.