The picturesque pilgrimage in the hinterlands of the Himalayas is the most sacred spot where Ganga, the stream of life, touched earth fro the first time. According to mythology, Goddess Ganga, the daughter of heaven, manifested herself in the form a river to absolve the sins of king Bhagirath’s predecessors, following his severe penance of 5500 years. Lord Shiva received into his matted locks to minimize the impact of her fall. The river itself begins at Gangotri which literally means Ganga Uttari or Ganga descending She came to be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source. The Shrine of Gangotri situated at an elevation of 3200 m above sea level amidst captivating surroundings along the right bank of Bhagirathi is 100 km from Uttarkashi. The Shrine of Gangotri opens during the last week of April or the first week of May, on the auspicious day od Akshaya Tritiya. The temples opening is preceded by a special Puja of Ganga both inside the temple as well as on the river bank. The temple’s closes on the day of Diwali followed by a formal closing ceremony amidst a row of oil lamps. It is believed that the Goddess retreats to Mukhwa, her winter abode (12 km downstream)
The temple was constructed in the early 18th century by a Gorkha Commander Amar Sigh Thapa. The existing temple is said to be the one reconstructed by the Jaipur dynasty. Every year thousands of pilgrims through the sacred shrine between May & October. The Pujaris & brahmins are from the village of Mukhwa. The water from Gangotri is carried to offer to Lord Shiva. It is believed that this water has amrit (nectar) in it and will soothe the throat of Shiva who gulp the poison.
According to mythology King Sagar after slaying the demons on earth staged an Aswamedh Yagna to proclaim his supremacy. The King’s 60,000 sons born of Queen Sumati and one son Asamanjas of Queen Kesani were to accompany the horse. Lord Indra fearing loss of his supremacy stole the horse and tied it to the ashram of ancient sage Kapil who was then deep into meditation. On their search for horse, the 60,000 sons stormed the ashram of Kapil and just before the attack on him the sage opened his eyes and reduced all the 60,000 sons of King Sagar except Asamanjas to ashes. King Sagar’s grandson Anshuman was successful in recovering the horse from Kapil and was told that those 60,000 burnt will attain heavenly adobe if Ganga is brought down from heaven & their ashes were sleaned by its water. Then the great task of bringing Ganga to earth started. Anshuman failed and so did his son Dilip but his grandson Bhagirath succeeded.
The intense meditation made Ganga to descend from heaven and in order that the earth is not flooded, it remained suspended in the Coils of Lord Shiva’s hair. Shiva pleased with King Bhagirath, released Ganga in seven streams – the most sacred streams – the most sacred streams on earth came to be known as Bhagirathi. King Sagar’s 60,000 sons’ ashes were touched with Ganga water and thus they were bestowed with eternal rest in heaven.
General Information :
Altitude : 3048 mts.
Climate : Summer – Cool during day and cold at night Max: 20°C & Min: 6°C; Winter – Snow bound touching sub zero.
Season : April to October
Clothing : Heavy woolen throughout the season.
Languages : Hindi, Garhwali and English.
Air : Nearest Airport is Jolly Grant (262 Kms.).
Rail : Nearest railhead is at Rishikesh, 226 Kms. away.
Road : Gangotri is connected by road to Uttarkashi, Tehri Garhwal and Rishikesh and from there to other parts of the country. Bus services of Samyukt Rotation Yatayat Vyawastha Samiti connect Gangotri with many centre in the region like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Tehri, Uttarkashi etc.
SIGHT SEEING & EXCURSION :
Gangotri Temple: As the legend goes, King Bhagirath used to worship Lord Shiva at the sacred stone, near which this 18th century temple is located. The slab on which King Bhagirath is believed to have meditated is called Bhagirathi Shila. The mother Ganga is worshipped as Goddess and the holy river in the temple. Before performing the Puja rituals, a holy dip in the Ganga flowing nearby the temple is a must. The Pujari’s (priest) belong to Brahmin community from Mukhwa village. Ten of them are selected by rotation every year to perform all the functions covering the temple and they also perform the duties of pandas.
Submerged Shivling: Submerged in the river, this natural rock Shivling is the place where, according to mythology Lord Shiva sat when he received the Ganga in his matted lock. It is visible in winter months when water level decreases.
Kedar Ganga Sangam: Around 100 Yards from the Ganga Temple flows the river Kedar Ganga. Starting from the Kedar Valle, this river meets the Bhagirathi on its left bank.
Kedar Tal : This spectacular and enchanting lake is situated at a distance of about 18 Kms. from Gangotri, negotiable through a rough and tough mountain trail. The trek is very tiring and there are testing moments even for a hardly trekker. There is no facility of any kind on the way and one has to make all arrangements in advance. A local guide is a must. The lake is crystal clear with the mighty Thalaysagar (Sphatikl-ing) peak forming a splendid backdrop. The place is about 4000 mts. above sea-level and is the base camp for trekking to the Thalaysagar, Jogin, Bhrigupanth and other peaks.
Dayara Bugyal : Bugyal in the local language means “high altitude meadow,” The road to Dayara Bugyal branches off near Bhatwari a place on Uttarkashi-Gangotri road about 28 Kms. from Uttarkashi. Vehicles can go up to the village of Barsu from where one has to trek a distance of about 8 Kms. to reach Dayara and other route is via village Raithal, 10 Kms. from Bhatwari, from where one has to trek about 7 Kms. to Dayara Bugyal. Situated at an elevation of about 3048 mts., this vast meadow is second to none in natural beauty. During winter it provides excellent ski slopes over an area of 28 sq. Kms. The panoramic view of the Himalayas from here is breathtaking. There is a small lake in the area and to camp by this side is a memorable event. From this spot one can trek down to Dodi-Tal which is about 22 Kms. away, through dense forests.
Sat-Tal : Sat-Tal, meaning seven lakes, is situated just above Dharali, 2 Kms. beyond Harsil. The trek of about 5 Kms. is rewarding as this group of lakes is situated amid beautiful natural surroundings. It also provides lovely camp sites.
Gaumukh : The Gaumukh glacier is the source of Bhagirathi (Ganga) and is held in high esteem by the devotes who do not miss the opportunity to have a holy dip in the bone chilling icy water. It is 18 Kms. trek from Gangotri. The trek is easy and at times people come back to Gangotri the same day.