‘Devbhoomi’ is home to innumerable major pilgrimage sites of India, including the very prominent ‘ Chota Char Dhams’. Nestled amidst the gigantic Himalayas, these revered sites not only hold a lot of religious significance for the devotees but also captivate the visitors with their exotic natural setting.
Gangotri, which is one of the Char Dhams, is situated in the Uttarkashi district of this Devbhoomi. This pious religious site is known as the origin place of the most sacred river, a river which forms the basis of every life on this earth, the holiest of all, The Ganges. As per Hindu mythology, when goddess Ganga began her journey of descending to this earth from the locks of Lord Shiva, this very place became her first site of appearance on this planet.
Although, the actual place of its origin is at Gaumukh, which is 19 km away from Gangotri. To witness this surreal experience of the glaciers from where this mighty river originates, you need to trek to Gaumukh. The trek may seem tiring but be assured that this experience is worthy.
At Gaumukh, this holy river is known as Bhagirathi before it merges with Alaknanda at Devprayag. From here, it acquires the name ‘Ganga’ and it’s a journey to the plains begins.
At Gangotri, the main center of attraction is the temple dedicated to the Goddess Ganga. Set amidst the lofty Himalayas and flowing of the divine Bhagirathi from its side, form the surreal landscape setting for this holy site. Although, this pilgrimage site is accessible only for six months each year i.e from May to November. Apart from these six months, the idol of Goddess Ganga is worshipped at Mukhbas ( Mukhimath). Then, on the auspicious day of Akshay Tritiya, the idol is welcomed again to the temple at Gangotri. The divine beauty of this Dham is not only limited to this spot but is spread around the horizon. The charm of its natural beauty is enough to captivate you.
It’s known that every visit to the Goddess Shakti, who is known by different names at different pilgrimage sites, is incomplete without a darshan to Bhaironath. When you move 10 Km down the Gangotri, where the Jhanvi River merges with Bhagirathi, You will find Bhaironath Temple. Make sure that you visit this temple to complete your journey to Gangotri.
The Mythological Story Behind The Descent Of Goddess Ganga To Earth
‘Ganga’ is more than a river. Ganga is Maa in Hindu Religion. According to Hindu Mythology, it is the holiest river that is nectar for every life form. The story behind its descent to Earth is the most interesting one. According to the most popular legend, King Sagar, the father of sixty thousand sons, performed the Ashwamedha Yagya to win over Devlok. Indra stole the horse of this sacrifice. When this horse was shown tied to the ashram of sage Kapila, who was doing penance, the sons of Sagar insulted him. Due to this, all the Sagar sons were turned into ashes with a fiery glance of enraged sage.
As they could not attain salvation, their souls kept wandering. To ease their journey to heaven and complete the rituals, a sage told that the purifying Ganga need to flow on the ashes.
After many generations, Bhagiratha, a descendant of Sagara did hard penance to please Lord Brahma and his wish was granted. Goddess Ganga agreed to descent to earth. Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva to arrest the mighty velocity of the Ganges, who placed Vegvati Ganga in his matted locks before she descended on the earth. It is believed that the place where Jalmagna Shivling lies, is the place where Lord Shiva received Goddess Ganga and Gangotri Dham was erected to shelter her.
In this way, Mother Ganga descended on the earth for the welfare of all mankind.
OTHER STORIES RELATED TO GANGA ORIGIN
- According to one of the Mythological tales, it is believed that Ganga took birth from the Kamandal (Water Vessel) of Lord Brahma ( The Creator). As this was the water, he used to wash the feet of Lord Vishnu after he freed demon Bali with his rebirth as Vaman. So, after washing his feet, lord Brahma collected all the water in his Kamandal.
- Another legend states that Ganga took birth as a human and married King Shantanu, the ancestors of Pandavas. She gave birth to eight children. Out of them she threw seven in the river, without giving any explanation but spared the Eighth one due to intervention by King Shantanu and this child grew up to become the great Bheeshma Pitamah.
OPENING AND CLOSING DATE OF GANGOTRI
As winter approaches, the deity of Gangotri is taken to Mukhba village near Harsil. The doors of Gangotri close on the day of Dussehra.
The doors of Gangotri reopen on the auspicious day of Akshay Tritiya when the deity is brought back to the Gangotri Dham. The doors remain open for six months of summer.
WORSHIP TIMINGS AT GANGOTRI
At four o’clock in the morning, the doors of the temple are opened in Bharamyuhrat. The consecration of Ganga is done by Sirsukta and Veda mantras. Mangal Aarti is done at six o’clock followed by a special bhog for Maa Ganga, at nine am. Whereas 2-3 pm is considered as the resting hour of the divine Ganga. Then the main temple is again closed by six in the evening to prepare for the special evening Aarti at 7:45 pm. And all the devotees can take part during both times of the day. Finally, the doors of a temple get closed at 9:30 pm.
FESTIVALS CELEBRATED AT GANGOTRI
The major day of importance, which are celebrated with great fervor at the premises are, Akshay Tritiya- When Goddess arrives from her winter destination to the Gangotri Dham; Ganga Saptami– when the origin of this holy river is commemorated; Ganga Dushehra– The day when the divine Goddess made her appearance on earth.
TREK TO GAUMUKH
The actual place of Ganga’s origin is at Gaumukh, which is 19 km away from Gangotri. Gaumukh literally means Cow’s mouth and is a snouting of the Gangotri glacier- The second biggest glacier.
To witness this surreal experience of the glaciers from where this mighty river originates, you need to trek to Gaumukh. The trek may seem tiring but be assured that this experience is worthy. At Gaumukh, this holy river is known as Bhagirathi before it merges with Alaknanda at Devprayag. From here, it acquires the name ‘Ganga’ and it’s a journey to the plains begins.
To begin your trek to Gaumukh, you will require a permit, which you can easily get at Rishikesh and Gangotri Or For permits,
Gangotri to Bhojbasa
In this trek, you will cover about 14 km. The park check post opens at 6 in the morning and is about 2 km away. So, make sure you start early in the morning to reach the checkpoint on time. The permits will be checked here, and if you haven’t already paid the permit money online, you may do so here. The administration will also inspect your baggage to see how many plastic items you have in your possession, such as bottles and food packages. With your permission, there is a written count. So, you will be charged a deposit fee (which will be refunded when you show them the exact count on your return). This is a great initiative toward a plastic-free environment. The Bhagirathi river will join you after another one kilometer of trekking and will follow you for a long time. At five hours, you will arrive in Chirbasa at an altitude of approximately 3,400 m after trekking for another 6 kilometers. As the route tends to get adventurous from here, you can halt for the lunch and enjoy the meal amidst natural beauty. Another 6 km trek from here will lead you to Bhojbasa, where you can set your camp because, after this, no camping is allowed till Gaumukh.
Bhojbasa to Gaumukh
This steep gradient of 4 km trek will take around 3 hours but will leave you enchanted with the mesmerizing view spread across its vistas. During this part of your trek, you will get vies of rugged mountainous trails and snow-clad peaks along with diverse flora and fauna. No need to worry about the correct path as all trails are perfectly marked. Within a few minutes, the Shivling peak will be visible towards the right along with the gigantic Bhagirathi group of peaks. You can be assured of reaching Gaumukh, as soon as a small Shiva temple is visible to you. You can clearly see the Gangotri glacier from where the Bhagirathi originates but don’t go Beyond 500 m to this glacier for your own safety.
WEATHER AT GANGOTRI
Gangotri witnesses pleasant weather with cold waves throughout the year. During the summer season, the nights tend to grow colder. Winters are chilly and experience heavy snowfall.
BEST TIME TO VISIT GANGOTRI
The best time to visit Gangotri is during the summer season, especially in the month of April and May. It offers pleasant weather suitable for trekking and you can also view the beauty of the region in its full bloom.
During the Monsoon season, there are frequent chances of landslides in the region, so it’s best to avoid travel during this time.
MUST-HAVES DURING TRIP TO GANGOTRI
- A pair of comfortable walking shoes, trekking pants, woolen clothing, and a windproof jacket is a must.
- If you are traveling in the summer season, be sure to carry sunglasses, a sun cap, sunscreen lotion.
- For all the trek enthusiasts, it’s necessary to carry a walking stick, water bottle, personal toiletries and torch/ flashlight with extra batteries. Pocket a few dry fruits and also carry energy bars & energy drinks like Gatorade/ electoral (ORS) to avoid dehydration.
STAY AT GANGOTRI
Being a popular revered site and shrine of Char Dham, Gangotri remains flocked with devotees during the Chardham Yatra. So, finding an option for a stay can be a task.
There are options for hotels and guesthouses. There are also Government guesthouses set up by GMVN. All of these are well equipped with all basic amenities and are pocket-friendly.
FOOD AT GANGOTRI
Being a site of religious significance, non-veg food is strictly prohibited around the region. You will find various restaurants and roadside stalls serving freshly cooked veg meals. You will find North Indian dishes along with some Chinese as well.
WHAT IS GANGOTRI FAMOUS FOR?
Gangotri is famous for a revered site dedicated to Goddess Ganga and is among the shrines of Char Dham. It is also famous as a base for various trek trails to Bhojbasa, Tapovan, Gaumukh, Gangotri Glacier, Shivling Peak, etc.
HOW TO REACH GANGOTRI
By Air: Located at a distance of 250 km, Jollygrant Airport is the nearest airport to Gangotri. Regular flights are available from Delhi to Jollygrant Airport. Gangotri is well connected with the road network. You can book a cab to reach Gangotri.
By Rail: Located at a distance of 234 km, Rishikesh Railway station is the nearest one to Gangotri. Trains are frequent to Rishikesh Railway station from other parts of the country. You can take a taxi or bus to reach Gangotri.
By Road: Gangotri is well connected with the motorable roads of different parts of this state. You can opt for Buses or Taxi to reach Gangotri.
PLACES TO VISIT AROUND GANGOTRI
Being a revered site, Gangotri offers you numerous religious and picturesque spots that you can check out, when you visit Gangotri.
- Jalmagna Shivling
- Gangotri National Park