Gangotri Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the most sacred and the perennial river of India, the Ganga River or the Ganges, which has its origin from the majestic Goumukh Point in the Gangotri Glacier. The temple is also addressed by the name of Gangotri Dham and is one of the four iconic Hindu temples of Uttarakhand or the Chota Char Dham. Actually, the river originating from Goumukh is river Bhagirathi and it forms River Ganga after merging with River Alaknanda at Devprayag.
The main temple is located in the Uttarkashi District of Uttarakhand as a part of breathtaking Greater Himalayas, at an approximate altitude of 3415 meters. It is usually visited post the journey to the Yamunotri Dham Temple as a part of the Chota Char Dham itinerary. The temple is open for the devotees from April to October-November or more precisely from the day of Akshay Tritiya to Diwali according to the Hindu calendar.
Let us explore this splendid location that awaits your visit…
History and Mythology of Gangotri Temple-
Amar Singh Thapa, a Nepalese General is credited for the construction of the main temple of Goddess Ganga at Gangotri at the starting of the 18th century. Later, the temple was reconstructed by the Maharaja of Jaipur, and more beauty was added to it.
According to Hindu mythology, a king named Sagara performed Ashwamedh Yagya after letting the Earth free from the cruelty of demons and to prove his supremacy. The king had 60,000 sons from Queen Sumati and one from Queen Kesani, named Asamanja. The procedure of Yagya had a horse that would run freely on the Earth accompanied by the king’s sons and the area swept by it would come under the king’s empire.
Lord Indra, afraid of losing his place, stopped the horse and tied to the Sage Kapil’s hut while he was meditating. While searching for the horse, Sagara’s sons and soldiers stormed the sage’s ashram as they assumed that the Sage Kapil had stolen the horse. Disturbed in the meditation, the angry sage converted all sixty thousand sons of Sagara into ashes and cursed them that only River Ganga flowing in heaven can give freedom or Moksha to them.
Later, King Bhagiratha, the grandson of King Sagara performed serious meditation of around a thousand years to please holy River Ganga to come on the Earth. Ganga agreed to the prayers of King Bhagiratha and was ready to come to Earth and grant salvation to his predecessors. But, worried about the destruction caused by the turbulent flow, Lord Shiv reduced the speed of Ganga by locking it in his hair at a place named Jalmagna Shivling or Submerged Shivling.
Location of Gangotri Temple-
Gangotri temple is located in the lap of Himalayas with heavenly natural beauty spread all around our eyes can see. It is located in the Uttarkashi district of the Greater Himalayas in the Uttarakhand state of India. The temple gets more marvelous by the virtue of river Bhagirathi flowing nearby.
The approximate distance of the Gangotri Dham temple from Uttarkashi is 99 kilometers. The distance of Gangotri Dham from the major areas nearby is – 268 km from Haridwar, 249 km from Rishikesh, 228 km from Dehradun, 335 km from Kedarnath, 415 km from Badrinath, 227 km from Yamunotri, and about 453 km from the National Capital Delhi.
The architecture of Gangotri temple-
The main temple of Gangotri is made entirely in white stone and an idol made in silver, dedicated to Goddess Ganga is situated in the main sanctum of the Temple. A small temple is also located on the left side of the main temple.
Timings of the Temple-
Arti of Goddess Ganga is performed twice a day at 6 am and 7:45 pm with religious chants and full devotion of people. The opening hours of the temple are from 6:15 am to 2 pm and then again from 3 pm to 9:30 pm at night. The scene of people chanting and praying to God appears simply as divine as heaven.
The Kapaat or the doors of the temple are opened at the end of April or the start of May on the day of Akshay Tritiya and the yatra to this holy temple starts for the devotees. The temple remains open for about six months and the worship of river Ganga as a deity is done here with full adoration.
In the months of October-November, on the day of Diwali, the temple is closed for the next six months and the idol of Goddess Ganga is shifted to village Mukhba near Harsil. In these six months, Gangotri becomes a no man’s land due to extreme cold and snow in the valley.
The opening date of the Gangotri temple in 2020 is 26 April on the Akshay Tritiya day of the Hindu calendar. The closing dates would be soon declared for the year 2020, while in 2019 the temple closed on 28 October.
15 Places to Visit Near Gangotri-
Gaumukh is the main originating point of River Ganga spotted in the Gangotri Glacier, located at a trekking distance of about 18 kilometers from Gangotri. The trek to this glacier is among the most thrilling treks of Uttarakhand. The itinerary to Gaumukh is divided mainly into two halts of Chirbasa (9 km from Gangotri) and Bhojbasa (4 km ahead of Chirbasa). One can reach to Bhojwasa by pony or by walking and around 150 travelers are allowed per day on the trek. It is advisable to issue advanced permits online from the website of Gangotri National Park. Majestic waterfalls, streams, bridges, natural beauty makes this trek more scintillating.
Tapovan trek is an extended trek after one reaches Gaumukh point. En route to Tapovan we witness Mt. Shivling, Manda Peak, Mt. Meru, Bhagirathi massif and the natural beauty sprinkled all around. This is a trail over the loose stones and amidst the water streams. The magnificent view at the Tapovan is worth the exhausting journey.
After the Siachin Glacier, the Gangotri Glacier is the second-largest glacier of the nation and spreads over 30 km length and 4 km width. The starting of this glacier is marked by the forest check-post at about 2 km from the main Gangotri town. This glacier is the main source of India’s holiest river Ganga that has an important role in everyone’s life. Although the glacier is getting reduced in its size day by day due to the curse of global warming.
This is a breathtaking lake, also known by the name Shiva’s Lake, present at a height of about 4912 meters from the ocean level. This lake can be visited by challenging trekking of about 18 kilometers from Gangotri town. The lake forms Kedar Ganga, that meets to Bhagirathi later. It is surrounded by the ice-capped mountain peaks of Thalay Sagar (6904 m) and Bhrigupanth (6772 m).
5.Gangotri National Park
Spread over an area of about 2390 sq.km., Gangotri National Park has its entrance check-post in the route to Gaumukh trekking. The flora here consists of oak, fir, deodar, and spruce while the fauna has various distinct species like Blue sheep, brown bear, black bear, partridges, and Himalayan snowcock.
It is located at a distance of about 200 meters from the main Gangotri Temple and this is believed to be the place where King Bhagirath meditated for thousands of years to please river Ganga to descend from heaven to earth. A small white sheltered temple exists there in which the Bhagirath Shila is the key attraction.
7.Bhairoghati and Bhaironath temple
It is a small area and has the beauty of being on the meeting point of Jadh Ganga and Bhagirathi rivers. It is located at a distance of about 6.5 kilometers downstream from the main Gangotri temple and is easily accessible by roads as it lies en-route to the Gangotri voyage. Bhairon Nath temple is located here and is considered as a must-visit after completing the Gangotri Dham yatra.
Surya Kund is famous for the spontaneous waterfall of river Bhagirathi and is located at a distance of about 400 meters downstream. The water droplets borne with air gives a soothing effect to our body and soul and tell us the importance of water in our lives. People offer their prayers to Lord Surya or Sun at this excellent place, which is believed to receive the first rays of sun falling on earth.
Gangnani is located about 46 kilometers from Uttarkashi district as one goes to Gangotri and is famous for its hot water springs called the Rishi Kund in which visitors bathe to get rejuvenated for the further journey.
Pandav cave is at a distance of 1.5 km from the main Gangotri town and famous as a place where the five Pandavas did meditation during their exile while going to Kailash Parvat.
This village is the winter seat of Goddess Ganga which is brought in the form of an idol from the main Gangotri Temple in Gangotri town. It is located about 26 km downstream and the rites are performed by Semwal pujaris of Mukhba village for about six months from November-April when the main Gangotri valley is all snow-covered.
This small town is nestled about 26 kilometers downstream from the main Gangotri Temple and is blessed with scenic beauty, picturesque locations, majestic waterfalls, and view of ice-capped mountains. This town is a perfect halt place for people heading towards the Gangotri voyage.
This location is covered with green meadows and can be accessed by trekking from Barsu, which is about 40 kilometers from Uttarkashi district on the way to Gangotri. The trek is perfect for beginners and gives them a pleasant experience.
This mighty place is also known as the Jalmagna Shivling and it is believed to be the spot where Lord Shiva took river Ganga in the locks of his hair. A shivling is present near Gangotri which remains submerged in water in summers and is only visible in winter when the water level moves down.
This is the first attraction as we move on our way to Gangotri Dham, just 14 km from the Uttarkashi district. A small but intense waterfall whose noise thrills our mind. It just needs a few minutes for beholding and appreciating its beauty.
How to Reach Gangotri-
Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun is the airport that is nearest to the Yamunotri Temple and is at a distance of about 250 kilometers.
The journey of Gangotri is also possible by helicopter also, which starts from Harsil and takes around 2 hours to complete the journey.
Rishikesh Railway Station at a distance of about 245 kilometers from Gangotri Dham, is the nearest railway station. It has good connectivity to other parts of the country and state.
Buses and taxis run on regular intervals from Dehradun, Haridwar, and Rishikesh to reach Gangotri in months of May-November.
From Rishikesh one can directly reach Gangotri by following route-Rishikesh-Narendra Nagar-Chamba-New Tehari-Dharasu bend-Uttarkashi-Bhatwarhi-Harsil-Gangotri.
Parking is available at about 400 meters before the main temple and charge of INR 50 is taken from the visiting vehicles.
The rest part of the journey is covered by walking and the facility of a wheelchair is also available for specially-abled people.
The yatra to Gangotri Dham is the easiest based on the difficulties to reach there, among the four temples of the Chota Char Dham circuit. It is then followed by Badrinath Temple, Yamunotri Temple, and the most difficult and exhausting one is the itinerary to Kedarnath Temple.
Best Time to Visit-
The months of July-August are not suitable for the journey as it is the time of monsoon and the condition of roads gets damaged. Few tourists come here during this period.
The best time to visit is the months of May-June, the peak season, or the months of September-October, the ending season. Every year a huge number of devotees head towards this auspicious temple during these months.
Where to stay in Gangotri?
Various guest houses, lodges, inns, hotels, and dormitories are available in budgets that are suitable for everyone reaching there. Rates and facilities may vary according to the season. The best arrangement suggested is to stay in the Gharwal Mandal Guest House as they provide good facilities at suitable rates.
Don’t forget to carry all the necessary belongings like ID cards, woolens, ice jackets, raincoats, medical kit, trekking shoes, food supplements, small oxygen cans, goggles, torches, and food supplements with water bottles.
Try not to use cameras and other gadgets near the waterfalls and on risky rocks while trekking, as there are high chances of losing grip that causes damage along with losing our body balance.
Try to carry a pair of binoculars to behold the mesmerising distant waterfalls and the ice-capped mountain peaks.
If you have plans for trekking, then advanced booking of permits and tents is advisable to avoid the last-minute hassles.
Make your body adaptable to continuous walking prior to the actual trekking.
If you get a chance then don’t miss out to have Garhwali food, awesome in taste, and is healthy too along with new varieties to explore.
Location on Map-
Do share your pleasant experiences about this heavenly place in the comments below…