Gangotri, a land of religious significance and among the Four Pilgrimage Sites (Chota Char Dham) of Hindus, is situated in the Garhwal hills of the Uttarkashi district in the Uttarakhand state of India. Lying on the Greater Himalayan Range at 3048 m and close to Indo-Tibetan border, it holds the origin of the holy river Ganga and the abode of Goddess Ganga (The Daughter of the Heaven).
Ganga, is known as Bhagirathi at its origin and from Devprayag, the junction where it meets the Alaknanda River, it is called Ganga. The source of Ganga is at Gaumukh in the Gangotri Glacier, which is approachable via trekking a distance of 19 km from Gangotri.
Gangotri is famous for the shrine of the goddess Ganga built in 18th century of white granite by the Gorkha General, Amar Singh Thapa. However, the temple can only be visited from May to Diwali, as in the snowy winter, it is closed and the idol is taken to nearby Mukhba village, near Harsil. At night, one should not miss the Aarti ceremony at the banks which is an offering of huge Diyas whose light spread in the environment is truly an experience of internal serene and joy amidst the bountiful crowd.
King Sagar slew many demons who had seized the earth for their evil means. After such a great victory, he wished to perform Ashwamegh Yagya to declare his primacy. In this, a horse was supposed to take a nonstop journey around the earth escorted by 60,000 sons of Queen Sumati and a son of the second Queen Kesani. Due to such power of King Sagar, Lord Indra, the matchless ruler of the heaven, was afraid that he might have to lose his celestial throne if the Yagya (revere with fire) would become successful. Therefore, he attached the horse to the ashram (Resting place) of Sage Kapil, who was profoundly contemplating.
The sons in search of the horse found it in the ashram. Enraged, the 60,000 sons attacked the meditating sage’s ashram and the sage, in return, had cursed them to perish. To bring the lives back, Bhagirath, the grandson of King Sagar, underwent tough penance until centuries. Pleased by this, Lord Shiva asked Goddess Ganga to go down to Earth as a river to release the King Bhagirath’s ancestors from their sins. This is the reason as to why Ganga is also named Bhagirathi.
However, due to the truth that the Earth would be destroyed due to the full force of Ganga, Lord Shiva locked her in his curls to minimize the force. It was decided that Goddess Uma or Parvati, Shiva’s divine wife, would bathe in the river everyday upon which condition Ganga would flow on the Earth. Near the shrine, there exists a sacred stone that signifies the place where Ganga, the rivulet of life, touched the ground for the first time and where King Bhagirath revered Lord Shiva.
This is an amazing natural rock Shivling that is immersed in the river emphasizing the celestial supremacy. A popular legend is that Lord Shiva obtained the Ganga in his twisted locks at this place of the Shivling. This phallic form of Lord Shiva can only be seen in the early winters as the water level is low.
Nandanvan can be reached through a tough trek along the Gangotri Glacier. From this scenic spot, the bottom camp for the Bhagirathi crests, you can have a panoramic view of the adjacent Shivling summit. The sylvan Tapovan is reachable by trekking across the snout of the glacier and is worth visiting due to stunning meadows enclosing the foot of the Shivling summit. You can reach Badrinath from here by trekking to Vasuki Tal, Kalindikhal at an altitude of 5590.
|Bhavishya Badri [source]|
Literally meaning, future Badrinath, it is named so because it is believed that a day in future will make the present route to Badrinath unreachable and Lord Badrinath will be then revered here. The sacred place is enclosed by thick forests near Tapovan and is situated at a distance of 17 km from Joshimath. It is accessible by trekking beyond Tapovan and ascending to the Dhauliganga River. This sacred place enshrines the idol of Narsimha who is the Hindu deity with lion-headed human body.
Uttarkashi (99 km)
This is a pilgrimage centre on 1,150 m height on the Bhagirathi banks. Major temples, which are a must to see, are the Vishwanath temple, Gyaneshwar temple, Ekadash Rudra temple, and Kuteti Devi Temple. Other attraction is the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. A famous event here is the annual ‘Magh Mela’ wherein pilgrims along with their village deity visit Uttarkashi for a sacred bath in Bhagirathi.
Kedar Tal (18 km)
|Kedar Tal [source]|
This is a stunning lake at a height of 4425 m and is famous for the scenic view of mighty Thalaiyasagar peak. You can reach here with a help of the guide through trekking.
Gaumukh (18 km)
|Gangotri Peak with the Gaumukh Glacier [source]|
Meaning cow’s mouth, this is the sacred spot holding the source of the Bhagirathi River and snout of the Gangotri Glacier. As per the tradition, pilgrims reach this place, which is at the height of 4200 m, on foot or on ponies to take a holy dip in the ice-cold water.
Dayara Bugyal (93 km)
|Dayara Bugyal [source]|
This is a stunning meadow at a height of 3,048 m and accessible through a motorable road. It is famous for the Sheshnag Temple on the way and ski slopes in winters. You can also trek down to Dodi Tal at 30 km from here, which is a beautiful lake.
Nachiketa Tal (131 km)
This is a lake with attractive surroundings that can be reached via the peaceful trek through bountiful green forests.
Tehri (173 km)
This is the site of hydel project and is at the junction of Bhagirathi and Bhilangna rivers.
Narendra Nagar (239 km)
|Narendra Nagar Palace|
This is famous for its scenic view of the Ganga valley of Rishikesh and the Haridwar’s plains.
Cheedvasa and Bhojvasa
Cheedvasa is at a distance of 28 km from Gangotri famous for local artifacts; whereas, Bhojvasa is a preferred camping site at 22 km.
Harsil (25 km)
This is a famous village holding many resorts at a height of 2620 m. Other attraction is the Wilson Cottage erected in 1864.
Sat Tal (20 km)
Literally meaning seven lakes, it is worth visiting that is situated close to the Dharali village.
Best Visiting Time
April to November
By air, the nearest airport is Jolly Grant at Dehradun, which is 226 km away. By rail, the nearest station is Rishikesh, which is 249 km away. By road, the holy town is connected to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun, and Delhi. Gangotri can be reached just in 24 hours from Rishikesh, Haridwar, or Dehradun. From Yamunotri – a site in Four Pilgrimage Sites circuit, it takes two days.