Gangotri 2022

May 26th, 2022.

Gangotri Dham, located at the height of around 3,100 meters on the Himalayan range in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, holds a very special place in the hearts of Hindus. It is one of the four sacred and important pilgrimage sites of Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand. Amid all the natural beauty and grace which the mountains and altitude of the place afford, what makes Gangotri one of the holiest places is its intimate connection with the River Ganga (the Ganges).


Ganga Maa, the much-revered deity of Hindus, originates from the Gangotri glacier at Gaumukh which is some 19 km from the Gangotri town. From the folds of purana till the present time, Ganga River has always been a sacred source of purity for mankind. Coming to Gangotri for a religious tour is not only a religious duty but a spiritual calling too.


A picture of serenity, the humble abode of Maa Ganga is situated by the side of the Bhagirathi River. Mother Ganga is present in the premises of the white temple building in the form of a small silver idol. The amazing mountain range of Himalayas and the flowing Bhagirathi by the side makes for a perfect setting to behold the life-giving, gentle yet powerful deity. The pilgrims are required to bathe in the crystal clear waters of the pious river before visiting the main shrine.

View of the Shivling peak, part of the Tapovan, Gangotri group of peaks, where Gomukh glacier can be found

As the winter season gets ready to knock on the doors of the mountain region, Goddess Ganga gets ready to leave for Mukhyamath temple in Mukhba village, 20 km downstream. The transfer takes place on the auspicious day of Diwali (Oct/Nov) amid Vedic chants and elaborate rituals. With greater joy and enthusiasm, the Goddess is brought back to the Gangotri temple on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya (April/May).

Origin of Ganga and associated legend:

The story of Ganga is intrinsically intertwined with the legend of Bhagiratha, the great-grandson of Sagara.

Sagara was the emperor of Ayodhya. He was feeling deprived as he had no children. Sagara had two wives. His first wife was Keshini (daughter of king Vidarbha) and his second wife was Sumathi (daughter of Arishtanemi). Emperor Sagara penanced for a hundred years and on completion, Sage Bhrugu appeared to Sagara and bequeathed two boons to him. He said that one of his wives will give birth to a son who would enrich Sagara dynasty and the other wife will be blessed with sixty thousand sons. Keshini preferred one single son and Sumathi desired to have sixty thousand sons. As destined, Keshini gave birth to one son who became known as Asamanja and Sumathi gave birth to sixty thousand sons.

King Sagara, after slaying the demons on earth decided to perform an Ashwamedha Yajna as a proclamation of his supremacy. The horse which was to be taken on an uninterrupted journey around the earth was to be accompanied by the King’s 60,000 sons born to Queen Sumati. Indra, the ruler of the gods feared that he might be deprived of his celestial throne if the “Yajna” succeeded and then took away the horse and tied it to the ashram of Sage Kapil, who was then in deep meditation. Sagara sent his 60,000 sons to go retrieve the horse. They followed its footsteps and soon found the horse wandering in Patala near Kapila Muni’s hermitage. They assumed that Kapila Muni had stolen the horse and they started insulting him. Kapila angrily glared at them, and in an instant, they were reduced to a pile of ashes.

Meanwhile, Sagara sent his grandson Anshuman, who was the son of Asamanja, to recover the horse. Anshuman followed the path of his uncles and soon reached Kapila Muni’s hermitage. When he saw the ashes of his uncles, he started weeping. He asked Kapila Muni to bring his uncles back from the dead. Kapila Muni responded, “Any life born on this earth has to die and cannot be brought back to life. However, they can be given mukti. The river Ganga is currently in the heavens. You must bring down the river Ganga to Earth. When this holy river touches the ashes of your uncles, they will be liberated.”

Anshuman took the horse and went back to king Sagara, who completed his yagna. Later, at the palace, Anshuman told Sagara about what Kapila Muni had said. Sagara assigned this task to Anshuman. After Sagara, Anshuman became king and he tried to bring down the river Ganga, but he died unsuccessfully. Thus, the task was passed onto Dilipa, Anshuman’s son.

Soon, even Dilipa was lying on his deathbed without having finished the task. Before dying, he told his son Bhagiratha, “My son, you must complete the task that I failed to complete.” Bhagiratha vowed, “Father, I will not ascend the throne until I have brought the river Ganga to Earth.”

Accordingly, when Dilipa passed away, Bhagiratha did not ascend the throne. Instead, he entrusted the kingdom to his ministers and then went to the forest to perform penance.


Bhagiratha Tapastali – Place where Bhagiratha did his penance

Bhagiratha performed penance for decades. Finally, Lord Brahma appeared before him and said, “Ask for a boon, oh king. Whatever you desire shall be granted.” “Let the river Ganga flow down to Earth from the heaven and liberate my ancestors. This is the boon I desire,” Bhagiratha requested. “The force of the river Ganga is too powerful for Earth. Lord Shiva can withstand the force of Ganga. You must please him,” Brahma said.


Bhagiratha and the shila where he did his penance

Thus, Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva. Shiva appeared before him and instructed him to ask for a boon. Bhagiratha replied, “Oh Lord Shiva, please receive the force of the river Ganga as it flows down to Earth.”. Shiva acceded to Bhagiratha’s request and then vanished. Meanwhile, Ganga jumped down from the heavens. Halfway down, she thought, “Oh, Lord Shiva isn’t paying attention. I shall sweep him away with me to the nether world.” But Shiva knew what she was planning, so as she was falling to the Earth, Shiva imprisoned her in his matted hair. He kept her imprisoned for many years. Once again, Bhagiratha prayed to Shiva and requested that he free the goddess Ganga. Shiva agreed to his request and let out 1/6th portion of the river Ganga and thus Ganga was now flowing on earth. The place where Ganga touches earth happens to be Gangotri. But because of the immense work that Bhagiratha had to put in, in order to get Ganga to earth, she is known as Bhagirathi and is called Bhagirathi till Dev Prayag, where on her confluence with Alakananda is then called Ganga. And the oceans get their name as Sagara, after kind Sagara.

Bhagirathi then asks Bhagiratha to show her the way to reach his granduncles and follows him as she meanders through the Himalaya and then the gigantic Gangese plane, before entering the ocean at Gangasagar ( Sage Kapil muni ashram) as a gentle, but a wide estuary and thus granting mukti to 60,000 sons of Sagara. Keeping faith in this mythology, millions of pilgrims from across the globe visit the Gangasagar Mela during the freezing hours of Makar Sankranti in search of Moksha. It is believed that a dip in the holy water will wash away all the sorrows and sins. With this belief, millions visit the Kapil Muni ashram with the hymn ” Sab Tirth Bar Bar Ganga Sagar Ekbar.”


Rawat at Gangotri temple. Pandits or Purohits are called as Rawats here.


Sacred fire that has been lit here and has been kept alive for ages, in front of the Gangotri temple.

Landscape fit for Gods:

The entire journey from Uttarakashi to Gangotri, which is around 100 km, the high mountain roads, neverending vistas and valleys and the omnipresent Bhagirathi will simply take one’s breath away. Definitely one of the most scenic and stunningly beautiful places that I have ever visited. After visiting Gangotri, I realised why this state was called “Dev Bhoomi”




Close up of the Shivling peak.


Tapovan / Gangotri group of mountains.


Could not get enough of these magnificent mountain ranges….



Roads are right on the bank of the Bhagirathi river, almost all the way back till she reached Tehri


We stopped right next to his place to have our packed lunch that day. What a place to enjoy our lunch.







How we visited Gangotri:

We arrived at Uttarakashi and stayed at a hotel there the previous evening. As was the norm on this trip, we woke up around 1:30 am and left the hotel around 2:30 am, on a 100 km travel to reach Gangotri. Sun rises around 4 am in these parts and thus the twilight and the beautiful landscapes kept me riveted to the window, though we were all sleep-deprived.


Stopped at a quaint little place called Bhaironghati, around 7 am to have our breakfast. Our chef and team from Nirmala had prepared Pongal for breakfast (both sweet and savory ones). With the outside temperatures almost 0 degrees, it was heavenly to have hot, damn tasty Pongal that day. God bless Jaganna and the team for that.


The roadside eatery that we stopped at to eat Pongal that morning.


Bhaironghati, 8 km before Gangotri

It was just 8 km from that point on and we reached Gangotri around 8 am. Had our darshan and then walked around taking pictures of the gorgeous place till about 10 am, as we walked our way back to the place where our buses had been parked. Left Gangotri around 10:30 am and reached Uttarakashi around 4 pm. These roads can get blocked at times, due to the high density of traffic at this time of the year. We did not get stuck on that day, but it did take us a bit of time to traverse back the 100 km to Uttarakashi. Thus we had completed 2 of the 4 dham’s in our Chardham and were looking forward to the toughest one amount them all, the trek up to Kedarnath.