Gangotri is situated at a height of 3100 meters in the great Himalayas , the origin of river Ma Ganga known as Bhagirathi here , it is the most important part of the Chardham circuit in Gharwal Himalayas, the actual source is Gaumukh in Gangotri glacier 18 km up-stream at a height of 4120 meters about 30 km long and 2-4 km wide, it is fed by Raktvarn , Chaturangi , Kirti and Bhirghupanth tributary glaciers besides many other small ones .
Gaumukh the origin of Bhagirathi
The temple is on the right bank of the river, a White stone structure where the main idol of Ma Ganga is installed, before praying the pilgrims take bath at the holy river and then visit the main temple, this river is given a status of mother and Goddess in the Hindu way of life, temple opens on Akshya Tritya of Vikram Samvat of Hindu calender which falls somewhere around end April to first half of May every year the temple closes on the day of Depawali and the idol of Ma Ganga is brought down and kept at Mukhba village near Harsil in the winters, the evening Aarti is very impressive and it is performed as a stately affair .
Ma Ganga is known by many names in the Sanatan Scripts , Bhagavat Padi means coming out of Lotus feet of Bhagwan ( God), Tripathaga , it is the only river which flows from all the three worlds Swarag ( Heavens), Prithvi (Earth) and Pataal ( The Hell) . While following King Bhagirath, Ganga was making lots of noise which angered the sage Jahnu who was in his meditation, he drank all the water of Ganga, the Devas requested the sage to release her , Sage Jahnu released Ganga from his ear and named Jahnavi ( Daughter of Jahnu)
The King Sagar who had 60,000 son, once organised the Ashwamegah yagna to proclaim that he is the ruler of earth, a horse was sent around the earth along with the army of all his sons to complete the journey uninterrupted , the king of heaven King Indra felt if the horse takes the full round of earth and yagna is performed the King Sagar will be the threat to his kingdom , he catch hold of horse and tied it in the ashram of Rishi (Sage) Kapil, upon seeing the horse tied there the sons of King Sagar stormed the ashram of Rishi Kapil and disturbed him in his deep meditation, The Rishi Kaipil cursed them all and as a result all burnt down to ashes. The garndson of King Sagar the Bhagirath worshiped Lord Brahma and pleased him to bring the Ganga from heavens to cleanse the ashes of his ancestors and get them liberated to Moksha at this place. It was Lord Shiva who could calmly trapped her in his hairs and let her fell on earth in small streams .
Best Time to Visit
One can visit upon the opening of the temple till the closing date which is Yam Dwitiya of Vikram Samvat , the two days after Depawali but the best time is April till June or till the start of monsoon , then best time is September mid till October, during the monsoon there is a danger of land slides , broken roads and flooding of water streams on the way and one may have to be stranded for days to wait for roads to open.
Places to stay
There are many guest houses and dharamshalas here but good accommodations are available at Harsil 28 km and Uttarkashi 100 km before Gangotri .
Places to visit
Harsil is a Maha Prayag of nine rivers , Lord Vishnu temple at the confluence of river Jalandhari , Vishnu Ganga and Bhagirathi , Mukhba village where the idol of Ma Ganga is kept and worshiped during the winters, Ma Durga temple where Maharishi Markandaey wrote the Durga Saptshati. Dharali is the place where Bhim Ganga and river Hatya Harini meets and having bath here one is relived of Barhm Hatya ( Killing of Human) Dosh
This places is named and there is a temple dedicated to Bhairo Ji , in the winters when the Ma Ganga idol is kept at Mukhba, no one stays back and it becomes the responsibility of Bhairo Ji to protect the place .
When to travel
One can pay visit from Akshya Tritiya of Vikram Samvat till Depawali (i.e. end April to October) in between during the monsoon ( i.e. last of June till end of August) there are rains and chances of road blocks and land slides are more .
How to reach here
There are Buses and trains available up to Hardwar or Rishikesh connections from all over India , one can also reach Dehradun by air onward journey could be performed by buses, cars and jeeps , opening of Helicopter service is a big relief for old age people , the helicopter service is available till Harsil which is 26 km before Gangotri , from here onward Jeeps are available till the temple gate
Distance Delhi to Rishikesh 230 km
Rishikesh to Uttarkashi 152 km
Uttarkashi to Harsil 75 km
Harsil to Gangotri 26 km
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