Harsil and The Maha Prayag at Bhagirathi River

Harsil is a small sleepy village and important Cantonment of Indian Army situated at a height of 8300 ft. on main road to Gangotri, 73 kms from Uttarkashi, it was once on the old caravan route of India to Tibet most of the people are of Bhutia origin and use Harsil as winter base, more importance is due to village Mukhwas where the statue of Goddess Ganga is brought and worshiped during the winters when Gangotri’s main temple is inacceseble due to snow, it is on the left banks of river Bhagirathi and the Mayank Shikhar. Importance of this place is due to less known fact  that it is a confluance of Seven rivers and a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, many Saints and Sanayasis preferred to meditate here

Harsil is a small sleepy village and important Cantonment of Indian Army situated at a height of 8300 ft. on main route to Gangotri, 73 kms from Uttarkashi, it was once on the old caravan route of India to Tibet most of the people are of Bhutia origin and use Harsil as winter base, more importance is due to village Mukhwas where the statue of Goddess Ganga is brought and worshiped during the winters when Gangotri’s main temple is inaccessible due to snow, it is on the left banks of river Bhagirathi and the Mayank Shikhar. Importance of this place is due to less known fact  that it is a confluence of Seven rivers and a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, many Saints and Sanayasis preferred to meditate here, Godess Ganga’s temlpe the Gangotri is further ahead 23 Kms. from here.

Deodar Forest in Harsil

 Deodar Forest in Harsil

 

Mayank Peak, Harsil

Mayank Peak, Harsil

The Story and History

According to the  Kedarkhand, a chapter in Skandha Puran, it was here Lord Shiva was helped by Lord Vishnu to kill the demon Jalandhar who was brother of Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu’s wife, Demon Jalandhar’s wife Vrinda went into the deep forest and started praying to protect her husband but Lord Vishnu followed her and disguised himself as Jalandhar started living with Vrinda, when Vrinda recognized him she cursed Lord Vishnu that someone deceitfully abduct his wife in his next incarnation, she entered the pyre after this, Lord Vishnu was so obsessed with the beauty of Vrinda that he painted the ashes from the pyre and started roaming all over the Lokas, then his worried Devatas were guided by Godess Parvati with the assistance of Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati, they gave some seeds to them and directed them to  spray those seeds on the ashes of  pyre, on which Vrinda had given up her life.

Three holy plants manifested from that pyre  Amla, Tulsi and Malti. Later on Tulsi and Malti attained to the  Vishnuloka, by the virtue of their respective penance. Later Tulsi became the wife of demon Shankhachuda, he wanted conquer the Indraloka which resulted in a war with lord Shiva who was finding it difficult in wining over him due to the Tapasya of Tulsi. On being instructed by goddess Parvati, Lord Vishnu met Tulsi in the guise of her husband  Shankhachuda, so that the breach of Tulsi chastity could help lord Shiva to kill Shankhachuda, who derived his power from Tulsi’s chastity and virtuosity. When Tulsi recognized Vishnu she became very angry and cursed lord Vishnu to become a stone. She was crying inconsolably. Lord Vishnu contemplated on Shiva as a result of which he appeared. Lord Shiva blessed Tulsi that she would become the beloved of Lord Vishnu. Due to Tulsi’s curse, Lord Vishnu attained the form of Shaligram which is a stone and because of lord Shiva’s blessings. Tulsi leaves started being offered to the Shaligram in the process of its worship. Vishnu also known as Hari who is lying as stone (Shila), This place is called Harsil, this black Shaligram is visible in winters when there is less water in Bhagirathi because of snow.

Jalandhari is sister of goddess Lakshmi and demon Jalandhar, was on her way to meet her sister  Lakshmi and brother-in-law Vishnu, upon reaching here when she came to know about Visnu becoming Shaligram, she melted and met Lord Vishnu in form of a river who was lying in Bhagirathi.

There is a temple of Lord Vishnu on the banks of river Bhagirathi built by Raja Ram Brhamchari in the year 1921 AD (Shaka Samvat 1978), to the east is Lord Shiva’s temple and in the north is Maa Bhagvati’s temple, the rituals of puja are being performed since then by his family, at present Dr. Nagendra Ravat performing it for the last 35 years every day without fail it starts with a holy dip at Bhagirathi river and until puja is over which takes about 4-5 hrs. not a single word is uttered other than the mantras / shlokas until the first meal of the day is taken.

Lord Vishnu Temple at Harsil

Lord Vishnu Temple at Harsil

 

Lord Shiva Temple, Harsil

Lord Shiva Temple, Harsil

The Confluence of 10 Rivers

The Seven rivers are Tilangana, Jalandhari (demon Jalandhar’s sister), Vishnu Ganga or Kakora, Lakshmi Ganga, Him Ganga and Pawan Ganga pour their water in Bhagirathi at this place, little up stream 3 kms is a place called Dharali where Bhim Ganga, Kheer Ganga and Hatya Harini rivers join the Bhagirathi in all there are ten rivers which join and form Bhagirathi in this area hence it is called the Maha Prayag.

According to legend when one of the Pandva’s brother Bhim was bringing the Chaman Rishi to light the holy fire at Aswamegh Yagna on his way to quench the thirst of Rishi he hit his Mace (Gada) at a place from where the water came out, this stream is called Bhim Ganga, bathing in  the river Hatya Harini absolves the sins of killing some one by mistake or otherwise (Barham Hatya Dosh).

River Jalandhri at Harsil

River Jalandhri at Harsil

Around Harsil

Just below the Mukhwa Village is Maharishi Markandeya ashram who created the Maha Mritunjay Mantra it is here he created the Durga Saptashati, there are 700 shlokas (verses) in thirteen chapters, in the praise of Maa Durga and killing of demons, here there is a white temple of Maa Annapurna and Lord Shankar, 1 km ahead is Maa Durga’s temple.

Dense Deodar forest, apple orchards, Waulnut, Chestnut and Wild Flowers are in abundance in this area, Harsil is connected to Baspa Valley by Lamkhaga Pass which opens into Chitkul, Kinnaur of Himachal, one can have a views of peak Bander Punch 6316 mtr.  and peak Srikanth from Dharali village.

A View of Banderpunch Range from Harsil

A View of Banderpunch Range from Harsil

 

Maharishi Markandaey Ashram in White and banks of River Bhagirathi near Harsil

Maharishi Markandaey Ashram in White at banks of River Bhagirathi near Harsil

Harsil is well-connected by a road and there are regular helicopter landings during the months of May , June  Late September till mid October , land slides are common in monsoons otherwise one can reach here throughout the year.

For more information and packages contact + 91 9810506646

Office contact 011 – 45725562, 63, 64

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Char Dham Yatra, Holiest Pilgrimage in Himalayas

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Char Dham Yatra is the holiest of journey for Hindus  in Uttarakhand  Himalayas, this pilgrimage starts with the opening of the doors (Kapat) of four temples,  are closed during the winters due to heavy snow , normally opening of doors is announced on Shivaratri.  This year 2016  journey starts from 8th May with opening of Kapats (Doors) 09 May Sri Yamunotri, Sri Gangotri 09 May, Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badrinath on 11May.

The Starting point Yamunotri
The journey starts from Rishikesh full day road journey passing through Dharsu, Sayanachatti and Barkot, entire route is full of beautiful view of snow capped Banderpunch Range, Pine forests and water falls, pilgrims stay at  Hanuman Chatti or Barkot, where most of the hotels, guest houses and dharamshalas are situated, it is also confluence of river Hanuman Ganga and river Yamuna . Next day one is to cover 6 Kms by Jeeps/SUVs up to Janki Chatti , there are guest houses with basic facilities at Janki Chatti the trek 6 Kms . to the Yamunotri Temple starts from here it is on the left bank of the river, a  hot water spring is near the temple the Surya Kund” ,  pilgrims tie potatoes and rice in cloth  dip in boiling hot water of Surya Kund , so cooked rice is taken as prasad back home, pilgrims take bath at  “Gauri Kund  which has hot water suitable for bathing. Prayers are offered first at the Divya Shila a Black stone slab   then in the Temple. The actual source of river  is further ahead 1 Km at  Champasar Glacier on Kalind Mountain, it is very difficult to reach there, people offer the prayers at the temple situated at the foot hill . Pilgrims return  same day and take rest for the next day onward journey to the Gangotri.

The next stop Gangotri

To reach Gangotri we have to returned to Dharsu and then drive to Uttarkashi to reach Harsil a 250 Kms drive, it is a small town famous for its natural beauty, apple orchards, trekking routes to lakes and undiscovered stretches of grassy meadows. One can reach Gangotri by road from here distance 23 Kms passing through pine forests ,  transport is available till the Temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga, on the banks of River Bhagirathi, the glacier mouth is further ahead 18 kms trek, towards Gaumukh, The Ganges is known as Bhagirathi here, it unites with Alaknanda at Devprayag to form Ganges. Temple is at a very picturesque location amidst high mountains , towards east is the Gaumukh Glacier. It is here  the  Bhagirath shila where King Bhagirath performed the tapasya to bring Ganga from the heavens to earth, water is ice cold here , it is difficult to stay in water for even half a minute. This place is at a height of 3142 meters . Those who want to trek to Gaumukh can spend two more days, which needs clearance from the local authorities, the trek passes through Chirwasa and Bhojwasa, Gaumukh is one of the Largest Glacier in the World, on the way one can find the Ibexes(Snow Goat) grazing on high mountains, the opening of glacier to from where it releases water to form Bhagirathi is a shape of Cows mouth that is why it is called Gaumukh. From here one can have a panoramic view of mountains, Shivaling (6540 meters), Meru (6660 meters) and Bhagirathi (6500 meters).

Ma Gangotri Temple

Sri Kedarnath – Lord Shiva’s Abode

Next place in Chardham Yatra is Sri Kedarnath,  Harsil to Uttarkashi is 69 Kms, then to Guptkashi is 230 kms, Total journey time is about 10 hrs. Passing through Srinagar, Uttarakhand, This route is followed by River Mandakini. Hotels, camps and guest houses at Guptkashi are available at a very reasonable price. Morning starts by a travel upto Gauri Kund , a motor able road or to Phata from where Helicopter Service is available to Kedarnath. Gauri Kund the starting point of Kedarnath trek is a hot water spring, here the Goddess Parvathi lived and performed sadhna to please Lord Shiva to finally got married to him. It is also the place where Lord Ganesha acquired the elephant head. 15 kms trek from here is very tough and takes about 4-5 hours.  Rambara . From Rambara the Yatris cross the River Mandakini to reach Limchuli and then to Kedarnath temple . It is at the height of 3585 meters situated near the head of river Mandakini, surrounded by snow capped mountains, it’s name is derived from the King Kedar in the Satya Yuga, his daughter Vrinda who is also an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, this temple existed in the Mahabharata period, when Pandavas performed tapasya (prayers) to please Lord Shiva. It was here the Adi Shankaracharya took samadhi at the age of 32 years,  soon after establishing the four sacred dhams, it is considered a must visit place, there is a small hot water spring which gives relief to the pilgrims from the tiredness of hard journey, there are dharamsalas, camps and small guest houses, the temple opens at 6 o’clock in the morning and closes in the evening, Kedarnath is the highest among the 12 Jyotirlings, it is built of massive stone slabs over a rectangular platform, here Lord Shiva who was evading the Pandavas hide himself as a bull, on being followed, he dived in the ground leaving behind the hump, the conical rock inside the temple is worshiped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form, outside the temple there is a large statue of Nandi Bull as a guard. After the floods of year 2013 a big boulder named as Divya Shila is also worshiped as it saved the temple by obstructing the flow of flood water to cause any damage to the temple.

One has to be careful while staying at night here because of low oxygen concentration at this altitude. Pilgrims are advised not to exert themselves too much and breathe normal. 
Staying overnight and performing poojas in the morning one returns to Gauri Kund and drive to Joshimath, there are two routes, one is which normally pilgrims take is driving through Rudrapryag, second is through Chopta which is the most beautiful, passing through dense forests of Mandal and Gopeshwar, from Chopta one can take a trek to Tungnath, it is Lord Shiva’s temple situated at about 4 kms trek from Chopta. Drive to Joshimath is about 7 hrs. It is better to stay night in Joshimath and take a morning drive to Sri Badrinath  a 44 kms distance is very rough  and takes about 4 hrs drive , on the way is Gobind Ghat from where trek for The Hemkund Sahib, Laxman Temple and Valley of Flowers starts.

Sri Kedarnath Temple Aug 2015

Sri Badrinath The Lord Vishnu Dham

Shri Badrinath Dham is the temple dedicated to lord Vishnu’s dual form Nara-Naryana, the temple is 15 meters tall with top covered with gold gilt roof, it is built of stone with arched windows, the main entrance is a arched gate, inside is mandapa a large pillared hall leading to the Garbha Griha. It is surrounded by Nara-Narayan peaks and in the backdrop is the Neelkanth peak. Legends says that to reduce the impact of Ganga on earth it was split into twelve rivers and one of them is river Alaknanda, the other legend is that the Pandavas passed through Badridham and to Mana village to ended their life by climbing the heights of peak Swargarohini, there is a cave near the village Mana where the Vyas Rishi complied  the Mahabharata. Before entering the temple, pilgrims must take bath in hot water spring at the Tapta Kund and Surya Kund fed by thermal sulphar springs, the boiling hot water falls into ice cold water of Alaknanda creates the steam over the water surface. North of the temple is a Bharama Kapal where Lord Bharama is said to reside, here the last rites of departed souls are performed. There are lots of other places around like foot prints of Lord Narayana on rock is about 3 kms called Charan Paduka, over a kilometer  on the other side of river is Shesh Netra, the eye of Shesh Nag on which the Lord Vishnu rests is seen on a rock, about 8 km. is the source of Alaknanda the Bhagirath Kharak and Satopantha Glaciers this place is called Alka Puri. One can return same day to Joshimath or stay one night to visit all these places. Sri Badri Dham is also referred as Badri Vishal thus giving the supreme status among the all Dhams.

Sri Badrinath Ji Temple

Returning Home

One may stay a full day at Joshimath , take an excursion to Auli which is at the height of 3050 meters, there are Taxis available to reach a famous winter sports destination for Skiing, there is a rare medicinal plants nursery and little above one can trek to Gorson, Tali, Kauri Pass, Khulara and Tapovan. One can have a panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range of Nanda Devi (7818 meters), Mana (7272 meters), Kamet (7728 meters), Mount Neelkanth, Mount Chaukhamba (6874 meters), Mount Hathi Ghora Palki. One can also visit Vishnu Pryag, the confluence of River Alaknanda and Dhauli Ganga from Joshimath .

Return journey starts from Joshimath passing through Rudraprayag and Srinagar, Dev Prayag  and reaching Rishikesh/Hardwar  a 250/275 km. journey for a night stay, participating at Aarti at Ganga Ghats and to leave for home next day.

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On way to Yamunotri, Janki Chatti, Uttrakhand

Jankichatti is a last village on trek to Yamunotri , situated at a height of 2650 meters from sea, it is 218 km from Rishikesh , earlier the trek use to start from Hanumanchatti but after the widening of road buses are allowed till Jankichatti. It is from here the pilgrims hire mules , ponies or palanquins . There are good number of guest houses and dharamshalas .

Jankichatti village, bus stand, Yamuna River

Till about 30 years ago the old trekking route to Yamunotri was from the Kharsali village , a Guajrati lady named Janki Bai got a temple made, she also offered two silver Deepdan ( Silver Pots with stand)  still in use at the main Yamunotri temple and helped in facilities for the pilgrims , the Govt. recorded this place as Janki Mai Chatti to pay her a respect which is now called as the Janki Chatti.

There is a Ram temple famous for the hot water spring , pilgrims do take a bath before starting the trek for Yamunotri.

One can also make Janki Chatti as a base camp for Sapt Rishi Kund trek which is at the base of Kalind Mountain of  Banderpunch it is a Glacial lake 19 km from Janki Chatti  a two days trek . Other famous trek is the Dodi Tal trek from the Kharsali village side it is 25 km one way and takes two nights stay , one can have the excellent views of Banderpunch and Swargrohini peaks from here.

Just across the river Yamuna is  a helipad at village Kharsali, which is operational during the yatra seasons, this village is also a winter seat of Ma Yamunotri .

For more information and packages contact +91 9810506646

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Office contacts 011 45725562 , 63, 64

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