Gangotri The Sacred Mother River

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)

 

Gangotri Temple

Legend

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

Bhairo Ghati

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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Helicopter Service Yamunotri, Gangotri Do Dham

Traditionally the Yatra Chardham as per Hindu system starts the parikama clockwise i.e. starts from Yamunotri to Gangotri and then to Sri Kedarnath last is the Sri Badrinath the Yatra for the year 2016 starts from 10th May the Akshya Tritya of Vikram Samvat . 

The road journey which covers Yamunotri and Gangotri from Rishikesh takes Five days of not only difficult driving in the Himalayas but also danger of falling rocks and road blocks due to heavy traffic on the roads during the Yatra period from May till mid June . Helicopters carry 4-5 person at a time depending upon the maximum carry load of 300 kg.

Yamunotri Temple and Yamuna coming down from Kalind Glacier

Yamunotri Temple and Yamuna coming down from Kalind Glacier

 

Opening of helicopter service  has reduced the journey time to  few hours and Do Dham Yatra is completed in two days . Helicopters carry 4-5 person at a time depending upon the maximum carry load of 300 kg. with a night stop at beautiful place , Kharsali a village which is having the oldest Lord Shani temple next to the helipad  or Harsil  which happens to be the Maha Prayag of Eight  rivers in to Bhagirathi ( Jalandhari, Vishnu GangaLakshmi Ganga, Pawan Ganga, Telangna, Bhim Ganga, Kheer Ganga , Kakora and Hatya Harini) ,  an age old  temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and a temple dedicated to Ma Durga at a place where Maharishi Markandey wrote the Durga Saptshati are worth a visit.

The flight operations are from Dehradun a 45 minute flight for  Kharsali ( the starting point for 6 km trek for Yamunotri ) , the Yatris can do the trek , perform pooja at Yamunotri and return in 4-5 hrs at the helipad one can visit the oldest temple of lord Shani Dev at Kharsali village, one can stay a night at Kharsali or fly same day for Harsil a 40 minutes flight . Jeep/ Car will take you to a 26 km drive to the Gangotri temple , on way are Bhairo temple and the deepest gorge in Asia , after performing the pooja return to Harsil for a night stay and Dinner

Mayank peak Harsil

Mayank peak Harsil

 

Next morning after breakfast transfer to the helipad for return flight for Dehradun  a 45 minutes flight . All above arrangements are also available ex Delhi .

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Harsil on way to Gangotri, Uttrakhand

Harsil is 24 kms. before Gangotri and 73 km. from Uttarkashi , a small sleepy village with an army cantonment situated at a height of 7860 feet from sea level,  beautiful place full of Pine, Deodar trees and medicinal plants , orchards  famous for its juicy Apples . It is inhabited by Bhotias of Himalayas, very close to the Tibet border. Famous for its variety of trekking routes, camping, and dense forests. It is a small village with some places of interest in the surroundings like bird watching, trekking, or simply building camps with kids and family near the river Bhagirathi .

River Jalandhari at Harsil

The mythological importance of this place is it has a reference in Skandh Purans chapter Kedarkhand . It is here at Mukhwa village the Idol of Ma Ganga is kept and worshiped during the winters . Mukhwa is a place where Chaman Rishi took rest with Pandva prince Bheem when he was coming to lit the holy fire at Ashwamegha Yagna , The reference of Mayank Parvat in it is here .

River Bhagirath and Banderpunch mountain range Harsil

 

It is a Maha Prayag of nine rivers joining the Bhagirathi the  rivers are Jalandhari, Vishnu Ganga, Kheer Ganga, Bheem Ganga, Lakshmi Ganga, Telangana, Pawan Ganga and  Hatya Harini cris crossing the valley , at the Prayag ( confluence) of Vishnu Ganga, Jalandhari  into Bhagirathi there is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Ma Bhagwati , it is said that lord Vishnu took the form of Shaligram here and lying at this Prayag ( confluence ).

Lord Vishnu temple at Maha Prayag Harsil

Lord Vishnu temple at Maha Prayag Harsil

There is a temple didicated to Ma Durga on the banks of river Bhagirathi , it is said that it is here Maha Rishi Markandey wrote the Saptshati in praise of Ma Durga the first ever worship of female Goddess  in Sanatan Dharma.

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Yatra Chardham Uttrakhand in Winters

Yatra Chardham in the Uttrakhand also called the Chota Chardham is a journey of four places or Dhams done from spring to autumn months, and as per the Hindu calender, from Akshaya Tritia till the Bhai Dooj ( April end /May first week till October end / November second week) . During this time, all the roads and trekking routes are accessible and free from any Snow.

During the Winters when all Dhams are closed due to snowfall in the higher  reaches of the Himalaya , the main deities for worship are brought down at the temples located in the villages for the uninterrupted  daily Puja and rituals, one saves on the long uphill treks which are difficult for the Senior Citizens. Hotels are less expensive and temples are not crowded. One can spend as much time to perform the puja and dhyan. The usual Yatra Chardham is of 14 days in summer months from Delhi by road but same journey can be done comfortably  in 10 days in winters

 Ma Yamuna is worshiped at village Kharsali seven kms before the Yamunotri main Temple,  just across river Yamuna at Janki Chatti, it is a picturesque village which has the oldest Lord Shani temple. 

Ma Yamuna stays with her brother Lord Shani during the winters.

Shani Dev , Naag Devta Temple at Kharsali

Ma Ganga is worshiped at village Mukhwa near Harsil. A lesser known and ignored fact about Harsil  is that Harsil is a place where many rivers meet which forms a Maha Prayag like Vishnu Ganga, Jalandhari, Pawan Ganga, Hatya Harini, Kheer Ganga , Kakora, Tilangana and  Bhim Ganga pouring their waters into the main River,  Bhagirathi. 

Harsil’s Mayank Parvat  has mention in Kedarkhand a chapter in Skandh Purana. This place is also famous for Ashram of Maharishi Markandaeya, who composed the Durga Saptshati at Mukhwa

Ma Gangotri Winter Seat , Mukhwa Village , Uttrakhand

Lord Kedarnath ( Lord Shiva) is worshiped at Gupt Kashi  Ukhimath, located on the banks of  Mandakini river, where, during the winter months, the Idols are brought in from the main temple of Sri Kedarnath .

Lord Kedarnath Winter seat , Ukhimath

At Gupt Kashi it is said  “जितने पत्थर उतने शंकर ” (All the stones are Lord Shiva) 

One can visit and offer prayers at places associated with Sanatan HinduMythology, at Guptkashi namely Ardhnarishwara, Manikarnika Kund ( Pond)Love legend of Anirudha (the grand son of Lord Krishna ) and Demon King Banasura‘s daughter Usha and then killing of Banasur, Grave of Nala of epic Ramayna,

One gets a beautiful view of Chaukhamba , Kedarnath and Neelkantha peaks.

Lord Badri Vishal Winter Seat Pandukeshwar , Uttrakhand

 

Lord Badri Vishal is worshiped at Pandukeshwar  during the winters, this place is 18 kms from Joshimath and very close to Govind Ghat. Pandukashwer is also associated with King Pandu father of Five Pandavas of Mahabharata

After the curse from a Sage, ( Rishi) Kindama, mistakenly killed by King Pandu, spent his life here and his queens Kunti and Madri gave birth to the five Pandva brothers, Namely Yudhishthir, Arjun, Bheem, Nakul and Sahdev (in order of their ages, elder first).

Yudhishthir, Arjun and Bheem were born from Kunti and Nakul, Sahdev were born from Madri.

All these places hold equal importance in Sanathan Hindu Mythology, as the main Shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. These places have been the winter seats for these gods for generations.

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