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.

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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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