GANGOTRI DHAM -The picturesque pilgrimage in the hinterlands of theHimalayas is the most sacred spot where Ganga, thestream of life, touched earth fro the first time. According tomythology, Goddess Ganga, the daughter ofheaven, manifested herself in the form a river to absolvethe sins of king Bhagiraths predecessors, followinghis severe penance of 5500 years.Lord Shiva received into his matted locks to minimizethe impact of her fall. The riveritself begins at Gangotri which literallymeans Ganga Uttari or Ganga descending She cameto be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source. TheShrine of Gangotri situated at an elevation of 3200 mabove sea level amidst captivating surroundings along theright bank of Bhagirathi is 100 km from Uttarkashi. TheShrine of Gangotri opens during the last week ofApril or the first week of May, on the auspicious day odAkshaya Tritiya. The temple was constructed in the early18th century by a Gorkha Commander Amar Sigh Thapa.The existing temple is said to be the one reconstructed bythe Jaipur dynasty. Every year thousands of pilgrims throughthe sacred shrine between May & October. The Pujaris &Brahmins are from the village of Mukhwa. The water fromGangotri is carried to offer to Lord Shiva. It is believed thatthis water has amrit (nectar) in it and will soothe the throat ofShiva who gulp the poison.According to mythology King Sagar after slaying the demonson earth staged an Aswamedh Yagna to proclaim hissupremacy. The Kings 60,000 sons born of Queen Sumatiand one son Asamanjas of Queen Kesani were to accompanythe horse. Lord Indra fearing loss of his supremacy stole thehorse and tied it to the ashram of ancient sage Kapil who wasthen deep into meditation. On their search for horse, the60,000 sons stormed the ashram of Kapil and just before theattack on him the sage opened his eyes and reduced all the60,000 sons of King Sagar except Asamanjas to ashes. KingSagars grandson Anshuman was successful in recovering thehorse from Kapil and was told that those 60,000 burnt willattain heavenly adobe if Ganga is brought down from heaven& their ashes were cleaned by its water. Then the great taskof bringing Ganga to earth started. Anshuman failed and sodid his son Dilip but his grandson Bhagirath succeededSpecial Puja of Ganga both inside the temple as well as on the river bank. The temples closes onthe day of Diwali followed by a formal closing ceremony amidst a row of oil lamps. It is believed thatthe Goddess retreats to Mukhwa, her winter abode (12 km downstream)EXCURSION :Gangotri Temple: As the legend goes, King Bhagirath used to worship Lord Shiva at the sacredstone, near which this 18th century temple is located. The slab on which King Bhagirath is believedto have meditated is called Bhagirathi Shila. The mother Ganga is worshipped as Goddess and theholy river in the temple. Before performing the Puja rituals, a holy dip in the Ganga flowing nearbythe temple is a must. The Pujaris (priest) belong to Brahmin community from Mukhwa village. Tenof them are selected by rotation every year to perform all the functions covering the temple and theyalso perform the duties of pandas.1. Submerged Shivling:
2. Kedar Ganga Sangam:3. Kedar Tal :4. Dayara Bugyal :5. Sat-Tal :6. Gaumukh :One of the four sites amongst the holiest places, Char Dham in India, is Gangotri. This sacred city is located in the northern part of the state of Uttarakhand. It is known as the source of River Ganges and also the seat ofGoddess Ganga. Ducked amidst the sprawling Garhwal hills, Gangotri is an ideal location for all those who wish to take a dip into the oceans of divinity, as well as those have a thirst for adventure. This makes Gangotri an idealspot in terms of travel and tourism.Gangotri also has a strong historical past and bears the eternal feel of antiquity. According to mythological records, King Bhagirath did penance here, after which, as per Lord Shivas wishes, River Ganges came down on earth.However, to save the earth from the fierce force of the river, Lord Shiva held her in his locks. Thus, river Ganges is also known as Bhagirathi here. Moreover, it is also believed that Pandavas came down to this place to performDeva Yajna.As a result, Gangotri is a significant place from religion point of view. Hundreds of devotees throng the place every year in order to unleash the secrets of spirituality. Some of the main attractions of Gangotri include GangotriTemple, which was built by Gurkha monarch Amar Singh Thapa, around 3000 years back. Another pilgrim site here is Jalamagna Shivalinga, which is a natural rock Shivalinga submerged in the river.It is deemed to be the place where Lord Shiva held Ganga in his locks. This Shivalinga is only visible in winter months. Other worth visiting places in the vicinity are Gaumukh (source of Ganges), Gaumukh Glacier andNandanvan. Drifting towards the adventurous aspect of Gangotri, it offers a number of sports for fun lovers such as river rafting, trekking etc. Thus, to enjoy the natural beauty and religious fervor at its best, Gangotri is a mustvisit place for all.Destination GaumukhSubmitted by vishnu.kumar7 on Tue, 07/20/2010 - 00:50GangaGangotriGaumukhGaumukh GlacierGaumukh trekGlacierUttaranchalUttarkashi
Gangotri - Gaumukh Trek at High altitudeJourney in brief:Day 1 : New Delhi - Dehradun - UttarkashiDay 2 : Uttarkashi - GangotriDay 3 : Gangotri - Gaumukh - GangotriDay 4 : Gangotri - Uttarkashi - Dehradun - New DelhiThat fine day I hopped into a train to Himalayas alone. was it a lost pursuit for something ? Nope.Yes. I am not sure. whatever is the reason but you need to get completely out of head for walking38 km straight in a day at an altitude of 4000 M on the shadow of Gaumukh glacier.wrapped up everything at my office on that Friday night.. i took a midnight train toDehradun. itwas a comfortable journey. took 6-7 hours...Next morning I had to take a share taxi to Uttarkashi because its nearly impossible to havea direct journey of 275 km in a day and one can not afford a night travel on those dangerous route to Himalayas...
River Ganga on the way to Gaumukh from Gangotrifor sure it was not insanity for chasing river Ganga till its origin [ Gaumukh ] neither was Imotivated by mythological stories. it was all about my love to Himalayas and a dream to seeriver Ganga comes out from a glacier. it was not that comfortable journey to Uttarkashi...it was picturesque beauty all around on the bank of river Ganga. I was travelling with some locals.got fair idea about flora,fauna. and specially about all near by places in that region. many waterstreams merging and resulting confluence with mighty riverGanga. many villages in the lap ofmother nature in those valleys of Himalayasnarrating their glory. you will completely get intomood of spirituality. would be mesmerized with natural beauty.........and hypnotized with the reflection of sun light on those snowy peaks of thegreatHimalayas range.... finally i reached to Uttarkashi. i had to stay there for one night.....its a spectacular town in the lush green valley on the bank of River Bhagirathi ( Gangais calledas Bhagirathi in that region )...I roamed around in that town. went to forest department officefor getting permission to Gaumukh trek. water falls were all over on those hilly treks...
River Ganga Near Tehri DamNext morning,i need to catch a share taxi to Gangotri. and finally i got a fellow traveler on thejourney ahead to Gangotri. A solo traveler from South Africa. you can never be sureabout departure time for those share taxis to Gangotri. there are two rules.1) Taxi will only depart when it is full..2) Taxi will never be full....we were lucky that it departed and i reached Gangotri without any physical damage. got a roomwith basic amenities. roamed around in that village. took bath in theGangas freezing water. somebeautiful temples. an extremely calm place surrounded by snow peaked high Himalayas range.next morning was D-Day. so i decided to sleep little early after having light dinner at Gangotri.
Ganga Basin near Gangotri - GaumukhNext morning at 5o clock, we have started hiking up to Gaumukh. Gaumukh is 18 km farfrom Gangotri and it was an amazing trail till Gaumukh. you can feel wilderness all around.its a secluded place and a forest reserve so there is no habitation in that area. altitude is alsorelatively high so humans dont prefer to reside there. In between milestones on that trek routewe rested sometimes..... sometimes got glimpse of wilderness around us. that terrain posses a richnatural heritage unaffected by human interventions. scenic landscape,freezing breeze coming outfrom glacier,mild sun light,dusty pathway made it a dream land with a dreamer wandering ....after5 hours of exhausted walk,finally i reached to the Source of River Ganga at an altitude of 4000m...that is Gaumukh...I was among very few travelers for that day...
Ganga Origin at Gaumukh GlacierIn fact i was the only one in that cold desert near Gaumukh. i laid back on a stonenearGangas basin at Gaumukh and stared at the blue sky. I felt extremely content. it was like iam the only one breathing on this planet. i took bath at the holy place. and it was time to fold thejourney because it would be dark very soon and dangerous too considering that wilderness,altitudeand inclement weather. i came down to Gangotri. next morning took a taxi to Uttarkashi..then a bus to Dehradun. caught a night train back to New Delhi....
Gangotri- Gaumukh TrekThis amazing journey to Gaumukh left its footprints on my head. I can feel every waterstream,wooden bridges,glaciers,snowy breeze,cold desert at this moment too....!!Including an Important update from Jonas... I hope it will be helpful for fellow travelers-busses from hardidwar to uttarkashi 6-9 a.m.-Forest Department Uttarkashi Opening timings 10-17h-From Uttarkashi to gangotri most shared jeeps starts around 6 a.m.-You can get EVEREY DAY permission in Gangotri early morning and evening 5 to 7-Indian-150 INR fr two days, after each day 50, Foreigners 600INR first two days 150 afterPhone number for uttarkashi forest dept is 01374223693.Sankulp has been travelling extensively for past 6 years all over India. Travel for him is all aboutliving off road and on a shoe string budget. He prefers travelling to off beat and less explored areas.He loves photography and trekking.I met a sage in Gangotri who told me “Bhramaan se Bhram Mitta Hai” which means “you clear your misconceptions through your travel” and I couldn’t agree more. I arrived atGangotri from Uttarkashi on the 17th of June 2012. The most important reason for visiting Gangotri was to trek up to Gaumukh and Tapovan.Gangotri is a small holy town packed during the months from April end to June mid for the “charmdham yatra”. The place has a certain charm to it. They say that when the Ganga arrived on this planet,it is here in Gangotri; where she started her journey throughout the country. Seeing the Ganga flowwith all her might is very intimidating yet a certain pinch of calm and serenity strikes with the templebells ringing behind and the priests chanting shlokas behind you.I had my booking at the “Gharwal Nigam Mandal Nigam” (GMVN). This government run guesthouseis off the main temple street and offers a much more seclusion and silence from the pilgrims. I purely
chose it because it rents out dorms for Rs150 a day. When you are on an Rs 500 per day budget, thisis a steal. The rooms were very clean and the bathrooms were very well kept; much above myexpectations as the GMVN I stayed at Hanuman Chatti was rather falling apart.I had decided to spend few days in Gangotri to acclimatize to the high altitude and prepare for my trektowards Gaumukh and Tapovan. I had got permission for the trek from Uttarkashi itself andhappened to meet a local trek operator who directed me about the entire trek. I realized that mybudget didn’t allow me to hire a guide but I was advised to take a porter along as they are familiar withthe route. At Gangotri, I happened to speak to few porters but then again they were not affordableunder my budget.My three days stay at Gangotri was very comfortable and I was brimming with spiritual exuberance. Ichatted up with the locals and gathered all the information one would need for the trek. Some hadstories to share that were rather frightening but all of them strictly advised me to take a porter along ifI was going further to Tapovan, I only realized why they told me so when I reached Gaumukh.Day 1 : Gangotri to BhojwasaOn the 20th I started my trek towards Bhojwasa which is 14kms from Gangotri. I carried few packets ofbiscuits for the way and filled my bottle with some fresh water. On my way I could see the NeelkanthPeak far ahead of me. The narrow path often escalates and leaves you breathless. The view aroundmakes the effort worth every bit. The air gets sharper as you ascend and one can actually feel the coldicy feeling within you.On my way I found many pilgrims who were going to Gaumukh only. I perhaps was the only planningto go to Tapovan alone. At times it felt daunting but the surge of adventure often kept my spirits high.The plan was to reach Bhojwasa and look for someone who can lead me to Tapovan. I was rathercomfortable with the climb and took my hourly rest of 15 minutes and my photo breaks which werehappening too often as the landscape changes with every corner you approach.Four hours and 12kms into the trek comes Cheerbasa; where your permit is checked again. Earlier thisplace had tiny hamlets that used to sell tea and snacks but the government has banned all suchactivities for past three years now. A small check post is seen down hill. From here Bhojwasa is around2 kilometers trek which gets rather strenuous as you are almost at 11480 ft above sea level.
In some places the route is totally destroyed by land slides. There is very narrow passage and only oneperson at a time can cross this. Passing this area get even tough as the rocks are loose and getting agood grip is difficult. A fall would mean a serious injury and getting help out here is considerablydifficult.After 6 hours of trek I finally reached Bhojwasa which can be seen in a valley below. Most pilgrimstake the route ahead to Gaumukh and on their way back they stop here. Bhojwasa is a very smalltemporary settlement set up to aid the Gaumukh yatra. This place has few places to stay like the“GMVN” guest house but the more popular place is “Lal Baba Ashram”. I took shelter here for thenight and was provided with some warm food and blankets. A much needed rest after a hectic trek of14kms that last around 6 hours.The view from Bhojwasa is even exhilarating. The Neelkanth peak looks even more life like and mightythan it does from Gangotri. There are numerous other peaks that dot the sky line. One feels ratherhumble and very mortal by the view of such mammoth natural wonders. Stay at Bhojwasa proved tobe fruitful and I happened to meet a porter I earlier spoke to in Gangotri but then I could strike a dealwith him as he was again not within my budget. This porter was taking a single person to Tapovan thenext day; a Ukrainian lady who visits the Mauni Baba living in Tapovan for past three years now.I requested him to take me along and he was more than happy to have another person for company.The porters are mostly Nepalis and are very humble people. If you speak to them nicely and offer
things you have they will help you out. My work was done and I was going to Tapovan but then Ialways had a doubt if I could make the climb. I have traveled a lot but this was perhaps the mostdaring thing I was about to do in my whole life. But the next day after a good night’s sleep we were onour way to Gaumukh and then to Tapovan.Day 2 : Bhojwasa to Tapovan via GaumukhGaumukh is roughly 4kms from Bhojwasa and the terrain gets rockier. The path is paved but it is veryweathered in most of the places, making it hard on your feet. The sharp edged rocks at times arepainful if stepped with a lot of forward force. We covered the distance in just less than two hours andthen stopped at the small temple that’s been made to mark Gamukh and the origin of the Holy Ganga.We decided to rest here for half an hour. Meanwhile I got busy clicking the view around me. Yes it wasGaumukh at 13120 ft above sea level. The glacier has receded quite a lot over the year and now hasbeen pushed away considerably. We then started perhaps the most challenging part of the trek,onwards to Tapovan which is at a distance of 4kms from Gaumukh and is almost parallel to it.
The porter led us to a higher ground from the left side of the Gaumukh glacier. As we ascended, theroute totally disappeared and what left was the stone path upwards which crumbled at slightestpressure. I was walking on and could see crevasses next to me that are more than often deathly. Now Iunderstood why everyone advised me on taking a porter to Tapovan. If you are new to this place youwill get lost or even worse fall in to a crevasse.
The climb was taking a toll on my thigh and calf muscles and the thin air made the climb even moretesting. The porter asked me not to stop until we reached the top of the glacier, later I was told that therocks fall can be life threatening. I did manage to reach the top of the glacier and saw at a distance Iwas up against. A very steep hill was to be climbed up to reach Tapovan. From a distance this hilllooked virtually impossible. But this was not it. To reach this hill we had to pass through theremaining glacier. The path was rather treacherous as you can’t make out which part is ice and whichpart is stone. The mud on top of the icy glacier makes it look like a firm land but as you step on it youslip down. Any further struggle would cause you to slip further.
Exhausted we reached the foot of the hill. The porter told us that this was the last part of our trek andthen we will reach Tapovan. We started our climb. The steepness of the hill was relentless, oftenincreasing our frequency of rest breaks. After what can be termed as a very high level of endurancetest we reached a waterfall. We crossed over to the other side only so see the end of the climb on sight.We had reached Tapovan. At 4500 meters above sea level world looks totally different. We startedwalking towards the Mauni Baba’s Ashram, who happens to be the only settler in Tapovan for eightmonths of the year. The trek was over and the view around made the effort worth every bit of it. Wewere welcomed by Baba at his ashram where we stayed for the night. The Baba provides everyonewith food that he makes on his own and warm blankets for the night. As a courtesy people carry somefood supplies along with them or leave small donations as per their wish.
Tapovan is perhaps the most peaceful place I have been to. I have seen quite a few secluded places butthis one has a soul to it. A walk along the Akash Ganga River that flows though out Tapovan imposesa sense of calm and clarity within you. In Tapovan it is just you and your encompassing thoughts,making the Neelkanth Peak now look at your arm’s length. The sense of satisfaction you get afterreaching here makes the tough climb worth every bit.
The Baba shares some stories and you can help him with chores of cooking and cleaning. Though it’sdifficult to understand him initially but he does write and put his views across.The night in Tapovan gets really cold. There is no electricity so after sunset it gets pitch dark. That’swhen the stars shine and you can actually catch their reflection in the river. My advice is to be braveand take a walk out in the open, keep a flash light handy; it’s a chill worth experiencing. At night I waswrapped under many layers of clothing and had a blanket provided by the Baba and could still feel thecold seeping in.
Day 3 : Tapovan to GangotriNext morning it was time to head back to Gangotri. After paying my regards to Mauni Baba andthanking him for his kind hearted hospitality I started my journey back to Gangotri. It took us aroundfour hours to get down from Tapovan to Gamukh and then after that I was all by myself to reachGangotri. On my way down I shared my bottle of water with the porter and another pilgrim so I wasleft with few drops of it. I then decided to head down towards the river to find some water.The Gaumukh area has a very muddy water flowing which can be had only after straining and boilingit. I was in need of drinking water and the sun was making it even tougher for me. A quick wash at theriver bed refreshed me and I had few biscuits I has picked up when I started from Gangotri. At somedistance I found some broken ice floating in the river. I fished some out and broke them to smallerpieces to fit them in my flask. This was my water source till would reach Bhojwasa 4kms away.After a two hours trek I reached Bhojwasa and had a fair share of clean water from the “Lal BabaAshram” and the khichdi they provide for free. Such gestures make you feel very humble. I thankedthe ‘bhakts’ that run the ashram all through the year, even when the temperatures fall below zero.I wanted to reach Gangotri the same day and halt there for the night. The only issue was that I had toreach before 8 p.m. at night as the gates of the national park are closed then after. So I had around 6hours to cover 14kms to get to Gangotri. I managed to reach in less than 5 hours. Exhausted I sat inthe nearest restaurant I could find for a hot tea and some snacks. Shared some with another porter Ibefriended on my way down.
In all I spent a week in Gangotri along with my trek and met many people who shared a lot of theirpersonal experiences with me. I would advise everyone to try and make this trek atleast once in thislife time. There is much for these eyes to see and this soul to experience.