Gangotri Dham, is a revered beautiful shrine located at an elevation of 3,100m in the Himalayan range in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. It is one of the four sacred and important pilgrimage sites of Chota Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand. Amid all the natural beauty and grace which the mountains and altitude of the place affords, what makes Gangotri one of the holiest places is its intimate connection with river Ganga. It holds a very special place in the hearts of the people.
It is the origin of the holy river Ganges and seat of the goddess Ganga. It originates from the Gangotri glacier at Gaumukh which is around 18 kms from the Gangotri town. Here the river is called as Bhagirathi. It acquires the name Ganga from Devprayag onwards where it meets the river Alaknanda. The temple is closed from Diwali day every year and is reopened on Akshaya Tritiya. During this time, the idol of the goddess is kept at Mukhwa village, near Harshil. Ritual duties of the temple are supervised by the Semwal family of pujaris. These pujaris hail from Mukhwa village.
It is said that Goddess Ganga came to the earth in order to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath's ancestors. According to this legend, King Sagara after slaying the demons on earth decided to stage an Ashvamedha Yajna as a proclamation of his supremacy. The horse which was to be taken on an uninterrupted journey around the earth was to be accompanied by the King's 60,000 sons born to Queen Sumati and one son Asamanja born of the second queen Kesani. Indra, supreme ruler of the gods feared that he might be deprived of his celestial throne if the "Yajna" (worship with fire) succeeded. He then took away the horse and tied it to the ashram of Sage Kapil, who was then in deep meditation. The sons of the King Sagara searched for the horse and finally found it tied near the meditating sage. The angry sons of King Sagar raged the ashram of sage Kapil. When he opened his eyes, all of them had perished by the curse of sage Kapil. Then King Bhagirath, the grandson of King Sagar, is believed to have meditated to please the Goddess Ganga to cleanse the ashes of his ancestors, and liberate their souls, granting them salvation or Moksha.
The main attraction in Gangotri is the Gangotri Temple, where Goddess Ganga is worshipped. A 20-ft-high structure, the exquisite temple is made with white granite. Gangotri exudes a surreal and pious aura that attracts devotees and tourists. Moreover, the beautiful snow-clad mountains in the vicinity and crystal-clear waters of the Ganges add to the serenity of the place.
Apart from visiting the temple, tourists can also visit the Bhagirath shila, which is a piece of stone where king Bhagirath is believed to have meditated. Head to the beautiful Surya Kund near the Gangotri Temple where the river Bhagirathi is shaping the rocks since ages. Gangotri offers trekkers and mountaineers amazing opportunities to climb the majestic Garhwal Himalayas. The most popular trek is the Gangotri-Gaumukh trek, which extends to Tapovan and Nandavan. One more trek named Kalindi trek that leads from Gangotri to Badrinath as the trail goes through the majestic Himalayan mountains with the mesmerising views.
A short trek takes you to an ancient cave popularly known as the Pandava Gufa, where the Pandavas from the Hindu epic Mahabharata are believed to have meditated. From the folds of mythology till the present time, Ganga River has always been a sacred source of purity for the mankind.