One of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in northern India, Gangotri is one of the Char Dhams. Situated in the Uttarkashi region of Uttarakhand, Gangotri is a quaint town with the temple of Goddess Ganga at its heart. Nestled amongst lofty Garhwal Himalayan peaks, dense pine forests, and glaciers, Gangotri is a 12-hour drive away from Rishikesh. It is one of the highest pilgrimages in India located at a height of 3,415 meters above sea level.
Other than stunning surroundings, Gangotri offers a divine atmosphere. Gangotri, the most sacred of all rivers, descended from Vaikuntha or heaven on Prithvi Lok or Earth at Gangotri when Lord Shiva released the divine river from his hair locks. The actual origin of the river is 19 kilometers away from Gangotri at Gaumukh, which is easily accessible by trekking. After originating from the Gangotri glacier, the river is called Bhagirathi, after merging with the Alaknanda River at Devprayag, it acquires its name ‘Ganga’.
Best Time To Visit Gangotri
Gangotri receives a huge number of devotees during the Char Dham Yatra season between May and October and hence, it is the best time to visit.
History of Gangotri
It is believed that the Gangotri temple was built during the reign of the Gurkha leader Amar Singh Thapa. The road leading towards the temple was too steep and he got it repaired. He also repaired the Julapul or the ropeway bridge in Bhairon Valley. He, later on, donated his hard-earned sum of 400 rupees as there was no temple on the head of Bhagirathi River.
To build the temple, Katyuri architecture was used and additional 3 to 4 huts were also built for the pilgrims. The Khas Budhere of Dharali were the chief priests of the temple, and then later on the priesthood was passed on to the forefathers of the current panda family, the Kedar Dutts.
The Bhagirathi glacier is situated at 4,238 meters above sea level and begins at Chaukhamba to merge into the Gaumukh. It's been widely accepted that the water of River Ganga is extremely pure and therapeutic owing to its mineral content and the terrain of medicinal plants throughout which it flows.
2. Dodi Tal
This sparkling lake is located at the height of 3,204 metres above sea level and is home to the famous Himalayan trout. Dodi Tal is peppered with little log cabins around the lake for resting and camping.
3. Kedar Tal
It is known for its icy cold waters and mesmerizing trek up the rolling hills spanning 18 kilometers. Kedar Tal is located at the height of 4,425 metres above sea level, so make sure that you go with a local guide and prepare well for the sojourn.
4. Gangotri Temple
Located in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, Gangotri Temple is one of the holiest sites for Hindu devotees. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to Goddess Ganga and is the most important and the highest shrine dedicated to the deity. The temple is surrounded by breathtaking Himalayan peaks offering spectacular views.
Nestled among the pine and oak forests, at an elevation of 2,623 meters, Harsil Valley is popular for its apple orchards spread across the villages.
How To Reach Gangotri
Gangotri is easily accessible as it is well-connected by road, air, and railway networks. The nearest airbase is the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun and the nearest railhead is the Rishikesh railway station which is 250 kilometers away from Gangotri. Taxis and local buses are other options to reach Gangotri.