Legs and Wheels – Gangotri : On the Banks of Bhagirathi

Team Udayavani, Oct 22, 2018, 10:59 AM IST

Gangotri is the second Dham of ‘Chardham’  ‘yatra’. Our journey which started from Hardwar completed darshan of Yamunotri and on our way, we enjoyed the scenic beauty of Harshil, sought the blessing of ‘Prakateshwar’ in his cave and offered pranams to sage Parashar at ‘Gangnani’. From Yamunotri, we traveled around 221 KM passing through the ranges of the Himalayas,  feeling mesmerized with the sight of snow peaked mountains to reach Gangotri. When we parked our car near the temple gates of Gangotri it was around 2.30 pm.  From here we walk!

Dham Gangotri

When I say ‘walk’  you need not panic. It is an easy walk of about 300 steps from the gate to the temple complex.  Reaching the temple is easy but to reach other important places in around you need strong knees. Not to worry! Well structured steps and railing support people with weak knees will face no issues.  As we move towards the temple on the pedestrian road, we see shops selling mementoes and other items required for worship.  Water cans of all sizes available for the pilgrim to carry ‘Bhagirati’ home.

Temple and Timing

On a general note like any other temple in the Himalayan ranges, the temple of Gangotri remains open from May 1st week and closes at the 3rd week of October. The exact date changes every year as they follow the  Hindu calendar. To be precise, the temple opens on Akshaya Tritiya day which falls around Ist week of May and closes on Diwali festival, which falls during last week of October.  May, June, September and October are a good time to travel.  During this time the temple opens at 6.15   in the morning and closes at 2 pm. Opens again between 3 pm to 9.30pm.Please notice Gangotri is a fine connect place who wish to go on a trek. Peak Sudarshan, Gomukh are some important peaks that attract trekkers.  Trekkers need to complete the formalities of seeking permission with the government. Peak Gomukh is the birthplace of river Bhagirathi- also called the Ganges is about 14 KM and takes three days to complete the journey.

About Gangotri

Gangotri Dham, located on the Himalayan range lies in Garhwal region of Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand is at the height of 3,100 meters.  Apart from the natural grace of the mighty mountains and the scenic beauty offered due to the altitude of the place what propels a devotee towards Gangotri is River Ganga as she holds a special place in the hearts of  Hindus. Heart sings with joy as we get engrossed in the vigorous flow of the river.    

We decided to finish seeing other important places first. My husband Lakshmikantha was very eager to take a dip in Bhagirathi.  “You take a dip too…all your crimes get nullified…..its like renewal of license” he taunts me mischievously. In a normal situation it is a call for a fight, but here I am in a truce with the surrounding. Its peace here – a quest to remain in silence. I stand quite to look at the majestic  Bhagirati, recollecting the mythological story which we have been hearing childhood. The efforts of  Bhagirath- a king turned Sage to bring  ‘Ma Ganga’ to the earth.   I watch my husband making an attempt to enter the river…lo! within a transitory moment, he jumps out. ‘The water was freezing’….he said and I make an unsuccessful attempt of just dipping my feet in the fleetingly cold Bhagirathi.   

A must visit places:

Gangotri main temple is a beautiful complex. White in color probably signifies purity for which the Ganges is a synonym.  There is also a photo gallery which exhibits photos of the snow-tipped peaks seen from the temple area.  Peak Sudarshan is clearly visible from the temple complex.

Apart from the temple dedicated to ‘Ganga ma’.  It is important to see ‘Bhagirath Shila’ – A rock on which sage Bhagirath, the grandson of King Sagara is believed to have performed rigorous penance for a 1000 long years bring ‘ Ganga’ to come down to the earth.  Many other mythological stories are attached to river Ganga, especially related to the period of Mahabharath.  This makes us take a look into ‘Pandava Gufa’–  Pandava Caves.  It is believed that ‘ Pandavas’ during their exile period,  stayed in this cave for some time.  A 1.5km to 2km trek through Deodar trees to reach  ‘Pandava Gufa’, is enjoyable.  Though the cave is simple and has nothing significant to offer, a traveler must keep some extra time to do this small but quick trek as the path is enhancing and if lucky you may get to see some wild birds.  Surya Kund and Gowri Kund are other important places which provide a spiritual inclination. In these places, Sages sit and meditate.   

Lodging Facilities:

Reasonable hotels are available en route to Gangotri.  In Gangotri, facilities are available and are reasonably good. Trekkers and campers stay here. People who are on pilgrimage move on to next of the Char Dham s i.e Kedarnath.

Within a short span, Bhagirati rejuvenates you, the story of Bhagirath tells you nothing is impossible.  Husband keeps chanting wish we had planned gomukh. There is always next time honey, I replied. It was 6 pm and it was time to leave as the terrain roads passing the Himalayas are tough and even an experienced driver will not drive after 8 pm. With Uttarakashi being the gateway to Gangotri and Yamunotri, we need to be near Uttarkashi, which is 98km.  We move now, from Gangotri with heart offering prayer….’Namami Gange’- you are our lifeline. 

Dr Nandini Lakshmikantha

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