The next Dham on our tour program after Yamunotri was Gangotri. The distance between the two is 225 kms.
The Tourist Rest House at Harsil is low rise, quaint and surrounded by mountains. You can see the snow on the mountain tops. It was cold in the night, altitude here is 2591m. After a well deserved night’s rest, we set off from Harsil for Gangotri Dham on 21st. may 2016.
We started from Harsil at around 6.30 am and reached Gangotri only at 9.30 am. Covering a distance of 29 kms. You can imagine how difficult the ghat roads must have been...
Gangotri dham is at an altitude of 3140 m. River Bhagirathi twisting and winding its way and the road following it until we reach Gangotri...
The Himalayas have to seen and experienced. Words cannot justify the beauty and grandeur.
The ghat road is tricky and too much traffic on either side. What I noticed here in the Himalayas is that the majority of the drivers are patient and drive safely. The road hugs Bhagirathi river all the way to Gangotri.
The motorable road reaches the temple precincts. There is ample parking for the tourist buses and 4 wheelers.
A short walk to the temple from the parking
The puja items, and cans of various materials and sizes are sold here in the shops flanking on either side of the pedestrian path. Almost every pilgrim buys a can to collect the holy Ganga waters to take back with them to their homes and / or to do abhishek (holy bath) to lord Shiva at Kedarnath. A few small eateries are also here.
Ganga is worshipped both as a benevolent river and as a goddess. Pujas are performed both on the banks of Ganga, ie. at Ganga ghats and inside the temple.The pilgrims take bath / holy dip in the icy cold waters. I did not brave it though.
From Gaumusk to Dev Prayag the river is called Bhagirathi. But at Gangotri, it is called Ganga. The glacier from where river Ganga originates is called Gaumukh, which is 24 kms from Gangotri dham. Originally, the glacier reached the present location of Gangotri. It is observed that because of global warming, the glacier is moving back steadily.
The temple is built of white marble; is open for pilgrims from Akshatratiya to Deepavali.
Between the temple and the river, a small shrine is built around a slab of stone, called Bhagirathi Shila, in honour of King Bhagirath, who is supposed to have sat here and meditated.
Here river Ganga is called Ganga Mayya, meaning, Mother Ganga. In those surroundings, the pristine purity of Ganga, somehow I felt a deep gratitude towards my mother. Sitting on the ghats of Ganga at Gangotri, tears rolled down in memory of my mother ... It was a cleansing experience!
Out of the Chardham, Gangotri dham is the best organised. There is order, cleanliness, and a sense of peace. It was less crowded and no pushing and shoving.