The charming town of Gangotri is home to the Gangotri Temple, a sacred site dedicated to the Goddess Ganga. The temple was constructed in the 18th century by Amar Singh Thapa, a Gurkha Commander, and offers a stunning view of the majestic Himalayan Mountains and the serene River Ganga.
A visit to Gangotri Temple is a must-do experience in Gangotri and is considered one of the four esteemed Dhams in Uttarakhand state. Every year, countless devotees from around the globe journey to this revered temple to seek blessings from the divine Goddess Ganga.
History Behind the Gangotri
According to Hindu mythology, King Bhagirath took upon himself the responsibility of his grandfather, Anshuman, and appeased Lord Shiva to bring the Goddess Ganga down to Earth. This event holds significant religious importance as it was Lord Shiva’s blessings that allowed the holy Ganga to flow down from his locks and wash away the sins of humanity.
To prevent any damage, Lord Shiva held the Ganga in his hair and divided it into multiple streams. Legend has it that the holy source of the Ganga was only revealed to the Earth after Goddess Parvati bathed in it every day. As a result, the water of the Ganga is believed to be exceptionally pure.
Opening and Closing times of Gangotri Dham
The opening and closing times of Gangotri Dham may vary depending on the specific date and time of the year. However, generally, the temple opens around 6:15 AM and closes in the evening after the Ganga Aarti ceremony at around 8:00 PM. During peak pilgrimage season, the temple may open earlier and close later. It’s always best to check with the temple authorities or local tour operators for the exact opening and closing times of the Gangotri Temple before planning your visit.
Best Time to Visit Gangotri Dham
The best time to visit Gangotri Dham is during the summer months of May to June and the autumn months of September to November. During this time, the weather is pleasant, and the temperature ranges between 10°C to 25°C, making it ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
Visiting Gangotri Dham during the summer months offers the opportunity to witness the temple’s opening ceremony and attend the Ganga Dussehra festival, which falls in May or June, depending on the Hindu calendar.
During the autumn months, the weather is cooler, and the skies are clearer, making it an ideal time for trekking and hiking in the Himalayas. However, it’s always advisable to check the weather forecast before planning a trip to Gangotri Dham as the region experiences heavy rainfall during the monsoon months of July and August, which can cause landslides and road closures.
How to Reach Gangotri
Gangotri is located in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand state in India, and here are the ways to reach there –
1. By Air – The nearest airport to Gangotri is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, which is approximately 250 km away. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Gangotri.
2. By Train – The nearest railway station to Gangotri is Rishikesh railway station, which is around 234 km away. From the station, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Gangotri.
3. By Road – Gangotri is well connected by road to other major cities and towns of Uttarakhand. Regular bus services are available from Rishikesh, Dehradun, and Haridwar. Taxis and personal cars can also be hired from these cities.
Festivals Celebrated in Gangotri
1. Ganga Dussehra
Gangotri Dham celebrates Ganga Dussehra on the tenth day of the Hindu calendar month, also known as Dashami tithi. This festival holds immense importance, as according to legend, Goddess Ganga descended on Earth on this day. Pilgrims believe that praying to Goddess Ganga with devotion can absolve them of their sins. The festival lasts for ten days, starting from the Amavasya and ending on the Shukla Dashami, during the month of May or June.
Diwali is another significant festival celebrated at Gangotri Dham, as the temple remains closed during the winter months after Diwali. The idol of Goddess Gangotri, along with other goddesses, is worshipped and then carted to the nearby Mukhyamanth temple. The entire city is illuminated with diyas and lights, and the citizens clean their houses, wear new clothes, and exchange sweets and gifts to celebrate the occasion.
3. Akshaya Tritiya
Gangotri Dham celebrates Akshaya Tritiya with great zeal and enthusiasm. On this auspicious day, the temple reopens after staying closed during the winter months, and the standards of the Goddesses are brought back to the Gangotri Temple from the village. This festival is celebrated during the month of April or May, and the temple is adorned, and spectacles of religious singing and dancing are performed while getting back the idols. The priests also perform special puja, and the entire temple is lit with diyas.
Tourists Attractions in Gangotri
Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Gangotri –
1. Gangotri Temple – The Gangotri Temple is the major appeal of the town, dedicated to Goddess Ganga. The temple has unique architecture and is surrounded by beautiful natural sights.
2. Bhagirath Shila – Bhagirath Shila is a rock that is considered to be the place where King Bhagirath meditated to bring the River Ganges to earth.
3. Gaumukh Glacier – Gaumukh Glacier is one of the biggest glaciers in the Himalayas and the source of the River Ganga. It is a popular destination for trekking and gives spectacular vistas of the surrounding mountains.
4. Pandava Gufa – Pandava Gufa is a cave believed to be the home of the Pandavas during their exile. It is located at a length of 3,888 meters and delivers breathtaking sights of the Himalayas.
5. Kedar Tal – Kedar Tal is a beautiful lake located at a height of 4,750 meters. The lake is surrounded by snow-coated mountains and is a popular destination for trekking.
6. Nandanvan Tapovan – Nandanvan Tapovan is a meadow located at an altitude of 4,480 meters. It presents panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and is a popular destination for camping and trekking.
7. Harsil – Harsil is a picturesque village located on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. It is renowned for its apple orchards, dense forests, and beautiful views of the mountains.
8. Dharali – Dharali is a beautiful village located near Gangotri. It is known for its traditional architecture, apple orchards, and beautiful natural scenery.
A trip to Gangotri Dham is an experience that is not to be missed. The majestic mountains, pristine river, and serene environment provide a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a believer in the hereafter or a fan of adventure, Gangotri offers something for everyone. From the holy Gangotri Temple to the stunning Gaumukh Glacier, the region is full of natural wonders that will leave you in awe. The festivals celebrated in the temple also add to the charm and spirituality of the place. So, plan your trip to Gangotri Dham and embark on a journey of self-discovery and adventure.