Before continuing let me first tell all the fellow Ghumakkars that I got the motivation to write this after reading through many of the great travel posts at Ghummakar. Your travel experience gives valuable tips before planning any travel journey. It also help to plan the route, places to visit and about road and weather condition. Thanks for inspiring me to write and share our travel experience with you. Your suggestions are welcomed. Few words about Gangotri
Gangotri is on the Greater Himalayan Range, at a height of 3,100m. It is a Hindu pilgrim town on the banks of river Bhagirathi in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Gangotri is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. It is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage. It was old belief that dying/dead Hindu lips were touched with the Ganga Jal and the person will get mukti from all his doing.
Present temple of Gangotri was built in 18th century, by Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa, is located near the spot where the goddess Ganga is said to have first descended on earth from heaven, as an answer to the prayers of King Bhagriath! Gongotri is the highest and most important temple of Goddess Ganga. The origin of Bhagirathi river, Gaumukh glacier is 18 kms from Gangotri and there person can reach only by foot. One can go by horse riding but up to certain point and from there by foot they have to go. Gangotri remains opened from May and get closed on the day of Diwali festival. During winter, Gangotri temple remains closed due to heavy snowfall.
The next day, we made much awaited trip to Gangotri. We started at 10:00 am from Harsil to Gangotri which is comfortable road journey of 1 hr drive. Roads are almost good and moving along with Bhagirathi River and lush green mountains covered with cider and pine forest. Till Dharali we did not found any shop or any hotel. At near by Dharali one can found few options for private stay (at Lanka, Bhairoghati etc). If one can lucky they get accommodation in GMVN, but its better to enquire and book it in advance as it has limited staying arrangements. You can collect detail information from GMVN website. It’s better to stay at outskirt of Uttarkashi or Harsil. Better option is Harsil as it was only one hour far from Gangotri Dham. One can also plan to stay Gangotri itself, as it has a wide array of guest houses/dharmsahla.
We reach Gangotri at 11:15 am. During the journey many vehicles are returning from Gangotri and few vehicles are going toward Gangotri. (At Dharali one have to pay the entrance fee to Nagar Nigam.) Before Gangotri Dham, entrance is through an arched gate, the last point for vehicles. We check for the parking place near by the main road and parked our car there. From the vehicle parking place Gangotri Dhan is hardly 500-600 metres. Crowded and narrow road reaches the shrine. At both side of the road variety of shops, house, restaurants, guesthouses and dharamshalas on other side of the river which is flowing almost nearby the roads. One can easily cross the river by pedestrian bridge.
At entrance of Gangotri Dham Shrine Board is there from where one has to register and take permit for trekking which is given by local authorities and only after Medical Fitness Test. Trekking permit are also limited in number. For more details please check the GMVN website as I did not go there due to my younger kid and my father.
One can also book horse for reaching there. It takes 5-6 Hrs on Horse and more time on trekking. For Trekking one has to take Guides along with them which are easily available in Gangotri. When plan for trekking one have to take few things in mind –Trekking condition is harsh, weather is very cold on the way and at Gaumukh, required sufficient time margin etc.
We reach the temple and feel cold wave there. Temple is surrounded with high rise mountains with snow covered peaks. River was flowing next to temple and the flow of river was very fast. Lot of mountain stones are visible in the river, floated during monsoon time. At the entrance of Gangotri Dham distance and Puja details board are there which I inserted here for reference.
From the entrance of the Mandir towards Ghats we found a big line for mandir darshan. We reach at the end of line and approximately 300-400 persons are there in the darshan line. Sun was shining at that time and surrounding are looking so beautiful that we did not mind to stand for the line.
Weather was cold and peoples are wearing jackets and woolen clothes. Thanks to God Sun which is not hiding at that moment and reduces some cold from the atmosphere. During line we see that many peoples are taking dip in the ghats. My wife and kids stand in the line and I and father decided to check the river and found that it was very cold and freezing. We look around the ghat and found that many families taking bath there and we also decided to go for it. We borrow bucket from fellow family and filled it with ganga jal, sorry to say that I did not get courage to go inside and take a dip as water was freezing and flowing very fast second no one is going inside the river for bath. After prating to god and counting 1,2,3 four –five times I picked up the bucket and dropped on me. OMG it was very cold and I cannot express in words after waiting for two minutes I get the courage and bath with another bucket.
Then I stopped bathing and quickly wear the warm cloth and then turned toward my father. He was normal and finished the bathing. He quickly war the clothes and sit at the bench to get warm with sun light.
Sun was at the top and slowly we get warm feeling and forgot the cold bathing. Now we stand in the line and my wife, daughter and my son go the river. They did not get courage for bath. They pray to the god and our few drops of water on them. My son and daughter start playing at the ghat. Peoples are filling ganga jal from there as it was not polluted and from the front of Goddess Ganga ji itself.
From the line we see that many persons are building some statue/sculpture from river stones. Due to curiosity my wife asked from one family and they told her that they are building home for them and for there kids. They further told her that it was old myth that persons those are building home with river stones here will always live happily and peacefully and there kids also live good healthy and wealthy life. My wife and kid also encouraged with there wordings and made one such house at river bed with river stones and prayed to god.
My kids returned back to line and start eating some snacks as line was still long. Me and my wife take a break and move along side with river. Many families are speeded all over the ghat and doing religious pujas and havans there. Many pundits are moving here and there and encourage peoples to perfrom puja in the memory of their beloved persons. We found one good place and request fellow yatris to click one photograph of me and my wife. They obliged us and return we have to also click there group photo.
After spending almost 40-45 minutes in line we reach near the temple and come to know that there was another line which is short but devotee has to pay the fees for it. We decided not to go for that line and stand in the same line. Lines were managed by the NCC cadets of various colleges of India. They are there with their concerned college NCC In-charges for the Gomukh Camp. During the line we saw that many foreigners going for Gomukh trekking
Finally we reach the temple entrance and start chanting Jai Gange and Jai Shiv Shankar there. Temple was covered with white marble and floor was very cold. Near the temple they placed some tats on the floor for devotees as floor was very cold. Some groups start singing ganga ji aarti. We also joined them and start singing with them.
Kids enjoyed every moment at Gangotri and discovered faiths of different communities and person. My younger kid Namit 4+ years old enquired lot about the Puja tradition and the peoples. Finally we reached in front of Ganga ji murti, we bend in front of the goddess and pandit ji blessed us. My daughter put forward the prashad in front of the goddess and give it to Pandit ji, who in returned some mixed parshad to us. We take the parikrama of the ganga ji murti and come out from the temple. We take the parikrama of the temple from outside and visited Bhairon ji temple which is adjacent to the entrance of the temple. There we saw the fire which the locals told us was burning from the beginning of this temple and never turned off during this period. There parshad is in the form of ashes and makhana. Finally we finished our darshan and sit in the corner of mandir. We are speechless to view the god creation and the atmosphere here. We look at the mountains which are covered with snow and fog. We relaxed there for few minutes and planned for further course of action.
I want to stay at Gangotri and plan next day trekking tour for Gaumukh but my family members are not ready for it. We have small kid and ageing father and there is time constraint and permit permission formalities and medical formalities too. So we decided to return back and planned to visit Uttarkashi which is on the way and we did not visited while coming here.
From the heavy heart I say sorry in my heart to god that from such a nearby place I have to return back. I decided in my heart to return back some time with friends not with family only if god permits and call me again here.
We reached back to the market and start exploring it. Market was full with devotees as they are busy in buying puja samagris, prashads, brassware, copperware, pictures of gods and goddess used for various religious ceremonies. There are many small eateries along the market. We selected one Punjabi eating joint and ordered. Most of the restaurants have Punjabi and South Indian food here. It was late afternoon and we have to do go foe further journey and we all are hungry too, we eat with heart and enjoyed our meal there. Namit start demanding for toys as there was many small toy shops were there. We enquired about the toys rate which are almost three- four times high as compare to Delhi market. Namit selected one pistol gun toy and my father happily paid that amount. My daughter and wife as usually go for the bangles. We buy some local sweets and return back to our car. One more time we chant Jai Ganga Maa and Jai Shiv Shankar and with heavy heart we started our return journey. At 2:00 pm we started the return journey and found that roads were fully packed with buses and cars and many more vehicles are coming in. It was Jam situation and our luck is working we did not get stuck in the jam.
After Bhairon ghatti road was almost empty and I drive little fast to reach Uttarkashi on time and booked some good destination for stay there. That was another story which I covered in my next travel story.
Return journey to Uttarkashi from Gangotri Dham
Return journey to Haridwar from Uttarkashi