Gangotri Temple

The Gangotri Temple, dedicated to River Ganga,  is in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. It is one of the destinations in the Chhota Char Dham yatra of Uttarakhand, the other three being Yamunotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath. The temple is on the left bank of River Bhagirathi.

The river is called Ganga when she reaches Devprayag and joins with Alaknanda (another Ganga tributary).  The actual origin of the holy river Ganga is the Gangotri glacier, also called Gaumukh. Gangotri Temple opens for public to visit on the day of Akshaya Tritiya in April – May. It closes on Diwali which signals the start of the winter season. The shrine remains closed from November to April due to harsh weather conditions.

What is the history of Gangotri Temple?

The history of Gangotri temple is that Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa built it in the 18th century. As per Hindu Mythology, Ganga is the daughter of Brahma. She was born from his kamandala (a spout shaped vessel) when he was washing the feet of Vamana (Incarnation of Lord Vishnu).

As per a legend, The sons of King Saraga disturbed sage Kapila during his meditation. As a result, he cursed them. When the king sent his grandson Anshuman to find out what happened to his sons, Anshuman found out what happened and pleaded sage Kapila for forgiveness. Kapila said that only the water of heavenly Ganga can wash away the sins of the princes.

Anshuman and his son Dileep, could not please Brahma. However, King Bhagiratha, son of Dileep prayed with utmost devotion and as a result, Brahma asked him to pray to Lord Vishnu to release Ganga from his toe. Lord Vishnu agreed but Ganga felt insulted that she had to flow through Earth instead of Heaven.

Lord Shiva agreed to bear the force of the Ganga’s descent onto Earth by absorbing it into his locks of hair. The flow through the locks slowed the flow and split it into seven streams – Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, Janhvi, Saraswati, Bhilangana, Rishiganga, and Mandakini.

What is the significance of Gangotri Temple?

The significance of  Gangotri Temple is that one can see a natural rock shaped like a Shiva Linga in Gangotri during the beginning of winters as the water recedes. According to legends, this is the place where Shiva allowed Ganga to flow through his locks and stabilized her flow.

The water of River Ganga collected here is believed to be an Amrit (nectar) and is considered a holy drink. People collect water here and carry it home to be used for holy purposes. On the day of Ganga Dussehra, it is believed that taking a holy dip in Ganga and hymning of the Ganga Stotra on this day would cleanse the human soul.

Immersion of ashes of the departed souls in the River Ganga is believed to release the soul from the cycles of death and rebirth. Hence, Gangotri temple is an important stop in the tour of the Char Dham Yatra destinations of Uttarakhand.

In terms of architecture, the gangotri temple is very simple and does not have any exquisite carvings or sculptures found elsewhere. The Temple is constructed with white marble stone. The steps lead to the Sabha mandap that eventually meets the main sanctum.A small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is present inside the Temple complex.

What are the timings of Gangotri Temple?

Here are the timings of Gangotri Temple:

Timings From To
Open 6:15 AM 9:30 PM
Afternoon Break 2:00 PM 3:00 PM
 Sandhya Aarti (Summers)  7:45 PM
 Sandhya Aarti (Winters) 7 PM

What is the Dress Code for Gangotri Temple?

The Gangotri Temple remains open in the summer seasons of the year. However, a summer in the Himalayas is actually very cold.  Hence, it is recommended to wear sweaters, jackets, socks and gloves when taking a tour of the Char Dham Yatra Destinations of Uttarakhand.

Carry extra blankets if traveling with children and elders. One should also carry an Umbrella as an option in case of rains.

What are the Poojas and Rituals of Gangotri Temple?

The poojas and rituals of Gangotri Temple are:

  • Gangotri Mangal Aarti – The morning Mangal Aarti takes place at 6 AM behind closed doors. The temple does not allow public viewing of the Aarti.
  • Sandhya Aarti – The evening Aarti takes place at 7:45 PM in summers and at 7 PM in winters.
  • Ganga Devi Pooja – This pooja can take place both at the Ghat of Ganga near the Temple as well as in the main shrine of the Temple. The Pooja has a special significance if it takes place on the Ganga Saptami day. Moreover, the priests perform the Pooja reciting several Ganga Mantras and Stotrams.

What are the festivals celebrated at Gangotri Temple?

Some of the festivals celebrated at Gangotri Temple are:

  • Ganga Dussehra – The festival signifies the day that Goddess Ganga descended on Earth to cleanse the souls of cursed ancestors of King Bhagiratha. Thousands of pilgrims across the country take a holy dip in the river chanting the Ganga Stotrams. The beautiful Ganga Aarti takes place in the evening where devotees offer a large number of leaf boats with flowers and sweets to the River Ganga.
  • Diwali – After special poojas throughout the day, devotees take the idol of Ganga to the Mukhyamath Temple in the small village of Mukhwa. The temple is the winter home of Goddess Ganga. On this day, people in Mukhwa clean the village in preparation for the Goddess’s arrival. They keep the idol in the Mukhyamath temple among an artistic decoration of deepams and sweets to celebrate Diwali.
  • Akshaya Tritiya – On this day, devotees bring the idol of Goddess Ganga back from her winter home of Mukhwa. They also decorate the Temple with flowers. Then, the installation of Ganga Goddess in the main sanctum takes place among the songs and dances of the pilgrims.

How to reach Gangotri Temple?

Here’s how to reach Gangotri Temple:

  • Air: Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport.
  • Train: Nearest railway stations are Rishikesh and Haridwar.
  • Road: Gangotri is accessible from major cities in Uttarakhand and from Delhi NCR. Gangotri is well connected by road to places like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Dehradun, Roorkee, Chamba, Tehri, Barkot, Hanuman Chatti etc.

Where to stay near Gangotri Temple?

Some of the places where one can stay near Gangotri Temple are:

  • Bhagirathi Sadan:  There are a total of 15 rooms in this hotel in Gangotri . Each room has bottled drinking water, a spacious bed along with basic furniture. Bhagirathi Sadan offers facilities such as front desk assistance as well as room service. Guest can also make use of the luggage storage space.
  • Hotel Mandakini: The property has 16 spacious rooms which have amenities like acable television, bottled drinking water as well as a bathroom with the facility of hot/cold running water. The hotel also provides room service. Other facilities include luggage storage space, 24-hour power back-up as well as a parking service.
  • Hotel Kalp Kedar:  The hotel has in-house restaurant where one can enjoy the meals. There are 10 rooms spread across 1 floor. The rooms are clean and also have a supply of hot and cold water. The hotel offers range of essential facilities tothe patrons. It has room service and front desk operational limited number ofhours. Private vehicles can be park at parking area within the premises.

What are some temples near Gangotri Temple?

Some of the temples near Gangotri Temple are:

  • Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Uttarkashi: Kashi Vishwanath Temple Uttarkashi is one of the most sacred temples in Uttarakhand, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is present on the banks of river Bhagirathi and is one of the Char Dham Yatra destinations within Uttarakhand. The Shiva lingam here is 56cm in height and has a tilt towards South.
  • Shakti Temple – The temple is located in Uttarkashi, just opposite to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. A massive Trishul is present in the center of the temple. The Trishul is 6 mt high and 90 cms wide at the base. Devotees believe that the lower half of the Trishul is of copper and the upper part is of iron. According to the legends, Goddess Durga aimed this Trishul to slaughter the devils.

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