Gangotri, the epic pilgrimage, is located in district Uttarakashi, India. This is one of the Char dhams of Uttarakhand. Gangotri, the source of Ganga which is known for cleansing and purifying the soul of every human being by taking dip in the river Ganga, is revered by every Hindu. The pilgrims after arriving here at Gangotri feel spiritually rejuvenated and the soul automatically get cleansed and purified. Gangotri at an altitude of 3140 mtr. is surrounded by snow clad mountains which sets a very picturesque view of this place.
As per our sacred believes and texts, the Ganga name starts from Devprayag. Before Devprayag, the Ganga is named Bhagirathi and at Devprayag the confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi gives the origin of Ganga. At Gangotri, the river is called Ganga as the place has relevance with the name. The temple is at right bank of the river Ganga.
The temple is said to have been constructed by Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa. The existing temple is said to have been reconstructed by Jaipur royal family.
The origin of the Ganga is Gaumukh, but earlier it used to be Gangotri when the place was covered by glacier as today the Gaumukh is. With the passage of time, the glacier receded back to Gaumukh which is 18 km. At the time of establishment of the temple, the Ganga was emerging from Gangotri itself.
The waters of Ganga is considered to be sacred, that’s why the Ganga waters is carried by Kanwaris to their respective places. The waters of Ganga is also carried to Rameshwar to sooth Shiva’s throat after He swallowed down the poison which emerged out of the churning sea. The waters taken back to Shiva shrines by Kanwaris also denote the same religious practice.
Puja at Gangotri temple
River Ganga is worshipped as sacred river along its course from Devprayag to Allahabad. The other place where the Ganga is worshipped as goddess is Gangotri. Both worshipping practices denote different significances in Hindu religion. The river Ganga is a source of energy, life whereas the Goddess is benevolent and purifies everyone. Many sacred rituals are performed near the river Ganga as the witness of devotion and love for the Goddess. All the Pujas are preceded after Ganga Jal bath. The pujaris of Gangotri are the Brahmins from the village Mukhwa. These pujaries are selected rotation wise every year and perform all the pujas. Here at Gangotri, the Rawal has no function in puja and the puja is performed by the pujaris of Mukhwa.
In Gangotri, the function of the Pandas is also performed by pujaris only. All the functions from puja to pind are performed by the ten selected pujaris.
The temple administration is carried out by the committee formed of five members. The five members are Tahsildar of the area, the gram pradhans of villages Mukhwa and Dharali, and the two leading sanyasis of Gangotri.
The Gangotri shrine opens on auspicious day of Akshaya – Tritiya every year, which normally falls during last third week of April or first week of May. The opening ceremony is performed by the puja of goddess and river Ganga.
The closing date of the temple is Deepawali. The pujaris perform the closing ceremony and after the closing rituals the entire temple staff and pilgrims leave Gangotri for next year.
The river Ganga falls from a height of 100 ft, making it beautiful scene to view. This Gaurikund should not be mistaken with the Gaurikund of Kedarnath.
There is cluster of peaks across the Bhagirathi, known as Dev Ghat. A small stream emanates from this cluster of mountains which is called Dev Ganga. These peaks have been named as Brahma, Ganga Mandir and Shankaracharya.