Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Gangotri Temple Uttarakhand – The origin of Ganga

Gangotri Temple is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in Uttarakhand. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Ganga, the personification of the holy Ganges River.

It is located at an altitude of 3,100 meters in the town of Gangotri, which is part of the Uttarkashi district in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand.

Gangotri glacier also called Gaumukh is the actual source of the Ganga river. It is a 19 km trek from Gangotri.

The road to the glacier is extremely difficult for people to reach. Hence the shrine has been located at the foot of the hill.

Gangotri Temple is one of the four sacred and important pilgrimage sites of Chota Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand.

The actual source of the Ganges is Gaumukha which is a hard 19km climb from Gangotri. Bhagiratha is said to have performed penanace here at Gangotri to save his relatives.

The Pandavas are also said to have visited this place to atone for the sin of killing their relatives during the Kurukshetra war.

At this point the Ganges River flows north, giving this village its name, Gangotri, which means “Ganga turned north.” Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, “Of flowing rivers I am the Ganges.”

Opening and Closing date of Gangotri Temple Uttarakhand

The temple opens on the day of Akshaya Tritiya which usually occurs in May. It closes after the celebration of Diwali.

After that, the temple staff return to their villages. A white sheet of snow covers the valley for the next 6 months. During this time, the idol of the goddess is kept at Mukhba village.

When the temple is closed, there is a grand ceremony in which the priests decorate a palanquin and take the deity of the Goddess Ganga while singing the Ganga Laheri and bring her to Mookhimath in a huge procession.

Then the temple doors are closed for 6 months. The worship of Ganga Devi is continued in the temple at Mookhimath until the temple at Gangotri is ready to be opened again.

Brief History of Gangotri Temple

The Gangotri Temple was built in the 18th century by Amar Singh Thapa, a Gorkha general and was later renovated by the Maharaja of Jaipur.

It is erected near a sacred stone, called Bhagiratha Shila, which is about 20m (65 ft) to the left of the temple. King Bhagiratha is said to have sat here to worship Siva, so that Lord Siva would take the Ganges on his head.

Soon after arati to the deities in the temple, an aarti is performed to the holy Ganges River. The temple is open from May to early November.

There is a Water fall called Sahasradhara about 100m below this confluence. Just before the falls the river squeezes itself into a narrow gorge about one meter wide under which is said to be a natural Shiva Lingam.

Below the Sahasradhara Falls, only 100 meters from the bus stand, is Surya Kund. Lord Shiva was supposed to have been sitting at this Sahasradhara Falls when the Ganges came down from heaven.

That is why this is considered the beginning of the river, according to tradition.

Gauri Kund is only 300 meters further downstream from the bus stand, where the Ganga can be seen flowing through narrow channels.

After Gauri Kund, one can find Patangna, which is two kilometers downstream from the bus stand, where it is believed the Pandavas performed their yagnas and austerities to redeem themselves from killing their relatives in their participation in the Kurukshetra war.

After this, along the path is a large cave with a small entrance , called the Pandava Gupha or cave of the Pandavas.

ALSO READ: Top 7 Temples to visit in Dev Bhoomi, Uttarakhand

Quick Facts

  • Address: Gangotri, Uttarakhand 249135
  • District: Uttarkashi
  • Elevation: 3,100 meters 
  • Affiliation: Hinduism
  • Deity: Goddess Ganga
  • Entry Fee: Free
  • Timings : 6:15 AM – 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM – 9:30 PM
  • Visit Duration: 1 to 2 hours
  • Dress Code: decent outfit recommended
  • Architecture: North Indian temple style
  • Best Time to Visit: May to October

Architecture of Gangotri Temple

The architecture of Gangotri Temple, like many other ancient Hindu temples, is a blend of art, culture, and religious symbolism. It reflects the rich heritage and devotion associated with Hindu temple architecture in India.

  1. Shikhara (Spire): The most prominent feature of the Gangotri Temple is its shikhara, a tall and tapering spire that rises above the sanctum sanctorum (the innermost chamber where the deity is placed). The shikhara is adorned with intricate carvings and is typically made of stone. In the case of Gangotri Temple, it is constructed using white granite.
  2. Mandapa (Hall): Before reaching the sanctum sanctorum, devotees enter a mandapa or a hall. This hall is often supported by pillars and serves as a space for devotees to assemble and offer their prayers. It is usually open on all sides to allow for ample light and ventilation.
  3. Garbhagriha (Sanctum Sanctorum): The sanctum sanctorum is the innermost chamber of the temple where the main deity is enshrined. In the case of Gangotri Temple, it houses the sacred image of Goddess Ganga. This chamber is typically small and dark, symbolizing the womb of the divine mother.
  4. Sculptures and Carvings: The exterior and interior of the temple are adorned with intricate sculptures and carvings, depicting various deities, mythological scenes, and floral motifs. These carvings are not only decorative but also convey religious and spiritual significance.
  5. Entrance and Doorways: The entrance to the temple is often adorned with a decorative gateway or torana. The doorways leading to the sanctum sanctorum are typically intricately designed and sometimes feature guardian figures or dwarapalakas on either side.
  6. Vimana (Tower): In addition to the main shikhara, some temples may have smaller vimanas (towers) over subsidiary shrines or sanctums within the temple complex. These vimanas are usually pyramidal or spire-like in shape.
  7. Yagnakunda (Fire Pit): Many Hindu temples have a yagnakunda, a pit for conducting fire rituals (yagnas), in the temple complex. Devotees use this space for performing religious ceremonies and offerings.
  8. Materials: Traditional temples like Gangotri Temple are typically constructed using locally available stones and materials. The use of white granite gives the temple a pristine and sacred appearance.
  9. Religious Symbols: Various religious symbols, such as the Om symbol or swastika, may be incorporated into the temple’s design and architecture, signifying spiritual significance.
  10. Location: The placement of the temple in the natural landscape is also a significant architectural consideration. Gangotri Temple is nestled in the Himalayas, surrounded by the majestic mountains and the pristine waters of the Ganges River, making it a spiritually and visually awe-inspiring location.

How To Reach Gangotri Temple Uttarakhand?

By Air

Jolly Grant airport, Rishikesh Road, Dehradun, is the nearest airport to Gangotri.

From the airport, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach temple.

By Train

Regular trains to Haridwar and Dehradun are available at all times of the year.

From the railway station, you can hire a taxi or take an auto-rickshaw to reach the temple

By Road

Gangotri is connected with motorable roads, and buses and taxes from important destinations like Rishikesh, Dehradun, Uttarkashi and Tehri Garhwal are easily available.

To reach Gangotri Temple, visitors often have to trek for a few kilometers from the town of Gangotri.

The trekking route offers stunning views of the Himalayan landscape and is an integral part of the pilgrimage experience.

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