During travels in Uttarakhand, one often comes across destinations with names ending in ‘prayag,’ signifying a confluence. There are specifically five such places in Uttarakhand: Vishnuprayag, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag, and Devprayag.
In the sequence of their occurrence along the descending flow, they collectively form what is known as Panch Prayag.
In Hindu tradition, a ‘prayag’ holds great religious significance as it marks the holy confluence of two or more rivers.
Devotees cleanse themselves by taking a bath in these sacred waters before entering temples. After Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, the Panch Prayag in Uttarakhand is highly revered among Hindus.
Pilgrims believe that immersing oneself in these waters purifies the mind, body, and soul, bringing them closer to moksha or spiritual liberation.
The journey of the Panch Prayag destinations traces the course of the Alaknanda River, originating from the Satopanth glacier in the Himalayas.
Starting at Vishnuprayag, where Alaknanda meets Dhauliganga, the river progresses to Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag, and finally Devprayag, where it merges with the Bhagirathi River. Together, they form the sacred River Ganges, flowing downstream to the plains.
Legend of Panch Prayag
According to mythology, when goddess Ganga was to descend on earth to cleanse the sins of humankind, her power was too much for the earth to take. Lord Shiva then took her into matted locks to split her energy and distribute it equally.
He released the flow to earth in twelve channels. It is said these channels are re-joined after Devprayag. It is the last of Panch Prayag and the most significant of all.
Map of Panch Prayag
Each of the Panch Prayag destinations holds unique significance:
Vishnuprayag is a significant hindu pilgrimage site in Uttarakhand, India.
Located 35 km downstream from Badrinath, this is where River Alaknanda joins Dhauliganga.
Vishnuprayag is not only a place of religious importance but also renowned for trekking and hiking, including famous routes like the Valley of Flowers, Kagbhusandi Lake, and Hemkund Lake.
The second in line, where Alaknanda meets River Nandakini. Legends tell of a king named Nanda performing a yagnya here, and the confluence is believed to be named after Lord Krishna’s foster father, Nanda.
Alaknanda joins River Pindar at Karnaprayag, which holds religious significance. According to the Mahabharata, Karna practiced penance here, and it is also where he received blessings from the Sun God.
Here, Alaknanda meets Mandakini, and the confluence is named after Lord Shiva, who performed the tandav dance in his fierce form. The area is also associated with the temples of Rudranath and Goddess Chamunda.
The final holy confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, where River Bhagirathi flows from a glacier at Gangotri. Devprayag is considered the gateway to the four most revered places in Uttarakhand, collectively known as Chardham: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.”
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