(Last Updated on : 03/05/2013)
The Gangotri Mountains are a subsection of the Garhwal Himalayas, which is located in the northern state of India, Uttarakhand. The well-known Gangotri glacier and several peaks well known as religious destination or for their difficult climbing routes are located here. Some of the popular peaks of the Gangotri Mountains include Chaukhamba, Kedarnath, Thalay Sagar, Meru, Shivling peak and Bhagirathi.
The Chaukhamba is a four-summitted massif and Chaukhamba I is situated at a height of 7,138 metres, being the highest peak in the group. The famous Kedarnath Mountains rises at a height of 6,904 meters and is the highest peak on the southwest direction of the glacier. Thalay Sagar situated at an altitude of 6,904 metres above mean sea level is the most difficult peak to climb amongst Gangotri Mountains. Shivling peak as the name suggests is the most sacred peak in Gangotri Mountains and it represents Lord Shiva. It is situated at an altitude of 6,543 meters above mean sea level. Meru, at a height of 6,660 meters above mean sea level lies between Thalay Sagar and Shivling Peak. Bhagirathi comprises of three peaks among which Bhagirathi III is well known for rock climbing.
Gangotri Mountains are couched in the magnificent Garhwal hills at an altitude of 3048 meters above sea level. It is on the northernmost part of the state of Uttar Pradesh and is very close to the Indo-Tibetan border. It is approximately 300 km from Dehradun, 250 km from Rishikesh and 105 km from Uttarkashi. The summers are usually cool and winters are freezing cold, with rains in the months of May and June. For the devotees and tourists, the gates of the temple are open only in the months of May to November.
Besides being a mountain range, Gangotri is also a town and a nagar panchayat in Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand. It is a Hindu pilgrim town on the banks of the river Bhagirathi and is on the Greater Himalayan Range; at an elevation of 3,042 m. Gangotri Mountains are the source of the river Ganga and seat of the goddess Ganga. It is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda. The origin of the holy river is at Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and is a 19 km trek from Gangotri and can be reached in one day's travel from Rishikesh, Haridwar or Dehradun, or in two days from Yamunotri, the first site in the Char Dham circuit. More popular and important than its sister site to the east, Gangotri Mountains is also accessible directly by car and bus, meaning that it sees many more pilgrims than Yamunotri.
The Semwal family of pujaris supervises ritual duties. The aarti ceremony at the Gangotri is especially impressive, as is the temple, a stately affair that sits on the banks of the rushing Ganga. Adventurous pilgrims can travel an overnight 18 km trek to Gaumukh, the actual current source of the river Ganga. For a large number of tourists, Gangotri town serves as the beginning point of the Gangotri-Gaumukh-Tapovan and Gangotri-Kedartal trekking routes. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Ganga - the daughter of heaven, took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath's ancestors, following his severe sacrament of several centuries. Lord Shiva received Ganga into his matted locks to lessen the force of her fall.
Dense forests near Tapovan surround the Bhavishya Badri in Gangotri Mountains. The Bhavishya Badri lies at a distance of about 17 km east of Joshimath. Pilgrims trek beyond Tapovan up the Dhauliganga River to reach this holy spot. The idol of narsingha (the god with the head of lion) is enshrined in this Temple of Gangotri Mountains. According to an old legend, Lord Shiva rewarded King Bhagirath after his penance and Ganga came down to earth. The sacred stone near the temple indicates the place where Ganga first came down to earth. This is why Ganga is also called by the name of Bhagirathi.
Submerged Shivling is a unique feature at the Gangotri Mountains. The natural rock Shivling is submerged in the river and is an amazing sight reinforcing the power of the divine. According to mythology, Lord Shiva sat at this spot and received the Ganga in his matted locks. The shivling is visible in the early winters when the water level goes down. The scenic pilgrimage in the hinterlands of the Himalayas is the most sacred spot where Ganga, the stream of life, touched earth for the very first time.