(Last Updated on : 29-04-2014)
Gangotri is one of the most important centres of Hindu pilgrimage in India. It is one among the 'Char Dham' or the four sites of pilgrimage of Hinduism
in India. The town of Gangotri stands along the banks of the Ganga River
known here as the Bhagirathi River
. The river goes on to take the name of Ganga when it meets the Alaknanda River
from the Devprayag onwards. Gangotri is also known as the Gangodbhava Kshetra. It is believed that this is the first place where the Ganga
came down to earth and the term Gangotri is a combination of the words Ganga and Utari (descended). Another derivation of the name is from the term 'Uttari' meaning northerly, as the river takes a bend to the north here. The source of the river is 18 kms from Gangotri at Gaumukh, which is set in the Gangotri glacier.
Legends of Gangotri
As has been mentioned, Gangotri is believed to be the place where the Ganga first came down to earth to wash away the sins of his predecessors after Bhagiratha did severe penance. According to tradition, Shankaracharya
installed idols of Bhagirathi, Yamuna and Lakshmi here. There is a great slab of stone in the bed of the river dedicated to Bhagirathi whose efforts are said to have brought Ganga down from the heavens. Bhagiratha is said to have prayed at Gangotri to save his relatives. Also, the Pandavas are said to have visited this place to atone for the sin of killing their relatives in the Battle at Kurukshetra
. At this point, the Ganges River flows north giving the adjoining village the name of Gangotri.
Gangotri lies in the Utarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand
. It lies at a great height in the range of the greater Himalayas. The town lies built around a temple of Goddess Ganga known as the Gangotri temple. Many pilgrims travel to Gangotri to offer their prayers. It is possible to reach Gangotri in a day's travel from Rishikesh
. If it is accessed after visiting Yamunotri, which is the first site in the Char Dham pilgrimage, it will take two days to reach Gangotri. More pilgrims visit this site as, unlike Yamonotri, it can be easily accessed by car and bus.