Gangotri literally means’ Ganga flowing north’. This is the place where the holy Ganga descended from heaven on the earth. From Gaumukh to Deoprayag, Ganga is known as Bhagirathi, but here at Gangotri she is worshipped as Ganga. The Ganga always provides peace and divine love to devotees. The shrine of Gangotri is situated at an elevation of 3140 m above level amidst captivating surroundings on the right bank of Bhagirathi river. The place is rich in jungles of deodar and conifers. It is said that the temple was constructed by Adiguru Shankaracharya and later on renovated by the Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa in the eighteenth century, who also appointed the pandas of Mukhava village as the pujaris of this shrine. Several hundred years ago, the entire stretch of land from Gaumukh to Gangotri was covered with glaciers, but later because of environmental degradation, the glaciers melted and the source receded 18 km upwords to Gaumukh. The water of Ganga is believed to contain nectar in it and has immense medicinal properties. Its water remains pure even after keeping it in a closed container for years. The water from Gangotri is taken to R ameshwaram, the southern trip of India, for being offered to Lord Shiva there.
There is a mythological story that King Sagara, after slaining demons on earth, organized an ashwa-megda-yagya (horse sacrifice) to proclaim his supremacy, on that occasion, an ashwa (horse sacrifice) to proclaims his supremacy, on that occasion, an ashwa (horse) was taken on an uninterrupted journey around the earth, to be accompanied by the Sagara’s 60,000 sons born of queen, Sumati, and the one son, Asamanjas, born of the second queen Kesani and whatever land the horse traversed was supposed to belong to king Sagara.
Indra threatened of losing his celestial throne if this yagya succeeded. So, he stole the horse and tied it at Kapilmuni’s Ashram, who was then in deep meditation. The sons of Sagara searched for the horse and found it at the Ashram. The angry 60,000 sons stromed the Ashram and prepared to attack Kapilmuni. Ending his concentration, he opened his eyes and saw the 60,000 aggressive sons and cursed and burnt them to ashes, except Asamnjas who survived and told the story to the king. Later on the king’s grandson Anshuman was successful in recovering the horse from Kapil muni’s Ashram, who said the 60,000 sons were burnt because of Muni’s anger, and they would get to heaven only, if the Ganga was brought down from heaven and their ashes were purified by its waters.
Many of King’s successors tried to brings down Ganga to earth, but in vain His grandson Bhagirath was however very determined and meditated for several years at Gangotri. Pleased with that the Ganga descended from heaven and remained suspended in the coils of Lord Shiva’s hair. Again Bhagirathi meditated to propitiate Shiva. Shiva being pleased released the Ganga in seven streams –one of the came to earth in the form of the Bhagirathi. The holy waters of the Ganga ran through Kapilmuni’s Ashram carrying the ashes of deceased sons to the ocean and they then went live in their celestial abode.
There is a slab of stone located in the vicinity of the temple called Bhagirathi shila. It is believed that Bhagirathi meditated on it.
Puja: Ganga is worshipped as the holy river, as well as a Goddess in the temple. The temple of Gangotri is a square building about 20 ft high situated in the midst of gaint rocks. Inside are statues of Ganga, Bhagirathi, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Annapurna. All pujas are preceeded by a holy bath in the river Bhagirathi. It is believed that a holy dip in the Ganga at Gangotri, will wash away all the sins. Before departing, the pilgrims carry pots of water from the Bhagirathi as the Prasad of mother Ganga. Back home this water is distributed in drops to all family members to drink.
It is also believed that the Pandavas came here to perform the great Deva Yagya to atone the death of their kinsmen in the battle of Mahabharata.
Pandas and Temple Administration
The pandas and pujaris are Semwal Brahmins of village Mukhawa. The administration of the temple is looked after by a committee of these Brahmins.
Opening Day: (18-April-2020)
The shrine of Gangotri opens every year on the auspicious day of Akshya-Tritya, which normally falls during the last week of April or the first week of May. A simple ceremony is held on the opening day of the temple, A formal puja of Gangaji is offered at the opening day of the temple as well as on the bank of the river.
The temple closes on the day of Dipawali (Mid-November). The pujaris with an array of lighted oil lamps perform the closing ceremony along with the usual puja rituals.
At this place the Ganga fell from the hair coils of Lord Shiva into the kund. After a churning there, she finally finds her way out of the Kund, and flows on her way through sculptured gorges, lush green valleys and vast stretches of fertile plains until at last she mingles in the sea.
Sub-merged in the river this natural rocks Shivlinga is the place where, according to mythology, Lord Shiva sat when he received the Ganga in his matted locks (hair coils). It is visible only in winter months when water level decreases.
Kedar Ganga Sangam
Around 100 yards from the temple, flows the river Kedar Ganga, starting from the Kedar valley, this river meets the Bhagirathi River on its left bank. It is believed that the Pandavas went to Kedarnath all along the banks of Kedarganga.
The winter seat of Gangotri is Markandey temple at Mukhawa village where the deity is worshipped in winter months.