Gangotri is where the goddess Ganga is worshipped. It is one of the pilgrims of the Char Dham linkage that is prevelant in India. It was built in the 18th century by Amar Singh Thapa, a Gurkha General. The Gangotri Temple which stands 3200 metres above sea level is definitely worth a visit.
The Vishwanath temple is placed around one hundred and fifty kilometres from Rishikesh. It is known to be the temple of utmost significance in Indian architecture and mythology. It is one of the oldest temples in the history of India. The worship of Lord Vishwanath or Shiva is carried on throughout day as he is the residing deity. Every evening after the sun sets, all the bells of the temple ring in unison as all the resident panditsactivily perform holy rituals by chanting the mantras. The temple is said to have been built by King Ganeshwar as he was a great believer of the Lord Vishwanath.
Bhagirathi Shila is a holy stone near which the the king Bhagirath used to medidate. The stone is placed in such a way that it depicts the place where the Goddess Ganga first stepped foot on Earth.
The Shakti Temple is positioned right opposite the Vishwanath Temple. One of the main attractions of this temple is the six metre long Trishul or Trident that is kept inside. The base of this Trishul is 90cms. The upper portion of the Trishul is made of iron and the lower portion is made of copper. There are many myths surrounding this trident. Some say that it was used by Goddess Durga to slay the demons.
Another stop for the people travelling to Gangotri can be Tapovan, soon after the Gaumukh Glacier. This place has an amazing view of the Shivling Mountain. The mountain of Garhwal is also very beautifully visible from Tapovan.
The river Bhagirathi converges with the Jat Ganga near the picturesque BhaironGhati. It is situated around 10 kms from Gangotri and is covered with dense jungles on all sides. The place is so named because of the myth that Lord Shiva has chosen Bhairon to take charge of the place where River Ganga had left from Lord Shiva’s ear. This has happened because King Bhagirath took the River Bhagirath with him and it left the hair of Lord Shiva. This angered Shiva and he took the flow of water back through his thighs. After a lot of pleading from King Bhagirath, he let the river flow out of his ears.
The submerged idol of Lord Shiva is one of the main attraction points at Gangotri. This idol of Lord Shiva is said to have been made naturally without any man made process. The idol is more visible during the winter season because the water level of the river goes down and hence, most of the Shivlingis revealed. The idol is placed in this exact position because according to myth, Lord Shiva sat there when he took the river Ganga into his entwined hair. This idol remains totally submerged in the summer season and hence attracts less tourists.
KedarTaal, which is also known as Shiva’s lake, has pure and clear water. It is a glacial lake and is situated at an altitude of 15,600 feet in the Garhwal region. It provides a perfect view with mountains, land, water and iced peaks. The KedarTaal region is also an ideal trekking destination and the route allows you to pass through breathtaking Himalayan birch forest, several lakes, rivers and glaciers. The Thalaysagar Peak forms the backdrop of the Kedartaal lake.
The PandavaGufa is located near Gangotri and is 2 kms from the town. It can be reached after a trek of just 1.5kms. The place has mythological importance as it is said to be the site where the five Pandavas mediated while they were going to Kailash, on exile. The way to reach the PandavaGufa is quite beautiful and captivating and is enveloped with lush greenery, hilly terrains and natural beauty that will leave you awestruck.
Gaumukh is the terminus of the Gangotri Glacier. It is from this place that the Bhagirathi River originates. It is situated at 13200 feet. It is also one of the largest glaciers in Gangotri. This glacier is one of the main sources of the River Ganges. The trail of Gaumukh begins from Gangotri, about 18 kms from the destination. Gaumukh is a very popular pilgrimage site for the Hindus and it is also a well-known trekking destination. The place is even more popular because of the Shivling Mountain. Horses are not permitted on the road, therefore, one must pack accordingly before the start of the journey.
Hotels and restaurants in Gangotri do not have an elaborate menu but there are a number of local eating joints, stalls and restaurants as well as ashrams that serve Indian platters. One also finds a handful of places serving Chinese here. Since the region has immense religious and spiritual significance for Hindus, non-vegetarian food is not available and alcohol is prohibited.
The food in Gangotri is simple, prepared with local ingredients, using herbs and spices which make the food highly nutritious and packs in energy. The cooking methods here are generally elaborate and time-consuming and a generous dash of distinct spices is used. The cooking often uses charcoal and dishes are completed by a generous amount of 'Ghee'. The food is also usually prepared using lentils and pulses. Bhatt kiChurdkani, Arsa, Kafuli, Phannu, Badi, Rus, Gulgula, KandaleekaSaag and Palau are some are of the local preparations with which the cuisine of Gangotri is defined.
The shops which are present in Gangotri majorly sell holy goods and items of worship. These include the books of the hymns, compact discs of songs or bhajans and even the prasad and flowers which are presented in the temple. You will also find small shrine figurines and even the photographs of the gods and goddesses.