Travelogue - Part Four: Onward to Gangotri: Source of Legendary River Ganga

September 13, 2011

Following the visit to our first destination, Yamunotri in the course of the Char Dham pilgrimage cum tour, we proceeded from Rana Chatti towards the next destination, Gangotri in the afternoon of the second day of our tour.  As Sachhu, our driver suspected that one of the tyres of the Tata Sum might have been punctured, got it rectified at the nearest facility which took nearly forty-five minutes.

We made the reverse journey by the same road that had led us to Yamunotri for about  45 kms and   took the right turn a little short of Barkot  towards Gangotri. After travelling for quite a distance on bumpy roads through ridges of mountains, as it was getting dark, we halted at a small township known as Brahma Khal and spent the night in Hotel Dhruv Palace which was quite comfortable.

As it rained during the night time, the early morning weather was quite damp and the mountains in front of the hotel were covered with thick clouds resembling snow.  The scenery of the clouds slowly moving across the green patches of land and rising mountains in the backdrop of the township was quite beautiful and pleasing.
Once again following the routine, we started the next leg of our journey and after travelling for some distance, Sachhu took another turn towards Gangotri at a place known as Dharasu from where we could see river Bhagirathi whose course we had to follow in order to reach Gangotri.

As we were  on our way enjoying the passing sceneries of mountains, valleys and the flow of the river, we were halted by a truck driver saying that there was landslide ahead and the vehicles will not move till the debris were cleared. It was around 8 am and the driver informed us that the landslide had occurred at around 2.30 am. However, we were lucky, as the road was cleared within one hour of our waiting  we crossed the hurdle.

Proceeding further we reached Uttarkashi, the headquarters of the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand where we had our breakfast. After travelling for some distance we could view water gushing out of a tunnel and a little further a dam on River Bhagirathi indicating that it was the hydro-electric project.

Moving on,  i was intrigued to see young men in  saffron coloured T-shirts and shorts walking by the side of  the rain soaked road. Still further, i also came across individual devotees carrying poles on their shoulders at the end of which small water-pitchers were tied along with pictures of deities. Sachhu told that these pilgrims were known as ‘Kavadis’ coming from different states especially in northern India such as Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.

The Kavadis also known as Kanvarias who are devotees of Shiva undertake annual pilgrimage on foot to Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri during the months of July and August. Thousands of Kavadis undertake the pilgrimage wearing orange coloured garb such as T-shirts and shorts or traditional kurtas and dhotis, sometimes carrying a backpack or waist pouch. A deep rooted religious belief combined with a sense of bravado motivates them to undertake this difficult and lengthy pilgrimage on foot. They carry holy water from Ganges in cans resting on their chest in yellow jackets or pitchers tied to the two ends of the poles and after going back to their respective villages offer this holy water in Shiva temples.

Moving a little further, once again our vehicle had to stop as the road was blocked due to breakdown of a bulldozer which was under repair. Here too, we waited for about half an hour before the road was cleared for vehicular traffic.

Some distance prior to Gangotri, we halted at a place known as Gangnani where natural hot water springs are located. The hot water that flows as streams is collected in two separate ponds, one for men and the other for women where the pilgrims wash themselves before proceeding to Gangotri.

A little further on the way, Sachhu halted the vehicle for tea and showed us the apple orchards. Besides the apple orchards, the scenery from this spot was quite amazing.  As we neared a picturesque location known as Harsil, Sachhu reminded us that it was at this place that Raj Kapoor directed his famous film “Ram Teri Ganga Maili” (1985) starring Mandakini and Raj Kapoor’s son, Rajiv Kapoor.

As we were nearing our second destination-Gangotri, once again we had to spend some time on the road as the asphalting work was in progress. A number of vehicles with pilgrims and tourists proceeding in both ways were halted due to the work. A number of people made a beeline to see what kind of work was going on the road. This provided me an opportunity to capture people in camera in their different attires and moods.

After a wait of nearly one hour we hit the road again and reached Gangotri. Unlike Yamunotri, the vehicle could reach till the main entrance of the Dham complex and we had to walk for about half a kilometer to reach the Gangotri shrine that is situated on the bank of river Bhagirathi as Ganges is known at this place at a height of 3042 meters from the sea level.

Gangotri is the origin of River Ganges and one of the four sites in the Chardham Yatra. Here, Ganga is known as Bhagirathi, named after the ancient king Bhagirath, who performed penance to bring her down from the heavens. It is believed that bathing in her waters brings deliverance from sins committed in the present and past births. Flowing southwards, Bhagirathi joins the Aleksandra River at Dev Prayag to form the mighty River Ganges. The actual source of River Bhagirathi is at Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glaciers and is a 19 Kms trek from Gangotri.
The shrine of Gangotri was constructed with white stone by Amar Singh Thapa, a Gurkha captain in the early eighteenth century. After Diwali the door of the temple are closed and reopened in May. During winters when the shrine  is closed due to the heavy snow fall , the idol of the Goddess is kept at  a village named  Mukhab  near Harsil.

According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Ganga – the daughter of heaven, took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath’s predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries. Lord Shiva received Ganga into his matted locks to minimize the impact of her fall.

After paying a visit to the temple we went to the bank of the river where a number of pilgrims were having a wash in the holy waters .  I also saw a group of pilgrims performing ‘pujas’ and offering prayers as it is believed that ‘shraadh’ and ‘pind daan’ can be done on any day of the year on the banks of Bhagirathi for their ancestors. Most of the pilgrims were also seen collecting holy water (Ganga Jal ) for use during auspicious occasions at home.

While observing the happenings on the banks of the river and viewing the distant mountains and valley through which Bhagirathi was gushing out, I was surprised to see a young Sadhu asking me whether I was from Maharashtra. When I told him that though I came from Mumbai originally belonged to Udupi in Karnataka, he spoke to me in Kannada and said that he was Chitrapur Brahmin and his name was Chandragiri. When he came to know my religious background and mother tongue, Chandragiri talked to me in Konkani. He could also speak fluent English.

Being curious, I inquired with the young Sadhu the circumstances that brought him to the Himalayas. Briefly he narrated that he had studied up to twelfth standard   and was working as a dealer in shares in Bangalore. His visits to Haridwar and later to Gangotri and other holy places attracted him to a life of spirituality. Giving up his career and family he came to Gangotri where he met Gopal Guruji. For three years he lived as Brahmachari at Haridwar and later went to Gangotri and began to reside at the Dandi Ashram near Gangotri.

After spending some time on the bank of the River Bhagirathi and walking leisurely through the narrow and congested lane on both sides of which there were small stalls selling everything that is associated with religious tourism, we came out of the complex and after sipping hot cup of tea boarded the vehicle. As we moved further, the sight of the Bhagirathi flowing in deep canyon-like gorge was a sight to behold. On our way we halted at a small township from where I could see the snow covered mountain-peak at a distance shining white by the rays of the fading evening sun. I was lucky enough to capture this magnificent view by zooming the lens of the camera thus providing a closer look at the mighty Himalayan Mountain.



By Eugene D'Souza, Moodubelle
To submit your article / poem / short story to Daijiworld, please email it to mentioning 'Article/poem submission for daijiworld' in the subject line. Please note the following:

  • The article / poem / short story should be original and previously unpublished in other websites except in the personal blog of the author. We will cross-check the originality of the article, and if found to be copied from another source in whole or in parts without appropriate acknowledgment, the submission will be rejected.
  • The author of the poem / article / short story should include a brief self-introduction limited to 500 characters and his/her recent picture (optional). Pictures relevant to the article may also be sent (optional), provided they are not bound by copyright. Travelogues should be sent along with relevant pictures not sourced from the Internet. Travelogues without relevant pictures will be rejected.
  • In case of a short story / article, the write-up should be at least one-and-a-half pages in word document in Times New Roman font 12 (or, about 700-800 words). Contributors are requested to keep their write-ups limited to a maximum of four pages. Longer write-ups may be sent in parts to publish in installments. Each installment should be sent within a week of the previous installment. A single poem sent for publication should be at least 3/4th of a page in length. Multiple short poems may be submitted for single publication.
  • All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format or text file. Pictures should not be larger than 1000 pixels in width, and of good resolution. Pictures should be attached separately in the mail and may be numbered if the author wants them to be placed in order.
  • Submission of the article / poem / short story does not automatically entail that it would be published. Daijiworld editors will examine each submission and decide on its acceptance/rejection purely based on merit.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to edit the submission if necessary for grammar and spelling, without compromising on the author's tone and message.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to reject submissions without prior notice. Mails/calls on the status of the submission will not be entertained. Contributors are requested to be patient.
  • The article / poem / short story should not be targeted directly or indirectly at any individual/group/community. Daijiworld will not assume responsibility for factual errors in the submission.
  • Once accepted, the article / poem / short story will be published as and when we have space. Publication may take up to four weeks from the date of submission of the write-up, depending on the number of submissions we receive. No author will be published twice in succession or twice within a fortnight.
  • Time-bound articles (example, on Mother's Day) should be sent at least a week in advance. Please specify the occasion as well as the date on which you would like it published while sending the write-up.

Comment on this article

  • John Pereira, Kulshekar/Mumbai

    Tue, Sep 20 2011

    I admire the adventurous spirit of Dr. Eugene D'Souza, inspite of being a senior citizen,by travelling to the sources of Rivers Yamuna and Ganga to the shrines of Yamunotri and Gangotri respectively, as portrayed in parts 3 and 4 of current series of Travalogue. The photographs are quite revealing of the terrain comprising of hills and valleys, at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas.
    Kudos to Dotor Eugene for the beautiful pictures and lucid narration. Now, I am looking forward to your next edition of Travelogue in the near future.

  • Edward Barboza, Kanajar / Auckland

    Wed, Sep 14 2011

    Dear Dr. Eugene,
    An interesting and informative article written with very clear scenic pictures. Though we may not be able to visit all the places, your article bridges the gap in our knowledge and information.

  • Steve, Kuwait

    Wed, Sep 14 2011

    Awesome pics. Thanks Sir.

  • Dexter Britto, Mangalore/Auckland

    Tue, Sep 13 2011

    Hi Eugene,
    Very nice pictures and wonderful scenery.


  • Melwyn, Udupi, B'lor

    Tue, Sep 13 2011

    Very nice photos.After reading this, I feel this is one of the best place for tour.

Leave a Comment

Title: Travelogue - Part Four: Onward to Gangotri: Source of Legendary River Ganga

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.