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. She came down from heaven in the form of a river at a place we now call Gangotri – an enchanted place surrounded by mountain peaks, including that of Shivlinga and Satopanth. The temple opens on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya (April – May), and closes on Diwali every year. The Temple remains closed during winters and deity is taken to Mukhyamath temple in Mukhba village. In 2015, Gangotri temple is open on April 21st.
The shrine of Gangotri is at an altitude of 3,200 m and set amidst rugged mountains and overlooks the thundering river. Made of white stone, the temple is decorated with a gilded roof crowned with a central spine. Near the temple is the Bhagirath Shila, a stone slab where king Bhagirath used to meditate.
Gangotri, the picturesque pilgrimage in the hinterlands of the Himalayas, nestling amidst deodar forests is worshipped by Hindus as the source of their most sacred river, Ganga. At a distance of 105 kms from the town of Uttarkashi, Gangotri is the spiritual source of the river, while its actual source is the ice cave of Gomukh, 18 kms up the Gangotri glacier. Here, Ganga is known as Bhagirathi, named after the ancient king Bhagirath who prayed to bring her down from the heavens. The other major tributary, Alaknanda, emerges from glacial waters near Badrinath and joins the Bhagirathi further down at Devprayag to become the magnificent Ganga.
Considered the most sacred of all rivers, this stream of life of India continues to be worshipped as a goddess. Bathing in her waters brings deliverance from sins committed in the present and all past births. This explains why numerous devotees have been undertaking the Gangotri pilgrimage over the years.