The picturesque pilgrimage in the hinterlands of the Himalayas is the most sacred spot where Ganga, the stream of life, touched earth for the first time. According to mythology, Goddess Ganga, the daughter of heaven, manifested herself in the form a river to absolve the sins of king Bhagirath’s predecessors, following his severe penance of 5500 years.
Lord Shiva received into his matted locks to minimize the impact of her fall. The river itself begins at Gangotri which literally means Ganga Uttari or Ganga descending She came to be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source. The Shrine of Gangotri situated at an elevation of 3200 m above sea level amidst captivating surroundings along the right bank of Bhagirathi is 100 km from Uttarkashi.
The Shrine of Gangotri opens during the last week of April or the first week of May, on the auspicious day od Akshaya Tritiya. The temples opening is preceded by a special Puja of Ganga both inside the temple as well as on the river bank. The temple’s closes on the day of Diwali followed by a formal closing ceremony amidst a row of oil lamps.
It is believed that the Goddess retreats to Mukhwa, her winter abode (12 km downstream).
At Kedarnath there are several Kunds (pools, tanks) that are known for their religious significans – shivkund, Retkund, hanskund, Udakkund, Rudhirkund are the most important. A little away from Kedarnath is a temple dedicated to Bhaironathji who is ceremoniously worshipped at the opening & closing of Kedarnath.
The belief is that Bhairavnathji protects this land from evil during the time when temple of Kedarnath is closed.
During the winters, the shrine is submerged in snow & hence is closed. Fortunate are those who have good weather, but twice blessed are those who are at Kedarnath on a moonlit night- the snow peak gleams like hundred silver pinnacles atop the glittering mountains.