History of Gangotri – Sacred Origin of the Holy River Ganges

Home » History of Gangotri – Sacred Origin of the Holy River Ganges

Built during the 18th century by the Gorkha commander Amar Singh Thapa and perched magnificently on an elevation of 3,042 metres above sea level the main temple of Gangotri Dham sits stunningly by the banks of the holy river of Bhagirathi. The temple radiates an incredible amount of spirituality and positivity which can be felt from the moment you get a glimpse of this beautiful shrine. As the name suggests this temple is dedicated to Ganga Devi and is considered to be one of the most rarely occurring temples in India. Ever since the ancient ages the holy river of Ganga has been the primary source of sustaining lives to the inhabitants of the nearby regions. These people decided to honor this river to the highest accolade of giving it the status of a mother. Ever since then the river is being worshipped and treated with the utmost respect.

Legend of River Ganga and King Bhagirath

One of the most popular mythological accounts pertaining to the origin of the holy river of Ganga is about how king Bhagirath sat in deep penance to goddess Ganga. For several centuries on an end King Bhagirath sat in intense and deep meditation where he was asking goddess Ganga to come down to the earthly realm from her heavenly abode. He did so in an attempt to allow salvation for his 60,000 predecessors whose souls hadn’t found salvation due to the curse from the saint. However, it is said that once Ganga agreed to make her way to earth from the matted locks of Lord Shiva she knew that it would be an extremely devastating phenomenon and the earth won’t be able to sustain the force. Because of this reason Ganga was divided into 12 different streams and the one stream which had made its way to Bhagirath came to be known as ‘Bhagirathi’. Not only did this stream absolve the sins of king Bhagirathi’s ancestors but ever since then it is being used as the prime river for performing Pind Daan puja rituals as well as for immersing the ashes of the beloved bygone people since it is believed that immersing the ashes in this holy river will grant the departed souls with salvation or moksha.

Winter Abode

During the winter time when the temple of Gangotri gets completely buried inside a thick layer of snow and when the Char Dham Yatra circuit is shut down for the season then the idol of the presiding deity of goddess Ganga is shifted to her winter home in Mukhba. People who still want to visit Gangotri dham then they can offer their prayer at this temple as a part of their winter char dham yatra.

Lesser Known Facts

  • The water of Bhagirathi River is said to carry medicinal properties and it is said that Lord Shiva had drank the water from here in order to calm his throat after he drank the poison. It is believed that whosoever drinks the water from the holy river of Ganga will be relieved of all of their sins and they will also be cured of any diseases that they may be suffering from.
  • When the temple kapat is shut down for darshan, a Diya or a lamp is left burning inside the main shrine of the temple which continues to keep burning on for the time that the temple remains shut down. This happens because of the special oil which utilizes almost zero amount of oxygen inside the temple.
  • Bhagirathi Shila, which is a stone structure, located towards the end of the main temple dham is believed to be the spot where king Bhagirath is said to have performed his penance to goddess Ganga and asked her to come down to earth and wash away all the sins of his ancestors.

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