Sunday, 26 August 2012

Travelogue Chardham : Gangotri

Barkot – Uttarkashi – 12 May 2012

We started from Barkot to Uttarkashi which is the base to go to Gangotri. The distance is about 100 kms from Barkot. However the distance would be covered only in about 6 hours of drive.

We stopped at one of the Sadhu’s hermitage in between where Siva Lingam and Hanuman were given prominence. In one of the rooms, there was an Agni Kundam in which he was doing a homam during this time. The dhuni was kept alive seemingly in an unbroken continuous way. Obviously he was a Natha Sampradaya ascetic.
Cave Descent

 From there we carried on to Gupta Prakateswar Temple. This place as told to us is slowly gaining in popularity due to the uniquely marvelous way of natural formation. There was a cave here inside which there was a formation of a stone with upto 5 identifiable Sivalingams on it due to the flow of water.

Cave Inside

 The flow of water also formed some interesting stalagmite formations one of which were looking like Adi Sesha hood, from which water was dripping into a submerged Siva Lingam formation. Being a cave it was difficult for many people to go in at once and so it took a long time in the queue to actually have a peep into the cave and see this. 

Cave Inside

The water was pleasant, soothing and at once energizing. The wonderful experience / feeling when one sees this and comes out were recounted by every one who entered the place. The Siva is gupta meaning secretive as well as prakata meaning visible thus the name Gupta Prakateswar.

Outside the Cave

 We had planned for a small time frame here, however providence had it that we had to remain there more than three hours since one of our buses hit a car on the way and the others waited for them to reach.

Uttar Kashi Temple

Kashi Viswanath temple is probably the best known temple at Uttar Kashi. The Sivalingam is unique as it leans to the left as seen when we enter through the main door. The Lingam is said to be swayambhu.

Soumya Kashi Vishwanth - Uttar Kashi
The same compound has the Shakti shrine.

Trishul Top
 One important attraction here is that there is a metal trident – a huge one which is kept in the temple. This is quite tall from the visible base till its top. It is also reputed that the trident base is also as deep beneath the earth surface as much as it is visible outside. The magnificence of the trident is such that one can imagine Lord Siva himself only being able to use this. The trishul is also revered as a form of Shakti which is obvious in the base and the upper part which has the three pointed agram (border) and the axe formation just beneath this.
Trishul Base
It is also said that the same cannot be moved by a single person (obviously), however if one applies slight pressure with one of your fingers, it vibrates. We did not try this and no one else was also seen trying this around. It is also said that there was a major earthquake in 1991. The damage was huge locally and all buildings around were destroyed. However the only standing structures remained intact were this Trishul and probably the temple precincts. There are eyewitnesses to the happenings of this incident where the Trident connected in sparks to the lightning which also had an inverted trident form and the landslide which stopped just at the door of the main temple gates.


Uttar Kashi Temple

 Uttara Kashi is also known as Soumya Kashi. There is a famous stotram by Swami Tapovanam – Soumya Kasheesha Stotram in praise of Lord Kashi Vishwanath here. There is a story about this temple connected to Lord Parasurama. He had beheaded his mother Renuka Devi on the orders of his father – Jamadagni Maharshi. Later she was revived by the Maharshi at the request of Lord Parasurama. Subsequent to this, Parasurama was asked to do Tapas at this location, to ward off the effects of his action eventhough they were done at his father’s orders. The temple of Kasi Viswanath was originally said to have been constructed / founded by Parasurama during this time. There was a temple dedicated to Parasurama at Uttarkashi, however we could not visit any other temples than the main one that of Kashi Viswanath as mentioned above.

Some very important places we missed out due to time factor (or should I say divine plan) is Tapovan Ashram and Nachiketa Tal. Swami Tapovan is the guru of Swami Chinmayananda and is one of the most venerated sages in the 1900s. Nachiketa is famous for having direct conversations with Lord Yama, learns Brahma Vidya from him and the details are recorded in the Kathopanishad for the benefit of all mankind. There is a temple dedicated to Annapoorna Devi, and a place for the Sadhus as a colony. It is also said that Sage Uddalaka’s Aashram was in the adjoining forest area. Uddalaka Maharshi was the father of Sage Swethakethu and who’s Upadeshams on Tatvamasi is recorded in the Chandogyopanishad.

 We stayed at Uttar Kashi in a hotel which was just beside the flowing Ganges. The night was windy and gradually the temperature was dipping. After the long journey during the day, we were all longing to hit the bed at the earliest. Next day was the journey to Gangotri.

13 May 2012.

Ganga Naani

Early morning with prayers in our minds, we started off to Gangotri. The first stop was at a place called Ganga Naani. The uniqueness of this place is that there is a naturally occurring thermal spring here. It is known as Rishi Kund. Some also call it as Parasara Kund. There is a small temple dedicated to Sage Parasara adjacent to the Kund upon climbing some 7-8 steps.

Almost all of us had not taken morning bath for this trip as the plan was to have the dip here. There were separate enclosures for both men and women. Most of us did take the dip and was absolutely refreshed. Taken aback by the crowd, I and my father did not take a dip in there.


We reached the approach of Gangotri and understood that there were a lot of vehicles who had already reached there. We had to walk almost 2 km to reach the place further to where our buses were parked. This year the crowd was so much for the trips that it had been quite hectic for all the travel arrangers.

We went straight to the bathing ghat and walked slightly up the stream. A vacant area was chosen for bath and daily ablutions. Myself, my parents, Kunjamma and Chittappan were together during this time. I tried to enter the water first. Icy cold it was and certainly numbing especially if you are not used to such temperatures. Still managed to do the Sandhya Vandanam and take some half dips for taking bath. Also took water and poured over so that the body was fully soaked in the Gangajal coming at Bhagirathi. All of us took turns for doing the bath and did our prayers. The stones at this place were white and the water clear. The flow was rapid and the river was generally clean. 

Once done, we climbed back into the banks and saw the Bhagiratha Sila – still maintained. The story of Bhagiratha and the flow of Ganga through this place as Bhagirathi, are so well known that I am not recounting this here.

Bhageeratha Sila

Climbing the steps of the river banks, we went to the mandir of Ganga Devi. Huge crowds with haphazard queue made me, Father and Chittappan sit on the side after humbly praying to Devi from outside. Amma and Kunjamma ventured into the queue and managed their darshanam inside.

Ganga Devi Temple
 While we waited outside the temple we were reminded of the great Tapas done by Bhagiratha to bring Ganga through this place with the highest of spiritual vibrations. Once Bhagirathi joins the Alakananda at Deva Prayag, the present Ganga is seen in full strength.

Surya Kund
There is a place known as Soorya Kund and Gauri Kund where the water falls majestically. It is said that there are some aloukika lights seen during Brahma Muhurtam at this place. Rails are kept for people to watch this. However since our visit time was different, we couldn’t hope to see this. The view is spectacular and the reddish, white rocks are greatly polished by the flow of water. It is said that during winter when the water flow comes down and freezes here, a SivaLingam becomes visible. This is the place where Lord Siva supposedly received Ganga in his hair locks upon her descent to Bhumi. Arsha Bharatha Samskaram is so connected to the Mighty Ganga. Various pilgrim spots, Aashrams, spiritually uplifting places, other places of stunning natural beauty, continuity of life, towns and cities are in its banks. After the holy Saraswathy River, Ganga is the second most referred to in the Vedic literature.
From Gangotri we also collected some water in cans and returned back to the vehicles for our journey back to the Hotel for night stay. Even though the distance is only around 100kms, as explained before it took quite a bit of time for us to reach there and only by late evening we came back to the comfort of blankets in the Hotel.

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