Gangotri (10,020 ft.) is the ritual source of the Ganges. This temple was built late in the 19th century by the king of Jaipur, and its primary deity, not surprisingly, is the Goddess Ganga. It is on the northernmost part of the state of Uttar Pradesh and is very near the Indo-Tibetan border. It is approximately 300 km from Dehradun, 250 km from Rishikesh and 105 km from Uttarkashi.
According to mythology, Goddess Ganga - the daughter of heaven, manifested herself in the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath’s predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries. Lord Shiva received into his matted locks to minimise the immense impact of her fall. She came to be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source.
Along the right bank of Bhagirathi stands the shrine of Gangotri dedicated to the Goddess. Perched at a height of 3042 mts., it was constructed in the early 18th century by a Gorkha Commander, Amar Singh Thapa. Every year, lakhs of pilgrims throng the sacred temple between May and October. By November, Gangotri is covered by snow. It is believed that the Goddess retreats to Mukhba, her winter abode ( 12 kms downstream ).
The physical source of the holy river is at Gaumukh, 18 kms. further uphill, along the Gangotri Glacier. Several pilgrims trek upto the source to offer prayers either on foot or on ponies.The verdant valleys, dense forests and towering peaks offer excellent trekking and mountaineering opportunities for adventure enthusiasts.
Submerged Shivling: The natural rock Shivling, submerged in the river, is an amazing sight reinforcing the power of the divine. According to mythology, Lord Shiva sat at this spot to receive the Ganaga in his matted locks. The shivling is visible in the early winters when the water level goes down. 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.
Gangotri Temple: The 18th century's temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga is located near a sacred stone where King Bhagirath worshipped Lord Shiva. Ganga is believed to have touched earth at this spot. According to another legend, Pandavas performed the great 'Deva Yagna' here to atone the deaths of their kinsmen in the epic battle of Mahabharata. The temple is an exquisite 20 ft. High structure made of white granite.
Nandanvan Tapovan: An arduous trek along the Gangotri Glacier leads to scenic Nandanvan - the base camp for the Bhagirathi peaks, that offers a panoramic view of the surrounding Shivaling peak. A trek across the snout of the Gangotri Glacier leads to Tapovan known for its beautiful meadows that encircle the base of the Shivling Peak.
Uttarkashi (99 kms): An important pilgrimage centre, situated at an elevation of 1,150 mts. above sea level on the bank of river Bhagirathi. Some of the important temples worth visiting are - Vishwanath temple, Ekadash Rudra temple, Gyaneshwar temple and Kuteti Devi Temple. Nearby is the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. Every year, during the 'Magh Mela' people visit Uttarkashi to take a holy dip in Bhagirathi along with the image of their village deity.
Kedar Tal (18 kms): An enhancing lake, 4425 mts. above sea level against the splendid backdrop of mighty Thalaiyasagar peak. Accessible through a rough mountain trail, it is the base camp for trekking to surrounding peaks. The trek to Kedartal needs a local guide.
Gaumukh( 18 kms): The snout of the Gangotri Glacier and the source of the Bhagirathi river. Pilgrims trek upto the sacred spot on foot or on ponies to take a holy dip in the ice-cold water.
Dayara Bugyal (93 kms): A breathtakingly beautiful meadow, situated at a height of 3,048 mts. above sea level. A motorable road connects Bhatwari (27 kms. from Uttarkashi) with Raithal village, from where follows a 6 kms. long trek to Dayara. The famous Sheshnag Temple enroute is an attraction of the trek. From Dayara, one can also trek down to Dodi Tal (30 kms.). During winters, Dayara provides excellent ski slopes over an area of 28 sq.kms.
Nachiketa Tal (131 kms): A pleasant trek through lush green forests leads to this peaceful retreat. A small temple along the lake and lovely surroundings are an attraction.
Tehri (173 kms): Lying at the confluence of Bhagirathi and Bhilangna rivers is the former capital of Tehri Garhwal principality. It is the site of a giant hydel project.
Narendranagar (239 kms): The new capital of erstwhile Tehri state, offers a magnificent view of the Ganga valley of Rishikesh and the plains of Haridwar.