Gangotri

Gangotri (10,020 ft.) is the ritual source of the Ganges, although the present source is the glacier at Gaumukh, ten miles upstream.  This temple was built late in the 19th century by the king of Jaipur, and its primary deity, not surprisingly, is the Goddess Ganga.

This picture was taken in June 1990.  For more updated pictures (June 2002), see the photo section on Tourism and Himalayan Pilgrimage.

 

Here's a closer shot of the temple entranceway.  You can see a railing barring the public from entering, and the scaffold behind on which an image of Ganga is brought out for viewing in the morning and evening.  Hindu temples primarily serve not as centers for congregational worship, but as homes for their resident deities.

In the hours between worship, Hindu temples tend to have a lot of other things going on, and here you can see pilgrims hanging out and meeting with the temple priests.

This picture was taken in June 1990.

 

This smaller temple to the side of the main temple is dedicated to Shiva, who plays an important role in the mythology of the Ganges (when she comes down from heaven, Shiva agrees to let her fall on his head, thus saving the earth from destruction by her impact).  Although small, this temple is built in the Nagara architectural style, in which the most prominent feature is a high tower over the image of the primary deity.  As will later be clear, the particular style of this tower is very characteristic of the temples in the hills.  

 

Gangotri's primary deity, of course, is the Ganges itself, here as the tributary named the Bhagirathi.  Himalayan rivers run rough, fast, and cold, and are strongest in the summer and monsoons.  As you can see, even though there has been some building since 1987, when the road came to Gangotri, it is still a very small town (this was true in the early 1990s, but no longer, since town's size has exploded in the past 15 years. 

 

Pilgrimage chronicles from earlier times describe people having to cross swaying rope across raging torrents, often with loss of life, and the last gorge below Gangotri was not bridged by road until the 1987.  This shows the river at running through a gorge near Gangotri

 
Here Mr. Datta, one of our companions on a tour of the mountains, has just taken a bath in the Bhagirathi River at Gangotri.  Ten miles upstream this water is still a glacier, so this water is cold enough to suck the breath out of you. 

 

Another of the rituals performed on pilgrimage is shraddha, a memorial rite for the dead. Certain sraddhas are performed right after death, but others are done on particular occasions, such as visiting a pilgrimage place.  This picture was shot a Gangotri in 1990; the man with the hat on is performing this rite for his father and other ancestors, while the man in the dark coat is his hereditary pilgrimage priest.

 

Gupt Kashi

 

 

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Last modified 28 January 2006