The river Ganga is considered as the holiest river of India since centuries. The origin of river Ganga at Gangotri in Himalayan Mountains range is said to be the most prestigious place of pilgrimage for Hindus. Each Hindu has a desire of his heart to visit Gangotri at least once to see and feel the origin of such a holy and sacred river of the world.
You can reach Gangotri from Haridwar or Rishikesh, which are well connected by the train from Mumbai and Delhi. The char dham yatra covering Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath begins in May and ends in October every year. You can begin your journey of four dhams pilgrimage from Haridwar and travel via Dehradun, Mussorrie, Ranachatti, and UttarKashi to reach to Gangotri finally. There are guided tours available from Haridwar for this famous char dham pilgrimage. It takes around 8 days to complete this pilgrimage from Haridwar. The total cost for this char dham pilgrimage can be around Rs.10000 ($250) per head covering all the expenditures of lodging, boarding, and transportation. You have to stay at Ranachatti for the night and travel to Uttar Kashi on the next day. You can reach Gangotri from Uttar Kashi after around 6 hours drive on the hilly road. The bus or car can reach directly up to the Gangotri temple. So, you will be required to walk around for 10 minutes only to reach the Dandi Swami Ashram that is the staying place at Gangotri. The rooms are provided here at the rates of around Rs.50 per night. However, we were not required to pay it as we were in a guided tour. The rooms are reasonably clean and have electricity also. You can see the fast flowing waters of the river Ganga from the windows of the room of this Ashram. King Bhagirath did the tapa and convinced Ganga to come on the earth. Ganga is called Bhagirathi due to this reason. However, as the force of Ganga was so high that it was not possible to receive it by any human being. Lord Shiva finally agreed to receive Ganga in his hair. This is the reason Ganga is seen dropping forcefully on the Lingam of lord Shiva at Swarg Ganga, which is located close to the Gangotri temple at the bank of river Bhagirathi.
Gangotri temple has the statues of Gangaji, Yamunaji, Sarswati, Laxmiji, Parvatiji, and Annapurnadevi. The temple of Gangotri also have statue of king Bhagirath. Gangotri is situated at the height of 10500 feet from the mean sea level. There is a sangam of Kedar and Ganga, just below the temple. Swarg Ganga is around quarter of mile away from the main temple. The Gaumukh is the place, where Ganga is coming out from the mouth of a cow. The origin of Ganga is in the form of a very small water fall as against the much wider and forceful origin of River Yamuna. Gaumukh is around 18 miles away from the main temple. If you want to visit Gaumukh, you will need to walk this distance of 18 miles, to and fro. You also will need to carry the tent with all sleeping items as it would take totally 3 days to complete visit to Gaumukh. You also need to have lot of physical strength to do this. Most of the pilgrims do not cover Gaumukh.
There is a lot of importance to take a bath here in River Bhagirathi prior to actual darshnas in the temple. You can only afford to take bath here in chilly water of Ganga if you have lot of mental strength. We could take the bath in Ganga with great efforts. The water is really very cold here. However, you will feel uncomfortable for initial few minutes only and then will start feeling the warmth of the water. It is advisable to take a guided tour to Gangotri as arranging food, hotel etc. on our own may prove difficult at times. There is also a small market here from where you can buy some small souvenir items. Mostly, all the guided tours give one night halt here at Gangotri. The natural beauty of Gangotri is really breathtaking and you shall feel as if you are in heaven, away from this physical world. Make sure to carry the heavy woolen clothes, torch, heavy woolen blankets, and some dry fruits like cashews, raisins etc. It is also advisable to get yourself medically checked prior to your pilgrimage.
I hope that this article shall encourage many of my AC friends to visit this most beautiful and holy place in India.