Histroy of Gangotri

Gangotri Dham is a crucial part of the Chota Chardham Yatra circuit which takes place every six months in Devbhoomi Uttarakhand. People from far and wide make it a point to visit this rare temple dedicated to goddess Ganga. With the roaring Bhagirathi River making its way from the side of the temple, this place is replete with tales from the ancient ages and these stories and mythological account adds on to the enchanting charm of this place. The temple is rich in historical and mythological accounts which can be felt right from the moment you step into the temple’s perimeter. It is believed that taking a dip in the water from here will ride you of all your sins and will grant you salvation. Here is some more information about how the temple came into being and the incredible and legendary history around it:

The Story of King Bhagirath

The story of Ganga goes back to many ages ago when Ganga River was not flowing on earth. King Sagar had decided to perform a massive Ashwamedha Yajna where his horse and his 60,000 sons (born to queen sumati) had to be slain by him. Indra dev became insecure thinking that if the yajna was a success he would lose his throne. With this in mind, he tied up the Ashwamedha horse to Sage Kapil’s ashram. The king sent his 60,000 sons looking for the horse. They interrupted the meditating sage who was so angry that the moment he opened his eyes all the sons were perished and only their ashes remained. He cursed that their souls will not find salvation until their ashes are washed away by the heavenly river Ganga. Later on, king Bhagirath (king sagar’s grandson) performed deep penance and meditation to goddess Ganga asking her to descend down to the earthly realm from heaven. After years of continuous and intense penance Ganga finally made its way to the earthly realm, granting them salvation or moksha. Ever since then people have been immersing the ashes of their departed ancestors

History of Gangotri Temple

The establishment of the temple structure of Gangotri Dham can be traced back to the time of Gurkha leader Amar Singh Thapa. He kept in mind the fact that the road reaching up to the temple is extremely steep and difficult to cover, he got it repaired. Amar Singh Thapa is also responsible for repairing the Julapul or the ropeway bridge in Bhairon Valley. Just like in Yamunotri, there was no temple located one the head of river Bhagirathi and Amar Singh then decided to donate his hard-earned 400 rupees to get the temple built. Katyuri architectural style was utilized to build the temple and 3 or 4 huts were also built out of woods along with it for the pilgrims. In case there was a crowd the pilgrims would stay in the nearby caves. Before the arrival of Amar Singh Thapa here, the Khas Budhere belonging to Dharali were the appointed priests here and he then later on handed over this priest hood to the Kedar Dutts, the forefathers of the current panda family. The lands from village Mukhwa and Dharali were also donated to Gangotri temple.

Source of River Bhagirathi

The source of Bhagirathi River can be traced to its terminus in Gangotri glacier. Also names as Gaumukh due it resemblance to a ‘cow’s mouth’, this glacier is over looked by its parent mountain peaks of Chaukhamba, Shivling, Thalay Sagar, Meru and Bhagirathi. From the main town of Gangotri Gaumukh is located at a distance of 19 kms and attracts a huge number of travellers, adventure seekers and outdoor adventure sports lovers from across the nation. This glacier is also a traditional and long term Hindu pilgrimage spot where people visit to collect the holy Ganga water since it is believed that keeping this at home showers good luck. The entire region of Gaumukh is completely barren and cold without the presence of any vegetation, plants or even trees. However, the path leading up to the source will take you across some of the most scenic and pristine meadows which cannot be found or experienced anywhere else in India.

Gangotri Glacier

Gangotri Glacier (Sanskrit,and Hindi: गंगोत्री) is located in Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand, India in a region bordering Tibet. This glacier, one of the primary sources of the Ganges, is one of the largest in the Himalayas with an estimated volume of over 27 cubic kilometers. The glacier is about 30 kilometres (19 miles) long and 2 to 4 km (1 to 2 mi) wide. Around the glacier are the peaks of the Gangotri Group, including several peaks notable for extremely challenging climbing routes, such as Shivling, Thalay Sagar, Meru, and Bhagirathi III. It flows roughly northwest, originating in a cirque below Chaukhamba, the highest peak of the group. The terminus of the Gangotri Glacier is said to resemble a cow's mouth, and the place is called Gomukh or Gaumukh (gou, cow + mukh, face). Gomukh, which is about 19 km (11.8 mi) from the town of Gangotri, is the precise source of the Bhagirathiriver, an important tributary of the Ganges. Gomukh is situated near the base of Shivling; in between lies the Tapovan meadow. The Gangotri glacier is a traditional Hindu pilgrimage site. Devout Hindus consider bathing in the icy waters near Gangotri town to be a holy ritual, and many made the trek to Gomukh, with a few continuing on to Tapovan. One needs to trek from Gangotri till Gaumukh, passing Devgadh, Chirbhasa, Bhojwasa en route. Currently accommodation is available only at Bhojwasa, although forest check posts are present at both Chirbhasa and Bhowasa. The 2013 North Indian Floods destroyed much of this trail, and access is now a little difficult beyond Chirbhasa due to trail deterioration and a 2 km wide rockfall site.

Geology

It is a valley-type glacier, situated in the Uttarkashi district of Garhwal Himalaya, Uttarakhand(Figure 1) and it flows to NW direction. This glacier is bound between 30°43'22"–30°55'49" (lat.) and 79°4'41"–79°16'34" (long.), extending in height from 4120 to 7000 m.a.s.l. This area is situated north of the Main Central Thrust (MCT) and is made up of bedrocks of granites, garnet mica schist, quartz biotite schist, kyanite schist, augen gneiss and banded augen gneiss. The glacier is composed of a variety of depositional features such as talus cones, snow-avalanche fans, snow-bridges, and dead ice mounds, and erosional features like pyramidal and conical peaks, serrated ridge crests, glacial troughs, smooth rock walls, crags and tails, waterfalls, rock basins, gullies and glacial lakes. All along the Gangotri glacier, several longitudinal and transverse crevasses are formed along which ice blocks have broken down. The ablation zone of the Gangotri glacier is covered by a thick pile of supraglacial moraines and is characterized by several ice sections, melting into pools of supraglacial lakes. Because of subsidence and the fast degenerating nature of the glacier, its centre is full of supraglacial lakes. In this part of higher Himalaya, glacial melt-water dominates the fluvial system. The total ice cover is approximately 200 km² and has about 20 km³ of ice in volume.

Tributaries

This glacier has three main tributaries, namely Raktvarn (15.90 km), Chaturangi (including Kalandini bamak) (22.45 km) and Kirti (11.05 km) and more than 18 smaller tributary glaciers The Raktvarn system contains 7 tributary glaciers; among them Thelu, Swetvarn, Nilambar and Pilapani are important. Similarly the Seeta, Suralaya and Vasuki are the major tributaries which make up the Chaturangi system, while the Kirti system is made up of only three tributary glaciers. Besides these three major tributary systems, some other tributary glaciers of this area drain directly into the Gangotri glacier; among them Swachand, Miandi, Sumeru and Ghanohim are important. Four other glaciers, Maitri, Meru, Bhrigupanth and Manda drain into the river Bhagirathi. The total glacierized area of the catchment is 258.56 km², out of which the Gangotri system comprises 109.03 km², followed by Chaturangi (72.91 km²), Raktvarn (45.34 km²) and Kirti (31.28 km²). The remaining four glaciers contain 29.41 km² of glacierized area; among them maximum contribution is Bhirgupanth glacier (14.95 km²).

Retreat

NASA, in conjunction with scientists from United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Snow and Ice Data Center(NSIDC), is developing a global inventory of all the world's glaciers to help researchers track each glacier's history. According to them, the Gangotri glacier, currently 30.2 km long and between 0.5 and 2.5 km wide, is one of the largest in the Himalayas. This glacier has been constantly receding since measurements began in 1780. Data for 61 years (1936–96) show that the total recession of Gangotri glacier is 1147 m, with the average rate of 19 m per year. However, over the last 25 years of the 20th century it has retreated more than 850 meters (34 meters per year), and 76 meters between 1996 and 1999 (25 meters per year).

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