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Gangotri is situated at an altitude of 3,048mts above sea level in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand state. Located on the banks of the holy Bhagirathi River, Gangotri is one of the Char Dham of Uttarakhand.
It is the highest and the most important temple of river Ganga which is worshipped as a Goddess in India. Gangotri is a small town centred around the temple of Ganga. The present temple at Gangotri was built by Amar Singh Thapa, Gorkha General in the early 18th century.
The origin of Bhagirathi (Ganga) River is at Gaumukh glacier which is at a distance of 18kms from Gangotri and one must cover the distance on foot. Gangotri offers scenic vistas of rugged terrains, gushing water of Bhagirathi River and snow clad peaks. The place holds great importance amongst Hindus. Gangotri remains opened from May and gets closed on the occasion of Diwali festival. Gangotri temple remains closed during winters as the region is prone to heavy snowfall.
Gaumukh glacier is the source of Bhagirathi River which is also known as Ganga River before the confluence with Alaknanda at Devprayag. The Glacier is situated 18kms from Gangotri. 'Gau' means Cow and 'Mukh' means face hence the combined meaning of Gaumukh is cow's face. If you carefully observe the cave from where the water gushes out it will resemble as a cow's face. Gaumukh is the second largest glacier of India, only after the Siachen glacier.
Gaumukh is 30kms in length and approximately 3 to 4km wide. It is a source of the Bhagirathi River which is one of the most important tributary of the sacred Ganga River. The trek to Gaumukh glacier is easy but it goes through a rocky surface as it goes through Bhojbasa offering splendours of nature en route.
Submerged Shivling: There is a natural rock Shivling in Gangotri, submerged under water which can be easily seen when winters are on their way as the water level decreases during that time. According to myths and legends this was the place where Lord Shiva sat when Ganga ascended in his matted locks.
There is a Tourist Bungalow at Bhojbasa, 14kms from Gangotri where lodging and other facilities are available. Gaumukh glacier is situated at an elevation of 3,892mts above sea level. You will encounter several majestic Himalayan peaks like Shivling, Thalay Sagar, Meru, Bhagirathi III etc., while trekking towards Gaumukh.
In recent times, the retreat of the glacier has quickened significantly. Major steps have been taken by the government of Uttarakhand towards this severe problem ahich includes a restriction on numbers of people visiting the glacier, now only 100 persons can trek to Gaumukh each day.