The shrine opens on the day of Akshay tritiya in the month of May and closes on Yama Dwitiya or Bhai Dooj day in November when the deity is shifted to its winter residence in Mukhba, Harsil. Ganga agreed to descend to Earth to wash the ashes of the souls of the ancestors of King Bhagiratha but Lord Shiva knew of the devastation that would occur on Earth. He, therefore, caught her in his locks from where the river descended in five streams on to the earth. Close to the shrine is a partially submerged Shivling, the spot where Shiva is said to have received Ganga in his matted hair. The shrine itself has an idol of Goddess Ganga that remains in place during summer when pilgrims can arrive here for the Aarti, to pray and obtain her blessings. Along with the idol of Ganga, there are also idols of other deities. The famed Gaumukh glacier was once located close to the shrine but shifted upwards due to global warming effects and it is believed to be the source of the River Ganga. It is believed that the original temple was small when Adi Shankaracharya visited it in the 11th/12th century and it was only in the 18th century that it gained its present shape.
Gangotri is located in Uttarkashi district on the banks of the river Bhagirathi, at a height of about 3100 metres, in Uttarakhand State in India. Bhagirathi flows onwards and at Devprayag it is joined by the Alaknanda. From here onwards it goes by the name of Ganga, the holiest River in India. Gangotri is about 248 kilometres from Rishikesh and 105 km from Uttarkashi. Pilgrims can also fly in to Dehradun, about 300 km away and take the road route to reach Gangnani, Harsil and then trek on foot or go by pony to the holy temple. You can arrive in Rishikesh by train from other parts of India, travel by road or fly to Dehradun in order to proceed to Gangotri. These days you can also travel by helicopter and cut short the time and effort to reach Gangotri.
The Gurkha general Amar Singh Thapa built the temple in the traditional North Indian architectural style sometime in the 18th century. Unlike other temples that have elaborate carvings, the Gangotri temple is essentially simple, made of white granite. It is about 20 feet high, is white in appearance and has the usual entrance via the Sabha Mandap leading to the Garbhagriha housing the deity’s idol. There are three main cupolas topped with golden spires and a few minor ones. Architecturally, the temple is not a model of exquisite design but it is the spirit that draws people to this place.
Inside Gangotri Temple
Temple Chambers within
The interiors of the temple consist in the Garbha Griha or sanctum sanatorium that houses the idol of Goddess Ganga. In front of Garbha Griha theres the Assembly hall or Mandap where devotees gather for puja and prayer.
Pooja performed in Gangotri Temple
Pooja performed at Gangotri temple include Mangal Aarti early in the morning and Sandhya Aarti in the evening. Also, during the daytime the Ganga Devi Puja is performed. This Puja is performed both at the river Ghat and within the main temple shrine in presence of the deity. During the Puja several Ganga stotram and mantras are recited. Devotees before appearing for Puja at the temple are expected to take a holy dip at River Bhagirathi.
Gangotri Temple Opening and Closing Time
Gangotri temple opens for the devotees at 6.15 am and closes around 9.30pm.
Opening and Closing ceremonies at Gangotri temple
The opening ceremony at the Gangotri temple is the Mangal Aarti while the closing ceremony is the Sandhya Aarti.
Management of Gangotri Temple
The priests of the temple play a major role in the management of the temple. They hail from the local Mukhba village. Rawal is the head priest of the temple and it is the Rawal who supervises over the ritualistic activities performed by the Pand, another priest.