Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Temples of Uttarkashi - Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Shakti Temple and others


Part VI (Exploring Uttarkashi)

After descending a distance of 99 km from Gangotri and travelling for most of the day, we concluded Day 2 by paying a visit to the temples of the religious town of Uttarkashi.

Situated on the banks of River Bhagirathi is Uttarkashi, an important pilgrim centre which is often equated with Kashi (Varanasi). It is situated at an elevation of 1150 meters. During Magh Mela, people visit Uttarkashi to take a holy dip in Bhagirathi along with their village deity.

The entrance to the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple of 
Uttarkashi
The entrance to the famous Kashi Vishwanath 
and the Shakti Temples of Uttarkashi

Kashi Vishwanath Temple

 The Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Uttarkashi
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Uttarkashi

Entrance to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Uttarkashi
The entrance to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple

The shivling at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Uttarkashi
 The Shivling at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Uttarkashi

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is an ancient and the most famous temple in Uttarkashi. It is said to have initially been built by Sage Parshuram and which was later renovated by Maharani Khaneti, wife of Sudarshan Shah in 1857. The Shivling is 60 cms in height and 90 cms in circumference. This is the most important shrine of Uttarkashi and should not be missed if you are traveling to this part of the country.

 An ancient slab of black stone with some inscriptions in 
Uttarkashi
 An ancient slab of black stone with some inscriptions 
outside the Vishwanath Temple

Guess the time at which these pictures were taken? It was just around 5.00 pm! Still it looks like its very late into the night, isnt it? The sun sets early in these areas, especially in the winters, and it gets dark pretty quick. By 9 pm, everything is wrapped up and people are back in their homes!

Shakti Temple

 The Trident seen at the Shakti Temple in Uttarkashi
 The Shakti Temple in Uttarkashi

 The Trident at the base in the Shakti Temple - Uttarkashi
 The Trident seen at the base in the Shakti Temple

The Devi's Trishul at the Shakti Temple at Uttarkashi
The Trident seen at the Shakti Temple in Uttarkashi

Just opposite to the Vishwanath temple is the Shakti Temple. The main attraction here is a huge and heavy trishul (trident) - 6 meters in height and 90 cms at the bottom which was thrown at the devils by Goddess Durga. The trishul, as the priest told us, is made of iron in the upper part and copper in the lower part and is revered as a form of Shakti. One amazing feature of the trishul is that it cannot be moved with your entire body force but it vibrates the moment you apply pressure with one of your fingers! That was indeed some kind of magic!

Other Temples in Uttarkashi

We also visited two other local temples - the Kandar Devta Temple and the Temple dedicated to Parshuram – an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Parshuram Temple in Uttarkashi
Parshuram Temple in Uttarkashi
 Kandar Devta Temple in Uttarkashi
Kandar Devta Temple in Uttarkashi

Other Temples we could not visit are Kuteti Devi Temple, Ekadash Rudra Temple and the Gyaneshwar Temple which are also said to be worth a visit.

Other than the temples, there is a Nehru Mountaineering Institute or NIM which is a famous mountaineering training Institute in India. Trekkers and mountaineers can hire the different mountaineering gadgets and accessories from NIM for their adventure.

Related Posts –
Magh Mela in Allahabad
Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirling, Varanasi

To view the travel route map of Day 2 of our Char Dham Yatra - CLICK HERE

Previous posts from this trip -

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pilot Baba Ashram - Bhatwari

Day 2 – Uttarkashi-Gangnani-Gangotri-Bhaironghati-Harsil-BHATWARI-Uttarkashi

Part V (Bhatwari)

At the starting of the village Bhatwari, on the banks of river Bhagirathi, is a magnificently huge ashram known as “Pilot Baba Ashram”. It is about 44 km from Harsil and 29 km from Uttarkashi. It is a great place depicting the Indian history and has idols of almost all of the Gods, Goddesses and Saints of India. But it was somewhat partially constructed when we had visited the place.

Lord Shiva at the Pilot Baba Ashram - Enroute to Gangotri
Lord Shiva idol which you can see from far away

Pilot Baba Ashram - Enroute to Gangotri
Entrance to the Pilot Baba Ashram

Lord Ganesha with His mouse

Lord Shiva at the Pilot Baba Ashram - Enroute to Gangotri
Lord Shiva in a sitting pose

Lord Shiva in Tandav pose - Pilot Baba Ashram
Lord Shiva performing the Tandav dance or the Tandav Nritya,
the divine art form that is the source of the cycle of
creation, preservation and dissolution

Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita alongwith Hanuman - Pilot Baba 
Ashram
Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita alongwith Hanuman

Lord Krishna playing His flute - Pilot Baba Ashram
Lord Krishna playing His flute

Various sages of India - Pilot Baba Ashram
Various sages of ancient India

Maa Kali - Pilot Baba Ashram,Enroute to Gangotri
Goddess Maa Kali, the Hindu Goddess of eternal energy and enlightenment
and the consort of Lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing.

To view the travel route map of Day 2 of our Char Dham Yatra - CLICK HERE

Previous posts from this trip -

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Harsil... Beauty Untouched

Day 2 – Uttarkashi-Gangnani-Gangotri-Bhaironghati-HARSIL-Bhatwari-Uttarkashi

Part IV (Harsil)

Tucked away in the Garhwal Himalayas, at 2620 meters into the sky thats approximately 7000 ft above sea level, enroute to Gangotri comes a quaint little village – Harsil.

Sukhi Top near Harsil, Enroute to Gangotri
Himalyan splendour from the Sukhi top while approaching Harsil

Set amidst pine trees and apple orchards, the town is famous for more things than one. It’s a trekker’s paradise, known to offer spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain peaks. It is well known for its local apple produce and is also famed for making an appearance in the superhit bollywood movie by director Raj Kapoor – ‘Ram teri Ganga Maili’.

Snow clad mountains at Harsil - Enroute to Gangotri

The town was still in its pristine condition – uncluttered, neat and serene… just as I had left it years back on my previous visit here - waiting to share its own tale! I tried to picture something of it, by setting out to explore the place.

Apple orchards at Harsil - Enroute to Gangotri

I started off with a visit to the local and the ancient Kalp Kedareshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The Kalp Kedar Temple at Harsil - Enroute to Gangotri
The Kalp Kedareshwar Temple

The Kalp Kedar Temple and the idol of Lord Shiva in Harsil
Lord Shiva with the gorgeous peaks in the background

From here, I could see the stream of turquoise blue Ganges water and though I had met mother Ganga only a few hours earlier in Gangotri, still could not resist climbing down towards the banks to catch Her glimpse.

Snow clad Himalayan peaks just as we were approaching Harsil - Enroute to Gangotri
The stream of turquoise blue Ganges water

Down at the banks, there was no one except a village woman drinking the holy waters from the cusp of her hand. On seeing me, she smiled and offered a few drops to me as well! Chilly winds were making me skittish but the warmth of her smile comforted me.

Do you know how the place gets its name? She asked in her broken Hindi. Even before I could give out my reply, she started her narration...

Once, Rivers Bhagirathi and Jalandhari had an argument about which was more significant. Lord Vishnu aka Hari intervened by taking the form of a stone or shila (Hari-shila or Harsil), and absorbed their anger. Even today, the waters of the two rivers become a little less turbulent from here onwards.

On the banks of River Bhagirathi in Harsil
The village woman

Before ending the story and immersing herself in her prayers, she however added one last thing -

So these stones that you see in the river… These are not ordinary stones, Beti! They are Lord Vishnu. Pray to them with a sincere heart… They will make all your wishes come true!

She stood there... praying, I stood there… silent – watching the impeccable views the little town had to offer!

A very beautiful place - Harsil
The snow capped mountain peaks looked closer than ever and the thick blanket of deodhar trees rose upwards towards the freshly scrubbed skies.

The river was flowing graciously, looking bubbly and beautiful in all its charms… and in between lay piles of stones – relentless like faith, stoic like hope – sitting still in the waters… I closed my eyes...

On the banks of River Bhagirathi in Harsil
These are not ordinary stones… they make wishes come true…

At Harsil, I was tempted to believe!

Before we left the place, Vishwanath (our driver) made sure we bought for ourselves the very famous Apples of Harsil. A Britisher, Fredrick E Wilson had planted the first apple tree here in the 19th century. His cottage, it is said was a major attraction in the area until it got destroyed by a major fire recently, ending an important chapter of history. They are available in the town aplenty but we took them from the outskirts on the highway.

Sacks full of juicy, crispy and sweetest apples at Harsil
We spotted these big bags full of apples on the Harsil - Gangotri Highway

Snow clad Himalayan peaks just as we were approaching Harsil - Enroute to Gangotri
Apple orchards at Harsil - Enroute to Gangotri
Apple orchards of Harsil
Can you see some apples fallen down on the ground there?

Fresh from the orchards, the apples were the juiciest, smallest, and the crispiest we had eaten in our entire lives.

Apples at Harsil near Gangotri
The Big Box of 90 kgs!

We were so impressed; we bought for ourselves an entire bag costing just Rs. 400 for 90 kgs! which were more than enough for the entire journey, definitely!

Harsil is also known for Rajma though we didn’t see any.

Related Information

1. Harsil is just about 28 km before Gangotri, 15 km from Bhaironghati, 30 km from Gangnani and 73 km from Uttarkashi.

2. Harsil is a cantonment area, perhaps because of its proximity to the Chinese border and the army is very cautious to whom it opens its doors to. Entry is denied to foreign nationals.

3. There are numerous trekking routes in and around Harsil like Brahmi Tal, Nachiketa Tal, Kush Kalyan, etc. This and the fact that the town itself is quite scenic makes it an excellent choice for stay and accomodation too.

To view the travel route map of Day 2 of our Char Dham Yatra - CLICK HERE

Previous posts from this trip -
8. Places to visit in and around Gangotri
9. Bhaironghati - Bhairon Devta Temple and Asia's Highest Bridge

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bhaironghati - Bhairon Devta Temple and Asia's Highest Bridge

Day 2 – Uttarkashi-Gangnani-Gangotri-BHAIRONGHATI-Harsil-Bhatwari-Uttarkashi

Part III (Bhaironghati)

Standing at 2743 meters, further downstream and 10 km from Gangotri, is a town called Bhaironghati.

A board showing important road distances from Bhaironghati in the Garhwal Himalyas
A board showing important road distances from Bhaironghati

It is a beautiful forested place...

Bhaironghati - Enroute to Gangotri
Bhaironghati - lovely forested area, covered by deodhar 
trees
Bhaironghati - lovely forested area, covered by deodhar 
trees in the Himalayas
Bhaironghati - lovely forested area, covered by pine trees

And is known for the Temple of Bhairon Devta appointed by Lord Shiva to safeguard the region which also gives the region its name. It is said that visiting this temple is a must after visiting the Gangotri Temple.

The Bhairon Temple at Bhaironghati - Enroute to Gangotri
The Ancient Bhairon Temple at Bhaironghati

We also had our lunch here at this small roadside dhaba (restaurant) situated near the temple. The food was simple, fresh and home like with Chappatis, Dal Makhni and Rice.

The dhaba where we had our lunch near Gangotri
The dhaba where we had our lunch

About 3 km after Bhaironghati is another small town called Lanka Chatti, which boasts of Asia’s highest bridge over the Jhanvi River at an elevation of 2789 meters above the sea level!

Asia's highest bridge over the River Jhanvi- Enroute to 
Gangotri
View from the Asia's highest bridge -
I glanced down to see the meandering stream;
I looked up to see the rising cliff…
I was in total admiration of this marvelous creation!
This was deep, very deep but i somehow managed to keep my hands steady!

Zoom the photograph and see if you can locate another bridge situated at a much lower level!!

To view the travel route map of Day 2 of our Char Dham Yatra - CLICK HERE

Previous posts from this trip -

Monday, April 4, 2011

Other Places to Visit In and Around Gangotri

Day 2 – Uttarkashi-Gangnani-GANGOTRI-Bhaironghati-Harsil-Bhatwari-Uttarkashi

Part II ... Contd (Gangotri)

Suryakund Waterfalls and Gaurikund

After taking the darshan of Maa Ganga at the Gangotri Temple, we visited the spectacular Surya Kund Waterfall. One has to cross an iron bridge to have a clear view of the magnificent falls. On one side of the bridge lies the Surya Kund and on the other side lies the Gauri Kund.

The beautiful bridge across which is located the Surya Kund
The beautiful bridge across which is located the Surya Kund

Magnificient Surya Kund waterfall at Gangotri
Surya Kund waterfall at Gangotri, as seen from the bridge

Gauri Kund at Gangotri
Gauri Kund situated on the other side of the bridge

The thundering milky white water bellowing down and the resulting froth that ensued made for an extremely pretty sight… What made it even more beautiful was the tiny little rainbow that had formed on the water by the sun’s rays!! Enlarge the pic to get a clear view of it!

Magnificient Surya Kund waterfall at Gangotri
Magnificient Surya Kund waterfall at Gangotri

The beautiful smooth curves of the rocks implied that in the summers and the rainy season the water must be falling from the top of the cliff... what an astounding sight it would be then!!

Char Dham - Gangotri
View from the bridge

Some of the places which are definitely worth mentioning here and which I could not get a chance to visit this time around are:-

Natural Shivling

There is also a Shivling which is submerged in the river here. This natural rock Shivling is the place where Lord Shiva sat when he received the River Ganga in his matted locks. It is visible only in the winter months when the water level decreases.

Pandav Gufa

There is also the Pandav Gufa (cave) which is a 1.5 km trek from Gangotri. This is the place where the Pandavas are believed to have meditated on their way to the Kailash. The entire trek and the place around the cave is said to be very beautiful, full of natural splendor.

Gangotri is also a place from where numerous treks start. These places include –

Gaumukh Glacier

The Gaumukh glacier is the source of the Bhagirathi (Ganga) river and it is held in high esteem by the devotees who do not miss the opportunity to have a holy dip in the bone chilling icy water. The 18 km distance from Gangotri has to be covered on foot. There is a Tourist Bungalow at Bhojbasa, 14 km from Gangotri where lodging and other facilities are available. Extremely magnificent panoramic views of the Bhagirathi peaks are visible during this trek.

Gaumukh - The origin of River Ganga near Gangotri
Gaumukh - The origin of River Ganga near Gangotri,
(image courtesy Google images)

Bhagirathi peaks Gaumukh, trek from Gangotri
Bhagirathi peaks, Gaumukh
(image courtesy Google Picasa)

Nandanvan Tapovan

A trek across the Gangotri glacier leads you to these two places. An ardous trek of 6 km from Gaumukh is worth the view it offers – the surrounding Shivling peak and beautiful meadows that surround its base.

Shivling Peak, Trek to Nandanvan and Tapovan from Gangotri
The Awesome sight of the Shivling Peak, 
(image courtesy Google Picasa)


Kedartal

An enchanting lake at a distance of 18 km from Gangotri situated at an elevation of 4425 feet above the sea level against the majestic Thalaiyasagar peak in the background. The trekking route is rough and requires a local guide.


Kedartal in the Himalayas, Gangotri trekking
Kedartal in the Himalayas,

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