Why you must visit Gangotri before you die?

In March 2019, I was engrossed in the planning of a three weeks’ trip to India. Every night, I was surfing on the internet to read about places to visit in India. What really helped me to identify the places for that trip was the travel goal I had. It gave me a sense of direction. I wanted to go on a spiritual tour but apart from this, I was also keen to live like a local and to taste the food in different places so that I can have a clear appreciation of the lifestyle in each place. When it comes to spirituality, India is filled with temples and pilgrimage sites but there are four most popular pilgrimage sites, visited by thousands of people every year. These four pilgrimage sites are known as the Four Abodes (Char Dham).

According to Hindu mythology, the Four Abodes are Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri and Rameshwaram. But this is not the end. There is also the Small Four Abodes (Chota Char Dham). The pilgrimage sites falling under the Small Four Abodes are located in the Garhwal region of the state of Uttarakhand. These Small Four Abodes are Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.

It is believed, according to Hindu mythology, that every Hindu must visit these pilgrimage sites during one’s lifetime and on doing so, one can achieve salvation (moksha). Personally, I don’t know to what extent this is true but from my experience of travelling to one of these pilgrimage sites, Gangotri, I could feel a high dose of energy on being there.

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The view of the flowing Ganges from the temple in Gangotri.
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Gangotri is completely tucked away from civilisation. It takes hours to reach there. I drove from Delhi and made several stops before reaching Gangotri. My last stop was at Uttarkashi, which lies around four hours away from Gangotri. I had to ensure that my fuel tank was fuel before driving to the remote location of Gangotri. I drove, drove and drove until a gentleman told me that there is no road ahead and that I was already in Gangotri. So, I had to find a suitable parking before finding a place to spend the night. It was -6 degrees when I reached there. There was no electricity and I think there was less than 100 persons present in that place.

This is the view from the small hotel where I was staying. I woke up to this soothing view of the mountains.

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The mountains and pine trees in Gangotri

Now, let’s go back to the heart of this post: Why you must visit Gangotri before you die?

Before answering this, it’s important to understand that Gangotri is not limited to Hindus. Anyone can visit Gangotri at any time of the year.

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First and foremost, Gangotri is the source of the Ganges. The Ganges is a sacred river, which is believed to have purification powers. A dip in the Ganges is believed to wash one’s sins, according to Hindu mythology.

Secondly, I think Gangotri is an ideal place for a peaceful silence retreat. As it has no stable electricity supply, network and internet, it cuts all distractions and allows one to dive inwards and to meditate.

Thirdly, as Gangotri is at a height of 3100 metres above sea level and as it is surrounded by green forests, the oxygen is pure. It is therefore beneficial for one’s health.

Fourthly, being a pilgrimage site, it is a centre of positive energy. When I walked into this place, I felt alive. I was full with good energy. It’s an experience I cannot find the right words to describe. I just felt renewed.

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Soaking my hand in the Ganges.

Fifthly, as per Hindu mythology, whoever comes to Gangotri and takes a bath in the holy Ganges, can attain salvation. Personally, I believe that one cannot attain salvation by visiting a place or two but our deeds, devotion and meditation are doors to salvation. Having said this, visiting such a pure place is a noble deed in itself and is part of the bigger efforts of attaining salvation.

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“Whoever visits Gangotri and perform virtuous deeds, bathes in the Suryakund is sure to attain God’s abode”

Last but not the least, Gangotri is magnificent. It has an unmatched beauty. Its snow-capped mountains, rivers, waterfalls, pine trees and wildlife make it a must visit place on earth.

I highly recommend travellers to put Gangotri on their list of places to visit in India.

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