History & Legends
Gangotri is the small town in Uttarakhand where the sacred Gangotri Temple is situated and it is dedicated to deity Ganga, who is considered to be the mother of all pious Hindus, and hence visited and worshipped by thousands of devotees every year.
Gangotri Temple is nestled beautifully at very high altitude and hence it is reckoned to be the highest of all temples dedicated to Mother Ganges. There is a small town surrounding the temple. The temple is located on the river banks of Bhagirathi River, which is also called as Ganga River. This mesmerizing sacred place of pilgrimage is situated on the hinterlands of Himalaya range and it is the most holy place for Hindus from where Ganges first touched the earth. This is the reason why it bears so much importance in Hinduism. Hindu mythology reveals that Goddess Ganga actually descended into earth in the form of river so as to absolve all the sins of human beings, especially the sins of King Bhagirathaâ€™s forerunner.
In response to the serious penance and meditation of King Bhagirath, Goddess Ganga decided to descend onto earth in the form of river and according to legends she was the daughter of heaven. King Bhagirath actually performed such a severe penance so as to help his forerunners get â€œMokshaâ€. In a hope to expand the empire and to build royal supremacy, King Sagar, the grandfather of King Bhagirath performed Ashwamedha Yagya. During the yagya the horse was set free to roam across the empires. Unfortunately, the agents of the king failed to look after the horse and hence it got lost. The 60,000 sons of King started finding the horse which they eventually located near meditating Kapil. The sons of king stormed the ashram of sage Kapil and accused him for stealing the horse. Due to disrupting the meditation of sage Kapil he got angered and hence turned all the 60,000 sons into ashes with his powerful wrathful glance. He also said that all these souls will only get moksha when their ashes will contact with the holy water of sacred river, Ganga. This is why King Bhagirath performed such a severe meditation and penance for over thousands of years to free the souls of his 60,000 uncles by pleasing Goddess Ganga to come down to the earth. Goddess Ganga got pleased and satisfied with his severe penance and hence she descended onto the earth.
According to another legend, Goddess Ganga was a beautiful young woman and was the creation of Lord Brahmaâ€™s Kamandalu, the water vessel. Actually, there were two different versions of her birth. Firstly, it is believed that Brahma washed the feet of Lord Vishnu after he made the universe free from demon Bali and collected the water in his Kamandalu. Secondly, some legends believe that Goddess Ganga came down to earth in the form of beautiful woman and got married to King Shantanu, who was ancestor of Randavas and gave birth to seven children whom she thrown into the river in mysterious way. But, the 8th son, Bheeshma was saved by King Shantanu who played very crucial role in epic battle Mahabharata.