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A journey to Gomukh: The road to paradise

| Updated on July 24, 2020 Published on July 23, 2020

The trek — the dream of a lifetime for pilgrims and adventurers alike — passes through pristine landscapes. It may not be one for long

Cradled deep within the Himalayas is the source of one of India’s most celebrated rivers: Bhagirathi. The magnificent river cuts through the Uttarakhand mountains in northern India, and merges with numerous other streams as it charges down to the plains. At Devaprayag — a small town in Garhwal — it meets the Alakananda River and, from here on, is known as the River Ganga.

Pilgrims drawn by the legend of how goddess Ganga was brought to Earth by king Bhagirath and his fervent prayers, and trekkers fascinated by the majestic beauty of the land, often undertake the arduous journey to the source of the river deep in the mountains of Uttarakhand. Their destination is the glacier called Gomukh — a 20-km trek from the nearest roadhead in the temple town of Gangotri.

At Gangotri, River Bhagirathi pauses to plunge down a small waterfall into a spectacular pool before carrying on briskly into the plains.

Two temples — a small ancient shrine and a larger temple built later — are the focus of the believers at Gangotri. The journey on foot from the plains to Gangotri was significantly more perilous years ago than it is today.

A trek, often spread across two days, takes the devotees from Gangotri to Gomukh. Many old and frail believers undertake the difficult trek as they consider this the pilgrimage of a lifetime. Many others too take this up, but they do so to experience one of the most pristine landscapes on Earth.

Except it is no longer so. Trash and excrement line the route to Gomukh. A place that is sacred in equal measure to the pilgrim and the adventurer definitely deserves to be treated better.

Santanu Chakraborty is an engineer, scientist and photographer based in Santiniketan

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Published on July 23, 2020