Himalayan Sacred Walks - Part V22, Nov, 2017, by Seema Bhatnagar
In continuation to Part IV.
Uttarkashi is a town located at an elevation of 1,165 meters (4,436 feet) in Uttrakhand, India. Most of its’ terrain is hilly. There are many small and big rivers in Uttarkashi district. The Yamuna and the Ganges (Bhagirathi) are biggest and holiest among them, their origin is Yamunotri and Gangotri (at Gomukh) respectively.
Distance map from Pipalkoti to Uttarkashi.
This town is also remembered for the tragedy which struck during the year 1991. There was a high intensity earthquake that hit this area, "the 1991 Uttarkashi earthquake" (also known as the Garhwal earthquake), occurred at 02:53:16 20 October IST, with a magnitude of 6.8. The high intensity of tremors resulted in deaths of at least 768 people and the destruction of thousands of homes.
The mythological and spiritual significance of this place is rooted in its’ name. The word “Uttarkashi” can be split in to two words as per Hindi language – “Uttar” means “North” and “Kasi” means the most famous pilgrimage site at Varanasi. It is believed that Uttarkashi is a Kashi of North, devotees who cannot visit Varanasi can visit Uttarkashi to get blessings of Lord Shiva, it has same significance.
On the lines of actual Kashi of Varanasi, the town of Uttarkashi is also situated on the Ganges, lies next to a hill named Varunavat, on confluence of two rivers Varuna and Asi, has a ghat called Manikarnika Ghat and a temple dedicated to Shiva (Kashi Vishwanath Temple) in the center of the town.
From spiritual perspective, the main attraction of the town is Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It is based on the temple architecture of Uttrakhand region - constructed in grey stone, somewhat similar to Kedar and Guptkashi temples. The Shiva linga inside is big in size and black in color with a regular ellipsoidal shape.
Besides being such an important place of spiritual significance it also has few other important places, like Nehru Mountaineering Institute and Maneri Dam.
Nehru Mountaineering Institute (NIM) –Being located in the proximity of glaciers, Uttarkashi is an ideal spot to learn mountaineering. To make use of this terrain, Nehru Mountaineering Institute has been established. It has been rated as one of the best mountaineering institutes in India and also considered as the most prestigious mountaineering institute in Asia.
It has been established to introduce and initiate young men, women and school children to the mountains and nature through its various Mountaineering and Adventure courses. As a matter of fact, Bachendri Pal, India's first woman to climb Mount Everest, is an alumnus of NIM.
Maneri Dam- It is a concrete gravity dam on the Bhagirathi River located at Maneri, 8.5 kilometres east of Uttarkashi. The primary purpose of the dam is to divert water into a tunnel which feeds the 90 megawatts run-of-the-river Tiloth Power Plant. Over the years it has become a popular tourist spot in Uttrakhand.
Uttarkashi is also a base for popular trekking destinations like Dodi Tal, Har Ki Dun Valley and Dayara Bugyal Valley.
ExperienceTravelling from Pipalkoti to Uttarkashi was the longest journey of our itinerary. We travelled for 12 hours that too when it was raining incessantly, stopped for only one hour for lunch break. Throughout those 12 hours I was sitting in that unease and discomfort resulting from twisting and turning of the bus on those sharp, hairpin bends. Even after popping three pills I didn’t feel better. I just kept quiet and was listening to how others were enjoying in the bus by playing games and chit-chatting. I really couldn’t participate in anything.
For me, it was a big relief reaching Uttarkashi. The plan was to visit Kashi Vishwanath temple in the evening.
Our buses were parked in the parking area of temple which was full of mud and water logging due to incessant rains for last three days. Getting off the bus and walking towards temple was a challenge in itself.
Anyhow, we all got down and visited the temple. In the temple premises some of the group members sat and chanted Shiva Chants as an offering to Lord Shiva. I sat inside the temple for meditation.
Could not click pictures because of that drizzle, clouds, and of course, the main reason, that sickness and unease due to bus journey. After completing our visit to temple, we reached back to hotel to pack our stuff for next destination, Gangotri. The plan was to leave our luggage here at Uttarkashi and come back after visiting Gangotri. It was a short journey of 3 hours to Gangotri.