Uttarkashi lies in the Uttarkashi district of the Indian State of Uttarakhand. Situated 145 km from Rishikesh, at an altitude of 1158m on the bank of the river Bhagirathi, this beautiful town in the Garhwal Himalayas is an important centre of pilgrimage because of its rich religious associations. With the snow capped mountains on the northern side, and two of the most sacred rivers in India, the Ganga and the Yamuna originating within its bounds, it is no wonder that Uttarkashi has acquired the name ‘Devbhumi’ or the land of the gods.
The most important landmark here is the Viswanath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, situated in the heart of the town. This temple is believed to have been established by Parasuram and was renovated by Maharani Khaneti, wife of Sudarshan Shah in 1857. People from all over India visit this temple on their way to Gangotri and Yamunotri. Next to the Viswanath temple is the Shakti temple having a huge trisul or trident which is 6 m high. There are many more temples which are visited by throngs of worshippers like the Ekadash Rudra temple, Gyaneshwar temple, Kuteti Devi temple, Hanuman temple, Markandey Rishi temple, Ganesh temple, Ganga temple, Annapurna temple and Onkareshwar temple, to name a few. Every year, during the ‘Magh Mela’ people visit Uttarkashi to take a dip in the River Bhagirathi along with the image of their village deity.
Besides the temples and locations sanctified by having been the abode of great sages and saints, Uttarkashi attracts enthusiasts of mountaineering and trekking. The Nehru Mountaineering Institute has trained many mountaineers. Govind National Park in Uttarkashi is perfect getaway for people who want everything packaged in one place. This park, sprawling over an area of 953 sq.km offers a visitor everything from rare birds, wildlife, snow covered mountains and glaciers. The park is home to more than 150 varieties of birds and is at its best during the summer months of May-June when the flowers are in full bloom and the weather is balmy. From Uttarkashi en route to Gangotri lie the hot springs at Gangnani. The spring here, called Rishikund offers a refreshing bath to pilgrims traveling to Gangotri. Nearby, there is a temple dedicated to Parashar, the father of Veda Vyas Muni who authored the Mahabharata.
Maneri, the site of a dam being built on the Bhagirathi River, just 13km from Uttarkashi, is now emerging as a tourist spot, with a pretty lake formed by the water of the dam. DodiTal, 16 km north of Uttarkashi at an elevation of 3307 m, is surrounded by dense forests of deodar, oak and rhododendron. This lake with its crystal clear water is full of rare fishes like the Himalayan golden trout. Dayara Bugyal, a breathtakingly beautiful meadow, situated at a height of 3048 mts above sea level with panoramic view of the Himalayas is just 28 km from Uttarkashi. During winter, Dayara provides excellent skiing slopes over an area of 28 sq. kms. Har Ki dun, a popular trekking destination, is located at an altitude of 3506 mts and offers enjoyable treks among dense forests and mountainous routes. Harsil, 72 km away from Uttarkashi, on the way to Gangotri, is the enchanting Bhagirathi valley where nature is at her beautiful best with green grassy terrains, clear blue skies and gurgling rivers. From here one can visit Sat Tal, a group of seven lakes.
Gangotri, 99 km from Uttarkashi, is situated at an altitude of 3048 m above sea level at the point where the river Bhagirathi and Kedar Ganga meet. It is one of the holiest pilgrim centres for Hindus. The temple of Gangotri was built by the Gorkha king Amar Bahadur Thapa in the 18th century. Near it is the sacred stone Bhagirathi shila dedicated to Bhagirathi whose penance is believed to have brought goddess Ganga down to the earth from Shiva’s matted locks. Gaumukh, situated at a height of 4200m and 18 km further uphill from Uttarkashi is the actual source of the river Ganga. One has to trek from Gangotri to Gaumukh. The other equally important holy pilgrimage centre in Uttarkashi is Yamunotri, located at an altitude of 3293 m above sea level. Yamunotri is the source of the river Yamuna which originates from the Champassar Glacier lying one km ahead of the temple of Yamunotri and is famous for its thermal springs and glaciers.
Uttarkashi being located in the Himalayas has trails galore for the trekking enthusiasts who make tracks to Nachiketa Tal and Dodi Tal. A walk through the dense forests, and over the hills, breathing in the refreshing, unpolluted air is an invigorating experience.
A visit to Uttarkashi should be a part of the travel itinerary of any visitor to India.