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Bhagiratha Prayatnam-Char Dham Yathra by VK Ravi

Bhagiratha Prayatnam – a phrase used to refer dedicated hard work at India, originated from story of intense penance of Bhagiratha.

Read Malayalam version of Bhagiratha Prayatnam here

This article is my journey to to discover Bhagiratha, whose unselfish dedication for his fellow beings went down as golden chapter in history of India and ancient holy books of Hindus. River Ganges is India’s “National River”, is holiest river for Hindus. Ganges originates from Himalayas flows 390,000km, Ganges rises in the western Himalayas at Uttarakhand and falls to Bay of Bengal. Many important cities of India, both ancient and modern exist on Ganga’s banks. Most ancient war has taken place near banks of Ganga and has always been fascination for Kings and rulers. I decided to fully understand why Bhagiratha Prayatnam was referred as such an important task in history. This called for a trip to Himalayas to the place where Ganga originated. It is also the place where Bhagiratha did intense penance.

The mythological story of the Ganga’s origin from ancient Hindu holy literature has different versions, but the abstract and moral are similar. Ganga was a goddess residing in heavens, King Bhagirath decided to bring Ganga to earth to help his kingdom and fellow beings flourish. Bhagiratha also desired progeny and penance for the deeds of his ancestors. King Bhagiratha also believed that earth being will get salvation by bathing in Ganges. King Bhagiratha decided to perform intense meditation and prayer to be able to convince and please lord Shiva who had kept Godess Ganga captive within his hair due to her destructive nature. Bhagiratha succeeded in his mammoth task and bearded the pain due to the force of Ganga falling to earth himself. Abstract of this story is inscribed at Mahabalipuram caves and few other sacred caves of India that can be visited by tourists.

My journey to understand Bhagiratha Prayatnam led me to Gangotri the holy town which is origin of River Ganga and considered holy seat of Godess Ganga. This is first part of my journey that covers all “Char Dham Yatra“(four sacred spots that is significance to Hindu religion). Char Dham Yatra is a pilgrimage journey for Hindus as well and are popularly named as Chathur Dham Yathra. Char Dham Yatra tour covers the following four holy shrines of Hindus,
1. Gangothri – Origin of River Ganga
2. Yamunothri – Origin of River Yamuna
3. Kedarnath
4. Badarinath.

Among these, 1st two places are the origin of India’s most holy and sacred rivers Ganga and Yamuna. As the title name indicates Yamunothri is origin of River Yamuna and Gangothri is the origin of river Ganga. There are two respective temples located at these places where these rivers are supposed to be originating. But the fact is Yamuna originates about 2.5Kms ahead of Yamunaothri and Ganga originates about 15km from respective temple locations from the height of Himalayan Glaciers.

Bhagiratha Prayatnam-Char Dham Yathra by VK Ravi

It is very challenging to reach these places for the common people, for the sake of religious worships. Probably ancient Indians placed the respective temples at safe and reachable spot for common man to worship. The real origin of these mighty Himalayan Rivers, a very dangerous and hazardous journey is a must to discover the Bhagirathi. The place of real origin of mighty Ganga River, one has to travel 18km through the top of Himalayan glaciers to Gomukh which is very dangerous at the Himalayan heights.

A mystical feel will creep to body and mind once we reach there. The mighty river Ganges gushing out of a cave is seen like water gushing from the bottom of water release shutters of modern dams. Here you can notice the water gushes out of Gomukh cave along with partly melted ice. The melted ice from gigantic Gangotri glacier flows along with Ganga water and is very rough around the Bhagirathi hills near its origin.

This water flow is intermittent like human respiration. A sudden surge of millions of tons of freezing ice water pushes out with very great force and noise at intervals. The flow then subsides and then suddenly rises again with huge amount of water gushing out with gigantic force and noise. It felt as if the water indeed fell from the heaven through this gigantic ice cave. The rhythm of this respiration feels like our own breathing. It would be lethal for anybody who steps in to the ice cave when water level is low with an intention to explore. The force can be compared to a tsunami that rises instantly without warning. This water surge can be observed at Gangothri from about 20 km downstream of Bhagirathi hills. One has to keep a safe distance from the flow. It is good to be at this spot before sunrise to watch the mesmerizing colors of sunbeams with different rainbow colors that disappears within approximately 30 minutes. This natural display of rainbow colors during Sunrise is exciting and I cannot describe the joy I felt during this natural light show. It looked as hills have been lit up with color lamps as a gesture to welcome a pleasant day. Ganga water surges out of rock tunnel at two places, most of the devotees collect it from the origin of Ganga River. One has to take the risk of going to Gowmukh to witness the wonderful mighty origin of Ganga. It is a 15 km risky trekking by foot through the often slippery ice surface of Himalayan Glacier. There are warnings signboards displayed cautioning visitors not to go beyond a certain point but some mysterious temptation calls them nearer to the huge Ice cave. There have been numerous accidents. Number of visitors has disappeared to the cave without any trace. Rumors are heard about extremist who have even deliberatively gone near Gowmukh cave to merge with holy Ganga and attain salvation.

My next part of article will be the next mystical experience – Yamunothri. With Love and Regards VK Ravi,

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