Gomukh or Gaumukh is actually the end point (or if you view from another angle, the starting point of the Gangotri Glacier, from where the Bhagirathi river has its birth. The Bhagirathi is one of the main streams that later merge into the Alaknanda river at Devprayag in Uttarakhand It gives rise to the river we all call by the name Ganga or Ganges. Gaumukh literally means “cow’s face”, essentially depicting the shape of the snout. However, the snout is no longer in that shape now.
Gomukh is located inside the Gangotri National Park and is accessible only by foot (trek). The starting point of the trek is from Gangotri, so one has to reach Gangotri first. The entire route from Gangotri to Gaumukh is filled with natural beauty. The Bhagirathi river will keep you company until the end. That apart, one can see many snow clad mountains, including the Bhagirathi group and Mount Shivling and a host of other peaks. For those into wildlife, you can spot ‘Bharals’ or the blue sheep on the route. And then you have vegetation that gets sparse as you ascend, giving you a feeling of being in Ladakh.
In today’s article, I am going to share with you the details about making a trip to Gaumukh and finish this comprehensive Gaumukh Travel Guide with my next part that will talk about remaining sections of the Gaumukh trek. Hence, this two-part series of articles will help you know all about traveling to Gangotri and doing the trek to Gaumukh from Gangotri.
Gaumukh is recognized as the birth of the river Ganga – both mythologically and also by geographers. The river at Gaumukh is called Bhagirathi, and when there are multiple rivers like the Alakananda or Mandakini, which could also be considered as the source of Ganga, it is the Bhagirathi that everyone considers as the birth of Ganga. Seems like there is a mythological angle to all these stories. “The ancestors of King Bhagiratha were performing an Ashwamedha Yagya and Lord Indra, due to his jealousy, hid the horse. In search of the horse, the ancestors reached a place where sage Kapila was meditating, thereby disturbing his penance. In a fit of rage, the sage reduced his ancestors to the ashes. The ancestors would reach the ‘pitru loka’ only if the ashes were immersed in the Ganga, and so lord Bagiratha performed severe penance to get Ganga to the earth, by pleasing Lord Shiva, on whose head Ganga was residing. Lord Shiva, pleased with his penance, agreed to let Ganga to earth through his matted hair – and she reached earth first at Gaumukh. Bagiratha then led her to the place where the ashes were, so she could flow over it and Bagiratha’s ancestors could then reach the ‘pitru loka’ by washing away of their sins.“
Since it was Bagiratha who brought Ganga to the earth, the river is called Bhagirathi. Note that only after the confluence of Alakananda with Bhagirathi at Devprayag, the river is called as the Ganga, that we know about as great rivers of the India.
Gaumukh is located in the Uttarkashi district of Garhwal, Uttarakhand. Gaumukh is around 18 KMs from Gangotri and about 45 KMs from Harsil. Gaumukh is located at an altitude of 4000 Mtrs (13120 feet) and the base point Gangotri is at about 3415m (11200 ft). Gangotri Dham is one of the Char Dhams of Uttarakhand and I will share detailed travel guides for both Harsil and Gangotri in next few articles.
By Road :Government owned buses are available to Gangotri from cities like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Mussoorie, Rishikesh, Dehradun, Tehri and Yamunotri.
By Train :The closest railway station is located in Haridwar at a distance of 230 km from Gangotri. This station is well connected to major cities like Delhi, Dehradun, and Allahabad by frequent trains. Tourist can avail taxis from this station to Gangotri.
By Air :Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airbase located at a distance of 229 km from Gangotri. Indira Gandhi International Airport is connected to this airport by regular flights. Taxis are available from Jolly Grant Airport to the town of Gangotri.
Gangotri is exquisite alpine country. Deodars march in serried ranks and gorges plunge,sliced by the bustling Bhagirathi. The drive will take you past the settlement of Bhairon Ghati and into the single traffic-choked streets of Gangotri. Here the river is joined by its tributary, the Kedar Ganga, rising in the glacier lake of Kedar Tal. Together they gush down the toffee-colored rocks of Gauri Kund and flow down the Himalayas. Here too. Celebrated in Hindu mythology and religion, the Garhwal Himalayas are said to be the "Abode of the Gods".
During winters, due to a large amount of snow, it would not be possible to reach Gaumukh, and even the entry into the national park may be prohibited. The best season to travel or trek to Gaumukh is from May to October. This season also coincides with the Char Dham yatra season as well. You can pull off the trek to Gaumukh in the shoulder months too but not with much ease. However, during July to mid-August, due to the monsoons and heavy rainfall, it really wouldn’t make sense to make a trip or trek to Gaumukh. May-June and Sep-Oct are the best months for traveling or trekking to Gaumukh.
Gaumukh Trek : The Gaumukh trek is one of the most hard treks in Northern India.The trek to Gaumukh starts from Gangotri glacier, and 18 km from Gaumukh. The path is heavily distribute with rocks and stones from the 2013 NORTH indian inundation, walk with attention. On this path of 18th kms, 9 kms on one will face the abode of the Chir trees, known as Chirbasa. Since there are no horses or ponies available, unlike other treks, make sure to pack yourself well with resources strong enough to last you the whole trek. 4 kms on, is the trek of Bhujbhasa, which is also one of the pit stops for the regular trekkers. The Lalbaba and Rambaba ashrams, as well as the government run GMVN Bungalow are the accomodation options available for the pitstop. After reaching Gomukh, trekkers usually follow-up with a 3 km trek to Tapovan as well.