The small town of Uttarkashi is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India. Located in Uttarakhand, it is known for being an abode to the revered Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Sages from ancient times have considered Uttarkashi as a place to attain utmost spiritual enlightenment. People from across the country visit this town to pay homage to the Gods. Also known as ‘Kashi of the North’. Uttarkashi lies on the banks of the sacred river Ganga (Bhagirathi). This holy town is blessed with a rich culture, which has been preserved from generations. Uttarkashi is also a popular destination for adventure junkies.
The town is home to the renowned Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, which offers courses related to adventure sports and mountaineering. Uttarkashi is located amidst a picturesque setting, perfect for a weekend retreat. Be ready for some adrenaline-pumping action on your visit to this town or just unwind in the tranquillity with your loved ones. The breath-taking landscape, with mountains in the backdrop and a river crisscrossing the town, will make you feel at a loss for words.
The history of Uttarkashi can be traced back to the great Hindu epic Mahabharata. According to legends, it is widely believed that a sage named Jada Bharata, achieved penance at Uttarkashi. Eminent sages from ancient times meditated in Uttarkashi. The tranquil environment of the town was considered ideal to study Vedic scriptures. Tribes of this region also find a mention in the epic. The name Uttarkashi translates to ‘Kashi (Varanasi) of the North’, depicting the religious importance of the town. During the 1800s, the Gorkhas of Nepal occupied the Garhwal region but they were soon overthrown by the British in 1815. After India’s independence, the region was merged with the state of Uttar Pradesh. The district of Uttarkashi was formed on February 24, 1960. During the bifurcation of the state in 2000, Uttarkashi became a part of the newly formed state of Uttarakhand.
The summer season (April to June) is the best time to visit Uttarkashi. The weather is very pleasant and the temperature varies from 15 °C to 30 °C. Though the days are warm, the nights can get a bit colder, so do not forget to carry a set of light woollen clothes. During this season, the town turns into a beautiful spectacle of green with blooming flowers. The months of September, October and November are also considered favourable as most of the holy Hindu festivals occur during this time. The entire town joins in the festivities; tourists and pilgrims from far flung areas visit Uttarkashi despite the monsoons, to be a part of the events and pay their respect to the Hindu deities.
According to the 2001 India census, Uttarkashi is home to 16,220 people. Most of the residents of Uttarkashi are Garhwali, with a notable Bhotiya Jadh populace. A significant amount of the people are from Punjab, Kumaon and other regions of North India. In recent years, the population of the town has declined as a result of migration to other towns and cities in India. The floods in 2012 and 2013 also led to a significant outward migration. The people of Uttarkashi are proud of their town’s religious heritage and lead a simple life, sticking to their cultural roots.
Hindi and Garhwali are the official languages of Uttarkashi. Other languages spoken in the region are Kumaoni and Punjabi. The people working in the tourism industry can speak and understand English as well.
Uttarkashi’s culture is deeply rooted in spirituality. Social and cultural values reflect the utmost devotion of the people. Magh Mela is a popular fair that starts in the holy Magha month, starting on the day of Makar Sankranti. Festivals such as Diwali, Dussehra, Shivratri, Raksha Bandhan, Janmashtami, etc. are celebrated with much enthusiasm. People from many parts of India participate in the fair. Folk music and dances play an important role in the society of Uttarkashi, performed to enact mythological stories. During Vasant Panchami, Thadiya dance is performed to indicate the onset of spring. Mela dance portrays the events of the Mahabharata and is portrayed during Diwali. The small local market of Uttarkashi is famous for selling fresh fruits and fruit jams. On your visit to this place, it is also recommended to relish a hot cup of organic tea, perfect to the beat the chilly weather.
The nearest airport to Uttarkashi is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. It is a domestic airport and it has frequent flights to major cities in India, including Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai via Air India Regional, IndiGo, Jet Airways and SpiceJet. The nearest major international airport is Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, which is a world-class airport that is connected to most of the prominent cities across the globe, such as Moscow, Sharjah, Toronto, Mauritius, Tokyo, Seoul, etc. via international airlines like Aeroflot, Air Arabia, Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, All Nippon Airways and many more. You board a bus to Uttarkashi from either of the airports.
Uttarkashi is well-connected to various parts of India via national highways and state highways. The town is located on NH108 which leads to Gangotri, another popular pilgrimage place. Buses are available from various cities such as Delhi, Dehradun, Shimla, etc. You can choose between A/C, non-A/C, deluxe and semi-deluxe buses, provided by the state government as well as private organisations. Uttarakhand Transport Corporation (UTC) is a major government-run bus provider.
The nearest railway station is Dehradun Railway Station. Northern Railway Line’s last station, it is connected to cities across the country such as Allahabad, Varanasi, Amritsar, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, etc. Express trains that serve this station include Dehradun Jan Shatabdi Express, Allahabad Link Express, Varanasi Dehradun Express, Dehradun Amritsar Express, Kochuveli Dehradun Superfast Express, Dehradun Express, Doon Express and many more.