iyam-uttarkashi hi praaninaam muktidaayini
dhanya-loke mahaabhaaga kalau yeshaam iha sthitihi
This Uttarkashi is one which gives salvation to the living beings. Blessed are those who are fortunate to live here during the dark age of Kali-yuga; in this place where all the Gods reside. (Skanda Purana)
Nestled in the deep valleys of the mighty Himalayas, Uttarkashi is a small but picturesque holy town, popularly known as the gateway to the four sacred pilgrimage centers of Uttarakhand i.e. Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. As the name suggests, Uttarkashi is located in the northern part of India. This city is very ancient and has been the meditation ground and deep spiritual communion for sages and devotees since the bygone ages. It is equated with Varanasi of the East (Uttar Pradesh).
Just like Varanasi of East, Uttarkashi lies between the holy rivers Varuna also known as Syalam Gad and Assi also known as Kali Gad, with the confluence of rivers Varuna and Bhagirathi marking the limits of Uttarkashi on one end and the confluence of rivers Assi and Bhagirathi marking the limits on the other end. The town is completely surrounded by Balkhilya, Indrakeel (also called Hari Parvat), Varunavat, Mahendra Parvat (known as Mahidanda locally) and the Airavat Mountains.
History of Uttarkashi
Uttarkashi was known as Vamavat Gram during the Mahabharata. The hill tribes namely Kiratas, Uttara Kurus, Khasas, Tanganas, Kunindas and Pratanganas find references in the Upayana Parva of Mahabharata. Uttarkashi also got the name Saumya Kashi as it was here that Lord Parashurama did strict penances to control his anger after killing sinful kshatriya clan twenty-one times.
During the 1st century BC, it was the capital city of the Naga Kings till the end of the 5th century and their lineage is etched on the Shakti pillar that stands in front of the Vishwanath Temple. During the 6th and 7th century, it was also the capital city of the famous central Himalayan Kingdom of Brahmpur, which finds mention in the travelogue of the famous Chinese traveller Huen-Tsang. After the establishment of Garhdesh, it became the market for 12 pattis. Patti refers to a strip of land or farm. Hence, it was called Barahaat which means 12 markets. It was also the trading post for merchants who came along the high mountain passes to trade in gems and other goods for salt. Uttarkashi was part of the Garhwal kingdom ruled by the Garhwal dynasty.
On 24th February 1960, Uttarkashi became a district in the state of Uttar Pradesh and the Uttarkashi town became the district headquarters for the newly formed district. Today, Uttarkashi district lies in the state of Uttarakhand.
Places to visit in Uttarkashi
Uttarkashi has lot of temples located within its boundaries like the Kashi Vishwanath temple which is the most prominent temple located on the Manikarnika Ghat, the others being Shakti temple which houses the Trident used by Durga Devi to kill the demons and many more
Other holy places of interest in Uttarkashi are mostly situated on the Uttarkashi-Gangotri Highway.
- Bhaskar Prayag or Bhatwar
- Raithal, which has the ruins of a Surya temple dating to the 6th or 8th century.
- Gangnani, where Sage Parashara performed his rigorous penances and is also famous for the hot water springs.
- Sukhi is the place where Shukadeva Muni performed penances.
- Hariprayag now known as Harshil where Lord Hari took the form of a shila to absorb the anger of Bhagirathi and Jalandhari rivers, who were arguing over their significance.
- Kalpa Kedar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in Dharali enroute Gangotri.
- Mukhba or Mukhimath which is the winter home for Mother Ganga.
- Lanka Chatti where the Shivalinga fell from Ravana’s hand.
- Bhairon Ghati , with its Bhairava temple and sacred fire of Bhairav dhoona. Lord Bhairava is said to be the protector of the Uttarkashi region appointed by Lord Shiva and should be visited before visiting the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
- Dodital which is the origin of Assi river and the abode of Lord Ganesha. Also called Doondital and Ganesh ka Tal.
- Nachiketa Tal, which was created by Nachiketa, the son of Sage Uddalak
- Renuka Ashrama at Garhbarsali
- Kachru Devata at Dunda Village dedicated to Lord Shiva
- Shiva Cave at Brahmakal
- Shikhareshwar temple atop Varunavat mountain.
- Lakseshwar is the place where the Kauravas built a house of lacquer to kill the Pandavas. The tunnel which was built to save the Pandavas from the Lakshagraha is said to have its exit in Uttarkashi which is now Laksheshwar.
- Chamau ki Chauri is known as the meeting point of the celestials and is located in the Barahat area of the town. Even today, the local Deities gather here to perform their dance that captures the attention of their audiences. Uttarkashi has been known as the residence of the thirty three crore demigods. It is referred to the place at the base of the Varunavat Mountain which was the pilgrim centre for Chandramauli Shiva. To this day, there is a pilgrimage on the 13th day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Chaitra, where devotees perform a pancha-koshi parikrama of the Varunavat mountain to honor the thirty three crores demigods residing here.
The average temperature of Uttarkashi remains around 22 degree celsius with its height above the sea level being 1158 meters.
How to reach Uttarkashi
Bus is the easiest way to reach this holy city as regular buses are available from Dehradun, Rishikesh, Haridwar and Mussoorie. One can take a flight to Dehradun and then take a bus from Dehradun to Uttarkashi. The nearest railway station is at Haridwar and Rishikesh which are well connected by trains to major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Dehradun, Lucknow and Howrah. Taxis are also available from Dehradun, Haridwar and Rishikesh.