Start the new year in the Himalayas, the world's greatest mountains. They are the source of epics and myths, gods and religions. Temples dot these mountains, decked by bells and visited by pilgrims and tourists. The Himalayas provide the source of the Hindus' most sacred river, the Ganges.
National Geographic's Chasing Rivers: The Ganges. Video Source: Youtube. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use.
Although it is terribly polluted, the Ganges river is still believed to be a living goddess, with sacred powers and healing properties. The Ganges has a huge basin. Its symbolic origin is considered to be a cavernous 'cow's mouth' formation known as Gomukh at the foot of a melting glacier near the temple town of Gangotri; this glacier is the source of the Bhāgīrathī river, which flows into the Ganges.
One of the great sources of Hindu culture: Gomukh (2015). Video Source: Youtube.
Another video of Gomukh (2011). Video Source: Youtube.
The Bhāgīrathī river is named for a mythical king of Kosala, Bhagiratha, who drew forth the goddess Gaṅgā through meditation to free his people from a curse. Bhagiratha was also the ancestor of Lord Rama.
Rama, in turn, was the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu. Rama's struggle against a demon king who kidnaps his wife is described in the epic poem, the Ramayana. The Hindus consider the Ramayana (dating back as early as c. 800 BCE) to be the first poem in Indian literature, committed to writing by the first Sanskrit poet, Valmiki (c. 4th century BCE).
Read the Ramayana, the Hindus believe, and you will be freed from sin, associate yourself with Rama, and reach heaven. Written in wisdom-filled couplets, the poem to this day remains popular as a source of divination and gives answers to life's difficulties. Come to the Ramayana with a question, and through it, Rama will give you divine guidance for now and the future. You can read the epic online in English here. A western version of the Ramayana as oracle is here.
Image Source: Wiki.
"Map showing the Himalayan headwaters of the Bhagirathi river. The numbers in parentheses refer to the altitude in meters." The map shows Gomukh and the nearby temple town of Gangotri. (Click to enlarge.) Image Source: Wiki.
Pilgrims at Gangotri temple (2013). See a longer video about the temple here. Video Source: Youtube.
Caption for the above video: "One of the most sacred destinations to salvation and redemption, the Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra is meant for the holy devotees round the world. A spiritual trip to the holy lands of Uttarakhand will really bring a piece of pacification and spiritual uplifting among all the tourists coming across the sacred valleys of the Himalayas.
Out of all the pious shrines in Uttarakhand, the Gangotri Dham has its own importance. Being savored as the origin of the river Ganges through the Gangotri basin; the Bhagirathi River acts as the ultimate way of attaining salvation. At a distance of 98 kms from Uttarkashi and 228 kms from the Yamunotri temple, the Gangotri Temple resides at an elevation of 3048 meters. The shrine of Goddess Ganges is the emblem of purity, chastity and power.
According to the mythology, Goddess Ganges descended to the earth to absolve the sins of the humans and for the welfare of mankind to release them from sufferings; being pleased with the meditation of King Bhagirath; and so the name Bhagirathi is also known to the Ganges. Lord Shiva entangled the heavy waves of the river in his deadly locks and since then the river is ... considered ... sacred and worshipped by the Hindu devotees. It is the Gangotri basin where we find the origin of the sacred river and is ... channel[ed] into different forms at different location forming different major confluences.
The water of River Ganga is believed to be amrit (nectar) and is thus considered a holy drink.
The temple of Goddess Ganges was ... constructed in the early 18th century by a Gorkha commander, Amar Singh Thapa.
The shrine of Gangotri is open with great ceremonies and illustrations in the April end on the propitious day of Akshaya Tritiya. A special Puja of Goddess Ganga is performed inside the temple as well as on the bank of River Ganges. The temple closes on the biggest Hindu festival, Diwali when again the formal ceremony is performed with a Puja.
This footage is part of the professionally-shot broadcast stock footage archive of Wilderness Films India Ltd., the largest collection of HD imagery from South Asia."
Trek from Gangotri temple to Gomukh (May 2016). Video Source: Youtube.
Crystal Chakra Meditation with Antique Tibetan Singing Bowls. Video Source: Youtube.
The bells on the archway to Tungnath temple, the highest temple to Lord Shiva in the world. It is linked to the heroes of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Gangotri and Tungnath are in the same Indian state of Uttarakhand, about 10 hours' drive apart. Image Source: Himalayan Camping.
See my post on Tibetan Time Capsules, here.