Goddess Ganga’s procession from Mukhba to Gangotri | a spiritual journey on foot | Uttarkashi

Located in a remote corner of Uttarkashi district, along the picturesque Harsil valley, Mukhba is a small, charming hamlet nestled amidst the slopes of the greater Himalayan region. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the snow-capped mountain peaks in every direction, including the majestic Srikanth peak, which dominates the horizon and watches over the valley and its inhabitants.

On the day I had to travel to Mukhba, the valley was blanketed with fresh layers of snow from the previous night. I had to clear off the snow that had accumulated on my car, but I was more worried about the road that surely wasn’t suitable for driving. An hour later, the road clearance team arrived and eventually made way for the travelers heading to Mukhba. The 4 km drive from Harsil to Mukhba was perhaps one of the most scenic drives I had ever been on. The entire landscape looked surreal – clear blue sky, Bhagirathi River silently meandering through the sandbanks, mountain slopes spattered with snowflakes, deodar trees trying to sneak through the snow and appearing like ghostly sentinels and eye-catching waterfalls gracefully sliding over ledges several feet above. 

The road between Harsil and Mukhba is narrow but is in a good condition. So, when there’s traffic, you can expect a slight delay and that is why it took us about 20-25 minutes before we arrived at Mukhba. As I glanced through the village, I saw scattered houses (in rows) with slopy roofs, built of wood and stone, giving them a rustic look and one that blended easily with the natural environment. From the distance I could hear the faint murmur of the sweet melody produced by Dhol Damau, a local traditional instrument used in this region for various ceremonial activities.

For the residents of Mukhba and for the visitors, this was an auspicious day. The idol of Goddess Ganga, which stays at Mukhba during the winter months (for roughly about 6 months), is carried today (every year on the day before Akshay Tritiya) on a palanquin all the way to her summer abode at Gangotri, which is roughly about 17 kms away. This journey is undertaken on foot and is covered over 2 days. In the subsequent sections, I shall detail out this journey.

As I inched closer to the grand temple complex, where the revered Ganga temple and the temple devoted to Lord Someshwar were situated, I couldn’t help but notice a palpable shift in the surrounding energy. Abuzz with people dancing and singing praises in honor of the revered Goddess Ganga, the atmosphere was charged with a distinct vitality, and it was quite unlike anything I had encountered before.

Preparations were underway for the yatra (procession) to commence its arduous journey all the way to Gangotri Dham. The time was set to about 12:15 pm by the temple priests (Semwals). Entire village joined in the initial march, amidst the resonant chants and rhythmic beats, as the palanquins of Goddess Ganga and Lord Someshwar (from Dharali and Mukhba villages) made their way out into the woods.

Procession of Goddess Ganga leaving Mukhba Village

Leg1: – Mukhba to Markandey temple | 1 km | 20 minutes | Day1

This stretch was a steep descent as we traverse from the upper reaches all the way down to the level of the river. All the 3 palanquins (1 of Goddess Ganga and the other 2 of Lord Someshwar) travel together along with hordes of devotees to Markandey temple. Goddess Ganga spends some time here while the other 2 palanquins (of Lord Someshwar) return to their respective villages.

About Markandey temple – Dedicated to the rishi (or sage) named Markandey. It is believed that the rishi composed the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra at this place. This mantra is considered as the soul of the vedas that helps one tune into the healing force of the universe.

Leg2:- Markandey temple to Mundeshwari temple | 1 km | 20 minutes | Day1

This stretch is almost flat with only occasional gentle inclines or declines. The crowd thins-out here as many of the devotees return from Markandey temple itself. We follow the path alongside the river until we reach the temple of Goddess Mundeshwari. Goddess Ganga spends some time here before proceeding ahead.

About this Temple – It is believed that Goddess Mundeshwari (an avatar of Goddess Durga) killed the asuras (demons) named Chanda and Munda at this place. This tale is connected to the Hindu mythology. 

Note – On the return journey from Gangotri to Mukhba, the palanquin spends a night at this temple before arriving at Mukhba (the winter abode) the next day.

Leg3: – Mundeshwari temple to Jangla | 4 kms | 1.5 hours | Day1

This stretch is an interesting one as it navigates its way through some difficult contours, but the views are worth the effort. The terrain is steep at many sections and perhaps narrow too in certain areas. While the river continues to flow alongside, the route gains a lot in altitude before descending again.

The procession pauses at a midway resting spot known locally as Cholang. We were offered fruits and water and after acquiring some rest, the procession continued ahead.

Eventually the terrain snakes down and joins the main Gangotri highway (at Jangla). From here-on the entire journey is on a fine cemented road, all the way to Gangotri.

Upon reaching Jangla, the procession was joined by another deity (Nag Devta) and their followers, who accompanied the palanquin of Goddess Ganga for the remaining journey ahead.

Leg4: – Jangla to Kopang (ITBP camp) | 1 km | 15 mins | Day1

This stretch (to my mind) was the most comfortable of all and soon we found ourselves at an ITBP camp at Kopang.

Interesting point – The ITBP team organized a lunch for all the devotees who were part of the entourage with Goddess Ganga. We were offered Halva, Chane (black chickpea), hot milk tea and water. Enjoyed every bit of this excellent and selfless generosity of the ITBP team. We spent about 40 – 45 minutes here before the procession proceeded ahead.

The air was filled with the reverberating chants of ‘Jai Ma Gange – Har Har Gange’ and it felt as if it echoed back to us from the distant boundaries of the towering cliffs that surrounded us. It appeared as if everyone was completely absorbed in this mystic realm.

Leg5:- Kopang (ITBP camp) to Lanka  | 2 kms | 45 mins | Day1

After the break, the procession resumed its march ahead. We gradually ascended and were greeted by breath-taking views of the snow-capped peaks in proximity. A newfound vigour and enthusiasm were distinctly visible among the people. The holy chants being recited became more powerful and intense, and collectively they reverberated across a vast expanse.

Soon, we saw a group of priests (in saffron clothes) standing in the middle of the road to welcome the incoming procession. The followers were given a packet of prasad amidst the constant chanting of “Jai Ma Gange”. The procession didn’t stop here and continued its march.

Leg6: – Lanka to Bhaironghati | 1.5 kms | 35 mins | Day1

This was the last stretch for day1. As the sun descended towards the horizon, it painted the sky with hues of fiery orange and crimson red. The darkness loomed ahead but we were not far off from our destination for the day. We soon found ourselves crossing the famous ‘Lanka Bridge’ and as we looked down, we could hear the faint murmur of the Jadh Ganga (or Jahnvi Ganga) flowing below in the hollow. My eyes fell on 2 ruined pillars (made of Deodar wood), situated on either side of the bridge. They once supported a suspension bridge that was constructed by Frederich Pahari Wilson during the 19th century (I would write an exclusive post on this someday).

Soon, we veered off the main road and ascended a winding pathway that cut through the forest of deodar trees. At around 5:00 PM, we arrived at Bhaironghati , the place where the deity stayed for the night.

Note – In the Hindu Mythology, Bhairon is considered as the brother of Goddess Ganga.

Leg7:- Bhaironghati to Gangotri | 7 kms | 2.5 hours | Day2

The time was approximately 06:30 AM and the sun had not yet fully risen from the darkness, when the yatra began its final push towards Gangotri.

The crowd was bigger now and the chants louder. Accompanied were many other palanquins (carrying their respective local deities). The views around were totally outwardly. As the morning sun spiraled above us, the rays accentuated the glistening whiteness of the snow-capped mountains around, illuminating everything and making the whole atmosphere around even more vibrant.

The beats of dhol grew louder, more and more sadhus joined in the final procession towards Gangotri. Although the path was easy to traverse, we continued to gain altitude in a chilly April morning, despite the comfort of a clear blue sky and a bright sun above.

Afterward, the large procession arrived at Gangotri and made its way through the bustling market area. Chants and prayers grew louder and onlookers on either side, jostled to catch a glimpse of the Goddess. And then the procession entered the main temple premises. After taking a complete circle, the idol finally arrived at the sanctum sanctorum.

The procession reached the temple around 09:15 am. The priests promptly began their duties of preparing the temple for its much-anticipated opening, which was scheduled for 12:30 PM.

The holy chants reached its pinnacle, and I soaked in the milieu around. I felt a sense of accomplishment having undertaken this holy journey on foot. As I looked around, puffs of clouds were slowly rising above the gleaming snow-capped mountains as if trying to pay their homage to the goddess in their distinctive manner.

I hope you enjoyed this blissful journey of Goddess Ganga.

Planning to undertake this journey? Things to note.

1. When does this yatra take place each year?

Every year, the yatra commences from Mukhba village on the day before Akshay Tritiya, typically occurring either in the latter half of April or the early part of May.

2. Does it return from Gangotri to Mukhba in the same manner?

In a similar manner, the idol of Goddess Ganga is carried on a palanquin from Gangotri to Mukhba. Each year, this takes place on the day after Diwali. However, in contrast to staying overnight at Bhaironghati, the procession spends the night at Mundeshwari temple on the return journey.

3. Where is Mukhba and how can we arrive there?

Mukhba can be accessed by a motorable road from Harsil or via a short and easy hike (about 1 km) that commences at Dharali by crossing a bridge over Bhagirathi. Both Harsil and Dharali are situated on the main Gangotri road and are roughly 4 kms apart.

Google map link for Harsilhttps://goo.gl/maps/5cjU58uoXmVQhjtY6

Google map link for Dharalihttps://goo.gl/maps/W3NECTwqH6bQX2wc7

4. What are the stay options around?

On this yatra, I made Harsil as my base. Once the yatra reached Bhaironghati, I returned to Harsil and then again joined the procession the next day morning. In this situation, one needs to have their own vehicle as things are then easy to manage. Relying on public transportation can be challenging.

You can also consider hotels at Dharali or Gangotri. Stay options at Bhaironghati are limited and basic (a few dharamshalas only) and usually they get booked in advance so I wouldn’t really advice staying here.

5. Is there good mobile network coverage in the area?

At Mukhba, Jio network works, but beyond a few stretches, the network signal disappears. Unfortunately, as of April’23, Airtel | Vodafone or BSNL networks don’t work in the area. Nevertheless, at Harsil and/or Gangotri, all these networks work well.

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Furthermore, you can stay up to date with the captivating photographs from the land of gods, by following my Instagram account #travelindevbhoomi



  1. Hey Saurabh. Very well penned. I could almost feel myself there. The vivid description made it look like we too are part of the procession. The beauty of the Himalayas is so beautifully captured.

    Liked by 1 person

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