Uttarkashi

Uttarkashi is an important district in Uttarakhand. Bordered by a range of snow capped peaks on the northern side, Uttarkashi is located at an elevation of 1158 mts and it is 165 kms away from Rishikesh. A beautiful Garhwal district Uttarkashi is the land of two of the holy pilgrimage sites of Hindus, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Within the bounds of its land, it has the origin of the two holy rivers of India, Ganga and Yamuna. Owing to its deep rooted religious connection, the hill district is also known as 'Devbhumi' (the land of gods and goddesses).

Places of Interest

Vishwanath Temple in Uttarkashi is one of the prime pilgrimage attractions in Uttarkashi around 300 mts from the local bus stand. An ancient temple, it is said that it was first built by Parasuram. The temple has a Shivling, 60 cms high and 90 cms in circumference. No one misses this holy shrine on their trip to Uttarkashi.

History

Uttarkashi’s ancient name was Barahat, which can be loosely translated into ‘large market’, indicating that it was probably a prosperous market town in the past. Possibly, this was the main market town for trade between India and Tibet. However, E.T. Atkinson, in The Himalayan Gazetteer Vol III Part I (1882) says that that the few houses in Barahat were “generally ruinous” in 1808, having suffered from the earthquake of 1803 in which 200 to 300 people were killed. In 1816 too, Barahat is described as “consisting of not more than five or six poor houses”. However, Atkinson does mention that traditional records showed that this was once “a place of note and contained fifty to sixty shops”.

Some of the ancient sites that Atkinson mentions are Vishwanath temple, Parsuram’s temple and another temple dedicated to Murli Manohar. He says Barahat had ”several places of ablution for pilgrims proceeding to Gangotri”. He also records the trident at Sukh-ka-mandir, set up in honour of Shiva. According to him, it was made up of a copper base 3 ft in circumference and a shaft of brass 12 ft long, surmounted by a trident having prongs each 6 ft long. He says that people maintain that this was constructed by Tibetans who formerly ruled this country, and also mentions that Huen Tsang referred to Barahat as Brahmapura in his writings.

Other scholars maintain that the name Barahat comes from the ancient Trishul, which is supposed to be the source of barah shakti (12 powers), and that Barahat is a corruption of the word ‘Barah’. Ancient texts also refer to ‘Chamala ki Chowri’ in connection with Barahat. Chamala ki Chowri exists today as Bhairon Chowk temple in which are located the Bhairon, Annapurna and Parsuram temples. Chamala ki Chowri was named after a Champa tree that used to grow here and the chowk was used to hold village councils, and for pilgrims to gather and pray here before undertaking the difficult journey on foot to Gangotri.

The district of Uttarkashi was part of the Panwar rajas’ territory. The founder of the Pal or Panwar dynasty was Kanak Pal, who came to Uttrakhand in the 9th century AD, possibly from Maharashtra. He married the daughter of Bhanu Pratap, a chieftain of Chandpur Garhi, and thus himself became the chieftain at this fortress town. It was Raja Ajay Pal, Kanak Pal’s 37th descendant, who established the supremacy of the Panwars after defeating the 52 chieftains who existed in Garhwal, in the early 16th century AD. He shifted from Chandpur Garhi first to Dewalgarh and then to his new capital, Srinagar. In time, the rulers of Garhwal consolidated the power and size of their kingdom. In fact, Garhwal was an independent kingdom on which the mighty Mughals of Delhi had neither influence nor supremacy. The suffix ‘Pal’ was changed to ‘Shah’ some time in the 17th century.

In 1803, Garhwal was over-run by the Gorkhas and the then king, Raja Pradyuman Shah, lost both his life and his kingdom to them. It was his son, Raja Sudarshan Shah who, after wresting his kingdom back from the Gorkhas after 12 years with the help of the British, shifted the capital of the Tehri Riyasat to Tehri in 1815.Garhwal was split up into eastern and western Garhwal. Eastern Garhwal was retained by the British Government. Western Garhwal, lying to the west of the Alaknanda river with the exception of the Dun, was made over to the heir of Garhwal dynasty -- Sudarshan Shah. This state came to be known as Tehri Garhwal and it was merged with the state of Uttar Pradesh in 1949 after India attained independence in 1947. After independence, when the Tehri Garhwal kingdom merged with India, Uttarkashi was made a border district in 1960. The new district acquired importance because of the two very significant pilgrimage centres within it: Gangotri and Yamunotri, the sources of the two holy rivers, Ganga (Bhagirathi) and Yamuna.

Weather

Cold in winters, Pleasant in summers.

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