History of Hemkund Sahib
Hemkund , a Sanskrit name derived from Hem meaning Snow and Kund for bowl is nestled in the district of Chamoli, Uttarakhand is the pious pilgrimage site of the Sikh formally known as Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib Ji and in layman term coined as Hemkund Sahib. It is devoted to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, according to the records in the holy Sikh scripture the Guru Granth Sahib; he meditated on the bank of the Hemkunt Lake, which reflects the mighty appearance of the nature in its clear enchanting water. The source of this alluring water is from the glaciers of majestic peaks of Saptrishi Peaks and Hathi Parvat, and from this imposing lake originates the Himganga.
Located at an elevation of approx 4630 meters (15190 feet’s) the glacial lake is nestled amidst seven mountain peaks, each of the which is adorned by a Nishan Sahib on its cliff.
Every year huge number of Sikhs pilgrim pays their visit to the Gurudwara. The picturesque natural setting of the hill region has got its share of mention in the Hindu epic the Ramayana too. It is believed that Lakshman, younger brother of Lord Rama, after receiving severe injuries from Meghnath during the epic war of Rama- Ravana; meditated on the banks of the Hemkunt regained his health and vitality. The temple dedicated to Lakshman, is built at the placed believed to be his meditating spot.
So for both Sikh and the Hindu the rejuvenating valley holds an important spiritual place, which can be reached through a challenging but an enjoyable and spellbinding trek from Ghangharia.
Travelling to the Gurudwara:
From the month of October through April Hemkund is inaccessible due to heavy snowfall and glaciers movement. In the month of May, Sikh pilgrims arrive to repair the damage to the path over the winter, which traditionally is known as kar seva or selfless service which is an important doctrine of the Sikh faith. The starting point for the Hemkund Sahib is from the town of Govind Ghat which lies at a distance of about 270 Kms from Rishikesh, the zigzag track through the valley of terraced fields and vegetation can be traveled on foot or mule. The distance from Govind Ghat to Ghangharia is 14kms but post the floods of 2013, the initial 4kms of the road has been made motor able.
Ghangharia: a scenic borough nestled at an altitude of approx 3100mtrs at a distance of 13kms from Govind Ghat and 4kms before the Valley of Flowers National Park. The trek for Hemkund Sahib begins from this scenic hamlet ranging from easy to moderate. In winters the region is known to be snow clad; therefore the region remains open from May to October. GMVN rest houses, the Gurudwara and few hotels provide accommodation facility.
Valley of Flowers: known for its meadow of various endemic alpine flowers and varieties of fauna. Home to rare and endangered animals like the Asiatic black bear, musk deer, snow leopard, red fox, Himalayan blue sheep “bharal or naur”. The park was declared as National park in 1980 and is a world heritage, which stretches over a massive expense of approx 87 km and is about 8kms long with the width of 2km. The beauty of the valley has enticed various adventure seekers, nature fanatic and biologist/botanists.
How to reach:
By Air: the nearest airport to the Hemkunt Sahib is Jolly Grant Airport, from where the road leads till 4kms further ahead of Govind Ghat, from where the trek commences all the way till Hemkund Sahib. The airport is situated at a distance of about 270Kms from Govind Ghat. Daily flights from Delhi to Jolly Grant grant an easy access to the city. Also taxis can be booked directly for Govind Ghat from the airport.
By Train: the nearest railway station is the Rishikesh Railway station. Rishikesh is well connected by railway network with the major destinations of India. And if the option is not available for the train to terminate at Rishikesh station, Haridwar station is the next best option for the same. Taxis and buses are available from Rishikesh and Haridwar to Govind Ghat.
By Road: Govind Ghat is well connected by motorable roads with major destination of the state. Buses from Delhi Kashmere ISBT to Haridwar and Rishikeshp ply on daily basis. Buses and taxis to Govind Ghat are easily available from major route points like Rishikesh, Srinagar, Pauri, Rudraprayag and like wise.
Time to Visit:
Hemkunt Sahib is known to have cool and pleasant climate through most part of the year and the best time to visit is from June to October.
Summer: mostly from the month of June to October have a pleasant weather with the temperature reaching to nearly 25 Celsius, with the beautiful panoramic view to boast off.
Winter: from the month of November to May is snow covered and difficult to visit, the minimum temperature drop can go down to -4 degree.
June to October is ideal for the pilgrimage and also to visit the Valley of flowers National Park. August and September presents with the picturesque scenery of blooming flowers. December to May is snow covered and the road block prevents the tourist from visiting the place.