Panch Prayag means five confluences. In Indian History, rivers are considered to be extremely sacred and glorified as the goddess. Located in the northern Indian state of Uttrakhand, Panch Prayag refers to the meeting of five rivers that are Vishnu Prayag, Nand Prayag, Karn Prayag, Rudra Prayag, and Dev Prayag in the Garhwal Himalayan region.
The Alaknanda River streaming along the four passes of Panch Prayag - Vishnuprayag, Nandprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag - at last meet the Bhagirathi River at Devprayag, the fifth Prayag, to form the Ganga, the sacred river of India that has conveyed salvation to this land.
Legend of Panch Prayag
Legend has it the Goddess Ganga wanted to descend down to Earth and bless humankind, but Her power was too much to Earth to take. Lord Shiva, knowing this, decided to split Her energy and distribute it equally across the lands. He took Her energy into His matted locks and directed it to flow into Earth in twelve channels. These channels are said to rejoin after Dev Prayag, the last of the Panch Prayag birthing the holy Ganga river. This is why the Dev Prayag is hailed as the most important of the five unions.
The Panch Prayag Path
"Prayag" in Sanskrit means the confluence of rivers, where cleansing rituals and last rites are performed. The Panch Prayag path refers to the five confluences of the holiest Indian rivers. These meeting points fall in one path, eventually leading to the formation of the Ganges River. The Panch Prayag is revered in Hindu mythology as a way to cleanse the human soul of sin and wrongdoing, the soul is assured of a path of Heaven after bathing in the holy water of the Prayag.
Different rivers emerging from the Himalayas join and meet each other at five confluences before forming the Ganga. Starting at the Vishnu Prayag, one can follow the course of the rivers through Nanda Prayag, Karna Prayag, Rudra Prayag, and Dev Prayag. The Satopanth, Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, Vishnuganga, Dhauliganga, Nandakini, Pindar, and Mandakini meet at different points along the path and finally form the Ganga at the holy Dev Prayag point.
VishnuprayagSituated at an altitude of almost more than 1000m above sea level, Vishnuprayag is the union of Vishnu Ganga River and Dhauli Ganga. To make this confluence, Alaknanda River flows down to meet the Dhauli Ganga River. Vishnu Prayag has an ancient temple of Lord Vishnu that stands here next to a pool called Vishnu Kund. It is one of the major tourist attractions.
NandprayagHere, Alaknanda River merge with Nandakini River at around 1,358 meters of height in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. According to belief, Nandprayag got its name from the Yadava King, Nanda. His commitment and dedication towards Lord Vishnu at this place earned him the blessing of having a child-like Vishnu.
The union is 22 km from Karnprayag and around 194 km from Rishikesh. There is a well-known sanctuary of Gopalji (Lord Krishna) at Nandprayag. The wedding of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala is likewise said to have occurred here. Nandprayag is additionally a door to Badrikshetra. The region amongst Satopanth and Nandprayag is referred to as Badrikshetra as all the important Badri temples (Panch Badri) are situated inside this territory.
KarnaprayagAround 174 km from Rishikesh, Karnaprayag is where Pindar River, originating from Pindar glacier, joins with Alaknanda River. Located in Chamoli region, the holy juncture gets its name from Karna, the warier from Mahabharata. According to belief, this is where Karna (warrior from Mahabharata) meditated and gained Kavacha (shield) and Kundal (studs) from Lord Surya (Sun), his father. It is additionally known to be where Lord Krishna played out the last rites of Karna.
As indicated by Kalidas' Abhijanaa-Shakuntalam, Dushyant and Shakuntala's relationship blossomed at Karna Prayag. The immense Hindu priest Swami Vivekananda meditated in this peaceful and delightful place for 18 days. Many sacred sites are covering the ghats of Karnprayag, the temple of Uma Devi (girl of Himalayas) and Karna are vital among them.
RudraprayagRudraprayag rejoices the union of Mandakini with Alaknanda. It is named after Lord Shiva, who is also called Rudra, as several legends relate this place with Shiva. According to belief, legends tell that Shiva performed Tandava here. Shiva played his Rudra Veena, and with its sound, he attracted Lord Vishnu and changed him into the water. There is another story which portrays that the wise Narada once got extremely glad for his Veena playing capacity. After he perceived his pride, he appealed to Lord Shiva for a long time at Rudraprayag to influence Shiva to keep him as his follower.
A black rock situated at the site is believed to be where Narada meditated, and later it came to be known as the Narad Shila. There are temples of Rudranath and Chamunda Devi and a dangerous line of stairs, associated with the temples, prompts the holy juncture. Around 142 km far from Rishikesh, it is at Rudraprayag that the street separates- one goes to Kedarnath and the other towards Badrinath (passing by Karnaprayag, Nandprayag, and Vishnuprayag).
Nestled amidst the beautiful natural location Devprayag is the last yet the most vital meeting among the Panch Prayag of the Garhwal district. Here Alaknanda meets the Bhagirathi after going through the conjunction at Vishnuprayag, Nandprayag, Karnaprayag, and Rudraprayag, and the holy river of the Ganga, at last, comes to life. Situated in Tehri Garhwal locale, around 73 km far from Rishikesh, Devprayag can be visited any time of the year. One can pray and shower at all Panch Prayag, beginning from Devprayag, and afterwards finish up the journey with the most sacred darshan of Lord Badrinath. Moreover, a Panch Prayag yatra can be consolidated with Chota Char Dham Yatra for a more satisfying and complete peaceful tour in Uttarakhand.
Read more about Char Dham Yatra
How to Reach Panch Prayag
The closest city to the Panch Prayag is, Rishikesh.
Car: One can reach Rishikesh from the nearby city of Haridwar, which is 20 kilometres away. The only way to reach the Panch Prayag from Rishikesh is by road, hire a car or taxi to cover the Panch Prayag. The distance from Rishikesh to the five Prayags are as follows:
- Dev Prayag: 69 kilometres
- Rudra Prayag: 140 kilometres
- Karna Prayag: 170 kilometres
- Nanda Prayag: 190 kilometres
- Vishnu Prayag: 260 kilometres
Bus: Package tours are available from Rishikesh and Haridwar that cover the five Prayags. This is the best option to cover all the spots comfortably.
Flight: The nearest airport is at Dehradun, about 35 kilometres away from Rishikesh. Dehradun is connected to all major Indian cities by air.
Train: The nearest train station is at Rishikesh, with connections to Haridwar and other major North Indian stations. One can reach Haridwar from cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi, and take a one-hour trip to Rishikesh.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and be ready to take a bath in holy Panch Prayag and feel free from all the worldly troubles.