Hemkund Sahib

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Weather:

Ideal Time: 3-4 hours

Timings:

Sunrise - Sunset

Entry Fee:

Free
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Hemkund Sahib, Valley of Flowers Overview

Nestled amid the Himalayan Ranges, Sri Hemkunt Sahib is a sacred pilgrimage revered by thousands of Sikhs every year. Literally meaning 'Lake of Snow', this highest Gurudwara in the world is perched at an altitude of 4329 m above the sea level and lies in the backdrop of snow - clad mountains. The shrine is also known as Gurudwara Shri Hemkunt Sahib and can be reached by trekking through numerous waterfalls, thick forest and captivating views of the Himalayas. The gurudwara is open only for few months between May and October and close down during the extreme winter months.

Adorned with a beautiful scenic view, the holy place offers tranquillity away from the din of the city and into the lap of nature. According to the 'Bachitra Natak', the autobiography of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Hemkunt Sahib was the site which housed the seven snow peaks where he meditated in his previous birth. In spite of its relatively perilous terrain and harsh cold climate, thousands of pilgrims visit the Hemkund Sahib every year to witness the crystal clear water of the lake and to seek the blessings of the Almighty.

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May/June - October

Coinciding with the Char Dham yatra, every year, the Hemkund Sahib yatra is open for 5-6 months, usually from May to October. It is the best time to visit as the weather during this time is pleasant, with a maximum temperature reaching 25 degrees Celsius. 

In addition to being a holy pilgrimage site, Gurudwara Sahib is also an unlikely trekking destination. Since the Gurudwara is situated at a height of about 15,000 feet above sea level, it is accessible only from the month of May to October. The motorable road to Hemkund Sahib extends from Rishikesh to Shrinagar, then to Joshimath and to Gobind Ghat from where the rest of the journey has to completed either on foot or by riding mules. The route to the Gurudwara is quite scenic and one can see snow - capped mountains hiding behind the cover of forests and rivers. The road to Hemkund Sahib makes its way via Panch Prayag and after crossing Joshimath the ancient route to Badrinath via Alaknanda is traced. Gurudwara authorities offer food and lodging facilities to all pilgrims. Although the route and journey can get daunting and unpredictable, the believers' faith keeps them going. The pilgrims cannot stay too long as the place becomes very cold and the descent down becomes difficult. Most of the pilgrims wish to reach Gobind Dham or Gobind Ghat before sunset where they can retire for the day

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The Hemkunt Sahib Yatra is open for some particular months. The journey usually begins in June and ends in the month of October during which the weather allows for a pleasant expedition.

1. Be prepared for any kind of weather as it changes very frequently. 2. Make sure to carry a raincoat, wind-sheeter, first-aid kit, torch, spare battery, sweater, jacket, water bottle and a good pair of trekking shoes. 3. The darshan at the Gurudwara usually closes in October.

Unfortunately, there is no staying facility of hotel or lodges in Hemkund Sahib. Due to the weather conditions and lack of proper infrastructure, it is not allowed to stay inside the Gurudwara. After the holy prayers and spending time at the Gurudwara, one must leave latest by 2 PM to come down to Ghangaria to stay the night. The place has a Gurudwara and a few hotels. However, the hotels are in remote areas, and due to the lack of phone and internet connectivity, it is very difficult to book a room in those hotels. There is also a campground with tents and mattresses. Most people prefer staying at the Gurudwara. 

The site of the Gurudwara, as mentioned in the auto-biography of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last guru of Sikhs was unexplored and untouched for almost more than two centuries. The locals were in great awe of the lake and revered the area around it, known as "Lokpal" (sustainer of people). It was Bhai Santokh Singh (1787-1843), a Sikh historian-poet, who with his vivid imagination described and explained the story of Dusht Daman meaning "vanquisher of the evil". It is also believed that it was this place where Guru Gobind Sigh Ji meditated in his previous life. After collective efforts on the part of the Sikh Community, a grand gurudwara was built on this site which came to be known as the Hemkund Sahib. 

Crafted out of white marble, Hemkund Sahib is an imposing star-shaped structure lying on the banks of the beautiful lake. A water body behind the structure is a source of the Lakshman Ganga. SInce it is the only gurudwara to have been constructed at such a great height, special considerations were kept in mind when the process of Hemkind Sahib's construction began.

Firstly, a prototype of the Gurudwara was created out of steel and erected in Delhi such that the final assembly could be done at Hemkund. The different sections of the edifice were manufactured, numbered and then transported to Hemkund. The roof was designed having crests and troughs so that it could handle the load of the falling snow more efficiently. To add an element of beauty, the star - shaped roof of the Gurudwara was built out of aluminium such that it glistened and glittered at the slightest hint of sunlight. The Hemkund Lake was diverted towards the ground floor of the Gurudwara where it the water was used to create a bathing area for women, while men were free to do so in the open lake. These intricacies led to the creation of the most elegant piece of engineering in the form of the Hemkund Sahib. 

As you enter the Hemkund Gurudwara, you are welcomed into a giant hall that is splendidly decorated with lights and exquisite tapestry. Pictures of various Sikh gurus adorn the walls, while the apex roof is designed in such a manner that they light up the Guru Granth Sahib enshrined here. There are four doors at the four corners of the Gurudwara, and a langar hall is situated close by where pilgrims are served a holy meal free of cost.

The only way to reach Hemkunt Sahib is on foot. The 15 km trek begins from Gobindghat on the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway. The last 5 km of the trek is a steep climb from the Ghangharia, the base of Hemkunt, the path winding along the surging waters of Lakshman Ganga.

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