Panch Prayag - The Five Sacred Confluence of Holy Rivers

16 Jan 2021 by Swati Mamgain

Panch Prayag of Uttarakhand

One coming to Uttarkhand can enjoy trekking that leads to gorgeous trails, paragliding, ropeway rides and attending the Ganga Aarti in Haridwar. There is no dearth of activities in Uttarakhand. One can find both commercial tourist hill stations and quaint offbeat hilly hamlets for a memorable vacation. The state is renowned for offering numerous sacred Yatras. The very apt time to plan a vacation for Uttarakhand is between the months from March to April and September to October. The state owns fantastic and salubrious weather throughout the year.

The sacred Char Dham Yatra is one of the most popular Yatra during the summer season that is also the peak season in Uttarkhand. Visit this astonishing destination of a surreal experience. There are a lot of astounding places that truly need to be explored. Some to include are- Naini lake, Lakshman Jhula, Geeta Bhawan, Har Ki Pauri, Mussoorie, Dehradun, Rishikesh, Lansdowne and some other stunning places too. Visit this land for its fantastic festivals.

All the festivals celebrated here are truly colorful and vibrant. Some of the major festivals of the state are- Basant Panchami, Makar Sankranti, Kumbh Mela that is held in Haridwar and is Hindu pilgrimage. Several devotees look forward to this Mela where the Hindus take a dip in the Ganga, Nanda Devi festival that is held in September month and goddess Nanda Devi is carried around in processions. There are other festivals too that are worth attending.

What is Panch Prayag

The five Prayag- Vishnuprayag, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag, and Devprayag are the five sacred river confluences in the Garhwal Himalayas in the Uttarakhand state. Prayag in the Sanskrit language means confluence. Panch Prayag Yatra involves visiting each of the sacred convergences and getting blessed with their purity. Each of the mergers takes place in the most tranquil spots of nature. Devotees worship the meeting points of revered streams of Ganga. Bathing at the points of confluences is considered as religious cleansing and is also believed to be auspicious before visiting the prominent holy shrines.

The last rites for the departed loved ones are also performed at these holy and sacred amalgamations in the Himalayas. The devotees go on Panch Prayag Yatra to get their souls blessed at the natural sites of the earth. After the Prayag of Allahabad, these five sacred river confluences are a most respected phenomenon.

The mythology behind Panch Prayag

As per the mythology, Goddess Ganga wanted to descend to earth and bless humankind but Goddess Ganga’s power was too much for the earth to take. After knowing this Lord shiva decided to split her energy and distribute it equally across the lands. Lord Shiva took her energy into his matted locks and directed it to flow into the earth in 12 channels.

These 12 channels are said to rejoin after Dev Prayag that is the last of the Panch Prayag birthing the holy Ganga river. Thus Devprayag is hailed as the most prominent of the five Prayag. At Devprayag Alaknanda meets Bhagirathi to form the Ganga, higher up from Devprayag four other meet Bhagirathi to form the holy Panch Prayag that the pilgrims visit for prayers, bath, purification and worship.

Panch Prayag of Uttarakhand

1. Rudraprayag

Rudraprayag is named after Lord Shiva who is also called Rudra as many legends relate this place with Lord Shiva. It is also believed that Lord Shiva performed Tandava here. Shiva played his Rudra veena a with its sound he attracted Lord Vishnu and converted him to water. One can witness the black rock here that is believed to be the place where Narada meditated and is thus called Narad Shila.

One can also witness the temples of Rudranath and Chamunda Devi and a steep line of stairs connected with the temples leading to the sacred confluence. Around 142km away from Rishikesh it is at Rudraprayag that the road divides one goes to Kedarnath and the other towards Badrinath, passing by Karnaprayag, Nandprayag and Vishnu Prayag. Pilgrims coming to Rudraprayag can take a dip in the Sangam and can attend the Sangam Arti that takes place at 6 pm every day. One can even visit the Koteshwar Mahadev temple that is lying to the north of Rudraprayag and 7kms ahead on the road going to Pokhri.

2. Devprayag

Devprayag is the last and the most prominent confluence among the five Prayagas of the Garhwal region. Here the Alaknanda meets Bhagirathi after going through the confluences at Vishnuprayag, Nandprayag, Karnaprayag, and Rudraprayag and the holy river Ganga comes to life. Devprayag is situated in Tehri Garhwal district that is around 73kms away from Rishikesh. One chooses to pray and bath at all the five Prayag that starts from Devprayag. As per the mythology, Lord Ram and Lord Laxman did penance over here to atone for their sins of killing Ravana.

One coming here can witness several temples like- Raghunath temple- 1000 years old and one of the most famous temples among the devotees. This temple holds a 15ft image of Ram built in black granite. This temple is surrounded by four small shrines on each side that belongs to Annapurna Devi, Hanuman, Shankaracharya, and Garud. There are other beautiful temples like- Dhaneshwar Mahadev temple, Chandrabadni temple, Mata Bhuvneshwari temple and Danda Nagaraja. One visiting Devprayag can take a bath in Sangam and get rid of sins, to perform shradh ceremony or holy rituals. One can visit the two libraries located at this place where one can find many old, rare manuscripts in Hindi and Garhwali.

3. Vishnuprayag

At Vishnuprayag, Dhauliganga coming from the Niti valley joins the Alaknanda river that is also known as Vishnu Ganga at the stretch of the river. This merger takes place at an average height of 1372 meters near Joshimath in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. This place is said to be that place where Sage Narada meditated to seek blessings from Lord Vishnu. One can witness the old Vishnu temple near the joining point which was built by Ahalayabai, Queen of Indore in the year 1889. During the winter season, this place gets all covered with white snow and thus becomes extremely cold.

It is also famed for trekking, white water rafting, canoeing. It is situated at an altitude of 1400 meters that makes the activities full of thrilling adventure. Vishnuprayag has a good connection with the road with Srinagar, Rishikesh, and Haridwar. One can easily hire a taxi or local buses to reach. Several transport services are available from Auli to Vishnuprayag for roadway travel.

4. Nandaprayag

At Nandprayag the Alaknanda river is joined by the Mandakini river at about 1358 meters of height in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. As per the legend, Nandprayag got its name from the Yadava King, Nanda. The confluence is around 22kms away from Karnparyag and around 194kms from Rishikesh. One can witness the renowned temple of Gopalji at Nandprayag. As per the mythology the wedding of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala is also believed to have taken place here. Nandprayag is the gateway to Badri-Kshetra. The area between Satopanth and Nandprayag is called Badri-Kshetra as all the prominent Badri temples are nestled within this area.

A tour to Nandprayag can be an enchanting experience amidst the Himalayas. It was once the capital of the Yadu Kingdom. It was the place where Raja Nanda performed Yagna that was later used as the foundation of the important attraction of Nandprayag, Nand temple. This astounding place is ideal to enjoy nature walks. One visiting this place also gets a fantastic chance to visit the nearby village Bangali and get a deep insight into the rural lifestyle, rich customs and beliefs.  One can even visit the shrines of Chandika Devi, Gangeshwar Mahadev and Gopalji that are truly worth visiting.

5. Karnaprayag

Karnaprayag is almost 174kms from Rishikesh. It is the place where the Pindar river coming from Pindar glacier amalgamates with the Alaknanda River. Karnaprayag is on the way to Badrinath. It is situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The holy and sacred confluence gets its name from Karna, the warrior from Mahabharata. This is the place where Karna meditated and acquired Kavacha and Kundal from Lord Surya. It is also considered the place where Lord Krishna performed the last rites of Karna.

One can find several shrines lining the ghats of Karnprayag. Temple of Uma Devi- daughter of Himalayas and Karna is the most major and important among them. This place has a lot of mythological significance. This place is considered to be the center of meditation for Swami Vivekananda and his disciple. 

Travel route of Panch Prayag

Panch Prayag Yatra is considered one of the sacred and holy yatra. The journey of Panch Prayag is a yatra that purifies one’s mind, body, and soul. The journey takes one to the land of spirituality and contentment and encompasses one with the purified feeling of freedom from all the sins. Panch Prayag includes- Vishnuprayag, Nandaprayag, Karnprayag, Rudraprayag, and Devprayag. To go on this sacred journey one needs to reach Rishikesh and from there one continues the journey by road. Panch Prayag yatra starts from Vishnuprayag then to Nandaprayag, Karnprayag then to Rudraprayag and at last one pays a visit to Devprayag. The distance from Rishikesh to these five Prayag is- Vishnuprayag is around 265kms from Rishikesh, Nandaprayag is 190kms, Karnprayag is around 170kms, Rudraprayag is almost 140kms and Devprayag is 69kms from Rishikesh.

Best time to explore

The Panch Prayag lies in one of the high mountains of the Himalayas with low temperatures all through the year so avoid the winter as it gets very cold during the winter season. The aptest time to explore Panch Prayag is from the month of Mach to June. During the summer season, the roads remain in very good condition and the weather remains quite salubrious. Avoid monsoon months as they are not the perfect and apt months for Panch Prayag yatra. Before starting your Panch Prayag yatra check the weather conditions for a comfortable and memorable yatra.

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