According to mythology, Goddess Ganga - the daughter of heaven, manifested herself in the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath's predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries, and Lord Shiva received her into his matted locks to minimize the immense impact of her fall. She came to be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source. Along the right back of Bhagirathi stands the shrine of Gangotri dedicated to the Goddess. Perched at a height of 3042 metres (10,000 ft), it was constructed in the early 18th century by a Gorkha Commander, Amar Singh Thapa, but renovated in the 20th century. There is a 20-feet high structure of white granite which is taken to Mukhimath village for the six winter months where it is worshipped.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims throng the sacred temple between May and October. By November, Gangotri is covered by snow. It is believed that the Goddess retreats to Mukhba, her winter abode (12 kms downstream). The physical source of the holy river is at Gaumukh, 18 kms. further uphill, along the Gangotri Glacier. Pilgrims trek up to the source to offer prayers either on foot or on ponies.

Submerged in the river, is a natural rock Shivling where, according to mythology, Lord Shiva sat when he received the Ganga in his matted lock. It is only visible in the winter months when water level decreases.

Best time to visit this area is in the summer when one should wear light woolen clothing.