Yamunotri is the source of River Yamuna, one of India’s most significant rivers. The Yamuna, according to Indian Mythology, is the daughter of Surya, the Sun God, and the twin sister of Yama, the God of Death. So the most important of the places to visit in Yamunotri is definitely the Yamunotri Temple. It is situated at an altitude of 10.8k feet. The actual source of River Yamuna is the Champasar Glacier (14.5k feet) situated further up from the temple. It is not accessible to general visitors.
Yamunotri is a part of the Chhota Chardham Yatra (Pilgrimage circuit of Uttarakhand). This is one of the most popular pilgrimage circuits of the Hindus in India. It comprises of two Shakti sites. One is the Yamunotri Temple, with the shrine of Goddess Yamuna. The other is the Gangotri Temple, with the shrine of Goddess Ganga. Chardham also includes one of India’s most popular Shaiva and Vaishnava sites- Kedarnath Dham (Shiva Temple) and Badrinath Dham (Vishnu Temple) respectively.
It is not only the Yamunotri Temple but there are some other places to visit in Yamunotri too.
Let’s begin with the Yamunotri Temple. The temple is located with the Bunderpunch Mountains, a massif of Garhwal Himalayas. The frivolous Yamuna River gushes down the mountains, on the left side of the temple. There are two hot springs near the temple- The Surya Kund and the Gauri Kund.
The deity of Yamuna Devi is made of black marble and is worshipped after the Divyashila near the Surya Kund is worshipped. We touched the Divyashila as part of the ritual. There are numerous warm streams gurgling out of the mountain crevices, keeping the temple warm. We felt comfortable in the warmth as we got drenched during our 2.5 hours climb. We were shivering at 4 degrees centigrade. I will describe our adventurous journey later. Pilgrims take a dip in the warm therapeutic water of the Gauri Kund. They tie rice and potatoes with a muslin cloth, dip them in the hot spring and offer the cooked rice and potatoes to the goddess.
Kharsali must be there in the list of places to visit in Yamunotri. It is a picturesque Himalayan hamlet at an altitude of 8.7k feet. Kharsali, also known as Khushimath, is the winter seat of the Yamunotri shrine. After the hard snowy winter, the Yamunotri temple reopens on Akshaya Tritiya (end of April). The beauty of this untouched village is a painter’s delight. Kharsali is also popular for the age old Shani Temple. The temple is iconic. It is a 5 storey narrow tower, built of stones and wood, with a bronze statue of Shani Maharaj, another brother of Yamuna Devi, on the top floor. There is a set of straight and tall wooden staircase, leading into a dark and dinghy inside. However, the panoramic view from the top is breathtaking.
One of the places to visit in Yamunotri which you just cannot miss is Janki Chatti. Janki Chatti and Kharsali are on two sides of River Yamunotri. There is a bridge over the flowing river, connecting these two villages. Janki Chatti is the hub from where the journey/trek to Yamunotri Temple starts. So there are a few shops around. It is basically the last village before steep and wild path to the temple begins.
Hanuman Chatti, a base for numerous treks, is a tranquil hamlet. It is 13 kilometres below Yamunotri Temple. It is also popular for the confluence of Rivers Yamuna and Hanuman Ganga. The beauty lies in the rustic simplicity of the place. As the name suggests there is also a Hanuman Temple here.
Our Journey to Yamunotri
We began at dawn from Barkot where our hotel stood alone amidst green mountains and fluffy floating clouds. The solitude of the place is worth a mention.
We drove for 3hours (50kms) from Barkot to Kharsali. It was pouring cats and dogs and the condition of the road was pathetic. It conjured a feeling more of an adventure than that of a pilgrimage. All the places to visit in Yamunotri are situated on this way only. From Kharsali we climbed 6 kilometres on the steep mountains on horseback. Well, this added fuel to our thrilled spirits. I call this episode, ‘Mesmerizingly messy.’ So mesmerizing were the majestic snow-capped mountains, the clouds and the waterfalls that I forgot the butterflies in my stomach when the horse started climbing the steep stony narrow path whirling the mountains. The muddy, uneven path was crowded with pilgrims on foot, horses, dolis and palkis, moving up and down both.
We took the same path to climb down on horseback from Yamunotri Temple to Kharsali. Trust me; climbing downhill was even more difficult than climbing uphill. However, following the instructions of the horse guide religiously, enables avoiding any risk during the ride or backache after the long ride. The name of the horse I rode was ‘Bahubali’, meaning the ‘strong one’. Even though it sounds funny, the name of the horse was, in a way, boosting my morale.
A Memorable Experience
The enigmatic places to visit in Yamunotri and the entire journey itself are framed in my mind. I am grateful to the pittus (riders and porters) who make it possible for numerous to climb up to the holy shrine at the Yamunotri Temple. In October 2019, I had visited the Char Dham. I am grateful that in 2020 when travelling to this extent looks almost impossible, I at least have the memories as stories to tell.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.