Yamunotri 2022

May 24th, 2022.

On the western side of Garhwal Himalayas, in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, lies the holy place of Yamunotri. About 3,293 meters above sea level, Yamunotri stands proudly with its enormous mountain peaks, glaciers, and gushing waters of Yamuna. River Yamuna, the second most sacred river of India, originates in Yamunotri, making it the first pilgrimage site in the Chota Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand.

The venerated goddess Yamuna is the daughter of  Surya Devta and Saranyu Devi, the Goddess of perception. She happens to be the twin sister of Yama (the god of death) as well. In Vedas, Yamuna is called Yami (lady of life). A bath in the sanctified waters of Yamuna is said to cleanse all sins and protect from an untimely or painful death. The Yamuna, like the Ganges, has been elevated to the status of a divine mother for the Hindus and has been held responsible for nurturing and developing the Indian civilization. Such strong associations in Hindu Puranas place Yamuna Devi (goddess) in high ranks of divinity and is part of the famed sister rivers trio: Gange, Yamune, Sarawathi. The 3 rivers finally meet at the “triveni sangama” at Prayag Raj.


Origin of Yamuna and associated legend:

The River Yamuna originates from the Yamunotri glacier (also known as Champasar glacier), at an altitude of 4421 m. , and lies against a steep slope just below the top of the Kalind peak (Kalind being another name of Surya). From here Yamuna comes down into Saptarishi Kund and from there gushes southwards in a series of waterfalls. To the west of the Kalind Parbat is located Banderpoonch, which is a dominant mountain in the central Himalayan area of Garhwal and divides the watershed of Yamuna from that of the Ganges. Coming out from Kalind Parbat, Yamuna is also known as Kalindi.


As per a legend, Lord Hanuman doused the fire of his tail after burning Ravan’s Lanka in the chilly waters of Yamuna at Banderpooch. That is why the peak is called Bander Pooch – monkey’s tail. Another legend sees Yamunotri as the hermitage of ancient sage Asit Muni. The Muni used to bathe both in Yamuna and Ganga, but in his old age, he couldn’t travel to Gangotri. Realizing his problem, a stream of Ganga started to flow beside that of Yamuna.

The holy abode of Goddess Yamuna is situated near the foot of Kalind Parbat (peak) and on a side of Banderpoonch Parbat. Nestled in the intimidating Himalayas, Yamunotri temple is believed to be constructed by the king of Tehri, Naresh Sudarshan Shah in 1839, which was destroyed during an earthquake. Later Maharaja Gularia of Jaipur rebuilt the temple during the 19th century.


The temple of Yamuna closes its portals as winter approaches on Yama Dwitiya (second day after Diwali or on Bhai Dooj). Devi’s winter address is Kharsali village where she reaches in a palanquin and will remain for the entire period of winters. On Akshaya Tritiya (occurring in April/May), the goddess comes back to grace Yamunotri again. Both closing and opening ceremonies of the Yamunotri shrine are brought about with celebrations, elaborate rituals and vedic chants.

The “Yamunotri Mahatmya” of the Skanda Purana acts as a major source of Purana for the priests here, based on which the daily poojas and rituals are conducted.

How to get there :


The actual temple is only accessible by a 13-km trek from the town of Hanuman Chatti or a 7-km hike from Janki Chatti, the more preferred option. The hike from Hanuman Chatti to Yamunotri is very picturesque with beautiful views of a number of waterfalls. There are two trekking routes from Hanuman Chatti to Yamunotri, the one along the right bank proceeds via the Markandeya Tirth, where the sage Markandeya wrote the Markandeya Purana, the other route which lies on the left bank of the river goes via Kharsali, from where Yamunotri is a five or six hours climb away, depending on you fitness level and how fast you can walk.


How we visited Yamunotri:

Our group arrived at Barkot the previous evening and stayed at a hotel. On the 24th, we woke up at 1:30 AM and left Barkot for Yamunotri at 2:30 AM. The earlier we leave, the more likelihood of us reaching Janakichetti early, which is 43 km from Barkot and finding parking for our two mini-buses. The later one arrives at Janaki-Chatti, the longer our hike becomes, given that our buses will stop closer to Hanuma-chetti and we need to hike that additional distance. Thanks to our tour manager’s precise planning and execution, we did reach Janaki-Chetti by 5 AM, ate our packed breakfast, and started our trek by 5:30 AM.

My initial plan was to trek the 7 km between Janaki-Chetti and Yamunotri, but given the horse/mule and dholi traffic on these small paths and the fact that it looked like it could start raining anytime soon, I decided to hire a pony for my way up. Took about 2.5 hours for the pony to climb up about ~3500 feet in elevation / 7 km in length and I reached Yamunotri by around 9 AM. Waited for Nageshanna and Lathakka, who arrived soon after, and then found a Rawat (Pandit) who could do the poojas on our behalf.



Spent the next couple of hours in having a dip at the sacred surya-kund and then having the darshan / pooja of Yamunotri devi.

Idol of Yamunotri Devi.

Divya Shilla (the divine stone). One can see hot water springing around this stone.

By the time we finished our darshan, it had started raining quite heavily and this continued unabated the whole day. It rained so much that they stopped allowing pilgrims up the mountain, from Hanuma-Chetti / Janaki-Chetti from around 2 PM that day. Had no choice but to pack my camera for the day, put on my raincoat and started my hike down the slippery road around 11 AM


View of the slippery path, on the left side of the river, that we used to hike down to Janaki-Chetti.


Yamuna accompanies us throughout this entire hike but was not visible due to fog and the rain that day.


It took me about 3 hours to hike down the 7 km path and make it to the hotel at Janaki-Chetti at around 2 pm, completely soaked in the nonstop rain that had started around 9 am that morning. Hot soup and lunch awaited us and it was a pleasant way to end our hike to Yamunotri. Given the volume of visitors at this time of the year, traffic jams in these Chardham’s are legendary. We got stuck in the parking lot of Janaki-Chetti for 2.5 hours that day and were finally able to leave for Barkot only by 5 pm and make it back to our hotels by around 8:30 pm.

One of the lessons learned for me was to carry a spare dry set of clothes, whenever we go on such treks. Being in wet clothes, after having walked through muck and mud for hours is no fun. Was able to use this lesson couple of days later, while on my trek down Kedarnath.

Himalayan Monal:

While I was on my way up on my horse, around 7 am, saw a colorful bird fly on the opposite side of the valley and to my utter surprise realised that it was a Himalayan Monal. But to my dismay, my camera was still in my backpack and the Monal was way beyond the reach of my iPhone camera. While I was happy to find a “lifer” on such a trek and was enjoying the sighting, as if on cue, my pony guide said it was time to take a break. So got down from my horse the very next second and got these record shots of this beautiful bird: