Yamunotri is the origin of the sacred river Yamuna and is located in the Uttarkashi district of the state of Uttaranchal. The Yamunotri Temple dedicated to Goddess Yamuna is situated at an altitude of 3291 meters among the dense forests of the Himalayan ranges. The temple is located near the Indo-China border. The holy significance of the temple located amidst the beautiful and intimidating Himalayan Mountains provide a complete spiritual fulfilment to the soul of a true devotee.
The Yamunotri Temple is a first stop of the Chhota Char Dham Yatra of the State of Uttaranchal. The other three stops being Gangotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath. The temple is opened for public viewing on the Akshaya Tritiya (usually occurs in May) and is closed on the event of Yama Dwitiya which falls on the second day after Diwali.
The Yamunotri Temple was built in the nineteenth century by Maharaja Guleria of Jaipur. The actual origin of the River Yamuna is a glacier located at the base of the Kalind mountain, a small distance from the temple at an elevation of 4421 meters. There are two streams that run beside the temple- The Surya Kund which is a hot water spring and the Gauri Kund, where devotees take a bath in lukewarm water.
In architectural terms, the temple is constructed in the Nagar style. The temple is built with Granite stones that have been obtained from the surrounding mountains. The temple has a main conical shaped minaret under which the main deity of Goddess Yamuna presides. The idol itself is made of polished ebony marble with detailed carvings. She is sitting atop a turtle, the representation of Goddess Yamuna in ancient scriptures. A white stone idol of Goddess Ganga stands beside her.
All the offerings are made to a silver form of Goddess Yamuna. The silver idol is a representation of the original stone idol. The idol is about 1 feet tall and has four arms.
- The legend says that the Yamunotri Dham is the place where the sage Asti Muni. The Sage took bath daily in both the River Ganga and the Yamuna during his early life. However, as he started growing old, he was unable to reach Gangotri to take a dip in Ganga. Impressed by his belief, Goddess Ganga emerged as a stream next to River Yamuna to assist the Sage in continuing his daily rituals.
- It is believed that the original Yamunotri Temple at the site was constructed in 1839 by Tehri Naresh Sudarshan Shah. An earthquake in the region destroyed the temple.
- Maharaja Gularia of Jaipur rebuilt the Yamunotri Temple in the latter half of 19th century.
- As per a legend, Yamuna was very frivolous in nature. This trait is attributed to an incident that happened between the Sun God and his wife Sangya. It is believed that Sangya was unable to look at Sun God for long because of his excessive radiance. She blinked and closed her eyes often. This angered the Sun God and he cursed Sangya that their daughter will be carefree like her.
- The “Yamunotri Mahatmya” of the Skanda Purana is a major source of history and mythological importance for the priests here based on which the daily poojas and rituals are conducted on.
Significance of the Temple
- As per legends, Yamuna is the daughter of Surya, the Sun God, and Sangya, the God of consciousness. She is the sister of Yama, the God of Death. The devotees believe that a dip in the river here assures a devotee of painless death and the blessings of God Surya and Goddess Sangya.
- The actual source of the river located at a height of 4421 meters is a frozen glacier, the size of a lake known as the Champasar glacier. From there, a Kund or a Lake appears, known as the Sapt Rishi Kund. The trek to this place from Yamunotri is extremely difficult but worth visiting because the lake is home to the divine Brahma Kamal. The flower has divine significance and meaning in the Hindu mythology. The flowers bloom from July – August. It is believed that Lord Shiva replaced the head of Ganesh with an elephant’s head with the help of Brahma Kamal. The white stamen of the flower is believed to be a representation of Lord Krishna and the reddish stalks are thought to be the 100 Kauravas.
- Devotees can visit the Markandeya Teerth en route to the Yamunotri temple from trekking base Hanuman Chatti. This place is significant because it is believed that Sage Markandeya completed the ancient Markandeya Purana at the site.
- Various Puranas like the Padma Purana mention that taking a bath in the River Yamuna washes away the sins of the human beings and grants them a place in heaven.
- The River Yamuna is mentioned in Vedas as Yami, the sister of Yama. She later became a consort of Lord Krishna. It is believed that the color of the river is black because it absorbed the pain and sorrow of Lord Shiva after the death of his wife Sati.
- It is considered a must for all the pilgrims to cook a handful of rice and potatoes in a muslin cloth at the hot water sulphur spring of Surya Kund. This is considered as a “Prasadam” which is meant as a spiritual cleanser.
- The Divya Shila at the Surya Kund is revered by the pilgrims. According to the Skanda Purana, one can achieve spiritual liberation by touching the stone. From a fissure in the rock, boiling water emerges making a gurgling sound. The Pundits believe that the gurgling sound is the sound of sage Jayamuni chanting Kalindi Namah in praise of Goddess Yamuna.
Yamunotri Temple Timings
- The Yamunotri Temple open at 6 AM and closes at 8 PM.
- The mid-afternoon closing time is between 12:00 PM to 2 PM.
- The morning Aarti takes place at 6:30 AM and the evening Aarti takes place at 7:30 PM.
Even though the Yamunotri Temple opens in the summer months, the region experiences cold weather. The pilgrims are advised to wear and carry sweaters, jackets, woolen socks, scarves, and gloves (especially for children). It is advised to keep an Umbrella in hand.
Poojas and Rituals
- The Yamunotri Temple opens with the performing of the Mangal Aarti at 6:30 AM.
- The evening Aarti or the Shayan Aarti is held at 7:30 PM in the evening.
- The Yamunotri Temple is closed to public after the festival of Diwali. The priests transport the silver idol of Goddess Yamuna from Yamunotri to the village of Kharsali. The main deity of the village is Shani Devta (God of Saturn). It is believed that Shani hosts his sister Yamuna for 6 months during the harsh winter. The Yamuna arrives in Kharsali and is welcomed with great celebrations and rituals. On Akshaya Tritiya, when she leaves for Yamunotri, elaborate rituals are performed by the priests. Shani in a brass mask goes to every house to announce that he is taking his sister to her home. Villagers gather together and take out a procession with drums, shells, and horns. Shani accompanies Yamuna in a decorated palanquin. On returning to Yamunotri, Shani is bathed in the Yamuna.
- Pilgrims can offer elaborate Poojas by themselves. They are required to purchase the Pooja kit sold in front of the temple. This kit usually consists of a red sari, bindis, sindoor, comb, necklace, bracelet, nail polish, mirror, incense, coconut, and sugar. They are offered to the priests who performs the Pooja on behalf of the devotee.
- Basant Panchami – The festival usually occurs in the months of either January or February. The day of Basant Panchami indicates the arrival of Spring and end of the Winter months. The festival is celebrated with the arrangement of various colorful cultural programs and offerings of Poojas by the common people to the deity. The people especially wear customary yellow colored dresses and accessories on this day.
- Phool Dei – This festival is celebrated on the first day of March. Young girls and children of the community visit and gift the neighboring houses with a bag or a plate of flowers, rice, jaggery, and coconut. This is considered as a goodwill gesture. In return, they are also given gifts and blessings such as money, rice, jaggery, and sweets. People make a savory named Sei as an offering to the Goddess Yamuna.
- Olgia – The unique festival is celebrated in August to commemorate the harvesting season and abundant agricultural produce. It is also called as the Ghee Sankranti. People adorn their forehead with Ghee and consume Dal Chappatis with Ghee. As per the older traditions, nephews and son-in-laws gave gifts to maternal uncles and fathers-in-law respectively on the Olgia day. However as per the new customs, gifts, and good wishes are exchanged between artisans and their customers. The farmers and their landlords also exchange gifts on this special day.
How to reach: Road, Rail and Air
- By Air – The nearest airport to the Yamunotri temple is the Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun. The airport is situated 210 km from the temple. Regular flights are operated by Air India, Spicejet and Jet airways from New Delhi and Lucknow.
- By Train – The nearest railway station is Dehradun (175 km) followed by Rishikesh (200km). Regular trains are available from cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh. From the stations, Hanuman Chatti is accessible by road.
- By Road – Buses are available from major cities in Uttarakhand like Rishikesh, Dehradun, Tehri, Barkot and Uttarkashi to Hanuman Chatti.
- The starting point for visiting Yamunotri is either Hanuman Chatti or the Janki Chatti. Devotees travel the first 5 km of a 13 km trek from Hanuman Chatti by a jeep and reach Phool Chatti. From Phool Chatti, trek a distance of 5 km to Janki Chatti. Further trek of 5 km from Janki Chatti has to be undertaken to reach Yamunotri.
Where to stay
The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a Government of Uttaranchal enterprise maintains several guest houses and tourist bungalows in and around Yamunotri. The GMVN Tourist Houses can be booked at Janki Chatti Annexe, Hanuman Chatti, Phool Chatti, Yamunotri and Syana Chatti.
Besides these Governments operated tourist rest houses, one can find a number of private run hotels like Hotel Atithi Nivas, Aditya Palace at Barkot and many more.
Where to eat
A few small restaurants are available in the town of Yamunotri near the temple complex. They serve local as well as North Indian cuisine. Non-vegetarian food is not served anywhere in the town. Alcohol consumption is banned.
The availability of food during the trek is limited and average in taste. It is advised to take light snacks and bottled water especially if travelling with kids and elders.
- Shri Siddha Hanuman Mandir or the Hanuman Chatti – The Hanuman Temple is located 13 km away from the Yamunotri Temple. The other deities worshiped here are God Ram and Goddess Sita. This temple is the site of the confluence of Hanuman Ganga and the Yamuna. This is also the starting point for trekking to Dodi Tal.
- Janki Chatti – The place is just 3 km away from Yamunotri. The place is famous for its hot water springs and immense natural beauty.
- Divya Shila – This is a rock pillar placed on the east side of the mountain near the Surya Kund. It is believed that the pillar was a gift from the Sun God to his daughter the Yamuna. This stone is also called the “Divine stone”. The face of the pillar is reddish brown.
- Shani temple – The temple is located at the picturesque town of Kharsali. The temple is dedicated to the God of Saturn or Shani Devta as known in Hindu mythology. The temple is an old three-storey structure. Shani resides in the uppermost floor of the shrine. He is the brother of Goddess Yamuna. This is the temple where the Goddess stays during the winter months.
- Laxminarayan Temple – The temple is located at Barkot. As the name says, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is believed to have been built by the Pandavas themselves.
- Lakhamandal – The historic place is located 71 km away from Yamunotri. This place holds significance in the great Mahabharata epic. This is believed to be the place where Duryodhana built a lac palace for Pandavas and planned to kill them by burning it to the ground.