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Yamnotri pilgrimage tour package

In Praise of River Yamuna

Like the Ganga, the Yamuna is a sacred river of northern India. It flows past Delhi, Mathura and Agra, and joins the Ganga at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. We planned a visit to Yamunotri, in the Garhwal Himalayas, where Yamuna descends from the peaks of Bunderpunch and Shrikantha and where there is a temple dedicated to the river Goddess. The route followed by pilgrims is from Rishikesh or Dehradun to Hanuman Chatti by bus, from where they walk. But we wanted to add adventure to our pilgrimage. So we reached Uttarkashi, the district headquarters of Garhwal in the Ganga Valley by bus, and then crossed the great Ridge that separates the systems of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, on foot, and walked down to Hanuman Chatti, taking four days.

In Uttarkashi, Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam has built a comfortable rest house but many other hotels, big and small take care of the travelers. It is a fairly big town on the pilgrim route to the source of the Ganga. Members of trekking and climbing expeditions assemble here for last minute purchases and to hire porters. The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering is located here. The porter we hired was to carry our luggage, be our guide and to cook food for us. We spent the evening seeing temples – the ancient Vishwanath temple is especially worth a visit. It has a four metre high trident made of ashtdhatu (eight metals) with inscriptions that date several centuries.

Early next day we bade good bye to the highway and were on the bridle path. The path follows the river Asi, which coming from Dodital Lake, joins the Ganga at Uttarkashi. On the first day, our destination was a small village Agoda, 12 kilometres away and we took it easy. A little before midday we took a break for a bath and lunch. We took a dip in the cool waters of the Asi and sat on boulders watching the river, the birds and butterflies. We had come to nature to rid ourselves of our tensions and the process had begun. The meal our porter cooked was simple but satisfying. Around two o’clock we were overtaken by a thunderstorm. And before we cold run to a nearby hut for shelter, we were completely drenched. A villager had lit a fire inside his hut. We sat by it to dry our clothes. The rain poured heavily outside washing clear the mountains. Everything looked brighter and sharper. Another two hours walk brought us to Agoda. Women were out to fetch water from the spring, the children assembled to stare at us and our cameras as we took photographs. The village has temple dedicated to Nag Devata – the snake god – on the outer walls of which devotees had nailed coins in thanksgiving for the god having fulfilled their wishes. As we reached the Forest Rest House and sat in the verandah sipping tea, a rainbow appeared across the valley. Night was cool, but the warmth of the sleeping bag was satisfying.

Next day’s walk was a stiff climb of 16 kilometres but the beauty of the valleys and the woods compensated for the trouble. Wee had walked for three hours when we heard drum beats and shrill notes of pipes. A procession of a local god was approaching us, after a ritual bath and worship at Dodital. The god, a beautiful mask of metal draped in brilliant colours and tied on two poles was being carried by the villagers on their shoulders. In the procession were five men who personified the five Pandav brother, and a woman as their common wife Draupadi. They wielded swords, bows and arrows, and a mace. The Pandavas, the heroes of the Indian epic Mahabharatha re held in great reverence in the Himalayas and polyandry which is still practiced by some tribes seems to have come down from them. We also came across a settlement of Gujjars, the nomads who rear buffaloes. In summer they move up to pastures at high altitudes with their families and herds. They prepare ghee form buffalo’s milk which they sell in the plains when they come down in winter when the higher pastures become snowbound. They are an ancient people who came to India from Central Asia wielding swords but settled down in the Himalayas to rear buffaloes. They are a pleasant and hospitable people. Their womenfolk are beautiful, re fond of colourful embroidered dresses and adorn themselves with silver jewellery.

We reached Dodital in the evening and settled down in the forest rest house. It was very cold at 3050 metres. As the sunset, and the stars in the clear sky shone brilliant, we ate dinner by the light of a kerosene lamp and slipped into our sleeping bags. It was very silent except for an occasional bark of the sheep dogs. We decided to stay on for a day at Dodital. It was so enchanting a place that to leave it without enjoying its beauty would have been sad. We went around the small lake many times. Each time it was in a different mood and the clear waters of the lake reflected the moods faithfully. The mountain slopes were clad in the green of the trees and luxuriant growth of shrubs. We were particularly attracted by a plant which looked like a hooded snake.

We rose at 4a.m. the next day, had a chapatti and a cup of tea each and began the climb to the Bakri Khal, which is a pass situated around 4268 metres. The bridle path rises parallel to the stream which feeds the lake. It is a tough climb from the very start. Halfway when the sun rose, it became warmer and pleasanter. We stopped every now and then to regain breath. We were at the top of the pass at 8a.m. In the brilliant sun, we saw Bunderpunch and Shrikantha peaks and a panorama of the Garhwal Himalayas beyond. It was exhilarating. On the ground where snow had melted grew flowers of many hues. By noon the treeless slopes were behind us. Ahead was dense forest of birches. It was time for lunch. We wanted to stop for rest and to cook food. But it became cloudy in no time and the drizzle soon changed into a heavy downpour.

There was no shelter around. So we kept walking and slipped many a time on the bridle path turned muddy by the train. It was around 4 o’clock, after 26 kilometres of walking that we sighted shepherd huts, entered one and dashed for the warmth of the fire. We were hungry, wet and tired and gratefully accepted the tea which the shepherd gave us, and ate biscuits that we carried in our rucksacks. Meanwhile rain had stopped but the path was as slippery as ever and the walking no easier. Around 7 p.m. light began to fade but we had by then reached a village called Nishni, and requested a villager to give us shelter.

In the morning we reached Hanuman Chatti in an hour, where pilgrims were arriving in great numbers by bus. The hangover of yesterday’s fatigue was still upon us. So we decided to take things easy that dy. We had breakfast at one of the many eating shops that abound along pilgrim routes, and walked eight kilometres to Janki Chatti by lunch time. In the afternoon we went to Kharsali village across the river Yamuna, which can be crossed on boulders. Kharsali is the p lace where Yamunotri temple shifts during winter and is inhabited by the temple priests. It is an ancient village with temples decorated with wood carvings.

Next day’s walk was stiff six kilometres climb to the temple of Yamunotri. We had company of the pilgrims who chanted ‘Yamuna Mai Ki Jai’ as they walked, refreshing themselves every now and then over cups of tea at the wayside shops. It was a walk over a narrow path that clung to the mountainside, through forests of ancient conifers. Deep down in the gorge the Yamuna flows in a thin streak. The depth was awe-inspiring. Clouds moved through the mountains creating effects as in Chinese paintings. At Yamunotri there is a bazaar of shacks where pilgrims buy offerings for the river goddess. We had a bath in the hot water springs where the water is almost boiling. In yet another one, pilgrims tie rice in cloth and hang it in the boiling water of the spring to cook. This they carry back as ‘prasad’.

In the temple is the image of goddess Yamuna and her brother Yama, the god of death. There are very few dharamsalas at Yamunotri. Therefore many pilgrims return to Janki Chatti for the night.

¤ Ajmer Sharif ¤ Amarkantak ¤ Amritsar
¤ Bodhgaya ¤ Chidambaram ¤ Chitrakoot
¤ Dargahkaliyarsharif ¤ Dharamsala ¤ Dilwaratemples
¤ Dwarka ¤ Gangasagarmela ¤ Garhwal
¤ Goa ¤ Guruvayur ¤ Hardwar
¤ Jageshwar ¤ Jambukeswaram ¤ Jambukeswaram
¤ Kailashmansarovar ¤ Kamakhya ¤ Maheshwaromkareshwar
¤ Mathura ¤ Parashuramkund ¤ Pilgrimagecenters
¤ Pilgrimagesofsikhs ¤ Rameshwaram ¤ Rishikesh
¤ Sabarimala ¤ Shatrunjayahill ¤ Shivapur
¤ Tawangmonastery ¤ Thirukalikundrum ¤ Tirupati
¤ Travelofgods ¤ Trichur ¤ Tripureshwari
¤ Tungnath ¤ Vaishnodevi ¤ Varanasi
¤ Vrindavan ¤ Yamnotri