Uttarkashi is an ancient land, the playground of the Gods where even now the legends are enacted. In the Skanda Purana – one of the prominent sources of the Hindu religious text – the following is mentioned about Kashi of the North – Uttarkashi
<< This Uttarkashi is one which gives salvation to living beings. Blessed are those who are fortunate to live here during the dark age of Kalyuga (which refers to the present age), in this same place where all Gods reside in their absolute form >>.
The land between the confluence points of the Varuna and Assi rivers with the Bhagirathi is known as Uttarkashi. As we drive through this magical and historic town along the mighty Bhagirathi, the views start to get more stunning along the route to Harsil / Gangotri dham.
Numerous villages dot the mountain slopes and the towering peaks of the Indravati forest range engulfs you in its arms. 11 kms ahead, on the Uttarkashi – Gangotri highway, a dirt road snakes down until you hit a dead end some 150 metres below. You are very likely to miss the diversion unless you are already tracking it through your phone or asking the people around. The muddy path ends at the entrance of a yoga ashram. This is no ordinary place. It’s the centre of yogic learning where people from all over the world come to practise yoga and to become Yoga teachers.
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashram (or Sivananda Kutir) is a unique ashram devoted to the practise and promotion of Yoga. This ashram was founded in 1991 and it organizes various residential yoga courses at its campus. The ashram shares its boundary with the Bhagirathi River. Siror village can be seen right across the river. A beautiful white coloured foot bridge (hanging bridge) connects the ashram to this village. It is locally known as the Siror bridge.
Once you cross over to the other side, it’s an altogether different vibe. The village has its own mystic charm. The village has about 150 houses perched across the slopes with forests of Oak, Rhododendron and Cedar forming its outer boundary. While the villagers are busy with their regular activities, there is still an unusual quietness here.
The clean/ blue waters of the holy Bhagirathi River down below, the white sand beaches, the jolly villagers of Siror and the positive energy reverberating from the ashram – makes this experience so surreal and unique.
Why should you visit Netala?
- For clean / surreal mountain village experience – village walk
- To sit by the Ganges (called Bhagirathi here) and its white sand beaches
- For birders – it’s a pure bliss. an excellent bird habitat
- Of course, if you are into Yoga – you may certainly want to consider coming here
How to reach the place?
Netala is located on the main Gangotri highway. A drive from Gangotri to Sivananda Kutir is about 11 kms and takes approximately 30 minutes or less. The last 100-150 metres would be a dirt road but its drivable. While you cannot stay at the ashram (unless you are enrolled in one of their courses), there are good number of stay options around (especially along the highway).
While its surely a hidden treasure in Uttarkashi district, do give it a visit but we all should make efforts to keep the place clean. Only then can we truly justify the essence of this place / this holy land as mentioned in the Skanda Purana.
I can tell you one more secret – Time surely stops here.
I love travelling to such off-beat places. It’s absolutely bliss.
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Really Netal is hidden jewel in Uttarakhand