Trek to Yamunotri (Source of the Yamuna River)

Yamunotri is nestled at an altitude of approx. 3,300 metres at the base of the towering icy peaks of Mount Kalindi. It is one of the four dhams (char-dham pilgrimage circuit) situated in Uttarakhand and is the source of the holy Yamuna River.

From the temple, one can see the Yamuna gushing down (at an incline) from the holy mountain and making it’s way further down into the Upper Yamuna valley. From here, it takes a long and arduous journey of approx. 1,376 kms until it finally merges with Ganga River at Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh).

Just like Ganga, Yamuna is also highly revered (as a human embodiment) from times immemorial. Our Vedic texts (through shlokas) have described the importance of Yamuna, which pulled even the revered sages (of those days) such as Rishi Asit Muni and Rishi Markandeya to this holy site. Major construction work that we see in the temple today were initiated by Maharaja Pratap Shah of the then Tehri-Garhwal dynasty in the later half of the 19th century.

How to Reach here?

  • Drive from Dehradun to Barkot by taxi. Regular taxis are available (until afternoon) from the Kutchery chowk (per seat cost INR 300/-). The drive takes about 4.5 – 5 hours. The route is via Mussoorie and in case of heavy traffic, the taxi takes the Vikasnagar route. There are 2-3 Govt. buses (timing to be confirmed) that ply between Dehradun and Barkot. They originate from the Mussoorie Bus station (next to the Dehradun Railway Station)
  • Start early the next morning from Barkot. There is a dedicated taxi stand for those going to the Upper Yamuna valley area. The drive from Barkot to Janki Chatti is scenic and takes a total of about 2 hours (44 kms). The road terminates here
  • The trek is a total of 5 kms (one way) and is of an easy grade. Given the importance of Yamunotri, Govt. has created good infrastructure throughout the trail. It’s a well laid out trail with resting places at every few hundred metres
  • Throughout the trek, Yamuna River will accompany you on your right. The clean blue water gushing down the mountain, thick forests, and the mighty Himalayas in the distance, will give you all the energy and momentum to keep going
  • If you go in the months of April / May – the entire stretch will be full of Rhododendron flowers (Pink and Red ones), so it further adds to the experience

When should one visit Yamunotri?

For all the char-dhams, there is a concept of Winter Abode and the Summer Abode. Yamunotri is the summer abode of the idol of Goddess Yamuna. During the winter months, the idol is worshipped at the Goddess Yamuna temple in Kharsali Village. All the 4 dhams are in remote mountainous areas and during the winter months (due to heavy snowfall) these places become quite inaccessible. Therefore, the idols are usually taken to another place during the winters.

Summer Abode (Yamunotri)Temple opens on the day of Akshaya Tritiya (falls usually in the 1st/2nd week of May)Temple closes on the 3rd day after Diwali
Winter Abode (Goddess Yamuna Temple, Kharsali village)  The idol stays at Kharsali during the Winters. Kharsali is adjacent to Janki Chatti village (just across the Yamuna River)

I made this visit (in April) before the start of the Yatra season to fully enjoy the trek in the absence of any crowd. The entire trail is full of people and establishments (temporary restaurants / hotels) during the Yatra season.

So it’s a call one needs to take. Ideally, one can visit Yamunotri from April onwards (as the snow melts by then) until October. One should avoid visiting during the monsoon season and winters are difficult here with snow upto 5-6 ft at Yamunotri.

What all to see on this hike?

  • Yamunotri temple where the idol of Goddess Yamuna resides during the summer months
  • Surya Kund – a hot spring just behind the main temple. One can easily cook rice or boil potatoes. Be careful !! – its extremely hot
  • Hanuman Temple – There’s a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman here. A saint by the name of “Sri Shri 1008 Saket Vasi Ram Bharose Das Ji Maharaj” came here in 1968 and made Yamunotri his home. Even during the winters (in peak snow) he used to live here and medidate. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2017 and now his disciple (by the name of “Bhrat Das Ji”) manages the temple
  • Shani Temple (Kharsali) – Lord Shani is considered as the brother of Goddess Yamuna. A 5-storied temple (also known locally as Panchpura) built in a typical local architecture can be visited to pay obeisance to Lord Shani Dev ( or Lord Sameshwar)
  • Goddess Yamuna Temple (Kharsali) – This is the winter abode of the idol and is close to Janki Chatti (the start-point of the trek).
  • Hanuman Chatti – 8 kms before Janki Chatti , situated on the Barkot – Janki Chatti road. This place used to be the starting point of the Yamunotri trek until the road work was taken further to Janki Chatti. Hanuman Chatti is the starting point of many interesting trails (such as the Gulabi Kantha Trek, Darwa Top trek, Saru Tal Trek, etc.)

We come to the end of this post. What looks so bizarre here is that a river that is so pure and clean in its stretches (in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) becomes so polluted as soon as it enters the plain areas. For so many years, we have seen the apathy of Yamuna in Delhi and how the toxic discharge has literally killed the river. I truly hope that the Govt’s 2025 vision to clean Yamuna (bringing it back to life) does materialize.

I am documenting Yamuna river’s journey from its source at Yamunotri until its confluence with the Ganga at Prayagraj. I hope to share the journey with my readers as I experience it.

Stay tuned !!


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