Legs and Wheels – The first Dham among Char Dham “Yamunotri”

Team Udayavani, Oct 8, 2018, 1:19 PM IST

Yamunotri is the first Dham to visit among the Char Dhams.  A good night sleep on the banks of river Yamuna at Barkot was enticing and filled us with energy for the adventure next.   We got up by 4.30 am and asked for hot water as the tent we stayed did not have geyser facility.   The service providers were so alert that lodgers were provided with hot water without any hassles.

Our journey towards    Janki Chatti- the base camp a  little hamlet ensconced between towering ranges which seem to touch the sky which is around 45 km from Barkot began at 5.30am, it took around 90 minutes to cover the distance.  

Janaki Chatti to Yamunotri

It is believed that Sita ‘Ma’ (wife of Lord Sri Ram) rested at Janaki Chatti a while, hence the name.  From Janaki Chatti to the temple atop the ranges you need to trek around 5.30 to 6 km. It is good to be fit so that you can depend on yourself or else alternative- supporting provisions to scale the ranges are available the steep ranges.  Men who provide ‘doli’- palanquin or horse confront vehicle looking out for a prospective customer and start quoting prices.  Stick to your guns as the bargain progress. The government has fixed its rates and is published on billboards, but rarely the men stick to the prices.  There is also the provision of ‘bittos’-  men to carry children.  Horses are well trained and in ‘doli’,  you start climbing the ranges using the support of four strong men.  Well, it is really good to be fit. I would always tease my husband about his physical fitness…..but now I m mouth zipped as he was as fast as any ‘pahadi’(men from the mountain), and he trekked..while I,  had no option but to take assistance.  The journey towards the temple begins now.

The Doli and the Horse

Four strong men carry you in a Doli.  By the way, let the word ‘doli’ not give romantic thoughts to you.  A doli -is made of strong full-length pieces of bamboo sticks and the traveler sits in 120-degree position with his/her head exposed to Sun. Lifted by four men and resting on their semi-inclined position, has a different connotation, however, I had no alternative. Horses are well built and are brought from nearby villages. These well-trained horses climb the steep mountain steps on your behalf. Even if you start scaling the ranges by foot, horse facility can be availed at any point of time or while climbing down the mountain.   Some travelers hire a horse just as a standby or to carry their luggage.  Having no confidence how an animal would behave with me… I preferred ‘doli’. Horses charge around Rs,1,500 round trip. I agreed to a round trip of Doli for Rs.6,000 and waited for the ‘doli’ to arrive.

Start the trek

Yamunotri, one of the spiritual treks in the Garhwal Himalayan region, bustles with the footfalls of thousands of Hindu pilgrims, during the peak months which stretch between May and October every year. The major attraction is to reach the  Yamunotri Temple that is perched at a height of 3,291 meters. Tracking road to cover itself provides interesting details.  The approximately three meters wide trek road gives some scary and challenging situations. It is the common track for horse, palanquin and travellers by foot. While some part of the road is plain and is easily walkable, some steps are easy and some are pretty challenging and  tough, particularly the last stretch is tough. Horses, make the road a bit messy but there are people who constantly keep clearing the path. People say there are some alternative roads, however, the main road is clearly marked and advisable to use the same. I am told during winter when it snows, people who love adventure trek to the temple. The last part of the journey approximately around 500 to 600 meters no facilities are permitted and the traveller should use his/her own legs to reach the temple.  The entire stretch is full of switchbacks, important ones are one near Bairav temple and the other as you near the Yamunotri temple.

Facilities Enroute

A traveler is provided with benches and shelters to rest throughout the road. There are small vending shops which offer parantas, chai, and noodles. The steel railing as we climb the steps support the passenger.  On one side the rocky mountain and on the other side view of the steep valley, which provides an enchanting view of the Yamuna and her tributaries, we climb.  Mobile networks except BSNL does not work here. It is good to stay together but since the road is the small and single path you will rarely miss your partner.

Yamunotri – The temple

After 2 30 hrs to 3 hrs of tracking leaving behind ‘doli’ or ‘ghoda’ ( if you have used) behind some 600 mts away, we reach the temple complex. A connecting steel bridge will help you to cross mighty Yamune. Yamuna or Yami is also called as ‘Kalindi’ ( the dark one). Probably this signifies the black marble idol of the goddess. We need to climb further some 1000 meters up to find the original source of the river. While trekkers we climb the mountain across the trail of the river reaches the source of the river, pilgrims largely end their journey here.

Before we enter the temple dedicated to Goddess Yamuna, we can take a holy dip in two hot springs having medicinal value, ‘Surya Kund’ and ‘Gauri Kund’. There are separate provisions for men and women. The water in the ‘kund’ is pleasant and very refreshing. People tie rice in a clean cloth and dip them for cooking at the inlet to the kund. In 5 to 8 minutes time rice is completely cooked and can be consumed as ‘prasad’.

The Yamuna, is sparkling and freezing cold. But it is nice to see people dare the chilling temperature and play with her. It gives a divine feeling to sit on the rocks with feet dipped or not in the water (depending on the temperature) but and gaze at her untiringly.   

However, time is ticking we need to descend the ranges before the unpredictable weather takes a diversion. Visit the temple offer prayers and start descending.

Refreshment and other Facilities

There are many motels which provide you with food. The staple menu offered is noodles, paranta, dalchawal (rice-curry). Everything is made to order including tea and prices are reasonable and tastes good. People who wish to perform worship can buy flowers and other necessary things here.

The Descend

As we start descending we actually see the difficulty of people in climbing the steep ranges. The men who carried me had typical sharp pahadi – (mountain) sharp features and were very handsome both by looks and their personality. They are well behaved too.  But as we started our journey down I honestly saw no difference between them and horses. In the conversation that had established between us, they told this job is seasonal and thus during deep winter, they have to find alternative means to make their living.  If the road, gets blocked due to adverse weather conditions or landslides there could be chances that they bear the burden of the person they are carrying for hours together. Hearing this my heart skipped its beat, my only prayer to god with utmost devotion was I have neglected my knees sorry for that but be kind to these men take us down quickly and without any adverse situation. God heard me, Suresh, Prasanth and their team brought me down, safe.

Please note: Sitting in ‘doli’ or horse is not easy. Even if we take assistance to traverse in and around the temple we need to maintain ourselves.  Apart from the 500 meters stretch which has steps, there are some 50  steep steps that take us in and around the temple. The Yamuna is enchanting, clean, sparkling, you can collect nice pebbles as the memoir. Her majestic flow makes one understand the reasons behind lord Krishna being playful with her. Yamunotri is trekkers paradise and with pleasant weather in June, Yamuna’s beauty arrests you. With more adventures in the pocket we move on…’namami Yamune’.

– Nandini Lakshmikantha

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