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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chardham Yatra - Yamunotri

Har ki Pairi in Haridwar

With the arrival of the auspicious day of Akshya Trithiya the doors to the famous temples of Yamuntori, Gangotri and Kedarnath open every year and the doors to Badrinath opens only thereafter. With the opening of the three temple gates on a single day, an occassion which has come after many years, the doors to the Himalyan kingdom of Uttaranchal is now open to the pilgrims for ablution of their sins and pennace for getting rid of the karma cycle. The journey commences with arrival of the pilgirms to the holy city of Haridwar. The literal meaning of the word 'Haridwar' is 'Hari ka dwar' or 'gateway to abode of Gods'. Haridwar is the first corridor where the holy river Ganges emerges in to the plains from its mountanous abode. Every eveneing Aarti or invocation of the river Goddess is performed with aplomb at 'Har ki pairi' which literally means 'Feet of the lord'. Haridwar is well connected by rail network as well as by road and is about 230 Kms. from Delhi via Meerut, Khatauli, Roorkee etc. There are many smal dharmashalas and hotels available at Haridwar which suit all kinds of budgets.

Panoramic view of Rishikesh - Gita Bhawan across Ganga
The next stoppage after Haridwar is Rishikesh which is another 27 Kms. from Haridwar and is the actual launching pad for onward journey to the Garwal Himalayas. The Gharwal Nigam Vikas Mandal, GMVN for short has a tourist office here and during the yatra period advance bookings as well as spot bookings are undertaken by them for packages to any one, two, three or all four destinations that are covered under the Chardham yatra pilgrimage. Busses, shared taxis/jeeps etc. are also available for hire for the Chardham Yatri from this place. Rishikesh is home to many famous temples as well as shops selling curios.

Ananda Resort at Kanatal
Chardham Yatra is usually performed starting from the westernmost Yatra and then proceeding on to the Easternmost destination. Accordingly, the first Yatra destination is the Yamunotri. It is considered sacred to Hindus as it is considered to the source of mighty river Yamuna, named after daughter of Yam or God of death. From Rishikesh the journey commences and passes through Narendra Nagar (at a distance of 16 Kms. from Rishikesh), Chamba (62 Kms.), Dharasu mor/bend (120 Kms.), Bramhakhal, Barkot (175 Kms.), Syanachatti (204 Kms.) and Hanumanchatti (209 Kms.) - which is the final motorable road head on this circuit. Since the roads are not very good, it is advisable to restrict ones journey to within 150 Kms. per day to avoid over exhaustion. The GMVN has many small rest houses/hotels enroute for overnight stay which may be booked in advance. After reaching Hanuman Chatti one can hire the local jeeps which can travel another distance of 12 Kms. upto Janiki Bai Chatti (2576 meters) via Phool Chatti and this torturous journey will take upto 1 hour 15 minutes depending upon road conditions, like overnight rains etc. From here one can either trek for the remaining 7 Kms. upto Yamunotri (3323 meters) or else hire ponies, dandies or palkis and rates are displayed on the board but usually higher rates are quoted and one has to do a bit of haggling and bargaining to get the right price.

Bridge across Yamuna - just after crossing Barkot
Yamuna at Syana Chatti
River Yamuna at Hanuman Chatti
As the journey begins at Janki Chatti
The road to Yamunotri - narrow and clinging to the mountain side
The Bandarpoonch range seen from Yamunotri
The famed Yamunotri temple
Prasad of rice & potatoes being boiled in hot springs in the temple complex
Panoramic view of the famed temple & Bandarpoonch range in background
Priest performing puja in Yamunotri temple