If you are passing through the picturesque state of Uttarakhand, do not miss the Yamunotri Temple. Situated in the Garhwal Himalayas at an altitude of 3291 feet, Yamunotri Temple pays homage to the Goddess Yamuna. You can reach the temple by trekking through the mountains from nearby towns such as Rishikesh or Haridwar. The source of the Yamuna River is located a short distance ahead of the temple. Pilgrims thus regard this temple with particular reverence.
History of Yamunotri Temple
The Yamunotri temple, according to popular belief, was originally built in the 19th century by Maharani Guleria of Jaipur. Owing to damage from the weather, subsequent generations have renovated the temple twice. The temple is located at the foot of Kalind Parbat near the Banderpooch peak. It features a shrine where a black image of Goddess Yamuna resides. During the winter, the priests carry this image to the Kharsali village where the residents worship it. There is also an 18th-century Gangotri temple nearby.
Legends of Yamunotri Temple
According to Hindu legend, the great sage Asit Muni used to live in this area and regularly bathe in the Ganga and Yamuna rivers. In his old age, he was unable to journey to the Gangotri for his bath – pleased by his devotion, therefore, the Ganga river made a stream appear across the Yamunotri especially for this sage. According to legend, Yamuna is the sister of Yama, the god of death, as well as the daughter of Surya the sun god. By worshipping Yamuna at this temple, therefore, devotees can also please Yama and Surya. Another story says that the nearby mountain is called Banderpooch because Lord Hanuman doused the fire on his tail from setting Ravana’s kingdom alight by dipping it into the waters of the Yamuna.
Significance of Yamunotri Temple
Yamunotri Temple Uttarakhand is one of the Char Dham pilgrimage spots, making it one of the holiest sites in India for Hindus. It is, in fact, the first temple from where the pilgrim should ideally begin the Char Dham Yatra. One unique aspect of the temple is the presence of hot springs where it is possible to cook food. The temple priests, in fact, prepare Prasad by cooking raw rice in the hot spring, known as Surya Kund. The Uniyal family of priests is solely responsible for preparing and distributing Prasad and the holy rituals.
Another distinct aspect of this temple is that the source of the Yamuna river is only a short trek up the mountain. The black marble idol of the Goddess Yamuna resides in the temple until Diwali. Following which, she is carried on a palanquin to Kharsali for the winter. She returns again on Akshay Tritiya to bless her visiting devotees.
Facts About Visiting Yamunotri Temple
When planning your visit to the Yamunotri Temple, keep the following useful pointers in mind.
- The Yamunotri Temple is open between the months of May and November, as it is perilous to trek through the mountains during winter.
- If you do not wish to trek, you can hire a horse or a palanquin to convey you safely to the temple.
- Pilgrims can choose to lodge near the temple in small guesthouses or ashrams. You can also take a hotel room in nearby towns like Kedarnath or Badrinath.
- Devotees can prepare their own rice and potatoes in the hot spring waters of Surya Kund, to be consumed as Prasad from the Goddess Yamuna.
- The Divya Shilla rock is a sacred rock near the hot spring. Devotees need to touch it before paying homage to the main idol.
- Since the climate here is usually cold, you are advised to carry woollens.
- If you wish to visit the Yamunotri (the source of the river Yamuna), carry a sturdy pair of shoes as you will have to trek a short distance up the mountain.
- Avoid bringing alcohol and non-vegetarian food here as they are strictly prohibited.
For the true Hindu devotee, the Yamunotri Temple is a site of immense religious significance. The Char Dham pilgrimage is a highly pious one and it commences at this temple. This fact makes the temple all the more important. Visiting the hot spring and cooking rice in its waters is also an experience that pilgrims should not miss out on. If you are travelling through Uttarakhand and wish to experience the sanctity of a temple amidst tranquil mountains, do not miss out on a visit to this beautiful Yamuna temple.