Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Char Dham - Yamunotri

We started off from Rishikesh at 10.00 AM after finishing the bio metric registration for the Char Dham trip. This is a simple procedure of a photo and card issued with a QR code.

We traveled through Dehradoon and Mussourie and on to Barkot. This was the place of halt and we were taken to our place of stay. The hotel was empty because the season was yet to start. We decided to go ahead and look for an accommodation closer to Yamunotri. We reasoned that it did not make sense to travel 2.50hrs in the morning to the Yamunotri base to start our trek. The scenery on route was beautiful and the atmosphere, magical. There were sign boards everywhere with a common theme

                              " Uttarakhand : The aboard of the Gods"

Every inch of our journey seemed to affirm this and seemed to say that our dreams are puny compared to the works of the divine. Since this is the first part of the journey and had seen nothing so beautiful we were gobsmacked into a tranquil silence. We were going up the hill with the Yamuna on one side for close to 100 + km

We reached Janaki Chatti which is the base camp at about 5.00 in the evening. This was a blessing in disguise as we were spared the trouble of driving 3 hrs in the morning from Barkot which was the original place of stay for the night.

This is a quite village which is the base for the start of trek to the Yamunotri temmple. We checked into a hotel. It was a small room with a couple of beds and a neat toilet. Very basic , but we were thankful it was clean. It was a blessing that we had chosen the last week of Aug for the trip. The hotel owner tells me that it is extremely crowded during the season Apr - Jun and Sept 15 - Diwali. They say that the trek starts 12 km away as the whole area is filled with devotees and cars and buses. The season was still 3 weeks away . This was both good as well as stupid. Good because the darshan can be done at leisurely pace and there is no one pushing you to move on. Stupid, because the monsoon would still be active though in its final leg and this area is notorious for landslides. However we had bright sun shine through out the trip . We walked around the village and we retired early as it was extremely cold and we had a long trek in the morning. We woke up early and left for the trek at 6.30am. We decided to walk as we were keen on taking the sites and sounds of the mountain. we were not in hurry to get there and we trekked at a leisurely pace. The sites again were breathtaking.

After a trek of 3 hours we reached the Yamunotri temple. The trek was a medium level difficulty. It had some steep sections.There were patches where we had to go underneath a waterfall. Nothing big but the spray which hits your face when walking was refreshing and brings out the child in you.People who are reasonably fit will be able to do it without any difficulty. "Gauri Kund" is a  hot water spring at Yamunotri where the water is hot enough to have a bath. It was so refreshing after the long trek that we could actually feel the tiredness untangling itself from our stressed muscles. 

Once we have had a bath we go up a flight of stairs to "Surya Kund". This is a hot water spring which has boiling water. Devotees cook rice and potatoes and have it as prasad. Adjacent to Surya Kund is a Divya Shila which is is a bas relief of goddess Yamuna. This appeared to be swayambu  We performed Puja and moved on to the main temple. Here the idol of Ma Yamuna is in black marble. There are 2 other idols of Ganga and another one which I have forgotten.
The actual source of the river is further high up in the mountain and is not easily accessible. But the water is fresh and comes at a phenomenal force as can be seen in the video.


I was in a hurry to get back to wearing my footwear as it was extremely cold and so we started our journey back. The return journey took 3 hours and we were back in Janaki Chatti at 2.00 pm. 

We went back to the hotel and we rested until early next day when we left for Gangotri

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Char Dham - Rishikesh

This is in continuation of our temple tours.All these years we had taken short pilgrimages and we had been keen on a long and preferably arduous pilgrimage. We had zeroed in on Kailash Mansarovar this year and the Himalayan Chardham in 2016. We had finalised the tour operator and had paid an advance. We had timed it so that we are in Manarovar on full moon day. All our plans had come to a naught because of the earth quake in Nepal. So we decided to do the Himalayan Char Dham covering Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath this year and hopefully the Kailash Masarovar Yatra in 2016

We took the early morning flight to Delhi and landed in Del at 8.30am. The car (Ertiga) picked us up from the airport and we set of to Rishikesh. The journey was uneventful and we reached Rishikesh at 3.30 pm.


The hotel was empty as we had chosen an off season to make this trip. There was a slight drizzle in the evening as we started off for the Ganga aarthi. I was praying that the rains would give us a miss as this region is prone to landslides and it is at a peak during the monsoons.
We had reached the banks of the Ganga a little early and the scenery which awaited us was astounding. The Ganga was flowing at a brisk steady pace. It is said that the entire length is sacred and there are certain spots where you feel the intense spiritual energy. Rishikesh is certainly the divine's chosen  spot. It was liberating, catapulted from a concrete jungle with its cacophony of words and thoughts and never ending noise into the grandeur and vastness of tranquil nature. From one end of the spectrum to the other.
We were walking along the banks of the river soaking in the moment . The only thing which I can say is that there was no eagerness or anticipation for anything. The normal eagerness to be done with our objective and move on to the next was surprisingly missing. We let the events pan out and play at its own pace which is surprisingly an anti- thesis of my personality. There was a silence in the mind which I cannot articulate further.
We learnt that the aarthi is not at any fixed timing but happens at dusk. So there is a window of +/- 15 mins.  The banks had begun to fill up. Since this was the off season the crowds were absent and we could actually see the Ganga aarthi without the pushing and jostling for space.

The aarthi started a little after 6.30 pm. It was a grand spectacle. The hand holding the aarthi was covered by a wet cloth to prevent it from singeing. One person was constantly wetting it with water from the river. Such huge lamps lit fully and the aarthi thereafter is a sight to watch. One did not feel that they have come to witness a spectacle and seemed a part of the ceremony. Very few diyas were lit and floated in the river. It would have been quite a spectacle had there been 100's of diyas.