The sites that comprise the Chota Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand are Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. These places hold a great religious significance; especially for Hindus, as it is believed that whoever does this yatra at least once in his lifetime, will be relieved from the cycle of life and death and attain salvation. The yatra usually commences from the holy city of Haridwar, and many devotees visit this place every year to take a holy dip in the sacred waters of Ganga to sanctify themselves.
Yamunotri, the first stop of the ‘Chota Char Dhams’ is the holy abode of Goddess Yamuna. It is from here that river Yamuna originates. As per the Hindu mythology, Goddess Yamuna is the sister of Lord Yama (God of Death) and hence, taking a dip in holy waters of Yamuna is said to bring a painless death.
Once you’re through with the rituals, there’s much to see in Yamunotri. Remember to visit Surya Kund – a natural hot water spring named after the Sun God and father of Goddess Yamuna. On reaching Yamunotri, pilgrims bathe in the Surya Kund, and prepare rice and potatoes by tying them in a cloth and dipping them in the hot waters of the spring. The rice and potatoes are given as offerings during prayers at the Yamunotri Temple and the remaining bit is taken home as prasad by the pilgrims.
Before entering the main shrine of the Yamunotri Temple, pilgrims first need to pay homage at Divya Shila – a rock pillar located near Surya Kund. And then finally, devotees enter the Yamunotri Temple – where Goddess Yamuna is revered in the form of a silver idol.
The actual source of the river is the gorgeous frozen glacier called Champasar Glacier, a few kilometres above the main temple. But because it’s extremely difficult to access it, the shrine has been located at the foot of the hill. The mysterious Prakateshwar Caves fall en route to Uttarkashi from Barkot. Famous for its limestone formation resembling a Shivlinga, this cave is visited by many pilgrims on their way to Gangotri.