Yamunotri, Uttaranchal, India


Yamunotri (3150 m) is a pilgrimage site near the source of the Yamuna, a river sacred to the Hindus. Hundreds of thousands go up the 6 km path each year from the settlement of Janaki Chatti. Most walk up but some get carried up by others - the poor mostly because they are unable to walk themselves, the wealthy mostly because they are unwilling (couch potatoes).

The hike culminates at the temple to the river goddess followed by a dip in the freshly melted waters of the Yamunotri glacier. Recent years have seen a sharp rise in the number of visitors due to package tourism and higher incomes of the great Indian lower and middle classes. They come from far and wide, driven by unexamined beliefs and a relationship to nature that - with its self-absorbed devotion and ignorance of the natural world - many postmodern atheists would consider an impoverishment. A veritable human drama unfolds, combining scrawny porters who slog for $8/day, saffron clad sadhus ranging from crooks, cranks, to mellow potheads, traffic jams and jostling crowds, spontaneous dancing and singing, and makeshift eateries and chai stalls along the rugged mountain path laden with mule droppings. Stories of pilgrims and migrant workers abound, which (often simultaneously) attract, amuse, instruct, and repel, amid the not infrequent kindness and humanity of strangers. [-May '06]

Janaki Chatti village

The hike path begins here

View from Janaki Chatti

Janaki Chatti village


Severe transportation crunch at Hanuman Chatti


Janaki Chatti from above
(more)


Janaki Chatti main street


Roadside dhaba (eatery)


The mules of Garhwal


5.5 km trekking path (more)


Dancing pilgrims


Pilgrim women (more)


Sadhu


Climbing barefoot


Climbing barefoot


Yamuna valley (1, 2)


Porter and pilgrim (more)


Ride to the top


Smoking dope (more)


Smoking dope


Couch potatoes


Couch potato (more)


Couch potatoes


Mule rider


Journey of a lifetime


Conveying the old ...


... and the infirm ...


... and the overweight


Yamunotri (1, 2)


Yamunotri temple


Religious kitsch


View from Yamunotri (more)


Old man and the hill


Exhausted porters (more)


Hot spring water tank


Bathing pilgrims (more)

A short trek beyond Yamunotri

Rainy day

Waterfall (1, 2)

Ice pack (more)

Landscape

Kharsali Village  (Directly across Janaki Chatti)

Fields behind the village

Village home

Village courtyard

Central temple


Village scene


Wood carvings on a house


Shani deveta temple


Shiva temple


Gabbing crowd


Kids


Kids


Sibling pair (more)


Boy and girl


Garhwali dress


Husband and wife


Three women


Girl out to fetch water


Group portrait


Garhwali daughter-mother


Goofy boys

 



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