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

Janaki Chatti main street

Roadside dhaba (eatery)

The mules of Garhwal

5.5 km trekking path (more)

Dancing pilgrims

Pilgrim women (more)


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)


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



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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