High up in a deep cleft on the western face of the banderponch peak is yamunotri traditionally the first destination on the chardham yatra . The picturesque journey to yamunotri is along the river yamuna itself . The main temple here is dedicated to goddess yamuna who is represented by a black marble idol . The other deity is a white image of goddess ganga . Just outside the main temple is the divya shila a dark rock from which springs a stream of very hot water . This is a most holy area the origin of yamuna and pilgrims offer puja here before going to the temple . Technically the cold stream source of the river is on the champasar glacier near saptarishi kund a trek of 1 km above the shrine beyond yamunotri . But at 14,500 ft above sea level across very difficult terrain it is not accessible to the average yatri . According to legend surya dev the sun god married married sandhya daughter of vishwakarma .They had twins yama and yamuna. But sandhya could not bear the fierce heat of sun . She created her clone chhaya and begged her to take her place. Without telling anyone the truth sangya then left surya dev’s home . Chhaya agreed to keep the secret but said she would reveal the truth if ever surya dev punished her by pulling her hair . One day the child yama tried to strike chhaya with his leg .An affronted chhaya cursed him that his leg would rot and fall off .Surya dev was very surprised and angered by the severity of curse that too from mother againist her own child . In anger he pulled her hair . Chhaya then revealed that she was not his true wife and only a stepmother to yama and yamuna . It is said that yamuna came down to earth and did severe penance to save her brother from the effects of the curse and succeeded in her efforts . Yama the god of death then offered her a boon .She asked that her devotees be protected from akaalmrityu ( untimely death ) .It is believed that a bath in the holy waters of yamunotri will protect the devotee from an untimely death and lead to the attainment of moksha. It is believed that the hot spring at divya shila is the blessing of surya dev for his daughter the tank next to the divya shila is named after him Pilgrims take a holy dip in the hot waters of the taptkund next to the main temple of yamunotri which gets its water from suryakund nearby. There are separate bathing tanks and enclosures for men and women. Then puja is offered at the divya shila. This is of great significance and is done before visiting the main temple. After this a small offering of rice and potatoes is cooked in the suryakund. This is offered to the deity in the main temple and returned to the pilgrim as prasad . Pilgrims carry water from yamunotri to offer it to krishna in their homes during janmashtami or on other special occasions related to krishna. It is believed that yamuna was one of lord krishna’s eight queen. In 1816 james frazer a british army officer reached yamunotri. He found a 3 foot high temple built of stone and a priest performing worship there . There were some tridents to show that other devotees had also been visiting . A record of his visit is available. Subsequently local kings contributed to the setting up of the temple . Around 1850 sudarshan shah king of tehri had a wooden structure built and the deity consecrated. Later pratap shah rebuilt the temple in stone . But heavy snow in the region periodically damages the temple ( this happened last in 1982 ) and reconstruction has been done many times . The surajmal jain trust renovated the temple and this work was completed in 1994 . The temple is run by the panch panda samiti of about 200 priests .When the temple closes in winter the deity is taken to kharsali village ( 2 km from janki chatti across the river ) its winter abode . The yamuna valley called rawaai ghaati is decidedly most spectacular for its scenic beauty. The mountain roads are very narrow with frequent twists and the view is a surprise around every bend . The yamuna flows wild all along the journey because the dark mountain ranges are close to each other and there is no long straight stretch of water . The vegetation is lush but does not restrict the view one gets across the ranges . En route barkot is an interesting and very scenic halt . This is an area where the mountains range open up . Stepped rice field and red topped choulai ( a variant of spinach) field seem to be arranged for the pleasure of the visitor. The drive from barkot to janki chatti should be done at a leisurely pace if time permits that is. The flowers in the phul chatti area present several charming photo opportunities.