Yamunotri is a beautiful pilgrimage situated in the lesser Himalaya division at an elevation of 3293m (10,804 ft) on the western side of Garhwal Himalayas, in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. It is a holy place where one of the most sacred rivers of India – the river Yamuna originates, making it one of the pilgrimage sites in the Chota Char Dham yatra. It stands proudly with its enormous mountain peaks, glaciers and crystal-clear waters of Yamuna.
It is the sacred seat of the Goddess Yamuna. The actual source of river Yamuna is a frozen lake of ice and Yamunotri glacier located on the Kalind Mountain on the southwestern slopes of Bandarpunch peak at a height of 4,421 m above sea level. As the source of the river isnot frequented generally because it is a tough terrain, hence the shrine has been located on the foot of the hill.
In Hindu mythology, the venerated goddess Yamuna is said to be the daughter of Sun and twin sister of Yama (the god of death); in Vedas, Yamuna is called Yami (lady of life). A bath in the sanctified waters of Yamuna is said to cleanse all sins and protect from untimely or painful death. Such strong associations places Yamuna Devi (goddess) in high ranks of divinity. According to the legend, ancient sage Asit Muni had his hermitage here. All his life, he bathed daily both in the Ganges and the Yamuna. During his old age as unable to go to Gangotri , a stream of the Ganges appeared opposite to Yamunotri for him.
Close to the temple are hot water springs pouring out from the mountain cavities. Surya Kund is the most important Kund. Near the Surya Kund there is a shila called Divya Shila, which is worshipped before puja is offered to the deity. Devotees prepare rice and potatoes, tied in cloth, to offer at the shrine by dipping them in these hot water springs. Rice so cooked is taken back home as prasadam. The pujaris of Yamunotri come from the village of Kharsali near Janki Chatti. Kharsali is the winter abode of goddess Yamuna.
The Yamunotri temple is believed to be constructed by the king of Tehri, Maharaja Sudarshan Shah in 1839. Later a massive portion of the temple was damaged by an earthquake which was reconstructed by Maharani Guleria (wife of Maharaja Pratap Shah) in the 19th century. The deity is made of black marble. The Yamuna, like the Ganges, has been elevated to the status of a divine mother for the Hindus and has been held responsible for nurturing and developing the Indian civilization.