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Rivers of India: The Yamuna

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Yamuna River
| Yamunotri | Paonta Sahib | Delhi | Mathura | Agra | Allahabad |

The Legend: According to a popular belief Yamuna is the daughter of Surya, the Sun God and sister of Yama, the God of Death. Since, Yamuna is the sister of Yama, it is believed that Yama would not torment any person at the time of his death if he/she had bathed in the waters of the Yamuna.

Yamuna River map

Some 400 km north of Delhi in the upper reaches of the Garhwal Himalayas, the massive Bunderpunch peak cradles the source of the Yamuna – the Saptrishi Kund. The sparkling lake is located to the north of the Yamunotri shrine. Tumbling down the hilly terrain and narrow valleys, Yamuna flows into the dusty crowded plains traversing through the sinuous path past Delhi and Agra to merge with the Ganga and the mythical Saraswati at Sangam in Allahabad.

The Yamuna passes through five states in her 1370 km long journey. Starting from Yamunotri, it joins the Tons (its largest tributary) at Dak Pathar and passes through   Paonta Sahib in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. Flowing through Paonta Sahib it reaches Hathnikund/Tajewala in Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana, where the river water is diverted into Western Yamuna canal and Eastern Yamuna canal for irrigation. During dry season, no water is allowed to flow in the river downstream to Tajewala barrage and the river remains dry in some stretches between Tajewala & Delhi.

The river enters Delhi near Palla village. The river water is again tapped at Wazirabad through a barrage for drinking water supply to Delhi. Generally, no water is allowed to flow beyond Wazirabad barrage in dry season due to acute shortage of water for Delhi. The water that flows in the downstream of Wazirabad barrage is either untreated or partially treated domestic and industrial wastewater. About 22 km downstream of Wazirabad, the water is again diverted into Agra Canal through Okhla barrage. Again no water is allowed to flow through barrage during dry season. As the river enters Uttar Pradesh, it is reduced to a polluted canal. The Yamuna after receiving water through other important tributaries joins the river Ganga and the underground Saraswati at Sangam in Allahabad. Here are some popular towns and cities located on the banks of this holy river.


The source of the Yamuna – Yamunotri - is a popular pilgrimage and a favoured tourist destination among adventure and nature lovers. It is a perfect place to relax, rejuvenate and to spend time in the tranquil surroundings. Yamunotri is one of the Chardhams of Uttarakhand; the other three being Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. Such is the significance of Yamunotri that is to be visited first among the Char Dhams of Uttarakhand. The other reason of Yamunotri being visited before the other dhams is that the Char Dham Yatra is essentially done from left to right.

Yamunotri is perched at an altitude of 3235 meters in Uttarakhand. It is not only popular as a pilgrimage but is also a scenic spot. The shrine of Goddess Yamunotri is perched on the western flank of mighty Banderpunch Peak (6135 m), which is snow covered throughout the year. The temple itself stands on the foothill of Kalinda Parvata close to thermal springs.

A 14 km trek from Hanumanchatti takes one to Yamunotri - the holy shrine. In fact Hanumanchatti is the last road-head to the shrine. The thermal springs in the vicinity of the shrine refresh pilgrims before they enter Yamunotri Temple. However, the actual source of Yamunotri is a lake, 12 km away from Yamunotri, which is known as Saptrishi Kund. An arduous guided trek takes travel enthusiasts to Saptrishi Kund.

The Yamunotri Temple is the main highlight at Yamunotri. The temple is located on the left bank of the river and was originally constructed by Maharaj Pratap Shah of Tehri Garhwal. Near the temple are three hot springs. The most important, Surya Kund is a tank full of boiling water into which rice and potatoes are dipped to be cooked and taken as prasad. Divya Shila - a rock pillar is another highlight that is worshipped before entering the Yamunotri Temple.

Reaching Yamunotri: Rishikesh (250 km) is the nearest railway station to Yamunotri. The nearest airport is at Jolly Grant, near Dehradun. Yamuntori is well connected by road to Rishikesh and other neighbouring towns. The road to Yamunotri diverts at Dharasu, on way to Uttarkashi. Hanumanchatti is the last road-head for Yamunotri.

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Paonta Sahib
Paonta Sahib

After tumbling through the hills and narrow valleys in Uttarakhand, the Yamuna flows south, touching the hills close to Mussoorie and exits Uttarakhand, heading for the plains past Paonta Sahib, the revered Sikh gurudwara in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. Paonta Sahib on the banks of the Yamuna is a beautiful town.

Paonta Sahib is a holy Sikh shrine associated with Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th guru of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh had spent four years at Paonta Sahib. Gurudwara Paonta Sahib is the main attraction here. The gurudwara is dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh. The Gurudwara houses a museum which contains a lot of antiques and weapons used by Guru Gobind Singh during his stay at Paonta Sahib.

Paonta Sahib is a lovely getaway to de-stress, relax and revive your city jaded nerves. There is nothing fancy about Paonta Sahib. It is a simple destination with minimal tourism infrastructure. But it is a kind of destination that you can have all to yourself. There is hardly anything to do here. All you can do is take long walks; sit at the Gurudwara Paonta Sahib or simply enroll for the community service at the gurudwara. Dei-Ka-Mandir to the right of the Yamuna Bridge is another popular landmark besides the gurudwara. Paonta Sahib is also an industrial town with a number of industries.

Reaching Paonta Sahib: Jolly Grant near Dehradun is the nearest airport to Paonta Sahib. The closest railheads are at Ambala and Dehradun. Yamuna Nagar is another rail head not too far from Paonta Sahib. Himachal Road Transport Corporation has frequent bus services to Paonta Sahib from its neighbouring towns.

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Red Fort, Delhi

Delhi, the capital and power center of the country is the most important city located on the banks of the Yamuna. The river has to pay high price for flowing through a big city immersed in its own materialistic world. The river in the city is of symbolic importance as it is filthy and polluted.

Delhi is a historic city and perhaps the only one in the world with a fascinating history. Numerous monuments from the past jostle with modern high rise buildings. There are a number of gardens and open spaces that one can visit in Delhi. The most popular landmarks in Delhi include the Red Fort, India Gate, Birla Temple, Akshardham Temple, Jama Masjid, Jantar Mantar, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar and Lotus Temple.

Besides monument hopping, Delhi is a great place for shopping. There are age old bazaars, modern markets and glitzy malls that entice a shopper. One can explore markets in Chandni Chowk, Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar, Sarjoni Nagar or simply visit a number of shopping malls that dot the city.

Reaching Delhi: Delhi is well connected by air, rail and road transport from different corners of the country.

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The Yamuna near the twin towns of Mathura and Vrindavan is reduced to its pale shadow; even before it enters Delhi it becomes difficult to recognise the river. Though the river is reduced to a creek and loses its aura after it enters the plains but it is the towns on the banks that are highly revered. Mathura and Vrindavan are closely associated with the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna. Also known as Braj Bhumi, Mathura and Vrindavan still reverberates with tales from Krishna’s time. Mathura, a quiet village on the banks of the Yamuna was transformed into a place of light and pilgrimage after Krishna was born here. Vrindavan, some 15 km away from Mathura is the place where Krishna spent most of his childhood.

Mathura and Vrindavan attracts large number of devotees every year. The best time to visit Mathura and Vrindavan is in March during Holi when the region is steeped in Holi festivities or in August (during Krishna Janamasthmi), when you'll see Krishna fever at its peak.

Temples are galore in Mathura and Vrindavan. Dwarkadish Temple is an important landmark in Mathura. The temple was built in early 19th century. The temple is the main centre of celebrations during festivals and fairs. Rangji is another popular temple that was built in 1851 and is dedicated to Lord Sri Ranganatha. Other popular temple that one can visit in Mathura is the Radha Madanmohana Temple.

Bankey Bihari Temple is the most popular temple in Vrindavan. It is believed that Krishna still visits the temple and takes his dinner in the temple. ISKCON Temple not too far is another major attraction in Vrindavan. Hare Krishna devotees from all around the world flock here. Govindaji Temple and Seva Kunj are other important landmarks in Vrindavan.

Reaching Mathura: Kheria, near Agra is the nearest airport. Mathura is on the main lines of both the Central and Western Railways. Mathura is connected to all major cities via the National Highways. Regular Bus service is available to Mathura-Vrindavan from Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and other neighbouring cities.

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Taj Mahal, Agra

The Taj Mahal in Agra is the most important monument on the banks of the Yamuna. This erstwhile capital of the Mughals is a famous tourist destination in India. Agra is predominantly famous for the Taj Mahal, which was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Agra is 200 km south-east of Delhi and is part of the Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit that includes Delhi and Jaipur. Today, Agra is among the post popular tourist destinations in the world. Agra was the power centre during the Mughal rule. It was from here the Mughals dictated the fate of Hindustan till the 16th century. After the death of Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi.

Besides the Taj Mahal, Agra has some of the finest monuments of the Mughal period.  Some of the must visit places of tourist interest in Agra include - Agra Fort, Jehangir Palace,  Diwan-I-Am, Diwan-i-Khas, Musamman Burj, Shish Mahal, Jama Masjid, Tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah and Akbar's Mausoleum.

Reaching Agra: Agra has its own airport as well railway station. Regular bus and train services are available from Delhi.

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Allahabad is an important milestone on the journey of the Yamuna and Ganga. It is also known as Prayag or Sangam, since it is the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Allahabad has been a Hindu pilgrimage city for thousands of years. It is also the place where the Kumbh Mela takes place. Read more on Allahabad

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