Equally sacred for both Hindus and Buddhists, Muktinath occupies a position at the foot of the Thorong La mountain pass in the Mustang. The word 'Mukti' means salvation, and the word 'Nath' means lord. Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from far and wide make a visit to this sacred place.
Muktinath is called by different names. Some call it Mukti Kshetra, while others refer to it as Mukti Dham.
Muktinath is believed to be the place for attaining moksha.
The Muktinath Temple is situated at an altitude of 3,710 m in the Muktinath Valley in the Mustang District of Nepal. It lies close to a small village known as Ranipauwa, which is a stopover for pilgrims arriving here.
Muktinath has huge religious significance as a Shakti Peetha. According to Hindu mythology, a Shakti Peetha is a holy abode of Shakti that represents the dynamic forces moving through the universe. Hindus believe that the body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi fell in different places as Lord Shiva wandered with it. Each place where Sati's body parts fell became a Shakti Peetha.
Devotees visit Muktinath in large numbers to attain moksha, which means liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth.
Tibetan Buddhists also hold Muktinath in high regard because they believe it is the place where Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, spent time meditating while traveling to Tibet. Multiple Hindu saints have written about the religious importance of this sacred site. The temple has been mentioned in Vishnu Purana, which is one of the most ancient Hindu scriptures.
There is a waterway that flows downwards from Muktinath. It is comprised of 108 water springs, each of which is very sacred. The number 108 is an important one, as per Hindu astrology.
Both Hindus and Buddhists consider Muktinath to be a place where all the five elements that constitute the universe are found. These five elements include fire, water, sky, earth, and air. According to Sri Vaishnava tradition, Muktinath is one of the 108 Divya Desams, or a sacred place for worshipping Lord Vishnu.
Though Muktinath Temple is not a big one, it is one of the most ancient temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The architecture of the temple follows the design of the Pagoda style. The main shrine scales up to a height of 90 m above Ranipauwa. The life-size statue in the main shrine is made of gold.
The outer courtyard of the temple complex consists of 108 bull faces, each of which is used to pour water. The water that flows through the mouths of these bulls comes from the Kali Gandaki River. The faucets are fitted in a semi-circular wall just behind the temple. Pilgrims who offer prayers can be seen standing below each of these faucets from where water is poured.
Since the main shrine of Muktinath is an ancient one, it was badly in need of repair and construction work. So, renovation work was done only recently, and today, the temple appears beautiful and well-designed.
During your pilgrimage tour to Muktinath Temple, you'll come across many attractions that are located in the complex or nearby.
The 108 water spouts that were mentioned above are called Muktidhara. Hindus believe that taking a bath in these spouts leads to salvation. But you should keep in mind that this water is as cold as ice.
The Muktinath Temple also features two ponds just in front of it. Pilgrims take a holy dip in these ponds because they believe it will purge their sins of the past.
One of the most popular tourist attractions near the Muktinath Temple is the Gomba Monastery. The Buddhist monastery stands in dedication to Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). Both Hindus and Buddhists visit this monastery after they have offered prayers at the Muktinath Temple.
You'll see two flames that burn here continuously, hence the name. According to Hindus, it was Brahma who first offered this miracle of fire lighting. Make sure you make a visit to this temple.
It is a small monument dedicated to Lord Shri Swami Narayan, a highly respected Hindu guru.
This is a black stone fossil that has increased the popularity of Muktinath manifolds. You can look for these stones in the riverbed of the Kali Gandaki River. If you think all your efforts to find these stones are yielding no results, you should buy them from locals. Since Shaligrams, or the black stone fossils, are believed to symbolize Lord Vishnu, they are very sacred.
Chilly winters make travel difficult in the area. The temperature during this season can touch a minimum of -16 degrees Celsius. If you plan to make the most of your pilgrimage tour and have a pleasurable experience, you should visit between March and June, which is the summertime and quite pleasant. There is heavy snowfall in the months of December and January – up to 10 ft.
There are different ways that you can use to reach Muktinath. One of them is to catch a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara and then fly again to Jomsom. After you have reached Jomsom, you can undertake a road journey in a jeep to finally reach Ranipauwa, which is a few minutes from Muktinath. If you are an adventure freak, you can also choose to hike from Jomsom to Ranipauwa.
Another option is to first fly to Pokhara and then trek up to Muktinath. The trekking route passes through the Kali Gandaki Valley. Though the entire trek takes 7-8 days, it's filled with lots of fun and adventure.
From Pokhara, you can also use bus and jeep services to reach Muktinath. But you'll need to change vehicles multiple times.
Using a helicopter service is one of the best options you can use if you want to avoid discomfort or don't have many days in hand. From Pokhara, a helicopter will take you to Muktinath in just 40-45 minutes.
During your visit to Muktinath, you can plan your stay in Ranipauwa. At Ranipuawa, you'll find several hotels and guesthouses which offer basic facilities. The place also has many restaurants where you can have good food.
Since Muktinath is located at a high altitude, you may get altitude sickness. Carry medications you may need, and don't forget to give yourself enough time to acclimatize so that you can enjoy your overall trip.
If you have a health problem, make sure you consult your doctor before starting on a tour to Muktinath.
If you want to go trekking, carry all the essentials like trekking shoes, jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, flashlight, first aid kit, etc. Also, remember to drink plenty of water to keep yourself well-hydrated.
Carry light luggage during your trip. If you are unable to carry your own luggage, hire yaks or ponies for your comfort.
Normal warm clothing will be required. Carry a light warm jacket, woolen sweater, warm t-shirts, and cotton pants for the trip.
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