Saalagramam ( Mukthinath ) is the only vaishnava divya dEsam located outside of India. … Muktinath describes a region on the banks of the Gandaki River .It is revealed in scriptures
Gandakyamcha uttare teere Girirajasya dakshine
Dasayojana vistheernaam Mahakshetra Vasundharaa
Salagramo Mahadevo devi Dwaravati bhaved
Ubhayossangamo yatra Muktisttattra na samsaya.”
Literally means ……
“To the north of the river, Gandaki and south of the Himalayas, there is the holy region of Salagrama, which is ten yojanas extent, and here Dwaravati merges into Salagrama. Undoubtedly such a place is capable of vouchsafing Moksha.”
Muktinath Divya desam located in Nepal is an important pilgrimage site for Sri Vaishnavites and Buddhists.
It is one of the eight swayam vyakta kshetrams
(-out of this 4 are in southern India and 4 in Northern India).
In Northern India, LORD has manifested Himself in the form of forest at Naimisaranyam, as divine water in Pushkar, as mountain in Badrinath and as Fossils in Saalagramam kshetram whereas in rest of India Lord is glorified in Archa form (Tirumala, Srirangam) .
The best season to visit this holy place ( Mukthinaath) “saalagramam” is during March-April OR during September to 1s week of October.
May to August is rainy season and is not advisable as per locals .
As a visit to this place bestows liberation, this kshetram is known as Mukthi kshetram and LORD here is glorified as MUKTHI NARAYANAN.
This piligrimage was undertaken during 2006 and was posted in www.srivaishnavam.com Adiyen was keen to share the pictures and video clips as requested by few devotee friends in the blog which happened recently . The present situation as per the experiences of piligrims is roads are good and transport arrangements are available right from Jomson to Mukthinath .
Also the road to Pokara to Mukthinath is approachable and made motor able with some excellent reviews as seen from their good experiences .
Before continuing with my travel diary done during 2006 , Adiyen offer my sincere obeisance’s to Sri Rangasri group members , ISCKON Maharajs and several great devotees of LORD who played a pivotal role in making this trip possible with whatever information they could give me when Internet was not really at reach of a common man .
This divya desam darshan was very special to all of us . My family joined me in having darshan of all the 105 Divya desams since 2002 .
And Mukthinath darshan was the last temple we all wished to have darshan .
The excitement and the thirst to be there was to the peaks as it was very special . Elders encouraged us to proceed but were worried as we were taking our two kids who were too young and in case they fell sick etc ……
we decided to proceed with total surrender to the Supreme Lord
There are different modes of transport to reach Muktinath from Jomsom.
- By walk
- By pony ride
- By motor cycle (charge 2200 NR with 2 hours stay in Muktinath)
- By tractor (depends upon the no. of passengers)
The package for Rs.5,500/- INR which included hotel stay at Jomsom and Muktinath, 2 ponies, overnight stay allowance to pony rider and trekking permits was considered good enough during the year 2006 as we did not have any alternative though we later learnt it was exorbitant.
The climate in Pokhara valley is unpredictable. To add to our tension, there was a heavy downpour in the evening and we had our apprehensions regarding next day’s flight to Jomsom.
We lost our confidence due to the changing weather as flights would be cancelled in case of storms .
We chanted Sri Vishnu sahsranamam and surrendered to Perumal for mercy …
We knew that it was “NOW or NEVER” . We had to go to Muktinath at any cost and reach Gorakpur as planned ,because there was only one train to Secunderabad from Gorakpur and had to leave for Tirupati as planned . More over all the tickets were confirmed .
We realized there was NOTHING and only HIS ABUNDANT GRACE could make us visit MUKTINATH. The day finally arrived .
It was Pournami ( Full moon day ) , the auspicious month of Purattasi. Submitting to the divine grace LORD and finishing our morning prayers, we left to Pokhara airport which is a 10 minute drive from the hotel.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 8.30 A.M. (fifth flight).
Gorkha Airlines and Royal Nepal Air lines operates service for POKHARA-JOMSOM-POKHARA sector presently .
For the record, Royal Nepal Airlines, have only 1 or 2 flights operating ( Depending on the r conditions ) is known to be the most unreliable airline in Nepal.
There are many other airlines flying to Pokhara and Jomsom, such as Nikon Air, Buddha Air and Cosmic Air, but presently not been operating . The private airlines are more reliable in Nepal.
Out of their 2 flights, only one was operational and this has to make atleast 5 trips every day to clear the traffic. As mentioned earlier, the services resumed only 2 days earlier after a gap of 10 days.
To our dismay, we learn t that though it was nearly 9 A.M., the first trip itself did not take off due to fog. Boarding pass were not issued to us because our names were in the 5th trip. The officials were doubtful because after 11 AM , flights cannot reach Jomsom due to heavy winds and if the wind doesn’t subside the flight will be cancelled .
This was a shocking news to us ……..
Our hearts beat fast… chanting Dwayam and mahamantra … My mind races to all the corners of the small airport . My body shivers …. I look around ….pleading LORD …
There’s a light breeze, which is chilly.
The sky is now gone blue and the tops of the mountains are slowly becoming clear.
We started reciting Sri Vishnu Sahasranaamam in the airport and prayed ardently to Periya Thiruvadi ( Garuda bhagavan )and Siriya Thiruvadi ( Bhaktha hanuman ) for their intervention in reaching Lords abode .
The children were excited when the sky became more clear and the flights were being resumed.
Chanting Vishnu Sahasranaamam was mandatory for all of us .
Thanking the Lord, with tears rolling , we boarded the 20 seater propeller flight with window seats for everyone at 11 A.M .
We’re now on the plane. The air hostess was kind . Making us feel comfortable , we looked at the abundant mountains all over as she asked us to see through the windows ..
Just 18 passengers plus the flight attendant squeezed into these little seats.
No overhead baggage compartment.
A different feeling all together …..The flight attendant once again came and passed out some sweets and cotton for people to plug their ears.
The captain was still checking out the RPMs of the propeller .
We are about to take off and we all chanted the juicy name loudly
GOVINDA …….GOVINDA ….REMEMBERING OUR LORD GOVINDA
We’re in the air now.
It’s a smooth flight.
On the right of the aircraft Adiyen could see the white Himalayas, which stand like a great wall between Nepal and China.
On the left were high mountains, but no snow.
Below us are valleys and the holy Gandaki river.
The weather is good and clear . The plane flies between the Himalayas, not over them!
We are in this little Dornier aircraft, skims craggy ridge tops and often buffeted by mountain winds.
Chanting Lords name continuously we dare to see the propellers from the window panes ..When an airplane flies to Jomsom they are very close to the mountains on either side of the valley.
Strong winds come off the mountains at times, making it difficult or impossible to fly.
We were told , a few years ago a flight crashed into the side of one of the mountains and it took them several days to find it. There were no survivors.
Just 20 mins from Pokhara flying up the highest-deepest valley in the world, sometimes battling winds of 120 Mph (200 km+) as the clouds lift causing a kind of vacuum effect propelling winds.
The flight is moving amidst big mountains, taking sharp turns and is sure to instill fear in everyone but the Lord’s names on our lips drove out the fear in us.
We are now flying between Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, two immense glacier covered peaks towering well above the airplane as we flew up the Gandaki river valley.
We were longing for our lifetime mission to be completed and were enthusiastic and prepared to face the worst situation, if any.
We landed at Jomsom airport in about 20 mins .
We look around the small airport surrounded by mountains .
Quickly coming out we see plenty of foreigners accompanying us .
Jomsom is so modern that there’s even an Internet Cafe here. This is apple country. Apples like cold weather, We took 3 kgs of apples for just 30 rupees.
Thanking Lord very much we briskly moved and located the hotel . As assured the incharge who co ordinated from Pokhra , had made all arrangements for our trip to Muktinath.
Annapurna trekking permit is a must and we had taken our pass port photographs with Nepalee Rupee as fees for the same .
2 ponies with a guide were provided.
Baggages were tied to children’s ponies and myself accompanied by my wife started the holy trek to Muktinath at 12 noon
While my wife and children were chanting I quickly procured the Conversation Permit to go trekking in the area surrounding Annapurna Mountain and understood the ponies were booked no doubt but are awaiting at the banks of gandaki river which is 20 mins trek .
After clearing the town of Jomsom which is modern , we headed out over the stony riverbed. .
I was enthusiastic in revealing the legendary stories about this punya stala to my kids who are distinguished as they also joined in the 106 Divya desam yathirai effortlessly.
Gandakyamcha uttare teere Girirajasya dakshine Dasayojana vistheernaam Mahakshetra Vasundharaa Salagramo Mahadevo devi Dwaravati bhaved Ubhayossangamo yatra Muktisttattra na samsaya.”
“To the north of the river, Gandaki (also called Narayani), and south of the Himalayas, there is the holy region of Salagrama, which is ten yojanas extent, where Dwaravati merges into Salagrama. Undoubtedly such a place is capable of vouchsafing Moksha.”
Actually, about 140 miles from Khatmandu is situated Muktimati or Muktikshetra, also called “Salagrama-kshetra.
Legend has it that once Bramha was exasperated at the rate of increase of the sinners among his creation. Then drops of sweat rolled down his cheeks (Ganda), ultimately collecting themselves into the form of a female child called “Gandaki.”
She took it into her head to do a severe penance which became so overwhelming that the Devas started trembling before her. As usual they offered her the bait of a boon on return for her stopping her penance, but they met a Tartar in her, for she wanted to mother all the Devas. Not having the power to grant such a boon, the Devas pleaded their inability, at which Gandaki became furious and cursed all the devas to be born as worms on the earth below.
The Devas in their turn placed a countercurse on her head that she should become “Jada” or inert matter. Naturally Bramha was concerned with this unexpected development. Unable to find a way out, he consulted Indra and Rudra. With them also he drew a blank. Finally, all the three turned to Vishnu, who said: “In as much as the curses have been already pronounced, they cannot be revoked, and both parties affected must suffer them. The problem is how to make them work to their mutual and ultimately universal benefit.” After consideration, Lord said: ” I shall take up my abode in the Chakra Teertha near Salagramakshetra. You, Devas, shall migrate to this hallowed region as “Vajrakitas” eating into the pebbles. Gandaki shall in the form of a river fill the universe enveloping the shilas hallowed by me.”
Salagrama shilas are obtained only from the river Gandaki, which is a Himalayan stream, celebrated since antiquity as Narayani, Saligrami, Hiranvati and Hiranyavati.
The epic Mahabharata speaks of its sanctity (Bhishma-parva) . The puranas also describe it as a sacred stream in which all the gods and titans abide . By merely looking at it, one would eliminate all his mental defilement’s, by touching it his bodily sins are burnt up, and by sipping its water the verbal demerits are thrown out.
One who comes into contact with this sacred stream will be liberated from the cycle of birth and deaths, even if he be a sinner.
And for the reason, the river Gandaki became among all the rivers extraordinarily sacred Being a mystic river, looking at it, touching it, bathing in it and sipping its waters will be conductive to eliminate all sins, even the greatest of sins pertaining to the body, speech and mind. Adiyen recollected them there are many aspects of this pilgrimage right from going to the Holy Tirtha of Shalagram high in the Himalayas; the challenge of one’s faith, to be there and to find one’s worshippful Lord; the material elements, and other various hardships – walking many miles/kilometres, high altitude, no food, the weather, the constant wind, wild animals, dacoits and theives, mundane trekkers, so many things.
We are now trekking near the banks of Gandaki river. Which rises beyond the Himalayan ranges, probably in Tibet, and flows (in the north-south direction) into Nepal, There is a lake at the source of the Kali-Gandaki , called Damodar-kunda on the Nepal .
The lower Gandaki is well known as Mukti-natha-kshetra, also called Saligrama-kshetra. The sacred stones are largely found on the banks of Kali-gandaki near Tukche, between the two mountains Dhavala-giri and Annapurana.
Damodara-Kunda is considered as Saivite place of pilgrimage by Nepalis. This is the punya kshetram where saligrama deities are found within the Nepal territory to the fortunate souls . As advised by my father the children learnt the sloka by heart supposed to be chanted while we trek the route .The sloka goes like this with meaning explained below..
dheya sada savitra mandala madhya-varti—
sannivistah keyuravan makara kundalavan kiriti
–hari hiranmaya vapuh dhrita sankha cakrah
Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be meditated upon in the center of the sun globe. He is situated on a lotus flower and seated in the lotus posture. He is adorned with beautiful golden bracelets, amulets, earrings, necklace and a crown. He has the golden effulgence and is seen holding the pure white conch and Sudarshana cakra in His lotus hands. Oh wielder of the conch, disc, club, and other natural weapons, You are the Lord and resident of the spiritual realm. Oh indestructible one, protector of the worlds, oh lotus eyed Lord, please save all of us who have taken shelter of you and appear before us .
We found there was a path that skirted the riverbed, but we preferred to walk along the riverbed. The children were delighted to see the horseman and the horses at the river bank. As we walked along we started to notice the wind was picking up and the clouds were closing in from the mountains on either side of us.
My children happily rode the horses chanting the Dhyana sloka as I advised them to sincerely pray and look in the river for holy salagrama silas .
En route after offering oblations and sincere obeisancesto the holy gandaki river I requested the horse man to help the children in looking for the salagrama which he readily obliged. The river Gandaki is a very ancient river; and the geologists say that it existed even before the formation of the Himalayan ranges. It rises beyond the Himalayan ranges, probably in Tibet, and flows (in the north-south direction) into Nepal.
And for the reason, the river Gandaki became among all the rivers extraordinarily sacred Being a mystic river, looking at it, touching it, bathing in it and sipping its waters will be conductive to eliminate all sins, even the greatest of sins pertaining to the body, speech and mind. My soul danced with joy looking at the nature and being in Gods own world. We are now in the Lower Mustang belt as per the Map . Mustang is an Anglicization of the Tibetan Lo Manthang, which is an autonomous region in north-central Nepal that borders on Tibet. The destination of our trek today was to reach Mukthinath by evening .
En route there is the village of Kagbeni (“Crow Confluence” in Nepali).
The rocky highland stretching from Jomsom to Kagbeni–through which the Gandaki flows–is called Lower Mustang. Upper Mustang is where Damodar Kund is located, a lake that is the root source of all salagram silas.
It was told that from here one treks to Damodar kund the source of all the saligrama silas ( Sree Moorthy ).
According to one version, the Salagramam Divya Desam is just the bank/bed of River Gandaki and not the Mukthinath temple. Few also claim Its Damodar kund .River Kaligandaki has its source in Damodar Kund and throughout its flow to south right up to Indian border carries a manifestation of lying lord Vishnu with Damodarkund jeweled as His auspicious Head and with Muktinath as the mouth, Shaligram Chakra as chest Kuru Kshetra as the waist, Devaghatam as the Knee and lastly the auspicious feet of lord Vishnu goes to the credit of Gajendra Moksha devadham,.
Such a beautiful elaboration of the lord, one may find starting from the auspicious lakes of Damodar Kund. The Damodar Kunda (lake) is situated rain shadow of High Himalayas north of Annapurna range.
The elevation of the Damodar Kunda is 4890 meters and it is a cold and windy place. According to another version, the Mukthinath temple is very much the Divya Desam of Salagramam. It is difficult to establish which of the two versions is right. Either way, there is no question that our great saint Thirumangai Azhwar visited at least the banks of the Gandaki River, as did Swamy Ramanuja.
And no matter which version is accurate, there is no taking away from the beauty of this Divya Desam and its surroundings. and one of the pAsuram, Tirumangai AzhwAr exhorts his mind to attain the Lord of Salagrama.
It was this Lord who, armed with bow and arrow, crossed forests inhabited by wild deer, elephants and horses, and then built a bridge of boulders to reach the high-walled fortress of Lanka and severed the ten heads of Ravana- the king of the RakshasAs glorifying LORD RAMAs avataram . The route to Damodar lake is three days walk north east from the main Mustang trekking route & very close to Tibetan border.
We had to drop the idea of going into Upper Mustang as expensive permits are required from the Nepali authorities . Formerly the Gandaki River Valley was the most important trade route between India and Tibet. It was controlled by the Buddhist kingdom of Lo Manthang, which was of Tibetan culture.
But more than 200 years ago the Buddhist Raja of Lo Manthang allied with the Hindu Raja of Kathmandu in a war against Tibet.
This is why the present region of Mustang (Lo Manthang), which is populated mostly by Buddhist people with Mongolian features, is part of Nepal and not Tibet (now fully controlled by Communist China).
Now the trekking trail takes us away from the bank of the Gandaki for a while. I along with my wife started chanting Shri Vishnu sahasranaamam , while my eyes were immersed in the beauty of Lords own little world far away from material and karmic vasanas. .
Few foreigners along with their guide walk briskly before us cheering NAMASTE …
I feel their enthusiasm in trekking the mountains and truly with the protective wind shields, woolen socks, rock boots and body packs they were perfect mountaineers, I avoided the trekking kit to tax my body in reaching Lords abode with a sincere vow as I did for Ahobilam and Tirumala.
Muktinath is situated at a height of 3,800 metres whereas jomsom is at 2713 metres. The distance to Muktinath from Jomsom by walk is 21 kms (via Kagbeni) whereas now there is another short-cut which involves climbing of a steep mountain but would save about 3-4 kms. To reach Muktinath, we need to cross 3 settlements- Eklabhatti, Khinga, Jharkot (Earlier, piligrims used to go toMuktinath via Eklabhatti, Kagbeni, Jharkot). One can find maps displayed on boards with the name of settlement, no. of hotels,lodges , distance to the next settlement and approximate time-only in these places, one can get drinks/ food etc) I could see my children moving away from us quickly .
I wonder whether we can make it today . En route we see the skull of a yak. This classic symbol of desolation accentuates the atmosphere of loneliness that hangs over the Gandaki River Valley. Between Jomsom and Kagbeni one sees evidence of human habitation only rarely. We could see an isolated stone hut of a herdsman. Nobody was home when we passed it .
A metal suspension bridge en route spans the Gandaki River Valley. What adds a cultural mystique to the mountain paths and the flat areas of the Kali Gandaki are the teams of yaks and mules that would traverse the steep slopes carrying supplies back and forth from each area.
The owner would be behind a team of 6 or more animals that methodically climb and descend (they could probably have done it blindfolded), stepping out of the way of persons who would approach from the opposite way.
Each would wear an enchanting bell (like one of those wind chimes) which would create a sattvic atmosphere, especially needed when you round a sharp corner on a narrow path and if without the bell… without a warning…well you tell me…you are quietly rounding a blind corner bend over a 500 meter canyon and suddenly you come nose to nose with a large personality with long horns…how would you react?
So the bells do provide tranquility and safe travels. On the pan of the Gandaki you will note on the bottom right-hand side of the picture a tiny line of such a team sauntering along. This gives you an appreciation for the vastness of the area.
Incredibly strong winds often blow through the valley, and if you are crossing this bridge when such a wind comes up, you truly fear you’ll be blown off into the valley below . My wife pauses for rest on the east end of the bridge. Where I quickly take few pictures and shoot from my camcorder .
As we continued our trek, we moved away from Kali Gandaki river ,we could view her only from a distance. Initially, the way was broad enough but it was a stony path. Though one doesn’t feel thirsty due to the chillness , it is advisable to carry a bottle of water, some glucose, few apples etc on the way . Some foreign tourists were cycling on the steep mountains. They are fortunate to be there as It was sure Its HIS blessings they were there and who knows destined to get emancipation too.
Now , we were surrounded by Annapurna mountains on one side and Dhaulagiri mountains on the other sides. With mountains all around, a pleasant chilly breeze and Kali Gandaki flowing below, the picturesque beauty was feast to the body mind and soul. Visualizing the Viraata Purusha in our mind’s eye moving upwards, the path was narrowing and in some places, we came to the edge of the cliff. We had to slowly walk forward by holding hands. This was becoming more adventurous. Crossing many mountains on the way and the connecting path is usually narrow.
It took about 2 hours for us to reach the first settlement EKLABHATTI. At this point we are thankfully within sight of the town of Kagbeni. The trek through the valley involves is mostly flat and level. But the valley itself is some 2000 meters above sea level! Thus catching your breath is a problem, since there is less oxygen in the air than normal.
As we descend from the bridge to the valley floor we meet a herd of incredibly nimble mountain goats. At the upper edgey we can see Ekla Bhatti, the southern “suburb” of Kagbeni. Behind , the holy Gandaki flows on her way from Kagbeni, visible in the distance As the sun shines over the Himalayan horizon, we see the blackish waters of the Gandaki from a higher altitude.
I finally locate the sign board of Eklabatti where my children and the horseman are awaiting. The pony rider told us that from this place, there are 2 routes – one towards Kagbeni and the other towards Khinga. Kagbeni is a small developing village with staying facilities and people with sufficient time stay at kagbeni. But as we were running short of time, we decided to go via Khinga.
Further trail to Muktinath carries us out of the Gandaki River Valley into the soaring mountain heights. This is not easy going. The air was thin to begin with, but now as we trudge ever-higher in the hot sun and the decreasing oxygen becomes more and more of a problem. In less than half and hour, we look down upon Kagbeni as if from an airplane. We met a good number of trekkers along the Jomsom-Kagbeni-Muktinath path. Americans, Australians, Britishers, Europeans, and local Nepalese were moving in scattered numbers. The trail winds along the side of a steep valley formed by a white-water tributary that rushes down to meet the Gandaki at Kagbeni. In the cliffside opposite are many caves.
The local Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns sometimes retire to these caves for meditation and austerity. Chanting loudly Lords names and the mahamantra , We climb the steep slippery mountain for about half an hour . The pony rider advised us not to look up or look down as it would instill fear in us we trek like sheeps.. There is a very narrow path where one can put only one foot carefully . Children were frightened to sit on the pony but having come half the way, they had no other choice but to keep their eyes tightly closed and pray to Lord. We were passing thru a deserted place where there was no vegetation but only few mountain shrubs. WE were literally gasping for breath.
Added to this, wind started blowing and it was becoming even more difficult to trek. After climbing the steep mountain, we kept on walking on the narrow way for nearly an hour . Suddenly the weather changed and it started drizzling. We were unable to put a step further because it was slippery and the rains would make the road worse. Added to that, there was no one in sight to help us in any adverse condition. Once again, our prayers to Lord did not go in vain. It stopped drizzling and there was only cool soft breeze.
Prayed to Bhaktha Hanuman for His intervention and all of a sudden It stopped drizzling. Soft cool breeze was blowing . WE felt as if Vayu Bhagavan was being kind to us as we are on the way to have darshan of Lord Vishnu. It was 4 PM in the evening. Rested for a while at one of the way side restaurants and with the ingredients like milk powder, sugar, which we had taken with us, prepared some hot drink and we are charged up once again. It may be mentioned that enroute at the settlements, the hotels provide limited variety of fast food like rotis/ noodles and hot water.
The pony rider asked us to walk fast as it was getting dark at 5 PM itself ,but as we are not used to walking, we could not do so. The trek from Khinga was not very difficult. In and around Khinga, we came across rich vegetation, and the dwellers in these places, polite by nature, were seen knitting mufflers and other woolen products. Apples were available in plenty , though a bit costly compared to Jomsom, we could get them for Rs.10/- per kg. On the way, we had to cross few mountain streams while trekking which was refreshing. It was becoming dark at 5 itself and by 6 P.M., we could not see anything.
Exhausted, we decided to stay overnight in the nearest settlement. The inn-keeper charged Rs.300/- INR for 4 beds. After finishing our dinner, we retired for the night. It was very very cold. Although short of breath, and having to stop every few hundred feet and rest, and although it took me 6 hours to get up there, we made it. Practically it was a miracle. Although sore tonight, I am not at all sorry that I went there and I’d gladly go again in the future Next day morning, we woke up at 430 AM and could see the sun rise at 5.30AM . It was calm and serene throughout. We checked out of the inn and continued our journey. It took about an hour for us to approach the village of Jarkot. Looking carefully we can see the dark red Buddhist monastery perched on a hilltop at the edge of this village. It is 500 years old. The Muktinath temple is about an hour’s walk beyond Jarkot. On the top of the mountain is the white lip of a glacier that feeds the Gandaki with its icy waters. Having left Jarkot behind, we are approaching the Dreamland Hotel, which is the first building visible as one enters the village clustered at the foot of the hill of Muktinath. The trek is really tough as the altitude is beginning to increase steadily.
This is the last settlement enroute to Muktinath. The temperature was almost 3 degree and due to the numbness in our feet and hands, we could not walk further. (Usually, trekking shoes are worn by piligrims which was overseen by us as a part of our vow ). Jharkot has many lodges with staying facilities etc and usually pilgrims/trekkers who visit Muktinath stay in Jharkot. Though a room was booked in Hotel Muktinath at Jharkot, we could not make it the previous day as we could not proceed further. We could have a clear glimpse of Muktinath from Jharkot itself. After walking few yards, we started climbing few stone steps (may be 700 or so) laid in an improper way with no proper finishing etc. The pony drive, motor drive is only upto Jharkot. From Jharkot , everyone invariably has to climb these steps.
It took about half an hour or so for us to reach the temple.
Total trekking time taken by us is 9 hours.
Usually, people who are used to regular walks, jogging, trekking etc can finish within 6 hours. The dark red structure behind is the entrance gate. As one ascends you reach plateau after plateau where you think that you have reached the summit, but it just keeps on going. Because of the altitude and our physical state you are forced to rest on the way up (sometimes after every 100 steps) The large stone stairs at the closing intervals (almost like a malicious test) takes you to the final test of patience in seeing GOD .
Well! Soul stirring experiences at the cost of trimming the body ..and that is what is LIFE ….Realizations streaming ….This body ..mind and spirit in equilibrium is what is good quality of self realisation …The MIND understands and the body too ..as the soul is going to meet the supersoul ( PARAMATMAN) Finally you do reach the town of Muktinath and above the town (another 45 minutes) is the temple built in a glacier (from where the mountain pan is taken).. En route we happened to see helipads. Helicopters from Pokhara/Jomsom upto Muktinath and back fly daily.
During peak season, the copter flies many times . Also, we were told that the weather conditions do not affect the copters much. We happened to meet few South Indians who had come in package tours organized by travel agents in Chennai . It takes about 40 minutes to reach Muktinath from Pokara and half an hour’s stay at Muktinath. The package would cost 21000 INR . They however miss the thrill of trekking the holiest mountains.
This is safe for physically unfit and aged people. We are entering the entrance of the temple now. A few Buddhist prayer wheels at the entrance to the Muktinath complex is visible These rotatable cylinders are a common sight in Nepal. They are inscribed with the Tibetan Buddhist mahamantra Om Mani Padme Hum–“Aum! The jewel in the lotus! Hail!” The jewel is the pure spirit soul and the lotus is the purified body of the true follower of Buddha’s way. Tibetan Buddhist turn these prayer wheels to earn merit. Simply pushing on them to get them revolving is supposed to be as good as chanting the mantra as many times as the wheel then revolves. Having passed through the entrance gate, we proceed to the complex’s first shrine. Muktinath is sacred to both Vaisnavas and Buddhists. My dream comes true. Adiyen along with my family members are very much in the 106th Divyadesam …….
This is the Muktinath Temple proper. Lord Muktinath is, for Vaisnavas, Sri Padmapani (the form of Lord Visnu from whose lotus feet sacred waters flow). Tibetan Buddhists worship Him as Adi-Buddha. Lord Muktinath’s form is manifest in brass. In bodily shape and posture He resembles the Yoga Narayana Deity Atop the hill behind the Muktinath Temple is a Buddhist shrine. Its 9 A.M.
A huge bell is hung in front of the gate. There are 108 shower spouts coming from the glacier on the back wall of the shrine with the best water that makes the journey a complete success. Since the water is ice cold and due to limited time allowed for darshan, most of them sprinkled water from the 108 gomukhis behind the temple .Thanking Lord profusely tears rolling I brave to take a bath under the gomukhs. My children run under the gomukhs reciting Dwayam. Atop the hill behind the Muktinath Temple is a Buddhist shrine. Incredibly, some Buddhist nuns who serve at Muktinath daily climb this hill to also perform worship up there Jutting from the stone wall that encloses Muktinath Temple on three sides are 108 gomukhs or cows’ mouths. From each mouth icy glacial water flows. The water is considered as pure as the Ganges, which flows from Gomukh in the Indian Himalayas. ! The tremendous Nilgiri peak overlooking Jomsom. The Water from Gandaki is routed through these man-made gomukhis which are closely built ,the distance between the gomukhis may be hardly a foot . WE felt as if a hammer had struck our heads after passing thru these gomukhis. Added to this, we were asked to have a dip in 2 small tanks situated in front of the temple. The temperature for the day was recorded at 3 degrees and the chilly water was almost in a frozen condition . Unlike in Vishaal Badri in Bhadrinath , where we are greeted with steaming hot water, here it was icy cold . After changing into dry clothes in separate rooms provided for ladies and gents, we went inside the temple. The garbagriham was closed and we were asked to wait for few mintues.
Meanwhile, we did pradakshinam around the temple chanting Harinaam . The temple is very small. In front of the garbagriham, towards our right, there is a deity of our Jagatha Acharyar, Swamy Ramanujar. . After taking acharyar’s blessings, we approached the Thiruma mani mantapam to have darshan of Perumal. The moment we had darshan of the divya mangala swaroopam of the Lord, Sri Srimoorthi, we forgot the cold and the body pains. The enchanting beauty of the Lord cannot be described in words. The deity at Muktinath has a large brass kavach ( armour) with a very transcendental smile . On His left and right are Bhu and Sri, two divine energies of the Lord manifested in their female forms Though in the divya desa naamavali, Perumal is known as “SRIDEVI NAYIKA SAMETHA SRI SRIMOORTHI”, we found ubhaya naachiyaars, Sridevi and Bhoodevi Thayar on either sides of Perumal flanking Him.
Perumal is seen in sitting posture while Ubhaya Naachiyars are in Nindra Thirukolam. As it is often mentioned that Adisesha always performs various kainkaryams to Perumal, here Adisesha is seen spreading hoods like an umbrella.
Garudazhwar and other saaligramams are also worshipped. Inside the garbagriham, near the entrance on the right side, there is a small deity of Buddha. Muktinath is holy place both for Hindus and Buddhists. Even foreigners enter the temple and have a darshan of the Lord even though they do not know the significance of the place, they offer their respects to the Lord. It must be only due to their poorva janma sukrutam.
I could relate the darshan exactly with THIRUVENGADAMUDAIYANS darshanam.
A Buddhist lady accepted our offerings to Perumal- vastrams for Perumal and Thayar, dry fruits, honey, sandal paste, rose water etc. which we had carried with us for offering it to Lord. This lady gives theertha prasadam and offers neivedyam and is restrained from doing Thirumanjanam to the Lord. Unfortunately, the male priest was not available in the temple and hence we could not perform Thirumanjanam. However, the lady offered us to take one saaligramam outside the garbagriham and perform Thirumanjanam but Adiyen felt that Adiyen was incompetent, hence did not accept the offer. There was no rush and we were able to have darshan to our heart’s content.
Perumal’s smiling Thirumugam is very enchanting and we could not take our eyes off . We recited 108 divya desa naamavali in front of Perumal and recited Thirumangai Azhwar’s pasurams on this divya desam. In ecstasy, I remembered Thirumangai mannan’s pasurams on Naimisaaranyam which is full of repentance and started reciting the same in the temple. My children braved to sing Annamaya Kirtans amidst the few piligrims. Adiyen thought of everyone associated with me and prayed the Lord to bestow moksham and best devotional service on them .
Adiyen prayed to the Lord to give me another chance to visit this shrine again and give another opportunity to visit all the divya desams . The Nepali security emphasized that the temple was 500 years old and it would be closed during severe winter (i.e. from October to February) every year. Due to time constraint, we left the temple reluctantly after taking few photographs. I had heard that Westerners aren’t allowed in the temple of Muktinath, but that’s not true. It is said that Badrinath sent Muktinath to this place, high up in the mountains. I overhear a foreigner saying that anyone who takes the trouble to visit that place will get liberation. Adiyen , however, did not pray for liberation. Rather, Adiyen prayed for pure devotional service. A five minute walk down the temple towards left led us to a place where we can see 2 wonders :- First, fire coming from water and fire coming from stone. This fire is emitted continuously and has to peep into a small opening to see the same.
A natural blue fire can be clearly seen from water which is unbelievable. This is a representation of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu as it was here Brahma and Shiva did penance to obtain Lord Vishnu’s grace. Lord Vishnu appeared before them and as per their desire, continued to reside in this place. This is also considered to be a Buddhist shrine because one Buddhist monk got enlightenment here. As a proof of this, we could find various stupas of Buddhist monks and their dwarapaalakas. After thanking Perumal, we left the place at 1100 hours. On the way back, we happened to visit a small thirumaligai run by a Srivaishnava, a disciple of Chinna Jeeyarswamy.
He greeted us warmly and offered us some herbal drink which would act as an anecdote against the biting cold weather. Infact, despite our bath in icy cold water, none of us fell sick . When Adiyen was expressing my desire to collect saaligramams silas for worshipping , swamy was kind , he immediately gave me 5 saaligramams murthys worshipped by the mutt , out of which 2 were collected from Damodar Kund and one moorthi was receiving his upacharams daily reciting Acharyar dhaniyan and Thirupallandu. Was blessed indeed .
LORD was very kind to come along with us to our home to be with us .
Tears rolling chanting dwayam adiyen offered humble pranaams to all .Felt my purpose of birth was fulfilled.
In a period of 10 years many more Sree moorthy ( saigrama silas ) arrived at adiyens residence ( Thiruvengadam ) and are being worshipped and adiyen never attempted to count the lordships …. After settling down , we started our return journey to Jomsom. We were told that it would take 4 hours for us to reach Jomsom as it is easier to walk down the mountains. My children had already left on the ponies with the horse man along with our luggage and PERUMAL ( Lordships ) . We were lagging behind. Added to this, we missed our route. Though we were doubtful about the route, we could not get clarification as there was no one around us. Guessing our way, we climbed down the hill and reached a cliff which was the dead end. Below the cliff, as we saw Gandaki river flowing, we guessed that it should be the route and while trying to get down, we nearly had almost a fall. Clinging to each other both of us were totally perplexed, frightened and chanted loudly Hanuman Chalisa.
Luckily we spotted few farmers who were working in a far away field and waived a cloth towards them . Immediately a young lad of about 15 years came to our rescue. After saving us from this fall, he accompanied us for half an hour or so and led us to the correct path. He told that we had come near Kagbeni village and that particular place was the route to Domodar kund where the origin of saaligramam begins and that Eklabhatti was far off. Silently prayed LORD for a darshan at Daamodar kund soon. Added to this, due to heavy winds, we were finding it very difficult to put even a step further.. By straying on the wrong path, we had to walk for another 2 hours. Finally, we reached Eklabhatti at 1700 hours.
Meanwhile, children were worried and were enquiring about our whereabouts. As we had gone on the wrong side, they only got negative reply which added to their worry. Meanwhile, they went to the banks of Kali Gandaki river and while reciting the sloka told by my father , they were able to collect some saaligramama moorthies right from the holy river. Out of these, one murthi was that of Lord Sri Rama, one Sri Srinivasar, Varahar, Matsya murthi and few Hiranya garbhams. They also collected 2 big saaligramams which we wanted to worship at our Kushaiguda Sri Venkateshwara temple. But maybe it was Perumal’s will to stay back in Jomsom itself as the airport authorities did not allow us to take the bigger silas. It was already dark when we reached Eklabhatti and as we had another 1 hour trekking, the pony rider advised my wife to ride on pony.
My younger daughter trekked with me for more than one and half hour amidst chanting bhajans and maha mantra We reached Jomsom at 19 hours. We were pleased to hear about our ticket confirmation from the hotel owner. Our flight was scheduled to leave Jomsom at 9 A.M. the following morning. Thanked LORD for all His grace and retired for the night. We called home from the satellite telephone and informed Lords grace in giving us a darshan .After all any SriVaishnavaite desires he vist all the Divya desams and take to spirituality .Our Elders were very pleased for our children braving to reach the holy dhaam..It was a pleasant experience. Next day, the hotel manager approached us and informed that the flight to Pokhara was cancelled due to technical failure of the aircraft. On hearing this, we were totally shattered . He advised us to either take a helicopter (a private one) which he would be arranging for others by paying for the tickets in dollars (INR 30,000) or either go by jeep upto 20 kms, walk for about 15 hours to reach Thathopani, take a bus to Pokhra which would take about 20 hours. As the second option was impossible, we decided to opt for the first one and gave our consent. Arrangements were made to get a helicopter from Katmandu . Though the scheduled departure was at 12 noon as promised by the hotel manager, the helicopter arrived at Jomsom at 1600 hours only. All of us boarded it and reached Pokhara at 1700 hours. The 20 minute journey by helicopter was very inconvenient and fearful. Worst with noise and full of congestion. The very rare privelage of travelling in a helicopter was being fullfilled may be I felt. Adiyen was continuously chanting Maha mantra and the moment we left the copter, 2 devotees who hail from England approached me and offered Prasad saying that they had done Pournami pooja at Muktinath, a day before we reached the holy shrine. I was happy to learn that they have migrated to Kashi and having undertaken penance, they are simultaneously doing research on Vedas. It is only due to the abundant grace of Perumal on this sinner that Adiyen could visit all the divya desams with my wife and children and attribute this to my previous janma wherein adiyen would have been associated with Srivaishnavas by touching the dust of their feet or must have done some petty kainkaryam which yielded this fruit of visiting the divya desams in this janma. May the divine forms of Perumal of all divya desams remain fresh in our memories and may our lips continuously chant the holy myriad names of the Lord. May our visit to the divya desams remain fresh in our minds so that when we leave this human body, we would be qualified to get moksha. The cab driver whom we got used to address as “kaka” was waiting for us at the airport. We rushed to the hotel where we had left our baggages and without losing any time, we left the place to go to Janakpur. We thanked the Hotel manager and his brother-in-law for all his intervention and help. But for him, it would have been impossible for us to go to Muktinath.
We decided that we offer our prayers to Sita Piratti .Taking clue from the fellow Nepalis we dashed into the cab with the available 24 hrs left . We traveled whole night and at 01.00 hrs we alighted at a thickly populated area and rested. At 5AM we resumed our journey to Janakpur which is located near Bihar border in Nepal is one of the most attractive tourist spots. This is the place where Goddess Sita was born and the place where the famous “SITA RAAMA KALYANAM “ took place. So, we didn’t want to miss this. It takes about 8 hours to reach from Pokhara and we had to cross Chitwan jungle. We reached Janakpur at 0800 hours in the morning . The driver informed us that it would take another 10 hours for us to reach Gorakhpur provided there was no traffic jam. We had to hasten ourselves as we had to be in Gorakpur at any cost that night. We quickly went inside the palace –converted into temple. Prayers on Goddess sita was written in Hindi on display boards. Morning abhishekam was just over and we had to wait for few minutes to have darshan of Thayar. In the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Rama, Sita Devi and King Janaka are seen. During aarthi, prayers on Sita Devi were sung. Apart from this, the palace houses other shrines too. In one of the shrines, we could find full family of Janaka – Lord Rama –Sita, Lakshmana-Urmila, Bharata, Shatruguna –Srutikeerthi, King Janaka, his brother, his queen . Apart from this, this shrine houses 3,000 saaligramama silas which were covered by a satin cloth. We proceeded to Sita Rama Kalyana Mantapam which is situated just outside the palace on the left side. Rs.5/- is charged as entrance fee . A big mantapam in the centre with life –size images . Lord Rama, and Sita in Kalyana Thirukolam in sitting posture,Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatruguna also in Kalyana Thirukolam, King Janaka and his brother in standing posture, Dasaratha,his queens, Sage Vasishta and other rishi in sitting postures, Brahma, Shiva and other devas blessing. The sight was a real feast to the eyes. Around the mantapam, on 4 sides, there are 4 sannidhis for all the 4 brothers with their wives. We left Janakpur at 0930 hours and having visited all the places as per our schedule, we continued to reach our final destination, Gorakhpur. We crossed Nepal border at 1500 hours (that was the last day of our permit) in bihar. The highway roads in Bihar is the most horrible one with full of bumps and it took more than an hour to cross the border on the Indian side. There is absolutely no cleanliness, no hygiene, no traffic rule, no proper roads. Uttar Pradesh which we entered around 6 P.M. was more horrible with traffic jams. We were stuck in traffic jam for more than 5 hours. No police to regularize the traffic. We learnt that it was very common and most of the truck drivers had left their trucks on the road itself and were loitering. Once again , our sincere prayers to Lord Hanuman was answered. After hours of pleading the truck drivers, we somehow got way to move . But the way was not sufficient for a car to pass through. the the driver literally tilted the car because of muddy road on his left and drove only on 2 wheels carefully . With great difficulty, the impossible task was made possible by the grace of Lord. We reached Gorakhpur at 2300 hours in the night. We checked into one of the hotels near the station, and retired for the night. Thanked God profusely for the successful, though was seeming impossible adventurous trip to Nepal. We boarded Secunderabad-Gorakhpur Express at 0600 hours on the following morning and reached Secunderabad at 1830 hours the following day. Thus ended our trip to Saaligramam ( MUKTHINAATH KSHETRAM) After a short break of 2 days, we went to Tirumala with our parents and thanked God for His abundant Grace on us all over . As part of our VIMSATI DARSHANAM scheme, we participated in Suprabhata seva, Unjal seva, Archana Anantara seva for 2 days and also performed Thirukalyana utsavam to Malayappa swamy ( our parents performed the same).
WE also visited Thiruvellikeni and thanked Sri Parthasarathy Perumal for successful completion of divya desa yaatrai as way back in 1998, we had prayed to this Perumal for visiting all the srivaishnava divya desams.
. During this trip, Adiyen’s faith was put to test several times and Adiyen passed this only due to the grace of Lord and His devotees. Adiyen may be contacted for any guidance while planning for this yathirai.
Adiyen Ramanuja dasan