Nepal is a country not only famous for its beautiful tourism spots but also temples and pilgrimages. The country in all regions holds the holiest places in some religions. Yearly many worshippers arrive in Nepal to worship the deities. One of the most beautiful and amazing pilgrimage sites of Nepal are those where the people of more than one religion pay their worship. There are many places in Nepal where people do so. There are some places where the people of both Buddhism and Hinduism do so. Swayambhu Nath, Sesh Naran, Muktinath.etc. This shows that how closely the people of these religions live in this beautiful country.
Muktinath is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites of Nepal. Yearly many worshippers of Hinduism and Buddhism visit there. It is one of the most sacred places in that region. Religion worships at the same time but the deity they worship is, however, different. There is a golden statue inside the main temple which the Hindu worship as Lord Vishnu. The Buddhists call Muktinath the temple of Chuming Gyatsa which means a hundred waters in the Tibetan language.
Muktinath lies in one of the remote regions of Nepal. However, the location does not stop the worshippers going there and worshiping their deity. The temple lies at an altitude of 3710m above sea level, which makes it one of the temples located at the highest altitudes. Muktinath is one of the eight holiest temples of Lord Vishnu as per Hinduism. They are collectively known as Svayam Vyakta Kshetras. There are 7 other temples in that list that are in various parts of the world.
Muktinath valley lies in the Mustang district of the Gandaki region of Nepal. The valley itself lies at the foot of Thorong La mountain pass. The regions of these areas are incredibly famous for tourism and trekking. The area surrounding the temple is very mountainous in appearance. Mustang is one of the dry places of Nepal so, Mustang gives the vibe of a desert area. Muktinath is one of the holiest sites that lie in these regions.
Temple of Muktinath
Looking at the main temple of Muktinath, it is not so big but is a medium-sized temple. The temple is made of bricks and is colored white from the outside. Inside the temple is a large statue of Lord Vishnu, which is golden in color and is about the size of an average human. At the side of the statue are two other statues of a female goddess. One is believed to be of goddess Laxmi and the other to be of goddess earth herself.
Buddhists believe the statue to be of Avalokitesvara. The temple additionally has 108 bull faces from where holy water comes out. There is also a small pond. It is believed that the human who bathes in the water comes out of all 108 bull faces and the pond is washed of all the mortal sins that he has committed in his/her life.
The place is called Mukti chetra also because the waters of the temple can provide salvation from the sins committed in their lives. The water is very cold and is freezing, but this does not stop the devotees to take bath in those waters. Not, just Hinduism but the follower of Buddhism also believes that sins will be washed after bathing in those waters.
Muktinath lies in the Gandaki Zone of Nepal and there are several ways to get to the Gandaki zone. If you are a resident of Nepal, then the route to Muktinath may vary according to your current location.
If you are a resident of India or China also you can enter through the border at various places and drive to the Gandaki region and hence Muktinath. Only the residents of those two countries can enter Nepal without a visa. Indians do not need a visa while Chinese people do not need a visa to stay in Nepal for 30 days and vice versa.
If you are an international tourist belonging to other countries than India and China and are coming to Nepal to visit Muktinath then your only option is to arrive first in Kathmandu. Then from here through various routes, you can go to Muktinath. Kathmandu has the only international airport in the country, so it is compulsory.
Kathmandu to Muktinath by airway
To get to Muktinath from Kathmandu, the first option is airway. If the tourist is on a tight schedule this way is the best. The tourist needs to go to Jomsom first from Tribhuvan International Airport. The total flight time is about 30 to 35 minutes. Muktinath is 23.3km away from Jomsom, which the travelers can complete in about 1 hour.
Kathmandu to Muktinath by Vehicle
Kathmandu to Muktinath by vehicle is also possible. It is a good option if the visitors have a free schedule as they can get to visit many places on the way to Muktinath.
Day 1 Kathmandu to Pokhara
Pokhara is the first destination to reach Muktinath from Kathmandu by vehicle. The city of Pokhara is 200Km away from Kathmandu. The travelers need to travel on the Prithvi highway to reach Pokhara. For the distance to complete it will take about 6 hours.
Pokhara is one of the most beautiful cities of Nepal and has major tourist attraction centers. If travelling by vehicle to Muktinath, it is advised to spend a few days before going or after returning from Pokhara. Pokhara is famous for its beauty, natural resources, and holy sites for all visitors.
Day 2 Pokhara to Muktinath
The temple of Muktinath is about 176.6Km away from Pokhara. The travelers can get to the temple in about 6 to 7 hours from Pokhara. The journey is incredibly attractive and filled with various amazing landscapes.
Kathmandu to Muktinath
There is also one bus route that goes directly from Kathmandu to Muktinath. Since Muktinath is about 375km away from Kathmandu. The direct route through the vehicle is not advised as spending that much distance in the vehicle may give pain to the backside.
Muktinath History from Hindu Mythology
In ancient times there was a powerful demon Jalandhar. Jalandhar was happy in his life and had a loving wife, Brinda. Brinda was very devoted to her husband and loved him. One day Jalandhar learned about Devi Parbati. It was said that Devi Parbati was the most beautiful woman in her entire existence. Devi Parbati was married to Lord Shiva who is one of the Hindu trinities.
Jalandhar wanted to see Devi Parvati so, he disguised himself as Lord Shiva and went to Kailash. Devi Parbati upon seeing him realized he was not Lord Shiva. Jalandhar after seeing Devi Parbati ram from Kailash back to his home. He was enchanted by the beauty of the goddess and wanted her for himself.
On the other side, Mahadev returned to his home Kailash after meditation. Then his wife told him all about the attempted trickery of Jalandhar. Mahadev was very furious and announced war upon Jalandhar.
Jalandhar was very arrogant about his powers, so he also accepted the war and fought. Another reason Jalandhar fought this war was, he believed if he could defeat Mahadev Parbati could be his.
Everybody believed Mahadev would be easily victorious in this battle, surprisingly even he could not defeat Jalandhar. The secret of Jalandhars strength was his wife, Brinda. Brinda was so devoted towards her husband that no one and nothing can kill him till his wife was loyal towards him.
After battling days and nights the war did not come to any conclusion.
This is when Lord Vishnu entered the picture. When Jalandhar and Mahadev again returned to battling each other. Then lord Vishnu disguised as Jalandhar went to his home to the wife of Jalandhar Brinda. Brinda did not recognize Lord Vishnu and thought of her as her husband. When Brinda was deceived, Mahadev could kill Jalandhar and he killed him.
Brinda shortly found out what has happened, and his husband was killed. Brinda was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu himself. She was saddened by being tricked by the one whom she worshiped dearly. She then saddened by the events that have happened blamed Lord Vishnu for the death of her husband. Brinda gave up her life and cursed Lord Vishnu to be of stone. At that time, it is believed that a big black stone was formed in Muktinath valley. Nobody put it there, nobody brought it there, it just originated there. This is believed to be the mythology behind the origin of Muktinath.
There is another mythology behind the origin of Muktinath from Hindusim. This story is also related to Lord Shiva and Goddess Sati (The previous birth of Goddess Parvati). It was the time when goddess Sati was incredibly angry at her father Daksha Prajapati for disrespecting Lord Shiva in front of her. Then goddess Sati umped in the fire of Yagya at the home of her father Daksha calling the name of her husband Lord Shiva. When Goddess Sati sacrificed herself in the fire and dies. Lord Shiva carried her on his shoulders and circled the globe. Without Lord Shiva the universe was disbalances.
So, to get Lord Shiva back in the world, Lord Vishnu devised the plan. With is Maya Lord Vishnu cut the corpse of the Devi Sati, Shiva was carrying in his shoulder. The parts fell on various parts of the world and from every part, a Shakti pith originated. Muktinath is the place where the forehead of the goddess fell. Some sources also say that it was the place where the lips of the goddess fell.
Muktinath History by Buddhism
In Buddhism, the Muktinath temple is called Chumming Gyatsa. In Buddhism and Tibetans legend there are 24 Tantric places which are the powerhouses of the tantras. Chumming Gyatsa (Muktinath) is one of those 24 Tantric places and has great spiritual value. It is said that Chumming Gyatsa consists of 21 stars and is home to the Dakini (Dakini in Buddhism are the goddess who appears after manifestation tantra in the highest forms and is the dancer of the sky).
Guru Rinpoche is one of the prominent figures of Buddhism. He was also known as Padmasambhava. It is believed that he was the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhists believe that Guru Rinpoche meditated in the region of the Muktinath Chetra.
Importance of Muktinath temple
According to the mythologies, we living beings are trapped in the cycle of rebirth. We take one life after another in these earth-changing bodies. When a soul attains enlightenment then only the cycle of rebirth is broken. One who attains enlightenment understands the world and universe to the core and that soul does not need to come to earth again to find enlightenment. There is one block in the way of attaining enlightenment that is Maya. Maya is the attachment to the world which never lets people attain enlightenment if they are attached to it. Enlightenment is followed by nirvana which is a key element in breaking this cycle.
Muktinath is called so because the place has the power to break the cycle. The name Muktinath is comprised of two words Mukti and Nath. Where Mukti means freedom and Nath means owner or giver. He is the one who could give all the souls the freedom which they eternally desire after visiting there and getting blessed.
Muktinath and its role in Religious Harmony
The temples and monuments like Muktinath are the bridge between two religions. The location is the same, the temple is the same and the idol is also the same. However, the people of both religions worship and present their devotion in their way. Hindus call him Lord Vishnu, Buddhists call him Avalokitesvara. It is best as both religions the sentiments view and mythology of the other religion and carries out their traditions.
In a world where there is so much religious intolerance, Muktinath is an example of religious tolerance and religious harmony. In this temple two gods, two religions, two mythologies, and people of two religions get united.