Pilgrimage with a blend of adventure

The less than a week trek through the subtropical jungle to high-altitude desert towards the Himalayan highway residing in the Kali Gandaki Valley takes you to the ancient shrine of Muktinath. It is an ideal place for the national and international trekkers as it offers the wonderful adventures of the mountain region along with the pilgrimage for the Hindu devotees.

The trekkers coming here consist of the Hindu Sadhus (ascetic) to visit the holy sanctuary of Muktinath at an altitude of 3,170m. It is an important trade and pilgrimage route across the Himalaya. One of the Nepal’s Holiest pilgrimage sites, it is a typical blend of the natural, Buddhists and Hindu beliefs. Muktinath, also mentioned in the Hindu holy book Mahabharata as Shaligrama (place of the Shaligram- the black fossil stones sacred to Lord Vishnu, found in the Kali Gandaki Valley) has been sacred for over 2000 years. Although there isn’t any real village, the lodges around the lower portion (Ranipauwa) accommodate the pilgrims and the trekkers.

With a relatively new addition of Newari-style pagoda to Lord Vishnu, Muktinath’s sanctity stems from the flickering blue flames of natural methane gas burning on water, stone and earth, and now enclosed in the shrine of Jwala Mai below the Vishnu temple. There are 108 bulls’ heads shaped spouts near the pagoda where the devotees bath in the freezing water to purify their sins and earn Mukti (spiritual liberation).

Guru Rinpoche is said to have passed through here en route to Tibet leaving his footprints in a rock which is why it holds high significance for Buddhists as well. Also many old Buddhists temples exist here.

The entire trek remains below 3000m and requires at least two weeks walk in and out along with extra few days to explore the fascinating villages in upper region. Also a flight to Jomsom is possible.

Thus, the holy place of Muktinath in the Annapurna Himalayan range of the Kali Gandaki Valley offers the adventurous trek around the mountain with a blend of pilgrimage.