Pilgrims Trail

Nepal - Muktinath
38 images

One of the holiest places on earth for Hindus and the site of centuries of Buddhist devotion, Muktinath is better known to western travellers as the first town of civilization at the end of weeks of trekking through the Annapurnas. In spring the snow recedes to expose hidden chorterns and mountains covered with prayer flags.

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Behind The Scenes

Muktinath - The holy confluence of Buddhists and Hindus

Tibetan Buddhist nuns conduct worship services and outside of the temple, long-bearded Hindu sadists sit wrapped in scarves and turbans, awaiting the good-will of passerbys or posing for photographs with trekkers. The temple itself is small and centuries old.it is in fact one of the oldest Hindu temples still in existence.

For Hindus, the sacred shrine is considered one of the 108 sacred shrines on earth. According to Hindus, the area is a veneration of Lord Vishnu, evidence which is attributed to the river stones and fossils that line the nearby riverbeds. For Buddhists, Muktinath is connected to the Sky Dancers, or Dakinas, Tibetan Buddhist goddesses who play a central role in the process of enlightenment.

It is the presence of all five elements that bring these two religions together in Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa, the local name, Chumig Gyatsameaning .hundred waters.. According to Buddhist and Hindu tradition, everything in life is born of the five elements earth, air, water, sky and fire. Inside the Jwala Mai temple, an eternal flame burns from deep within the earth. On the mountainsides, trees grow abundantly in this unusually high altitude habitat. It is said that one hundred and eight water spouts pour down from mountain streams, bringing a constant source of cleansing holy water to the village. The thin, high altitude are is clean and revitalizing, the sky endlessly blue.

After sustaining the challenge of the Thorong La Pass, many trekkers overlook this complex and holy village, willing their tired feet pass through quickly or simply stop and rest without exploring. For many Hindus and Buddhists, however, a visit to this most sacred site is the culmination of weeks of travel by foot, which will be followed by several more weeks once they have been cleansed of their impurities by the holy waters and wonder of the Himalaya.


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