Muktinath is a famous temple in Nepal that is often termed as a religious symbiosis between the Buddhists and the Hindu pilgrims. The temple is significant to the people of both religions and is held in high reverence too. ‘Muktinath’ is a Sanskrit word that is split into ‘Mukti’ meaning ‘Salvation’ and ‘Nath’ meaning the ‘master or god’. The temple is deeply associated with the pilgrims’ faith in achieving salvation or nirvana here.
While the Hindus worship Lord Vishnu as the lord of salvation or ‘Muktinath’ here, the Buddhists worship the temple sight as the place where Guru Rinpoche meditated.
Besides being a popular religious destination, Muktinath Yatra is also a famous trekking destination for trekkers around the world.
Muktinath Temple — The Location
The famous Muktinath Temple is located in the Mustang district of Nepal. At an altitude of 3800 meters and 24 km northeast of Jomsom, the temple falls on the route of the famous Annapurna Circuit. One can reach the temple by crossing the Thorong-La Mountain Pass that forms the part of the Annapurna Conservation area in the Mustang district of Nepal.
There are various ways of reaching the temple sight—by road, by helicopter, by flight and by trek. While traveling by road can take about 2 nights; traveling by flight involves 1 night; by the helicopter, 1:30 hours and trekking to the temple takes 7 nights.
The best time to visit the Muktinath temple
The best months to visit the Muktinath Temple are from March to June and September through November. The weather at this time is clear and makes for some clearly visible, spectacular views. The snow-capped mountains make for a post-card perfect picture. Since the days are sunny and the sky is clear, the journey is also comfortable. However, there are a few times when there is heavy rainfall during this season and it makes the road tour a little difficult and adventurous.
Spring season that starts from March and lasts till May is the best time to take up a trek to the famous Muktinath Temple. The hills and the forests are covered with colorful flowers, especially Rhododendrons and the entire area is distinct with a peculiar fragrance. The season is ideal for a visit to Mustang.
Even though the winter months of December, January and February are extremely cold and most of the areas are covered in snow, a helicopter tour to the temple is worth it!
In the months of September, October and November, the area experiences autumn season and the temperatures are moderate. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold and that makes it another good time to visit the temple. The environment is also more clean and green since the rainy season washes away most of the dust and pollution around.
All said and done, Autumn & Spring remains the two best seasons to visit the Muktinath Temple. But if you are unaffected by the extreme cold, the winter months will also be a different experience.
Muktinath Temple — Significance
Muktinath Temple, also known as Chumig Gyatsa is a religiously significant place of worship for both Hindus and Buddhists. Both religions have different beliefs and different significances about the place and hold the place in high esteem. For the same reason, the temple is regarded as a symbol of religious symbiosis between both the religious sects.
Significance for Hindus
Hindus worship Lord Vishnu as ‘Muktinath’ or the ‘Lord of Salvation’ here since they believe this is the place where the lord got salvation from the curse of Brinda, wife of Jalandhar. Another popular belief about the temple is that the holy shrine has arisen on its own.
The temple is also regarded as one among the popular eight shrines; the others being Srirangam, Tirupati, Thottadri, Pushkaram, Sri Mushnam, Naimisaranyam, and Badrinath. The temple is a pagoda-style structure and one among the 108 Vaishnava Shrines. The Hindus sanctified the site as a Hindu Temple in the early 19th century and it was named the Muktinath Temple.
Significance for Buddhists
The temple is also significant for Buddhists but for a completely different reason. They believe, it is here that their guru, Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava meditated. Buddhists call the temple ‘Chumig Gyatsa’ which literally translates to ‘Hundred waters’. The Tibetan Buddhists consider the temple site as an important place of sky dancers or Dakinis. It is also one of the 24 Tantric places. Buddhists believe that the idol in the temple is a manifestation of Avalokitesvara. The deity is believed to embody the kindness of all Buddha.
Why is it important to visit the temple?
As per Hindu mythology, it is important to attain nirvana or salvation and get rid of the worldly affairs and the vicious cycle of birth and rebirth. Muktinath temple is the place where one can achieve this goal.
In the backyard of the temple, there are 108 water spouts carved in stone. Ice cold water from the holy Kali Gandaki River flows continuously from these bull-head shaped water spouts. It is called ‘Muktidhara’. There are two holy ponds known as ‘Kunda’ in front of the temple. As per the popular belief, bathing under the water spouts and the holy kundas can bring salvation to the pilgrims visiting the temple.
The temple is very significant for the people of South Asian Sub-Continent who strongly believe in attaining nirvana or salvation from the worldly affairs in their present life.
Permits required for visiting the temple
Since the Muktinath Temple forms a part of the Annapurna Conservation Area and lies in the trekking zone, the tourists are required to furnish two permits to visit the temple. These include:
1. Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP)
2. Trekker’s Information Management System Permit (TIMS)
One cannot enter this restricted area without these permits.
The temple remains unaffected by the earthquake in April 2015.