Muktinath and Damodhar Kunda Trek
Muktinath to Damodar Kunda pilgrimage is a lifetime experience for Hindu and Buddhist alike. Many devotees from across the globe visit the holy shrine and hike upto to it for sacred bath. The whole place reverberates the senses and touches the inner soul like any other places on earth. However difficult may be the terrain, entry formalities the places attract the human race every year.
During my Himalayan Sojourns in Nepal pursuing various adventures and on sacred pilgrimages including Mount Kailash and Manasarovar region bordering Tibet. I Myself hailing from and traveling in a Hindu country with mixture of cultures, was fascinated by the interesting tales of folklore, cultural diversity, Legends of Land, divine properties of Rudrakasha and precious stones found here mesmerised me.
To my dismay Colorful stones, Khukris, Ornaments were on display at all places during my tour. Be it in the alleys of Thamel market, at all shops selling antique items in Katmandu, and in tibetan market.Tibetan women commonly selling it and other antique paraphernalia even near to Monasteries at Saga, Gandruk, Darchen, Namche bazaar and other places.
A black stone called Shaligrama - known as Shila - Sacred Fossil Ammonites looked interesting and drew my attention.I was awestruck looking at the pattern my curiosity doubled and began to gather information about it.Our guide during the Annapoorna Trek told that it is very auspicious and will be found in the Kali Ghandaki river in the Upper Mustang valley, located in the remote region of Nepal.I became more inquisitive to know more about it.
Later on during a interection with one of the Vaishnavite priest came to know that it is representation of Lord Vishnu, and he shared a bit information about it.He mentioned that it is Muktinath, a sacred temple and is one of 108 Divya Desam. Vaishnav people (followers of Vishnu in Hinduism) highly respect this holy place. Generally, there are eight holy sites knowns as Swayam Vyakta or Divya Kshetra of deity Vishnu. Muktinath is one of them and others are Tirupati, Badrinath Srirangam, Naimisharanya, Srimushnam, Totadri, and Pushkar.
He mentioned about the origin of Shaligrama Shila and Damodhar Kunda, yet another Sacred ablong lake which is the birth place of Kali Ghandaki River.He even mentioned that they are found in the Gandaki river.I was flabbergasted to hear all this and my joy knew no bounds.No sooner I heard about it, i made up my mind to visit the divya ksethra.
I began to gather more information about both Sacred sites, entry formalities, best season,and followed the below route with other like minded people in the year 2016 and followed the below itinerary.
Day 01: Arrival (TIA) Kathmandu at Airport pick up and Transfer to Hotel Overnight at Hotel in Thamel. Visit to Pashupathinath Temple.
On arrival we were picked from the airport and transferred to Hotel. Evening we visted Pashupatinath temple near to Gaushala to seek the blessing of Lord and for good fortune.
Day 02: Kathmandu to Pokhara by road. Pokhara Sightseeing Overnight Hotel.
It took us 5 Hours to reach Pokhra by road.As few of the members in the group were first timers, we made a stop over midway and visited Manokamana Temple - Manokamana Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati and it is situated in the village of Manakamana in Gorkha District, Gandaki Province.
Evening was spent nearby Phewa lake and visit to International Mountain Museum near to Airport.
Day 03: Pokhara to Jomsom (2720m) Today early in the morning after early breakfast fly to by STOL Aircraft Flight to Jomsom.Overnight at Guest House.
Morning, we reached the airport by 6:00 am.We could see entire range of Himalayan peaks Fish tail - Machapuchure, Annapoorna Massif , Hinchuli glowing in the backdrop from the airstrip. We boarded the STOL aircraft with 16 passengers on board. It took around 30 minutes to reach Jomsom Airport.
Jomsom , located Northern direction of Pokhra in Mustang district, and is the main gateway to Upper Mustang.We were transferred to hotel in Jomsom.The whole place looked like a dreamland with mid blowing scenery.
Day 04 Morning drive towards Muktinath. Explore the Temple and further drive towards Chhusanag/Kagbeni (2800m), 2-3 hours driving Overnight at Guest house
We all woke up early and soon were on the way to Muktinath by a local jeep.It took us less than 90 minutes by road.We checked into guest house and later visited the temple.
Soon we were at the temple complex housing main shrine and various thirthas.
The abode of Lord Vishnu Muktinath temple is located at an altitude of 3, 800 meters above sea level in the Mustang region of Nepal.It si the 106th of the 108 Divya Desam “Muktinath temple” holds great religious significance for people residing in the South India, particularly Vaishnavite sect - Worshippers of Lord Vishnu.. It lies by snow-capped mountains at Thorong-La mountain pass and called Muktinathdham, Muktikshetra - Place of Salvation for Hindu devotees. The term ‘Divya Desam’ stands for 108 Vishnu temples.Hindu belivers visit here, and is a spiritual journey of lifetime. Those Visiting Mount Kailash Mansarovar embark on this journey for the thrill of it - lying in the restricted region bordering tibet, the rugged terrain, eye catching scenery and spirituality attract them.
Three important Divya Desams at Muktinath temple where tourists can witness Lord Vishnu in three positions are:
- Kidantha Thirukkolam – Sleeping position.
- Veetrirundha Thirukkolam – Sitting position.
- Nindra Thirukkolam – Standing position.
About Muktinath and Mukti Kshetra
Muktinath dham is considered to be a perfect ‘place of liberation.’ Buddhists regard this place as Chumig Gyatsa, meaning 100 waters. It is one of the 24 Tantric places.
The divine Muktinath mandir is considered to have originated on its own Uddhbhava Ksethra. The temple are considered holy by the Vaishnava sect, and their literature goes back to 1000 BCE. The significance of the name “Muktinath'' has a religious connotation with a sort of emotional ring to it. This Sanskrit name is a synthesis of two words- Mukti Nath. “Mukti'' signifies Salvation or Nirvana and the term “Nath” signifies “master or god.” According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that the world is “MAYA” or the illusion of a life cycle of birth and rebirth. Hindu devotees consider this place as a holy site. Thousands of devotees undertake a holy pilgrimage to visit here to find solace and nirvana in Muktinath every year.
About Spirtuality and Temple history
According to holy scriptures. Lord Vishnu transformed into Shaligram Shila due to the Curse of Brinda. Lord Vishnu found his salvation in the Muktinath That is why Lord Vishnu is worshiped by the Hindus here. On the other hand, the Buddhists adore Lord Vishnu as Avalokiteshvara (Buddha). Muktinath is a very old Hindu Temple of Lord Vishnu. The temple also has a religious link with Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva.
A significant event in the Muktinath Temple history is the instigation of the structure of this temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Chenrezig at Chumig Gyatsa in 1815 by Queen Subarna Prabha. The queen identified Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa as Shaligrama. As per old myths about Muktinath Temple, Shaligrama was a sacred stone found in the Kali Gandaki River, even today. At different times, various saints such as Guru Padmasambhava and Mahasiddhas blessed the places with their visits and meditation. The Tibetan Buddhist nuns are the customary visitors of the Muktinath Temple. Tibetan Buddhists believe that the Muktinath Temple location houses twenty-one Taras and female goddesses like Goddess of wealth and consort of Vishnu - Lakshmi, Goddess of learning Saraswati, and other Goddesses. The temple is also believed to be the home to Dakinis. The Dakinis are recognized as celestial Sky Dancers
The central shrine of the Muktinath Temple is one of the eight most sacred shrines for Hindu Vaishnavas, known as Svayam Vyakta Kshetras. The Muktinath Temple is considered a Shakti Peetha too. Shakti Peethas are the holy abodes of fallen body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi – The consort of Lord Shiva. The body parts were scattered at different locations when Lord Shiva carried the burnt corpse and wandered. The “Shakti” of Muktinath Mandir shrine is addressed as “Gandaki Chandi” and the “Bhairava” as “Chakrapani.”.It is said that Sati Devi’s forehead temple is believed to have fallen here.
Though shrine is small, the Temple is one of the most ancient Hindu temples of God Vishnu. The statue inside the sanctum of Lord Vishnu is enormous, made up of real gold.
108 Muktidharas to cleanse ones sins of lifetime !
The outer courtyard or the Prakara has 108 Cow faces. Natural stream of water known as thirtha pouring out from Gaumukh is considered a auspicious. A dip the sacred cold water, is said to have medicinal properties and cleanse all sins of past life. One can either take a dip in the sacred tank known as Pushkarini water. Here the daily puja rituals are carried out by Buddhists.
Day 05: After your breakfast drive to Yara (3650m) 6-7 hrs Overnight at Guest House.
We passed to Villages of Kagbeni (2800 m), Chele (3100 m) , Gheling (3570m) and Tsarang (3560m).The sepentine journey across mountain dry land interspersed with sound of roaring river Kali Ghandaki for company.The turbulent river water had blocked the makeshift road,the whole journey to breaks and mesmarising views made our journey more memorable !
With no soul around we managed to retrieve the vehicle with the help of tractor.It is a common scenario for locals commuting to remote land or one has to hire a horse.
We finally bid good bye to local bus and convinced the driver finally , boarded the tractor and continued our journey till Lo Mathang.
Lo Manthang (3840m )
Lo Manthang (3,800m) is an isolated Tibetan settlement that was founded in 1380 and Capital ancient city of Upper Mustang.The village is covered by the wall so that Lo Manthang is also called a walled city of Upper Mustang. The area is inhabited by Lhobas people.
We could see vast expanse of Wheat and barley field, mud-brick local houses and desert land in Upper Mustang
During our stay we set out to explore the ancient Buddhist site , thousand years old monasteries.This Area of Upper Mustang and Lo Manthang is restricted for outsiders. Special permits from the department of immigration of Nepal have to obtain for foreigners other than Nepali. Only registed Nepal Tour Companies are allowed to obtain Upper Mustang restricted area permit. Individually obtaining this permit is not possible. The cost of the permit is a minimum of USD 500 per person, that valid for 10 days. USD 50 per day per person additional cost if stay more than 10 days inside the area. Tourists cannot issue a permit of this area as individually, only registered trekking company allows issuing restricted area permits of Upper Mustang.
The view of Himalayan peaks from Lo Manthang was something that cannot be described in words.
Day 06: Trek Yara to Ghuma Thanti (4800m) 6-7 hrs overnight night at (Tent Camp)
We resumed our journey, their were 2 options left.One being long walk along the river bed and hiring horse.Since the whole region falls under rain shadow area, it was sunny with shade of blue and clouds dotting it.We walked whole day and reached camp in the evening.
Day 07: Trek Ghuma Thanti to Khola (Riverside 4200m) 6-7 hrs overnight night at (Tent Camp)
For us crossing the ice cold streams, hopping over boulders was a common.The journey across the vast river valley was never ending.Listening to the past experiences, wild encounters of fellow porters and guide our journey seemed worthwhile every moment.
Day 08: Trek Khola (river side) (4200m) to Damodar Kunda (4890m) 6-7 hrs Overnight night at (Tent Camp)
Though the journey was through barren land, the cool breeze made us moving.The entire landscape lay before with sand mounds, sand pinnacles guarding the valley like sentinels resembling stalgmites was interesting sight.I felt this might have caused by the flow of the river or by its movement.Each turn and descent was awe inspiring.We gasped in surprise and was truly Natures work of art !. A photographers delight too.
Day 09: Exploring the high altitude Damodar Kunda/Lake (4890m) and return back to Ghuma Thanti (4800m) 4-5 hours’ Overnight night at (Tent Camp)
Damodar Kunda Pilgrimage is a lifetime dream for thousands of Hindus, such is the significance of this holy site ! While the sacred destination is on the bucket list of many, thousands of Hindus take up the yatra every year besides the fact that it is quite a complicated one. Damodar Kund located at an altitude of 5, 400 meters, holiest and dedicated to Lord Vishnu is situated in the Upper Mustang region in Nepal.
The place also finds a mention in Varaha Purana where it is considered a Ultimate place to cleanse off one’s sins both for the present and previous birth. It also states how the two sons of Kuber also made it to the Lake to wash off their sins on the advice of Lord Krishna. Damodar Kund is also known as the source of the Kali Gandaki River, one of the holiest rivers to flow through the Himalayas.
We could have a glimpse of the jaw-dropping views of the Himalayas including Damodar Himal, Annapurna, Nilgiri, Dhaulagiri peaks dotting the landscape.We took at dip in the ice cold water and left no trace of visit.
Day 10: Trek Ghuma Thanti to Yara (3900m) 4-5 hrs Drive back to Jomsom for Overnight at Guest House
After days walk, we retired in the makeshift shelters which was no less of Paradise.What else can one ask for in this region ?.The true pleasures one should expereince in lifetime !
Day 11: Flight to Pokhra. Overnight at Hotel
Finally our journey of life time had come to end, again after darshan of Muktinath, we bid goodbye to holy land.We flew from Jomsom to Pokhra.
Day 12: Pokhara to Kathmandu by road drive 6-7 hrs Overnight at Hotel.
Day 13: End of Spiritual tour and drop to International Airport.
How To Reach Muktinath
There are different ways to reach the Muktinath Temple.
1: Muktinath Temple by Road
Muktinath Temple tour by land transport takes around two nights. The journey starts from Capital city Kathmandu while traveling through Pokhara following the Prithvi Highway to Jomsom via Beni, Tatopani, Ghasa, and Marpha and finally reaching Muktinath Temple.
The journey starts via a jeep from Kathmandu to Pokhara (206 km), and it takes around 7 hours to cover the distance.The next day, the journey starts from Pokhara to Jomsom, 170 km ahead of Pokhara. It usually takes 8-9 hours to reach Jomsom while passing through villages of Beni, Tatopani - Hot water in Nepali , Ghasa. The roads down to Beni (100 km) are comfortable. However, the rest of the Muktinath Temple tour of the 70 km journey is off-road. After Beni, the road goes alongside the Kali Gandaki River till Muktinath.
2 :Muktinath Temple by STOL Flights and Helicopter
Regular flights ply of various airlines , YETI, SITA and heli services are available from Tribhuvan Domestic Airport to Pokhra and to Jomsom.
How to reach Damodhar Kunda
Muktinath can be combined with Damodhar Kunda Tour by Helicopter
Helicopter services are available for desired from Kathmandu to Jomsom and Damodhar Kunda for a short visit. However.....
Note : It takes up to 13 days if you combine the Muktinath Dham with the Damodar Kund Yatra and choose to trek it. However, both the trips can also be completed in a matter of 4 days if one chooses to travel to the destinations via helicopter. It is a great option for those who are old in age, have a physical disabily.
Climbup and Sleep down is the only way to overcome Altitude Sickness. Dont Overstress yourself !
Permission and Entry Formalities
- As Damodhar Kunda lies in the restricted area.Tourist/Yatris/Foreigners have to fullfil the entry formalities by paying Entry Roaylty fee 500 USD / 30 USD ACAP permit as whole area falls in the Annapoorna region/TIMS Permit applicable.Permits are MANDATORY
- Tour with a registered guide and company is SAFE and COMPULSARY
Due to altitude one gets sick and becomes victim knowlingly or because of less medical aid/evacuation. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) can be a problem if you arrive directly at Muktinath or Damodhar Kunda without acclimitizing at low atitude.Many people have headaches, body pain, and vomiting during the night when they directly on arrival.AMS symptoms may include headaches, vomiting, tiredness, trouble sleeping, and dizziness. If you have similar symptoms, then you must return to a lower altitude.
Evacuation is only remedy.& Rest !