a journey to the abode of Lord Vishnu on the lap of the Himalayas...
Updated on Sep 30, 2022
Muktinath which lies in the Mustang district of Nepal is on the lap of Thorung La Pass (5416M), the highest pass on the Himalayas, a trial of Annapurna Circuit Trek.
Muktinath is a peaceful place with religious significance for Hindu and Buddhist followers. For Hindu Muktinath is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the lord of Preserver, and is one of the popular ‘Divya Desams’ among 108 in total.
Lord Vishnu is also regarded as one of the 9th reincarnations of Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Thus, both religious followers take Muktinath as a source for enlightenment and nirvana.
In Hindu philosophy, Vaishnavism is a popular sect of the community more attached to Lord Vishnu. To them, Muktinath holds a prominent place, as the word MUKTINATH represents an area of Salvation.
So, devotees visit Muktinath to attain Salvation from earthly deeds, to purify self before death, as our Karmas are recounted for our next rebirth.
The structure of Muktinath Temple is small in size as compared to the other temples in Nepal, however, Muktinath has its importance and is regarded as the second most pious temple after Pashupatinath.
There are 108 water fountains in the temple premises flowing together into the pond and devotees dip there to cleanse the inner soul to attain salvation.
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History of Muktinath Temple
The history of Muktinath is as old as the history of Hindu philosophy, and the brief historical importance of Muktinath temple can be traced back to Vishnu Purana and Gandaki Mahathmya, one of the holy Hindu books depicting Lord Vishnu.
As the temple carries importance for both Hindu and Buddhist followers, although are different in practice. However, Lord Vishnu in Hindu philosophy is believed to be the lord of proctor, the lord of preserver.
So, to preserve and protect this world from evil acts, he reincarnated himself in different forms to teach Dharma and Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism is believed to be one of the 9th reincarnations of lord Vishnu.
There are some very popular legends related to the importance and origins of Muktinath Temple:
According to Hindu Mythology, during the Satya Yuga, the first age of human civilization, there occurred a battle between Lord Shiva and powerful Demon King Jalandhar. Jalandhar was fascinated with the wife of Lord Shiva, who was the mother goddess of Parvati.
So, to possess her, Jalandhar attacked Kailash Parvat, the abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati which is now in Tibet, some distance from the present Muktinath Temple.
Demon King Jalandhar with his immense power transformed himself into Lord Shiva, but he was unable to cheat goddesses Parvati. So, she escapes Mt. Kailash and seeks help from her husband Lord Shiva.
Thus, a great battle between Shiva and Jalandhar occurred, as both were equally powerful, however, the wife of a demon king, who was known as Vrinda, was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. She was in her spiritual meditation practice, which resulted in her husband being more powerful and even Shiva was not able to kill him.
Finally, Lord Shiva took the help of Lord Vishnu to kill the demon king. Vishnu transformed himself into Jalandhar and went to meet his wife, Vrinda. However, she was unable to recognize him as Vishnu and mistakes him for her husband Jalandhar.
This leads her meditation disturbed, resulting in the power of Jalandhar's declining, and thus Shiva killed the demon king Jalandhar.
Later, when Vrinda came to know the truth, it was late, and she found her husband has been killed by Vishnu’s trick. So, she cursed Vishnu stating that ‘the rest of his life he will be living as a ‘Shila’(stone) and hence Vishnu was transformed into Shila in Muktinath, and later on his temple was built over there.
After cursing Vishnu, Vrinda regretted her work and she killed herself, and from her ashes, a ‘Tulsi’ plant was grown. This incident touched lord Vishnu and he started respecting Vrinda even more, thus when devotees visited Muktinath Temple they carry a leaf of the Tulsi plant and offer it to the Shaligram of Vishnu.
It is believed, that for those who offer Tulsi leaf in Muktinath, their wish of getting liberation or salvation is heard faster.
The second myth, in Hindu philosophy Shaktism is another sect of Hinduism where female goddesses are given more importance. Shaktism followers believe that when Sati the first wife of Lord Shiva ablaze herself, Shiva in pain and agony carried her body from one part of the world to another.
During this course, Sati’s body started to fall in different parts of the world (those areas are called Shakti-Pith), and her face, which is called Mukh in Sanskrit was fallen in the same Muktinath area. Thus, this temple is called Muktinath.
Buddhist followers also give importance to Muktinath. It is stated that Guru Rimpoche also known as Guru Padma-Shamvaba who was born and brought up in the Swat valley of now Pakistan was a great Buddhist saint.
He is the one who spread Buddhism in Tibet in the 8th century, before heading towards Tibet to spread the teaching of Lord Buddha, Guru Rinpoche sat in Muktinath and meditated for a couple of days and got enlightened with the heavenly knowledge.
still, now Muktinath holds equal importance for Buddhist and Hindu followers. There is a temple and Buddhist monastery in the same area of the temple premises. Buddhist monks perform Buddhist rituals, whereas Hindu priest does Hindu rituals.
Places to Visit in and around Muktinath
Muktinath Tour is not only a journey into the Himalayas for salvation. This Muktinath Darshan tour is an amalgamation of nature and culture, there is an abundance of natural, cultural, and historical beauties of the Himalayans.
The temple of Muktinath is equally important for both Hindu and Buddhist followers and is the centre of nirvana, the centre of liberation from the materialistic world.
The main temple premises consist of Lord Vishnu’s temple with 108 water springs behind it and numerous pools for devotees to cleanse their sins. Further, in the area of Muktinath, there is a Jwala Mai Temple supervised by Buddhist monks. This is a temple with three eternal burning flames with natural gas.
Moreover, there is a Buddhist monastery open for devotees to perform ritual ceremonies and meditation.
Another centre of attraction for the Muktinath Tour is the Kaligandaki river gorge, the deepest in the world. Kaligandaki is a popular river that emerges from the Himalayas and passes through Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Himalayan ranges.
This is the only river in the world with an abundance of Ammonite or Saligram and is the source of the same. On the bank of the river Kaligandaki, there are two popular villages one is Jomson and the other is Kagbeni, the gateway to Tibet and one of the oldest salt trade routes to Tibet.
Jomsom is the official capital of Mustang with standard hotels, a museum, and a domestic airport. Whereas, Kagbeni is a ritual area and is the place where Hindus offer ‘Pinda Daan’, a ritual ceremony to remember late parents.
It is believed that every Hindu once in their life has to offer Pinda Daan on the bank of the Kaligandaki river to show their lover and respect to the departed soul. This offering and ceremony so done will be counted in heaven.
Last but not the least, you can visit Marpha village, a village in the Mustang district where an abundance of apples are grown, Tatopani (hot spring), where you can relax in the natural hot spring, and also never miss the Khampa Cave. Khampa were the militant Dalai Lama supporters, they used to hide in Mustang areas and conduct guerrilla warfare against the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
And if time permits, you can drive/ trek or Helicopter to Lo Manthang, the last forbidden kingdom of Nepal. Lo Manthang is in the Upper Mustang area and is a restricted area as well. Foreigners need special permits to enter the Lo Manthang area.
How To go to Muktinath Temple
Muktinath is the highest popular temple for Hindu and Buddhist followers in the Himalayas. It is situated at an altitude of 3800 meters. Due to its religious significance, thousands of devotees from around the world visit Muktinath every year.
Keeping all this in mind the local authority and the government of Nepal has constructed roads through the hills into the Himalayas. There are mainly three different routes to reach Muktinath.
Firstly, you can drive to Muktinath from Kathmandu to Pokhara and then to Beni. From Beni, you will divert your route towards Taptopan, Marpha, Jomsom, and finally to Muktinath.
Local buses do operate from Pokhara and Kathmandu as well to Muktinath however between Beni and Ghasa roads are not as better as it has to be, and avoid planning to visit Muktinath during the Monsoon season (June, July, and August).
Sometimes landslide blocks all the road and you might be stopped in nowhere.
But if you want to visit Muktinath more conveniently, better hire a 4WD Jeep tour to Muktinath from Kathmandu or Pokhara, an easy and more comfortable journey to Muktinath. This road trip to Muktinath will be at least a 4-5 days Journey from Kathmandu.
Another convenient route to reach Muktinath is taking a flight to Jomsom from Pokhara. There is no alternative direct flight from Kathmandu to Jomsom but you can fly from Pokhara to Jomsom in 25-minute and then take a jeep or bus to Muktinath in a comfortable way in just an hour and a half ride.
Every day early in the morning before 11 AM there is a direct two-way flight from Pokhara to Jomsom and vice versa. This domestic flight trip to Muktinath will be comfortable but will be around a 3-day trip from Kathmandu.
Lastly, the best and most comfortable way to visit Muktinath Temple is by Helicopter from Kathmandu or Pokhara depending upon your accessibility and interest. This helicopter tour to Muktinath is convenient for all age groups and gender and is a great choice for those who lack time and are physically unsound with altitude sickness.
You can take a helicopter from Kathmandu to Muktinath and after visiting the temple and doing all the ritual ceremonies you will fly back to Kathmandu on the same day. This helicopter tour to Muktinath is possible from Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Muktinath Altitude and Temperature
Muktinath is a pristine peaceful place filled with spiritual energy, it is a land to attain ‘Salvation/Liberation’ from the earthly world.
Located to the north of Nepal, Muktinath lies in the Manang district bordering the Autonomous region of Tibet. It is the place where the holy temple of lord Vishnu exists.
Situated at an altitude of 3800Meters, Muktinath experience different temperature according to the seasons of the year.
Chart of Muktinath Temperature according to the Month of the Year:
Best Time of the year to visit Muktinath Temple
Muktinath which lies in the Mustang district of Nepal has its significance. Blessed with natural beauty, Muktinath carries religious and historical importance.
With three different active trails to reach Muktinath, every year thousands of devotees visit this holy temple to pay homage. Surrounded by the high Himalayas, Muktinath receives very less rainfall because the area falls under the driest Himalayan range blocking the rain cloud by the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri range of Himalayas.
However, the lower part on the way to Muktinath receives tremendous rainfall resulting in landslides and road blockades during June, July, and August, which are the monsoon period in Nepal. Thus, driving to Muktinath during monsoon is not a good choice.
Apart from this, if you take a flight from Pokhara to Jomsom or Helicopter to Muktinath Darshan directly from Pokhara or Kathmandu. This will be a good choice during monsoon or throughout the year.
As you cross, the altitude of 2000 meters on roads is better experiencing little precipitation. Further, from Jomsom, 2700M to Muktinath 3800M roads are well paved and are better to drive. This area falls under the Himalayan shadow and receives little yearly rainfall.
Jomsom has a domestic airport and is actively operated throughout the year (from Pokhara only). You can take a flight to Jomsom and drive an hour and a half to reach Muktinath or can take a helicopter to reach Muktinath from either Pokhara or Kathmandu and return to your destination on the same day.
So, visiting Muktinath is possible throughout the year but it depends upon your choice of trail. Now if you are interested in the magnificent view, clear blue skies, and distance visibilities then September, October, November, February, March, and April will be majestic months of the year.
Further, if you want to enjoy Snowfall, and snow-covered views of the Himalayas then December and January will be great months because these two months is winter in Nepal.
May is pre-monsoon and August the post-monsoon where you will experience rainfall and visibility might not be great to explore, however visiting the Muktinath temple is possible throughout the year.
What are the required permits for Muktinath Tour?
Muktinath which lies in the Mustang district of Nepal is the driest area of the Himalayas, also known as the Himalayan desert because of no precipitation. During the daytime, heavy winds in the Jomsom area will be an enthralling experience.
This area comes under Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), for the protection and preservation of diverse flora and fauna and the Himalayas.
Travelling to Muktinath requires two different permits. They are ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) and TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System).
ACAP Permits cost Rs. 3000 and
TIMS Permit cost Rs. 1000, applied through an agency, and for independent trekkers, it cost Rs. 2000
Highlights of Muktinath Darshan Tour
Majestic Jeep drives through the Himalayas
Stunning views of the hills, mountains, Himalayas, and rural villages
Splendid flight to Jomsom through the deepest river gorge i.e. Kaligandaki river, in between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Himalayan range
Experience two majestic Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Himalayan range
Explore the driest area of the Himalayas i.e. Mustang
Visit the important temple of Muktinath and Jwala Mai Temple
Kagbeni, the spot for ‘Pinda Daan’, Kaligandaki for fossils, and Marpha the orchid garden will be an awesome experience
Kumar is one of the Co-founders and Managing directors of Discover Altitude holding 18 years of experience in the tourism sector of Nepal. He has trekked to almost all the popular regions of Nepal and is an authorized trekking and tour guide.
Started his career as a porter to support his study, now holds MPhil and LLB degree, and is doing his Ph.D. in religious studies. He loves traveling to the Himalayas and has deep knowledge about religion, culture, and history.
Kumar is also involved in the teaching sector as a part-timer to deliver his research related to the cultural and religious diversity of Nepal and is the one who mostly answers your queries giving them his personal touch through his decade-long experience.