Indian tourists make up majority of visitors to Muktinath
BAGLUNG: Indian tourists make up the bulk portion of visitors arriving at Mustang's famed pilgrimage site of Muktinath.
High number of Indian visitors come to Nepal to take a tour of Muktinath area with the belief that paying homage at the temple would fulfill their wishes. It is widely believed that worshipping at Muktinath Temple liberates one's soul from the circle of life and death.
From January this year till the end of April, 8,556 Indian tourists have arrived in Muktinath. The number is more than half of the total number of visitors to Muktinath during this period. In the last five months, 16,984 foreign tourists have visited the temple.
According to the data provided by Jomsom-based information centre of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), 9,105 foreigners visited Muktinath in April alone among which Indian tourists were counted at 4,537. ACAP's data show that the number of Indian tourists visiting Muktinath temple has been increasing every year.
In 2017, Indian tourists entering Muktinath were counted at 24,888. In 2015, however, when Nepal was struck by the mega earthquake, only 8,459 Indian tourists visited the temple.
ACAP Office Chief, Tulasi Prasad Dahal, said the number of Indian tourists is only second to the number of Nepal's domestic tourists visiting Muktinath. Dahal added that majority of the Indian tourists come for pilgrimage to the renowned temple. "Hundreds of Indian tourists enter Mustang during the tourist season," he added.
Muktinath's hotel entrepreneur, Suraj Gurung, said the tourists mainly visit Muktinath during two prime seasons of the year. Tourists mainly flock the temple site during the period between mid-September to mid-November and from mid-April to mid-June. On other occasions, visitors to the temple are not as high as during these prime seasons.
Muktinath is located along one of the most famous trek routes in the world, the 'Annapurna Circuit'. Trekkers heading towards the Thorang La Pass also go through the temple's vicinity and often they visit to pay homage at one of the most secluded but beautifully located temple sites.
The temple is not just a sanctum for Hindu pilgrims but for Buddhist pilgrims as well. It is one of the many examples that reflect the blend of Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal. Hindus view Muktinath as 'Muktichetra' or 'the region of liberation' while Buddhists call it 'Chuming Gyasta' meaning '100 waters' in Tibetan language. Muktinath, which is also famous as 'Shaligram God', is located at an altitude of 3,800 metres above sea level.
The holy Shaligram, a fossilised shell only found in the Kaligandaki River that flows through the Mukti region, is regarded as an incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu. Temple's Priest, Krishna Prasad Subedi, said many come to the temple with wishes while many others come with the faith of liberating their ancestors.