Travelogue: Srirangam To Mukthinath: Part 5 Destination Mukthinath

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Continuation from Part 4….

Destination Mukthinath

As per schedule we should have taken a flight from Pokhara to Jomsom but because of technical snag no flights were in operation so we had to proceed in jeeps. On the morning of 18.09.2013 after coffee we left for Jomsom.  There were six people in our vehicle.  The driver was Rajkumar Sonar and next to him on the front seat was Sri Amrith Adhikar, CEO of Satyam Tours, who is our organizers Nepal counterpart.  We were happy to travel with locals who knew the terrain well and would quench our curiousity.   We were given breakfast in foil containers and we ate in the jeep itself..  The distance from Pokhara to Jomsom is 154 kms but the path we traversed was mountainous and the roads bumpy and  kutcha but the scenery was amazing.

We felt as if we were inside a blender all churned up but the sights outside were   amazing.  The  Macchapucchare and Annapurna peaks were always in sight.  On the way we would spot a house with a vegetable garden.  Paddy was grown on terraced fields.

Maize and  banana plants were seen at the lower level. As we ascended there were fields covered with magenta flowers. Amrith told us that it was an edible plant and its flour was used extensively in Nepal. We spotted houses where chillies which were put to dry as also other things. Vegetables like pumpkin, cabbage and cauliflower were spotted.  There were plenty of apple trees some filled with apples. We were told that these apples were already bought by prospective buyers from abroad who would collect them during harvest time. Now and then we would sight children in uniform on their way to school.

Trucks jeeps and buses were seen. The driver was extremely patient and many a time he would have to take the vehicle all the way back in order to allow a bus or a jeep to go. Gorges valleys, cliffs and the river Gandaki was spotted all through the way.  Sometimes she would be a trickle, sometimes we spotted her falling from heights in steps and sometimes roaring and gushing forth like the sea. The water was whitish and sometimes brownish.  Now and then we spotted a swing like bridge for pedestrians. Tuborg signs were seen everywhere and we learnt it was a beer.  Another sign we saw was Takali and Amrith told us that they were a community in Nepal. When asked about Sherpas he said this group knew the mountains well and helped trekkers. Thanks to the numerous trekkers these sherpas are a rich community now making trips round the globe. We stopped once for tea and then the tossing and throwing began again.  We spotted some people from our group stopping by the river. Some managed to find Salagramas but Amrith wanted to reach Jomsom ahead of everyone to arrange for our dinner. By 7.00 p.m. we reached Jomsom and checked into our rooms. The trip had taken almost 12 hours.  Jomsom means New Fort and is at a height of 2800m.  It is in Mustang district in the Dawalagiri zone of Nepal. The weather was cold and we got into our woolens.  By 8.00 PM dinner was served: Chappathi, dal, potato and cabbage sabji, rice, rasam and curds. We all had to stand in line and the Nepali girl served systematically. We got both cold and hot drinking water. After the tumultuous ride we were thankful for the comfort of the bed and the warmth of the comforter. We were scheduled to leave for Mukthinath the following morning after coffee.

After coffee we left Jomsom for Mukthinath. Baskets full of apples and vegetables were being sold outside the hotel but we had to leave so no purchases could be made. We took the same jeep we came from Pokhara and travelled for about 15 minutes by a narrow road to reach a jeep stand.  We took one such jeep which passed through Kaghbeni. On one side we spotted Annapurna and on the other Daulagiri.  Between these other mountain ranges could be seen.  The river Gandaki was on the trail.

The jeep stopped at Mukthinath jeep stand and we walked to the Mukthinath ticket counter. There were shops selling Salagrama shilas in basketfuls as also Chinese feng shui items, woolens, trinkets, and yak hair chamarams. We then took motorbikes to reach the entrance of Mukthinath temple (Rs 300 per head). While we waited for our turn we bought salagramamurthis ranging from Rs20 to Rs 1000. We were not sure if they were genuine but were fascinated by the names-Lakshmi-Narayana, Matsya, Sudarshana, Santhanagopala etc. and just bought as we felt. Then it was time to board the motor –bikes holding the driver around his tummy. It was a roller-coaster ride which was amazing and while some enjoyed others screamed.  Atlast we were there – Mukthinath located at 3710m from sea level at the Thorang La  Pass in Mustang district. After climbing a fleet of steps we reached the temple premises. Many in our group had bathed and were having Mukthinath Darshan.We took bath in the 108 Gomukhas called Mukthidhara from which Gandaki water pours continuously. It was melted ice and we literally felt frozen. Then we had a dip in two ponds, dried ourselves and changed to fresh clothes in the changing room which was functional.

After japam we prepared to enter the temple.  Many members of our group were chanting Tiruppavai and we joined them. When our turn came we went inside to find Mukthi Narayan in standing posture with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. They were wearing many many glass bangles. Then there were Salagrams which were huge. Bhaghavadh Ramanuja and Suka Brahmam with a parrot face were seen. There were three Buddhas. The Tibetan priestess put red ribbons round our neck and placed SriSathari on our heads. We gave the wheat flour, tea and sugar to the priestess (our organizer had suggested that these would be useful to give).  She offered the dried fruits we carried and the vastrams we had taken for Perumal. Many devotees had brought small coloured silk dhotis (the kind boy kids wear on their first birthday) and two pavadais for Sri and Bhu.  We came out and lit a brass ghee lamp and did pradakshinam. We went in again and Mr Rajan of our group helped us have good darshan by holding a torch close to the deities. He also did a lot of explaining. We are indebted to him for being good enough to do this.  Members of our bus sat down in the prakaram and recited Tirumangai Azhwar’s pasurams on Sri Salagramam. Periazhwar also has sung about this Swayamvyaktha Divya Desam. Ramanujacharya visited this spot and we have His vigraha and also that of Nammazhwar in the prakaram. Devotees from Bangalore carried a kasha ya vastram for Ramanuja and put it on for Him. Then Satrumurai was done. After some picture shots were taken, we had another glimpse of Mukthi Narayana and thanked Him for making this trip possible. Then  our descent began. . Some in our group went inside a yagyashala on the way where the iconsof Andal, Ramanujacharya and Manavala Mamunigal was seen. A swamiji sitting there gave salagramashilas to those who asked. We missed seeing this place. We offered our mite to the sanyasis sitting on the way, boarded our motorbikes which reached us to Mukthinath Jeep stand.  People had tea at this spot. We had roasted peanuts and almonds as nuts give energy and it is a good idea to carry them in the purse. This jeep took us to Jomsom Bazar.  People made purchases, then we crossed a bridge walked some distance boarded our jeeps and reached Jomsom.  Our lunch was ready at the hotel. After this we collected our luggage and boarded our jeeps to undergo a ten hour bumpy ride to Pokhara International Inn where we collected our saman from where it was stocked and went to our rooms.  After a dinner of upma we went to have a good night’s sleep satisfied that our mission was accomplished.  We did not even care to find out our programme   for the next day.

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Courtesy: Vyjayanthi and Sundararajan

To be continued in next part….

For previous parts of this travelogue visit the following link:

 

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