Brief Introduction to Muktinath
Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa is a sacred
place for both Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists at 3750 meters (12,300
feet) at the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas
of Nepal. It is a great example
of how two religions can share the same holy spot with mutual respect
In Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa all the elements are represented, not only
earth, air and holy water,
but also fire.
Beside trees are growing
at an unusual altitude. For this and reasons unseen yogis from both
religions do their meditation at Muktinath.
The local name for Muktinath is Chumig
Waters). The tradional caretakers of Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa
are the Tibetan Buddhist Chumig Gyatsa
('Muktinath') nuns with the head of the
Gye Lhaki Dung as their abbot. This family is popularly
know as the Lama Domar family, an unbroken
lineage of Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma
lamas from Muktinath Valley, which has Chumig Gyatsa as its religious
seat for centuries. The current abbot of Chumig Gyatsa is Muktinath
According toTibetan Buddhists Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa is the home of 21 Taras,
female dieties, and the residence of many Dakinis, known as Sky Dancers, energetic beings in female form, evocative of the movement of energy in space. It is of great importance for
Buddhists that Chumig Gyatsa is one of the 24 Tantric places.
the Mahasiddhas blessed it with their visit. The famous Tibetan
visted Muktinath in 1818 and stayed for several days to 'connect
to the place', as his
autobiography tells us. The Padmasambhava
Statue in Narsingh
Gompa can be considered the most holy object together with
This is a very brief enumeration. More information on Buddhist
backgrounds - for instance on the natural
fire - can be found in the pilgrimage
guide "The Clear Mirror", written down by
the late abbot of Chumig Gyatsa, Muktinath
Lama Jampal Rabgyé Rinpoche. See also the research published by the Muktikshetra Publication Committee, mentioned below.
Vishnu & Shalagramas
For Hindus, beside the
natural fire representing Brahma
and the holy
waters, the central meaning of the Muktinath area is the veneration
of the god Vishnu in the
form of ammonites (shilas) called Salagrama-Shilas.
There are many stories
which tell of Vishnu turning into stone and all of them are
closely connected to the holy Kali Gandaki River. This river,
also known as the Salagrami, is a few hours walking from
The building in 1815 of the Buddhist-Hindu
temple of Vishnu and Chenrezig at Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa
was initiated by the Nepali Queen Subarna Prabha who considered
Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa Salagrama. The Purana legends (300-1000 AD) mention Salagrama
being the most holy spot connected to the Gandaki River. Salagrama
is one of The
108 Temples & Celestial Abodes of Vishnu referred by the
hymns of the Alwars of the 1st millennium CE. Although the
veneration of Vishnu is central nowadays, there is also a
connection with Krishna as well as with Shiva.
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Salagrama, Muktikshetra and Muktinath
It is difficult to understand the exact status of Muktinath-Chumig
Gyatsa within Hinduism. There is no difference of opinion within Hindu schools regarding the status of the Gandaki River.
However, some Hindu schools doubt that the very spot
Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa*is the
Celestial Abode of Vishnu connected to the Gandaki River (Salagrama). They have the opinion that the source of the Gandaki
or a cave near to it is Salagrama and the real place ('nath') of salvation ('mukti'). One of the reasons for their opinion is
that contradictory to other Hindu pilgrimages sites connected
to a holy river, one has to walk away from the holy Gandaki River
for several hours to reach the site. Another reason is that 'Muktinath'
as such is not mentioned in Hindu scriptures like the Mahabharata
and the Puranas. The
name 'Muktikshetra' does appear in the Varahapurana
(c.144:v.122), but as the area near the Gandaki River
and not as a spot in the mountains.** Also there is more than one 'Muktinath'. For instance, while Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa is at 12,000 feet near Thorong La Pass, R.S. Gherwal locates Muktinath in his pilgrimage book - published in 1927 - at 17,000 feet near Nora Pass (p.82).
Lama Wangyal pointed out the bottom line though, when he was
asked what his opinion is in the very matter: "Look at the
many, many Hindu pilgrims visiting Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa; no doubt this is
a pilgrimage place for Hindus."
One Hindu Guru connected to Muktinath is Lord Shri Swaminarayan,
Satguru of Sabij Yoga, the goal of which is the realization of
and service to God Supreme. At the end of the 18th century this
Satguru practiced severe penance in Muktinath for two and a half
months and attained the highest degree of proficiency in Nishkamvrat.
In 2003 his followers funded the new
wall around Muktinath and raised a small
monument for him at Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa.
For more information, please, have a look at the Muktinath menu
on the top of this page. In the Picture Album you can find pictures
of Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa with Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds.
The MFI Map of Muktinath shows
the compound with its temples. This site contains also a satellite
picture of the Gandaki area.
Muktikshetra Publication Committee
For extensive backgrounds on the history of Muktikshetra, see
the 2002 English translation of the research by Sharada Prasad Dahal, initially published in 1988 in Nepali by the Muktikshetra Publication Committee.
Book & blog
A recent book on Muktinath is
Muktinath, Secret Treasure of Annapurna... The Rainbow Bridge, available via Amazon.Com, by Susan Griffith-Jones. Her blog 'The
Living Pyramid' provides backgrounds on Muktinanth.
For references used to write this introduction, please have
a look at the Reference Page. See
our copyright notice
if you want to use the content of this website.
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* See the
comment at IndianTemples.Com
**The status of Muktinath-Chumig
Gyatsa as the most holy spot connected to the Gandaki River, Salagrama,is questioned
based on the Varahapurana chapter144,
verse 182, mentioning an area "from Muktikshetra to Salagrama" of the distance of "15 yojanas" indicating Muktikshetra and Salagrama are not equivalent and Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa can not be Salagrama,
since it is only a few hours walking from the Gandaki River
while 15 yojanas is about 195 km.
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Map - Muktinath
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