Saturday, July 11, 2015

Mukthinath yatra -5

Jomsom to Muktinath by Jeep 

According to the Skanda Purana, a Hindu Scripture  these shalagrama-shilas appear in various colours, shapes, and markings. Their colour may be either black, blue, yellow, whitish, blood-red or tawny coloured. Their shape may be either smooth, rough, uneven, very plump, or frog-shaped. They may be without markings, marked with one chakra, many chakras, large chakras, broken chakras, a chakra in the middle of a circle, or with one chakra attached to another. Some shalagrama-shilas exhibit a large mouth and others a down-turned mouth. - The Skanda Purana also enumerates the good and bad results derived from venerating different types of shalagrama-shilas. Worshiping a smooth shila brings mantra-siddhi (perfection in the chanting of one"s given mantra). Black shilas bestow fame, yellow shilas give sons, whitish shilas destroy one's sins, blue shilas increase wealth, and blood-red shilas bring diseases.“Shalagramas do not require installation ceremony. When one begins the worship of shalagrama, however he should start with elaborate puja using all articles. The worship of shalagrama is the best form of worship, better than the worship of the sun. Any person who has seen Salagram Shila, paid obeisances to Him, bathed and worshiped Him, has achieved the results of performing ten million sacrifices and giving ten million cows in charity. He who takes the charanamrita of shalagrama destroys all sinful reactions at their roots, even the killing of a Brahmana. “By taking the remnants of foodstuffs offered to shalagrama, one will get the result of performing many sacrifices. One who has drinked the water that bathes a Shaligram at least once in life time won't have to suck his mother's breast for the second time. He has attained Moksha (liberation)".

Kali Gandaki River 

The quaint bridge across Gandaki River

These Shalagramas need no consecration and can be worshipped straight away.  These are identifiable from other stones by special markings which resemble Vishnu's paraphernalia such as   mace, conch, lotus, and chakra. Narasimha, Varaha, Vamana are the popular forms of worship. They are  usually kept closed in a box and are only brought out for daily  puja.. The Shilas are usually hereditary and are passed down through many generations, never being purchased or sold.The legend of Muktinath is also linked to Shalaigrama- shilas we will see some of them. 

A new bridge is under construction

Map showing Lubra Muktinath trekking route


Recently renovated Bonpa Monastery at Lubra

The first legend is that Salangayna Rishi son of  Vishvamitra  performed severe penance  towards Mahavishnu on the banks of Gantaki River under a Sal tree for a progeny. Pleased with the penace of Salangayana Maha Vishnu appeared before him and granted the boon and as per the request of the Rishi stayed here and bestows His blessings as Shalagrama-shilas. 

The second legend is that,  like all  North Indian Rivers starting from  the Holy Ganges are sanctified by  to Lord Vishnu,  River Gandaki also wanted to be sanctified by Him. So she performed  severe penance to get the blessings of Maha Vishnu. Pleased with her penance when Maha Vishnu appeared before her she requested that He should incarnate in her. Hence Lord Vishnu is formed in Gantaki as Shalagrama-shilas.

The dirt road leading to Muktinath 

Happy pilgrims in the small bus 

A village in between 

The other  Legend is the story of Tulasi the Holy Basil palant. Tulasi was the wife of Jalandarasura,  she was a very chaste woman. Jalandara had a boon that he will be defeated in war when his wife  loses her chastity. Once during a fight between Lord Shiva and Jalandara, Lord Vishnu disguised as Jalandara visits Tulasi who is tricked her.  Because of this Shiva wins the battle. After the truth is known Tulasi curses Mahavishnu to turn to stone. Mahavishnu explains her that in the previous birth she had performed  penance to get Vishnu as husband and so that only it happened like this and gave an exalted position to her that she will turn to Tulasi plant which will adorn Him always.  He will stand as Shalagrma hill and she will also turn into Gantaki river which will cut the mountain  to Shalagrma-shilas.  According to the Narada purana  “It is impossible to fully explain the importance of Tulsi leaves (Holy Basil) in the worship of shalagrama, as Tulsi is the most beloved consort of Hari in the form of shalagrama.”

Solar cookers resembling dish Antennae

Two wheeler station on the outskirts of Muktinath 
One more legend is the story of beautiful comfort woman called Gandaki. She had a strange habit that she treated the male who cme to her every night as her husband served him like a dutiful wife. Oneday a handsome youth visited her , she treated him also as her husband and served him, at the time of bathing she found him to be a leper, her relatives asked her to turn him out immediately, but  as her wontnursed his wounds he served him  and truthfully. In the morning she found that the youth was dead, as per the custom she wanted to perform sati, when she was to enter the fire a miracle happened, the fire extinguished itself and the youth came alive and   there stood Lord Maha Vishnu smiling,  along with Conch, Chakra, mace and lotus like an effulgent sun. He blessed Gandaki and told that he enacted this drama to make her devotion public and gave her  three boons, but she asked just one boon that she should be always with Him,  Vishnu blessed that when  he will turn into stone by a curse  she can surround Him like a garland in the form of  river. So Gandaki turned into a river and she circles the Shalagrama mountain still today. 

A wooleen knitting lady 

The Shlagrma-shilas are formed  in the Damodar Kund (A holy lake believed to be a Sakthi peetam also)  above Muktinath from where Gantaki river originates. Nepal Government has banned the sale and export of Shalagramams, according to Shastras  alsoone should not buy Shalagramams but  the locals collect these shilas by using nets  right from Damodar Kund andsell them. Many pilgrims buy them also  As they have become scarce nowadays  there are duplicates also in the market.

By mini bus we reached the banks of Holy Gandaki  as the water is muddy here and black  in color the river is also called Kali Gantaki, some other names of Gantaki are Shalagrami, Hiranyavathi,  Narayani, Samta Gantaki. There we tried our like searching for Shalagrmams but we were not lucky. Later we crossed a old quaint wooden bridge  across the Gandaki river and reached Lubra village where the  jeep station for travel to Muktinath is situated.  We also a new bridge is coming up  across the river. Later our guide told that the Nepal Givernment is planning to build a highway upto Muktinath for easy movement pf pilgrims and the same can be used by Kailsh yatris also to enter into Tibet via Thorang La pass.

Thrilling two wheeler ride to the Muktinath Shrine

The welcome arch 

 We waited for sometime at Lubra for the jeeps to arrive. There was a beautiful Gompa at the village it was shining with a new coat of painting. Later we   travelled by a jeep and amini bus to Muktinath. There was not any regular road , the journey was bone rattling there were many ascents and descents in some part we travelled on the Gantaki River bed, as it was not monsoon season the river was lean so the vehicles used this short cut. In between there were many villages. There are many Gompas and archeological sites in between.  The villages are fertile and regular cultivation is being done in these elevation also. We could she apple orchards, maize, buck wheat fields all along the way. The mud path was lined with trees, the villagers were using solar cookers and guest houses are there in almost all the villages, thus we travelled for  about two hours and reached the Muktinath jeep station.

The Muktinath jeep station is situated on the outskirts of the village and to reach the temple one has to walk for about one K.M and also have to climb some 500 steps. But for the benefit of the pilgrims motor bikes are available. The local youth have taken to vocation to help the pilgrims in this process they also earn some money during the season. They give a token as a mark of identification and on the return we can travel by any motor bike. This bike station is situated at a distance form jeep station and one has to walk between them but on the return at the request of the pilgrims they drop at jeep station. Some of the pilgrims in our group used these bikes but some of them preferred to walk to the temple. 

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