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                    With the blessings of Almighty, Adiyen desired to visit Saaligrama divya desam with  my wife and 2 children during Sep-Oct’2006 who accompanied me in paying obeisance for all the divya desams.   This was our 106 divya desa yaatrai and it took 3 years for Adiyen to undertake this. My sincere  prayers to Thiruvengadamudaiyan during my regular  visits to Tirumala sowed the seed of desire deeply in my heart to visit this divya desam and I am graced by His mercy for making this yathirai memorable and a milestone in my divyadesam pilgrimage. 
The pilgrimage to Saalagramam was definitely  ecstatic. Before I continue with my travel diary, I offer my sincere obeisance’s to SriRangasri group members , ISKCON Maharajs and several  great devotees of LORD who played a pivotal role in making this trip possible with whatever information they could give me.  The information about this sthalam as mentioned in various Puranas was gathered by Adiyen from a book on “MUTHIKSHETRA MAHATMYAM” which was bought at Muktinath.

Reaching Gorakhpur

                    With the blessings of my parents and elders, we left for Gorakhpur by Secunderabad-Gorakhpur Express on 29th September’06 at 0800 hours. The train was running late ( it seems it runs late always )  reached Gorakhpur at 2000 hours on 30th September’06.  We checked into one of the many hotels, Hotel Standard (room rent 350/-)as there was no room in Railway Retiring room due to holidays.

                    Gorakhpur, a busy city, wore a festive look on the eve of Durga ashtami.  Durga Ashtami and Vijayadasami are the major festivals in Uttar Pradesh apart from Deepavali. We  strolled into the streets to have a glance of the celebrations in the busy city.  Ours was a 11 day tour program planned to see Nepal for fulfilling children’s academic interests. So, we decided to go to Katmandu first, proceed from there to Muktinath and cover the remaining sight seeing places during our spare time.  In fact, We were regularly contacting a person who works in a travel bureau who agreed to accompany us to Muktinath temple and also   book flight tickets for Pokra-Jomsom sector for a package of  Rs. 55,000 INR for 4 PAX. which included his flight fare and food allowance which seemed exhorbitant to us.  We left to GOD for Him to decide what was best for us. 

                    After finishing our dinner, we happened to peep into one of the tourist offices near  the hotel opposite to Railway station. There are many travel agents near the station who arrange for pilgrimage, mountaineering and sight seeing trips to Nepal. Out of inquisitiveness, we contacted Sai Baba Travels and finalized the  tour package for Rs.45,000/- including  the cab (Bolero hire charges) for 9 days, border permit and other road permits, room accommodation at Pokhara for 3 days, at Jomsom for 1 day, at Chitwan for a day, at Katmandu for a day ,at Janakpur for a day  and flight tickets from Pokhara to Jomsom for 4 persons  to and fro with a vegetarian driver who respects our values and  a visit to Manokaamna temple which is situated at Pokra-Katmandu-Chitwan junction. The package however did not include Jomsom-Muktinath expenses.  We were contended with the deal as for the same amount, we would be covering other places which was not offered by the Katmandu travel bureau agent. The agent  obliged  to our request and handed over letters to be given at the various hotels We were to check in. He had taken Rs.25,000 as advance (These agents have a tie up with their counterparts in Nepal and we realized that by checking in the hotels which they refer, we end up paying more but we are assured of accommodation.  Even in case of non-availability of rooms, the hotel management makes alternative arrangements for us elsewhere)   

 Gorakhpur to Pokra

                    Leaving  Gorakhpur  the next day morning  i.e: on 1st October,2006 by BOLERO around 9 A.M.  After 90 kms , 2 hours drive, we reached Sunouli, the last village on the Indian border.  It took about an hour to finish all the formalities in the border by the agent who accompanied us upto Sunouli .  For Indians, the immigration is very simple. Few notes were exchanged for our remembrance but as were told that 100 rupee Indian currency is accepted everywhere in Nepal, we  didn’t have to change the currency.  Waiting  for  more than an hour under the scorching heat of Sun.  The mercury dipped at  45 degrees.  It was 12 noon by the time we crossed the Nepali border. As children were very keen to vist Lumbini and other picnic spots Adiyen had to compromise the yathirai out of academic interest. We  reached Lumbini , the birthplace of Lord Buddha at 1 P.M.  which is one hour drive from India-Nepal border and is situated 250 kms south-west of Katmandu. This is recognized as one of World’s Heritage and covers a vast area of over 970 sq. kms .   We visited the holy tank in which Mayadevi, Lord Buddha’s mother had a holy dip ,the Asoka pillar, several  monastries built by Chinese,Japanese, Koreans, Nepalese , Germans  and our own Vipaasana centres.  We engaged 2 rickshaws pulled by men for going round Lumbini for Rs.200/- INR .(It may be noted that Indian currencies of Rs.100/- are accepted all over Nepal and the vendors right from rickshaw-puller are experts in converting Nepali currency into Indian currency.  Rs.100 indian = Rs.160/- nepali currency). The architecture, sculptures, paintings at these monastries are a feast to the eyes.  The entire place is serene and calm and is a perfect place for meditation.

                       After visiting Chinese, Korean monasteries, we visited the birth place of Buddha. The beautiful paintings and architecture in these places is a feast to the eyes.  Due to lack of time, we didn’t visit the remaining monasteries .  The remnants of the palace are still preserved and are few hundreds of years old.  It dates back to 250 B.C. and so on.  The exact birth place of Lord Buddha is covered with a glass casing and the holy feet of Lord Buddha,  is clearly seen on the mud.  Some of the Buddhist tourists with whom we interacted said that it was their “holy dham” which they are supposed to visit atleast once in a lifetime.  The remnants of this place is well preserved.  In front of this, there is a small pool, which is considered equally sacred as it was here that Queen Mayadevi had her holy bath before giving birth to  Buddha.  After taking few photographs,  visited Asoka pillar, a pillar raised as a remembrance of King Asoka’s visit to Nepal . History reveals that this particular king who conquered the whole country was puffed up with ego and became very arrogant. He was totally transformed after visiting this place and embraced Buddhism.  After paying 300/- INR to the rickshaw-pullers who were totally elated as we paid more than what they asked for, we resumed our journey and reached Pokara at 8 P.M.   <>

                     From Lumbini we drove to Pokra .  Since  95 % of the land area in Nepal is covered by mountains and as one has to travel thru narrow ghat roads, night journey and giving lift to strangers is not advisable.  Intoxicants are freely available and as the country is economically poor, wayside robbery is very common.
The Machapuchare Peak of the Annapurna range,could be  seen while driving. The Machapuchare {"Fishtail"} peak is 6696 meters high and has never been climbed. The government forbids mountaineers from tackling it because Nepalis consider it holy. Though one of the most magnificent of Himalayan mountains, Machapuchare is a baby compared to Mt. Everest (Sagarmata), Pokhara valley is one of the most picturesque spots in Nepal situated amidst lovely lakes – Phewa, Begnas and Rupa which have their source in Annapurna ranges of the Himalayas.    <>

                    Pokra valley,
(3000 feet above sea level surrounded by huge mountains on all sides and several lakes offers a picturesque view . Situated 200 kms from Katmandu , this is a small but busy town and is the travel base for all trekkers. It has a floating population of foreign tourists in thousands.  There are innumerable hotels/lodges including few Vegetarian restaurants like Marwadi Hotel, Punjabi Dhabas where only vegetarian food is served and shops selling/letting on hire mountaineering equipments , bikes, cycles, jackets, shoes etc.  Almost all the hotels are situated around Phewa lake and offers fantastic view of the lake with mountains as back-drops.  Though there are browsing centres, the charges are costly- 100/- per hour and the speed is very slow.  STD call charges are also high. We checked in Hotel Blue Heaven  at 2000 hours.  As there was no accommodation, the manager made arrangements for our night stay in another hotel.

 In Pokra- Ticket dilemma

                    When we enquired the hotel manager about our flight tickets ,We were totally  shocked  to note  that no arrangement for flight booking was done and  the Indian  agent had not even informed them regarding this.  We were perplexed and shattered to hear this  as we intended to be at Saalagramam on 3rd October being Ekadasi.  The   hotel manager continued their attempts in contacting various travel agents but no one was able to issue 4 tickets even though We were prepared to pay in dollars. (Dollar tickets are given preference over rupee tickets) .  <>             

                      2nd October, being Dussera, all the tourist offices remain closed and were left with no other choice other than sight seeing . Being a holiday, we could not even get a guide but a shop-keeper accepted our request and accompanied us.   Gupteshwar temple, is in  a natural cave descending around 100 steps, shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva .  A sage by name, Gupteshwar did penance at this place and had darshan of   Parameswaran, the presiding diety of Nepal.  The rocks have taken the shape of a huge snake and it looks as if the snake is protecting the deity.  This natural formation is admirable.  The entry fee for Indians is Rs.20/- and for Nepalese , it is FREE.  Few saaligrama shilas were also placed near the lingam.  It may be noted that Saalagramams are sold everywhere in Nepal.  WE did a bit of shopping .

                From there, we proceeded to DEVI’S FALLS on the other side of the road.  The water from the falls joins the Phewa river.  This was discovered few decades ago  during a sudden gushing of water into the town. Bhairavi temple situated on the other side of Phewa lake has to be reached  by boat.  The charges for the boat ride is 20/- NR. It is a common practice in Nepal to apply Kumkum mixed with rice on the forehead during Dussera.  The tradition of kumkum with which Goddess Durga was worshipped for 8 days would be applied on brothers’ and sisters’ forehead for their longevityis practiced with pomp and show.  Every sister ensures to visit her brother and apply tikka.  After viewing sunset from the temple, we retired for the day. “WORLD PEACE” centre ‘s  Buddha Stupa situated on a hillock could not be visited  as we had to rush back to the travel agent for confirming our tickets  for  Saaligrama yaatrai  To our dismay, the tickets were not confirmed.  None of the agent could help us and we finally decided to approach Gorkha Airlines office itself situated opposite to Pokhara airport. Dussera is celebrated grandly all over the country and it is very common for offices to remain closed for atleast a week in Nepal similar to West Bengal.  Only Gorka Airlines provides service from Pokara to Jomsom. Added to this, due to bad weather conditions, all the flights to Jomsom were cancelled for more than a week.  Hence, there was no room for reservation.  All the efforts to contact travel agents proved futile.  Finally we personally drove to  Gorkha Airlines office  next day which is 2 kms from Pokra and after hours of pleading, we could finally get our tickets to Jomsom for 7th but return journey for 9th could not be confirmed as that would be decided at Jomsom and added that our journey  of Lord Muktinarayanan.  I take this opportunity to thank the airlines official for all their cooperation.  Alas, our 2 days tension finally came to an end.  The ticket costs Rs.15,000/- INR to and fro for 4 Persons.

Trip to Chitwan, Katmandu and Bhaktapur (Not part of Mukthinath pilgrimmage)

                    As 3 more days were  left for our trip to Saalagramam, decided to visit the remaining places as per our package.  We checked out in the afternoon and proceeded towards Katmandu bypass road to   Chitwan.  Chitwan jungle is 195 kms from Pokara and it took about 5 hours for us to reach the place.  Chitwan jungle is famous for its rare species of animals including one horn rhinos, kingfishers, elephants etc.  This is located on Nepal-Bihar highway. The package tour to Chitwan offered by all the travel agents include to and fro to Chitwan, night stay in one of the resorts, elephant ride, Nepali lunch, viewing cultural programmes in the jungle, and a visit to Tharu museum.  The cost for the same is Rs.3,500/- for 4 PAX which is not  really worth it . However, having paid, we went to view Tharu Cultural Programme organized by the local tribes, The next day , early in the morn we went for a jungle ride in a  open top gypsy accompanied by 2 guides and a driver deep into the forest, though we could not spot any rare animal except deers and monkeys , we happened  to see  crocodile breeding centres, and also saw a man-eating tiger which was in a cage. We paid Rs.3,000 INR extra for the same. 

  Not preparing  for further exploitation, we left for Katmandu, which was another 5 hours drive. reached Katmandu at 7P.M.

                          Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is also called as Kantipur.  This city is full of temples. It lies in a valley surrounded by high hills. Magnificent snow peaks are visible in the north. This city is situated to the north of Patan and the west of Bhaktapur. The altitude of Kathmandu is 4500 ft from sea level .We  had intended to stay in ISKCON guest house at Katmandu but as there was no accommodation,  were forced to check in Hotel Taj (as recommended by the travel agent) and retired for the night.

Katmandu Sight seeing trip

                    On 5th,  went for local sight seeing in Katmandu, visited various temples including the famous Pashupathinath temple. The temple of God Shiva is situated at the bank of the sacred Bagmati river. It is 5 Kilometers east from the Kathmandu city. This pagoda style temple built with golden roofs and silver doors is where thousands of devotees come to pay homage to God Pashupati Nath. Shivaratri is the holy day of religious festival of Hindu people. Pashupati Nath is the patron deity of Nepal. It was noon and midday abhishekam was going on.  Lord Shiva’s face with matted locks and Ganges escaping from the locks is beautifully carved on all five sides of the lingam.  Also, the garbagriham has doors on all four sides which enables the devotees to have darshan from all the four sides.

                     Our next point was Buddhanilkantha temple, 9 kms from Kathmandu city. The temple consists of a pond in which lies a great stone figure of Lord Vishnu reclining on the coils of a cosmic serpent. The huge statue of sleeping Vishnu lying on Ananta Sesa, in the cosmic ocean is very attractive . The Deity is over 1,000 years old. Lord Vishnu is about 5m (17 ft) long and is lying in a 13m (43 ft) long tank, as if floating, with His legs crossed. His four hands hold the four symbols of Vishnu: the chakra (disc), club, and conch-shell and lotus flower. Budhanilkantha literally means “old blue-throat.” Ananta has 11-hooded heads. It is believed that the deity was carved in the 7th or 8th century during the Licchavi period.  It is carved from the single block of black stone of a type not found in the valley. The main festival of the year is when Lord Vishnu, who sleeps on the cosmic ocean during Chaturmasya period wakes up on the Haribondhini Ekadashi day in late October or early November. Many thousands of people come on this day. Three other images of Lord Vishnu were carved at the same time. One is here at Budhanilkantha and is considered the most important and original, one is at Balaju Gardens, and one is at the old Royal Palace in Kathmandu, but can not be viewed by tourist. The king of Nepal is not allowed to see the deity at Budhanilkantha, but he can see the other two deities. It is believed if the king sees this deity of Vishnu he will die immediately. This  was lost for a while and was later rediscovered by a farmer. It is believed that the farmers struck the buried deity with his plough and that blood came out from the ground. The morning puja between 9 and 10 am is interesting. Budhanilkantha is about 8km northeast of Kathmandu and 15km from Thamel, at the base of Shivapuri hill. Buses to Budhanilkantha depart every half-hour from Rani Pokhari or the City bus stand (1 hr, bus #5, Rs 7) in Kathmandu. From where the bus stops the temple is around 100m away. Tempos depart from Jamal on the north side of Rani Pokhari to here. Iskcon took over the maintainence of the temple and grounds from about 1986-87. there is now even a guest house  Hindus can walk down the steps and touch His feet, but foreigners cannot.The ISKCON Temple is located about a ten-minute walk from the Budhanilkantha Temple, in a beautiful rural setting. Buses to Budhanilkantha (8 km) depart from Rani Pokhri in Kathmandu, every half-hour.

                        We then left to BOUDH NATH TEMPLE ,This  classical stupa located at Boudha in the north east of the Kathmandu city. This is considered to be one of the biggest stupas in the World. The stupa having four eyes in four directions is symbolized as watch for welfare and behaviour of human beings. It is said that the stupa was built by King Man Dev as per the advice given by goddess Main ogini. The Lamas of Nepal who are real devotees of Lord Buddha always dwell at the surrounding of the stupa.  Further moved to Soyambhu Nath Temple   situated at the hill side of Kathmandu city. It is at a distance of two miles from city. This stupa is made of a solid hemisphere of brick and earth. From this stupa one can see a beautiful view of Kathmandu city. From here  returned back in the evening and after a bit of last minute purchase like bags etc. for our Muktinath trip, retired for the night.

                The next day , 6th Oct, we checked out around 8 A.M to visit Bhaktapur also known as Patan which has old monuments. One of the hotel attendants who accompanied us as  guide shared his info with us about Bhaktapur.  He said that earlier, this was the capital of the Nepali kings.  This place with all its monuments is worth seeing including “PACHPAN(55) WINDOW PALACE.  This place also houses a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna which is opened for public only once in a year on janmashtami.  All the monuments are in red colour.  Some other interesting monuments include  Hanuman Dhoka . King Pratap Malla, the lover of art and architecture, established the image of Hanuman (Monkey God) in the main gate of his palace. The Durbar (palace) Square, itself is named as Hanuman Dhoka (meaning  Hanuman gate). Within the Durbar Square, there is a three tiered pagoda style temple built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 A.D. This temple of goddess, Talejubhawani, is on a big platform which is considered as one of the most magnificent temples in Nepal. In Hanuman Dhoka, there are plenty of things to be seen, as the dreaded figure of Kal Bhairab, (God of Destruction), coronation platform, statue of King Pratap Malla, Big Bell and drum. Within a short walking distance from Durbar Square, the temple of Akash Bhairab lies at Indra Chowk, the main market avenue of the Kathmandu city. The image of Akash Bhairab is displayed outside the temple for a week during the festival of  Indra Jatra.

Back in Pokra

Resumed our journey to Pokhara around 11 A.M. after dropping the guide at the hotel after paying him Rs.100/-INR.     En route , at the junction where one route goes to Chitwan and the other to Pokhara,  there is a famous temple known as “MANOKAAMNA MANDIR” – a temple dedicated to an amsam of Parvati. This temple is situated on top of a hill and has to be approached by ropeway. Similar temple is found in Rishikesh too.  A We were running short of time,  we didn’t alight  here and continued our journey to Pokara.  On reaching Pokhara at 1700 hours,  we approached Gorkha Airlines office regarding our return journey confirmation but got a negative reply. However, the manager Mr Rane  spoke to his counterpart in Jomsom and issued us REQUEST ticket. Our car driver suggested us to stay in Hotel Degchee  run by a Punjabi which was a better place to stay than Hotel Blue Heaven.  We were delighted to see few south Indians in a nearby hotel . The hotel incharge was very cordial and  seemed to have contact with Jomsom hotels, He made arrangement for our hotel stay in Jomsom and Muktinath, trekking permits, pony ride for children.   We learnt from him that there are different modes of transport to reach Muktinath from Jomsom.

        The package for Rs.5,500/- INR which included hotel stay at Jomsom and Muktinath, 2 ponies, overnight stay allowance to pony rider and trekking permits  was considered good enough as we did not have any alternative though  we later learnt  it was high.   The climate in Pokhara valley is unpredictable.  To add to our tension, there was a heavy downpour in the evening and we had our apprehensions regarding next day’s flight to Jomsom.  However, the hotel owner assured us that this was very common and it would return to normalcy by morning.  By this time, we lost all our confidence and  sincerely chanted Sri Vishnu sahsranamam. We shed our pride , surrendered  and prayed Perumal with devotion and sincerity  for our safe  journey and a darshan.  We knew that it was “NOW or NEVER” for us.  We had to go to Muktinath at any cost on 7th and reach Gorakpur by 10th night because there is only one train to Secunderabad from Gorakpur and we had to leave for Tirupati on 15th.  All the tickets were confirmed and We were in total confusion.  We realized that whatever information which we gathered and were confident about was NOTHING and only HIS GRACE could make us visit MUKTINATH. Our sole intention was to go to Muktinath and all other sight seeing were only to kill the time usefully.

A little info to be shared with piligrims who wish to undertake this trip:

The room rent would normally be 350 INR in Jomsom but as you go higher to Muktinath, the rents increase.

As Annapurna ranges falls under Conservation Zone, one needs to take trekking permit by furnishing a passport size photo, ID proof etc.  the permit cost is Rs.100/-INR per person. Trekking permit for children is not required but  the agents collect amounts from us for that too.  Also, one has to pay double the amount if he takes the permit for Saturday and Sunday.

Instead of approaching the hotel owners, all of whom act more as a travel agent, one can engage local pony riders and negotiate with him for the pony, his overnight stay etc. which would cost only 600 Nepali rupee.

We were  charged more by the hotel owner as he collected 3,200 Indian Rupee from us towards pony charges and the rider’s overnight stay.  This does not include the pony rider’s food expenses.  So, be prepared to bargain.


 Confusion at Pokra Airport

                    07/10/2006,:-  POurnami , the auspicious month of Purattasi. , finishing our morning prayers,  left for airport which is a 10 minute drive from the hotel.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 8.30 A.M. (fifth flight). As mentioned earlier, Gorkha Airlines and Royal Nepal Air lines, run by Government  ,operates service for POKHARA-JOMSOM-POKHARA sector presently . For the record, Royal Nepal Airlines,  have only 1 or 2 flights operating ( Depending on their moods) is known to be the most unreliable airline in Nepal. Earlier private air lines like  Nikon Air, Buddha Air and Cosmic Airlines were also operating flights in Pokhara-Jomsom sector but withdrew the services due to loss incurred. The private airlines are more reliable in Nepal. Presently, only Gorkha Airlines operates in this sector with only one flight as the other one was down with some technical problem.  

                    As the services resumed only 2 days earlier after a gap of 10 days., heavy traffic both at Jomsom and POkhara had to be cleared.   To our dismay, we learnt that though it was nearly 9 A.M., the first trip itself did not take off due to fog.  Boarding pass were not issued to us because our names were in the 5th trip.  The officials were doubtful because after 11 AM , usually flights cannot reach Jomsom due to heavy winds. Our hearts beat fast chanting Dwayam. We started reciting Vishnu Sahasranaamam in the airport  and prayed ardently to  Periya Thiruvadi and Siriya Thiruvadi for His intervention in reaching Lords abode .  We recollected elders say that this kshetram could be visited only if GOD desires to give HIS darshan to the devotee.  Adiyen recollected Thirumangai azhwar’s pasuram on Thirvengadam “PAAVAME SEIDU PAAVI AANEN” as tears rolled by uncontrollably unmindful of many eyes watching us.  Prayed sincerely to Lord Anjaneyar to come to our rescue and resolved to offer “VADA MAALA” at our Kushaiguda temple to Him on our return .

                    All of us  were excited when there was an announcement that the services would resume as the sky became clear.   Our turn to board the flight came at 11 A.M. Thanking the Lord, with tears rolling , we boarded the 20 seater propeller flight with window seats for everyone at 11 A.M . The craft started moving at 1115 hours. 18 passengers plus the flight attendant squeezed into these little seats. No overhead baggage compartment. Infact, we had to keep our baggages near our legs.  We were carrying camcorder, digicam with us to catch the beautiful sight of the snow clad mountains at close quarters.  The flight attendant passed out some sweets and cotton for people to plug their ears. The captain was still checking out the RPMs and until the flight took off, the anxiety was continuously increasing.  We sighed relief when the flight took off.   During our 20 minute fly, We were continuously chanting Govinda Naamam while admiring the aerial view of the valleys , rivers and mountains. 

                    The aircraft was flying amindst Himalayan mountains and We were so close to the mountains that we felt that we could touch them!!. The snow clad mountains were clearly visible and we guessed every mountain to be MOUnt Everest .  we later learnt that Mt.Everest was far from this place.  On the right of the aircraft we could view the white Himalayas, which stand like a great wall between Nepal and China. On the left are high mountains, but no snow. The weather was good and clear. I could even feel some heat on my feet. We were in this  little Dornier aircraft, skims craggy ridge tops and is often buffeted by mountain winds. Chanting Lords name continuously I slowly dared to see the propellers from the window panes . Strong winds come off the mountains at times, making it difficult or impossible to fly. A few years ago a flight crashed into the side of one of the mountains and it took them several days to find it. There were no survivors. The recent news of a helicopter crashing added to further fear though my wife and kids were relaxed and surrendered to Lords wish. Just 20 mins from Pokhara flying up the highest-deepest valley in the world, sometimes battling winds of 120 Mph (200 km+) as the clouds lift causing a kind of vacuum effect propelling winds.
  The flight was moving amidst big mountains, taking sharp turns and is sure to instill fear in everyone but the Lord’s names on our lips drove out the fear in us.  We  were now flying  between Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, two immense glacier covered peaks towering well above the airplane as we flew up the Gandaki river valley. Our lifetime mission was going to be achieved and were enthusiastic and prepared to face the worst situation, if any. We landed in Jomsom airport at 1140 hours .

Landed in Jomsom

                    We looked around the small airport  surrounded by mountains . We could see plenty of foreigners accompanying us . Jomsom is the base for trekking and  houses many lodges/hotels with internet facilities on either sides of the path. A serene place with cool breeze blowing . Apart from nurturing apple orchards, the other main occupation is tourist guidance.   Apples were available for Rs.6/- per kg. We took 3 kgs of apples.  Thanking Lord we briskly moved  and  located the hotel .  As assured, the incharge  had made all arrangements for our trip to Muktinath.  Annapurna trekking permit is a must and we had taken our pass port photographs with NR as fees for the same . 2 ponies with a guide were provided.  Baggages were tied to children’s ponies and myself accompanied by my wife started the holy trek to Muktinath at 12 noon.  While my wife and children were chanting I quickly  procured the Conversation Permit to go trekking in the area surrounding Annapurna Mountain  and understood the ponies were booked no doubt but were awaiting at the banks of gandaki river which is 20 mins trek . <>The security posts keep track of the number of persons  going and returning.  Similar check post would be found at the foot of the hillock on which the temple is located. After clearing the town of Jomsom which is modern , we headed out over the stony riverbed. 

<>                    After several years of worshipping Saaligrama murthies in our Altar, alas, we got the opportunity to visit this divya desam in Nepal.  This visit will be cherished for years to come and the vivid experiences we had are still fresh in our minds.  It was so overwhelming to have darshan of this unequaled setting of the Lord’s virat rupa of changing skies, snow-capped mountains, and serene townships along the Kali Gandaki providing a constant abhishek of the Lord in one of His most personal and unique forms.

Trekking begins

                Enthusiastically, we started walking down the narrow stony path and after about a mile, we reached the banks of Kali Gandaki where 2 ponies were made ready for us.  After sprinking the clear waters of Gandaki, children were made to sit on the ponies and baggages tied to it and were instructed to wait for us at Eklabhatti, the first settlement.  My children happily rode the horses chanting the Dhyana sloka as I advised them to sincerely pray and look in the river for holy Saalagramama silas .En route after offering oblations and sincere procrastinations to gandaki river I requested the horse man to help the children in looking for the Saalagramama  which he readily obliged.

                Apart from a set of change of clothes, we had taken pooja items, vastrams, dry fruits, etc to be offered to the Lord.  We had also taken some coffee powder, bournvita, milk powder and sugar and some pain killers.  Though we had taken enough medicines for fever, cold, pains , etc. along with first aid , by the grace of Lord, we didn’t have to really use anything until we returned to Secunderabad.   

                We found there was a path that skirted the riverbed, but we preferred to walk along the riverbed. As we walked along we started to notice the wind was picking up and the clouds were closing in from the mountains on either side of us.

               We were now in the Lower Mustang belt as per the Map . Mustang is an Anglicization of the Tibetan Lo Manthang, which is an autonomous region in north-central Nepal that borders on Tibet. The destination of our trek today was to reach Mukthinath by evening  . En route there is the village of Kagbeni ("Crow Confluence" in Nepali). The rocky highland stretching from Jomsom to Kagbeni--through which the Gandaki flows--is called Lower Mustang. Upper Mustang is where Damodar Kund is located, a lake that is the root source of all Saalagramam silas. We had to drop the idea  of going into Upper Mustang as expensive permits are required from the Nepali authorities . Formerly the Gandaki River Valley was the most important trade route between India and Tibet. It was controlled by the Buddhist kingdom of Lo Manthang, which was of Tibetan culture. But more than 200 years ago the Buddhist Raja of Lo Manthang allied with the Hindu Raja of Kathmandu in a war against Tibet. This is why the present region of Mustang (Lo Manthang), which is populated mostly by Buddhist people with Mongolian features, is part of Nepal and not Tibet (now fully controlled by Communist China). Now the trekking trail takes us away from the bank of the Gandaki for a while. I along with my wife started chanting  Shri Vishnu sahasranaamam , while my eyes were immersed in the beauty of Lords own little world far away from material and karmic vasanas. .   Few foreigners along with their guide walk briskly before us cheering NAMASTE … I feel their enthusiasm in trekking the mountains and truly with the protective wind shields, woolen socks, rock boots and body packs they were perfect mountaineers,  I avoided the trekking kit to tax my body in reaching Lords abode with a sincere vow as I did for Ahobilam and Tirumala. 

                Muktinath is situated at a height of 3,800 metres whereas jomsom is at 2713 metres.  The distance to Muktinath from Jomsom by walk is 21 kms (via Kagbeni) whereas now there is another short-cut which involves  climbing of a steep mountain but would save about 3-4 kms.   To reach Muktinath, we need to cross 3 settlements- Eklabhatti, Khinga, Jharkot (Earlier, piligrims used to go toMuktinath via Eklabhatti, Kagbeni, Jharkot).  One can find maps displayed on boards with the name of settlement, no. of hotels,lodges , distance to the next settlement and approximate time-only in these places, one can get drinks/ food etc)
I could see my children moving away from us  quickly . I wonder whether we can make it today . Enroute we see the skull of a yak. This classic symbol of desolation accentuates the atmosphere of loneliness that hangs over the Gandaki River Valley. Between Jomsom and Kagbeni one sees evidence of human habitation only rarely. We could see an   isolated stone hut of a herdsman. Nobody was home when we passed it . A  metal suspension bridge  en route spans the Gandaki River Valley. What adds a cultural mystique to the mountain paths and the flat areas of the Kali Gandaki are the teams of yaks and mules that would traverse the steep slopes carrying supplies back and forth from each area. The owner would be behind a team of 6 or more animals that methodically climb and descend (they could probably have done it blindfolded), stepping out of the way of persons who would approach from the opposite way. Each would wear an enchanting bell (like one of those wind chimes) which would create a sattvic atmosphere, especially needed when you round a sharp corner on a narrow path .So the bells do provide tranquility and safe travels. Incredibly strong winds often blow through the valley, and if you are crossing this bridge when such a wind comes up, you truly fear you'll be blown off into the valley below . My wife pauses for rest on the east end of the bridge. Where I quickly take  few pictures and shoot from my camcorder . As we continued our trek, we moved away from Kali Gandaki river  ,we could view her only from a distance.  Initially, the way was broad enough but it was a stony path.  Though one doesn’t feel thirsty due to the chillness , it is advisable to carry a bottle of  water, some glucose, few apples etc on the way Some  foreign tourists were  cycling on the steep mountains.    <>

                Leaving Kali Gandaki and climb up to Muktinath is a highlight.  As one ascends , we reach plateau after plateau where we tend to think that we have reached the summit, but it just keeps on going.  We walked across many plateaus and each time , we used to feel that we have reached the destination.

                    Surrounded by Annapurna mountains on one side and Dhaulagiri mountains on the other sides, a pleasant chilly breeze and Kali Gandaki flowing below, the picturesque beauty was feast to the body mind and soul.   Visualizing the Viraata Purusha in our mind’s eye  moving upwards, the path was narrowing and in some places, we came to the edge of the cliff. We had to slowly walk forward by holding hands. This was becoming more adventurous.  Crossing  many mountains on the way and the connecting path is  usually narrow.  It took about 2 hours for us to reach the first settlement EKLABHATTI.  At this point we are thankfully within sight of the town of Kagbeni. The trek through the valley involves is mostly flat and level. But the valley itself is some 2000 meters above sea level! Thus catching your breath is a problem, since there is less oxygen in the air than normal. As we descend from the bridge to the valley floor we meet a herd of incredibly nimble mountain goats. At the upper edgey we  can see Ekla Bhatti, the southern "suburb" of Kagbeni. Behind , the holy Gandaki flows on her way from Kagbeni, visible in the distance As the sun shines  over the Himalayan horizon, we see the blackish waters of the Gandaki from a higher altitude. I finally locate the sign board of Eklabatti where my children and the horseman are awaiting.

Beyond Eklabatti:

        The pony rider told us that from this place, there are 2 routes  – one towards Kagbeni and the other towards Khinga.  Kagbeni is a small developing village with staying facilities and people with sufficient time stay at kagbeni.    But as We were running short of time, we opted to  go via Khinga.  Further  trail to Muktinath carries us out of the Gandaki River Valley into the soaring mountain heights. This is not easy going. The air was thin to begin with, but now as we trudge ever-higher in the hot sun  and the decreasing oxygen becomes more and more of a problem. In less than half and hour, we look down upon Kagbeni as if from an airplane. We met a good number of trekkers along the Jomsom-Kagbeni-Muktinath path. Americans, Australians, Britishers, Europeans, and local Nepalese were moving in scattered numbers. The trail winds along the side of a steep valley formed by a white-water tributary that rushes down to meet the Gandaki at Kagbeni. In the cliffside opposite are many caves. The local Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns sometimes retire to these caves for meditation and austerity

                 Chanting loudly Lords names We   climb the steep slippery mountain for about half an hour .  The pony rider advised us not to look up or look down as it would instill fear in us we trek like sheep.  There is a very narrow path where one can put only one foot carefully .  Children were frightened to sit on the pony but having come half the way, they had no other choice but to keep their eyes tightly closed and pray to Lord.  We were passing thru a deserted place where there was no vegetation but only few mountain shrubs. We were literally gasping for breath.  Added to this, wind started blowing and it was becoming even more difficult to trek.  After climbing the steep mountain, we kept on walking on the narrow way for nearly an hour .  Suddenly the weather changed and it started drizzling.  We were unable to put a step further because it was slippery and the rains would make the road worse.  Added to that, there was no one in sight to help us in any adverse condition. Once again, our prayers to Lord did not go in vain. It stopped drizzling and there was only cool soft breeze. After 2 hours  of continuous trekking  we finally reached Khinga.  It was 4 PM in the evening.  The  milk powder, sugar, coffee and Bournvita which we had taken with us  came very handy.  We did not carry flask as hot water is available at the settlements.  We can also get some fast foods like noodles etc. though they are definitely costly but is worth it as we don’t have to carry unnecessary luggage.  The pony rider asked us to walk fast as it was getting dark but as we are not used to walking and as we wanted to enjoy the nature,  we did not do so.

                The trek from Khinga was not very difficult. In and around Khinga, we came across rich vegetation, and the dwellers in these places, polite by nature,  were seen knitting mufflers and other woolen products.  Apples were available in plenty , though a bit costly compared to Jomsom, we could get them for Rs.10/- per kg.  On the way, we had to cross few mountain streams while trekking which was refreshing.  It was becoming dark at 5 itself and by 6 P.M., we could not see anything.  We could hear wild dogs barking and as we exhausted  and were not prepared to face any adverse situation, we decided to stay overnight in the nearest settlement.  The inn-keeper charged Rs.300/- INR for 4 beds.  After finishing our supper(one roti costs 70 NR), we retired for the night.  The inn keeper cooked food without onions and garlic. Hot water was provided for everything by the homely inn keeper.   It was very very cold. Although short of breath, and having to stop every few hundred feet and rest, and although it took me 6 hours to get up there, I made it. Practically it was a miracle. Although I am sore tonight, I am not at all sorry that I went there and I'd gladly go again in the future

 Khinga to Jarkot

                         Next day, on 8th morning,  after offering our oblations to Surya bhagavan at  5.30AM, we resumed our journey . It was calm and serene throughout. It took about an hour for us to approach the village of Jarkot.  Looking  carefully we  could see 500 year old  dark red Buddhist monastery perched on a hilltop at the edge of this village. The Muktinath temple is about an hour's walk beyond Jarkot. On the top of the mountain is the white lip of a glacier that feeds the Gandaki with its icy waters. Having left Jarkot behind, we reached the Dreamland Hotel, which is the first building visible as one enters the village clustered at the foot of the hill of Muktinath. The trek was really tough as the altitude was increasing steadily.  ThirumangaiAlwar was remembered several times and his pasurams …This was the last settlement enroute to Muktinath.  The temperature was almost 3 degree and due to the numbness in our feet and hands, we could not walk further.  (Usually, trekking shoes are worn by piligrims  which was overseen by us as a part of our vow ).  Jharkot has many lodges with staying facilities etc and usually pilgrims/trekkers who visit Muktinath stay in Jharkot.  Though a room was booked in Hotel Muktinath at Jharkot, we could not make it the previous day as we could not proceed further. We could have a clear glimpse of Muktinath from Jharkot itself.  The check post authorities aT the base of the hillock on which the temple is situated, checked our permits . After walking few yards, we started climbing few stone steps (may be 700 or so)  laid in an improper way with  no  proper finishing etc.  The pony drive, motor drive is only upto Jharkot. From Jharkot  , everyone invariably has to climb these steps. It took about half an hour or so for us to reach the temple. Total trekking time taken by us for us 9 hours. Usually, people who are used to trekking finish within 6 hours. The dark red structure behind is the entrance gate. Because of the altitude and our physical state We were forced to rest on the way up (sometimes after every 100 steps) The large stone stairs at the closing intervals (almost like a malicious test) takes you to the final test of patience in seeing GOD . Well! Soul stirring experiences at the cost of trimming the body . I wondered how my grandfather who had accompanied our Swamigal visited must have trekked this place .  He paid visit to this temple thrice in his lifetime.  Maybe it was due to his blessings, that Adiyen could make it. 

                            En route  we happened to see helipads.  Helicopters from Pokhara/Jomsom upto Muktinath  and back fly daily. During  peak season, the copter flies many times . Also, We were told that the weather conditions do not affect the copters much.  We happened to meet few Tamilians from South India who had come in package tours organized by travel agents in Chennai . It takes about 40 minutes to reach Muktinath from Pokara and  half an hour’s stay at Muktinath.   The package would cost 21000 INR . They however miss the thrill of trekking the holiest mountains.   This is safe for physically unfit and aged people.  On the way to the temple, on the left side, there is a Buddhist heritage where people offer prayers.  After A  few  Buddhist prayer wheels at the entrance to the Muktinath complex is visible  These revolving cylinders are a common sight in Nepal. They are inscribed with the Tibetan Buddhist mahamantra Om Mani Padme Hum--"Aum! The jewel in the lotus! Hail!" The jewel is the pure spirit soul and the lotus is the purified body of the true follower of Buddha's way. Tibetan Buddhist turn these prayer wheels to earn merit. Simply pushing on them to get them revolving is supposed to be as good as chanting the mantra as many times as the wheel then revolves.

 Reaching Mukthinath our final destination of this trip

                         Ascending few more steps, we finally reached our destination. There is huge bell hung in front of the gate.  Having passed through the entrance gate, we proceed to the complex's first shrine. Muktinath is sacred to both Vaisnavas and Buddhists.  My dream comes true. I along with my family members are very much in the 106th Divyadesam   Lord Muktinath is, for Vaisnavas, Sri Padmapani (the form of Lord Visnu from whose lotus feet sacred waters flow). Tibetan Buddhists worship Him as Adi-Buddha. Lord Muktinath's form is manifest in brass. In bodily shape and posture He resembles the Yoga Narayana Deity Atop the hill behind the Muktinath Temple is a Buddhist shrine. 

                            Its  9 A.M. A huge bell is hung in front of the gate. There are 108 shower spouts coming from the glacier on the back wall of the shrine with the best water that makes the journey a complete success.  Since the water is ice cold and due to limited time allowed for darshan, most of the piligrims who come by copter sprinkle water from the 108 gomukhis behind the temple  . Thanking Lord profusely tears rolling I brave to take  a bath  under the gomukhs. My children run under the gomukhs  reciting Dwayam. Though we intended to utter each divya desa Perumal’s thirunaamam while having shower under each gomukhi, we could not do so as We were shivering .  So, we uttered the ashtakshari mantram and literally ran from one gomukhi to the other.
Jutting from the stone wall that encloses Muktinath Temple on three sides are 108 gomukhs or cows' mouths. From each mouth icy glacial water flows. The water is considered as pure as the Ganges, which flows from Gomukh in the Indian Himalayas. ! The tremendous Nilgiri peak overlooking Jomsom.  The Water from Gandaki is routed through these man-made gomukhis which are closely built ,the distance between the gomukhis may be hardly a foot .   WE felt as if a hammer had struck our heads after passing thru these gomukhis. Added to this, We were asked to have a dip in 2 small tanks situated in front of the temple.  The temperature for the day was recorded at 3 degrees and the chilly water was almost in a frozen condition .  Unlike in Badri where we are greeted with steaming hot water, here it was icy cold . After changing into dry clothes in separate rooms provided for ladies and gents, we went inside the temple. 

                            The garbagriham was closed and We were asked to wait for few mintues.  Meanwhile, we did pradakshinam around the temple.  The temple is very small.  In front of the garbagriham, towards left, there is a vigraham of our Acharyar, Sri Ramanujar.  In front of this idol, there is a homa kundam.  After having darshan of our Acharyar, the doors of the garbagriham were opened.   The moment we saw the divya mangala swaroopam of the Lord, Sri Srimoorthi, we forgot the cold and the pains.  The enchanting beauty of the Lord cannot be described in words. 
The deity at Muktinath is a large brass deity with a very transcendental smile. Perumal is in Veetirundha Thirukolam (sitting posture) with Ubhaya naachiyars,(Sridevi and Bhoodevi Thayar) on either sides in Nindra Thirukolam flanking Him. Though in the divya desa naamavali, Perumal is known as “SRIDEVI NAYIKA SAMETHA SRI SRIMOORTHI”, we found ubhaya naachiyaars, Sridevi and Bhoodevi Thayar on either sides of Perumal flanking Him. Perumal is seen in sitting posture while Ubhaya Naachiyars are in Nindra Thirukolam. As it is often mentioned  that Adisesha always performs various kainkaryams to Perumal, here Adisesha is seen spreading hoods like an umbrella.  Garudazhwar and other Saalagramams are also worshipped. Inside the garbagriham, near the entrance on the right side, there is a small vigraham of Buddha. Muktinath is holy place both for Hindus and Buddhists. Even foreigners enter the temple and have a darshan of the Lord even though they do not know the significance of the place, they offer their respects to the Lord.  It must be only due to their poorva janma sukrutam. I could relate the darshan exactly with THIRUVENGADAMUDAIYANS darshanam.  <>

                            A Buddhist lady accepted our offerings to Perumal- vastrams for Perumal and Thayar, dry fruits, honey, sandal paste, rose water etc. which we had carried with us for offering it to Lord.  This lady gives theertha prasadam and offers neivedyam and is restrained from doing Thirumanjanam to the Lord.  Unfortunately, the male priest was not available in the temple and hence we could not perform Thirumanjanam.  However, the lady offered us to take one Saalagramam outside the garbagriham and perform Thirumanjanam but Adiyen felt that I was incompetent, I did not accept the offer.  There was no rush and We were able to have darshan to our heart’s content.  Perumal’s smiling Thirumugam is very enchanting and we could not take our eyes off .  We recited 108 divya desa naamavali in front of Perumal and recited Thirumangai Azhwar’s pasurams on this divya desam.  In ecstasy, I remembered Thirumangai mannan’s pasurams on Naimisaaranyam which is full of repentance and started reciting the same in the temple.  My children sang few  Annamaya Kirtans and Thyagaraja kirtanas amidst few piligrims.  Adiyen thought of everyone associated with me and prayed the Lord to bestow moksham and best devotional service  on them .  Adiyen prayed to the Lord to give me another chance to visit this shrine with my wife again and give another opportunity to visit all the divya desams .

                            The  Nepali security emphasized  that the temple was 500 years old and it would be closed during severe winter (i.e. from October to February) every year.  Due to time constraint, we left the temple reluctantly after taking few photographs. 
I had heard that Westerners aren't allowed in the temple of Muktinath, but that's not true. It is said that Badrinath sent Muktinath to this place, high up in the mountains.  I overhear a foreigner saying  that anyone who takes the trouble to visit that place will get liberation. I, however, did not pray for liberation. Rather, I prayed for pure devotional service.   <>

                            Atop the hill behind the Muktinath Temple is a Buddhist shrine. Incredibly, some Buddhist nuns who serve at Muktinath daily climb this hill to also perform worship up there.
  Jwala Mukhi
                          A five minute walk down the temple towards left led us to “JWALA MUKHI”,the  place where we can see 2 wonders :- First, fire coming from water and fire coming from stone.  This fire is emitted continuously and one has to peep into a small opening to see the same. A natural blue fire can be clearly seen from water which is unbelievable.  This is a representation of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu as it was here Brahma and Shiva did penance to obtain Lord Vishnu’s grace.  Here Lord Maha Vishnu is in the form of water, Lord Shiva in the form of fire and Brahma as performer of sacrifice.  Various demigods, rishis, kinnaras, gandharvas,apsaras always live in this MUktikshetra in the form of animate and inanimate things like small brooks, creepers etc. Lord Vishnu appeared before them and as per their desire, continued to reside in this place.  This is also considered to be a  Buddhist shrine because one Buddhist monk got enlightenment here.  As a proof of this, we could find various stupas of Buddhist monks and their dwarapaalakas.   After thanking Perumal, we left the place at 1100 hours.

                    On the way back, we  visited  a  small thirumaligai  run by  a Srivaishnava, a disciple of Chinna Jeerswamy.  He greeted us warmly and offered us some herbal drink which would act as an anecdote against the cold weather.  Infact, despite our bath in icy cold water, none of us fell sick . When I was expressing my desire to collect Saalagramams, he immediately gave me 5 Saalagramams , out of which 2 were collected from Damodar Kund and one moorthi was receiving his upacharams daily reciting Acharyar dhaniyan and Thirupallandu.  After making few purchases of photos, chains etc we left the place .  We called up our parents , brothers, sisters from Muktinath who were elated to learn that we had very good darshan.  It was only due to our poorva janma sukrutam we could make this happen.

Back to Jomsom (Lost our way enroute)

                        After having few refreshments at Hotel Muktinath, we started our return journey to Jomsom.  As we had taken enough photos and videos , we handed over the same to our children. We were told that it would take 4 hours for us to reach Jomsom as it is easier to walk down the mountains.  <>

                        As my wife was suffering from knee pain,  walking was tougher . We were lagging behind.  Added to this, we missed our route.  Though We were doubtful about the route, we could not get clarification as there was no one around us.  Guessing our way, we climbed down the hill and reached a cliff which was the dead end.  Below the cliff,  as we saw Gandaki flowing, we guessed that it should be the route and while trying to get down, we nearly had a fall.  Clinging to each other both of us were totally perplexed, frightened and chanted loudly Hanuman Chalisa.  Luckily we spotted few farmers who were working in a far away field and waived a cloth towards them .  Immediately a young lad of about 15 years came to our rescue.  After saving us from this fall, he accompanied us for half an hour or so and led us to the correct path.  He told that we had come near Kagbeni village and that particular place was the route to Domodar kund where the origin of Saalagramam begins  and that Eklabhatti was far off.  Added to this, due to heavy winds, We were finding it very difficult to put even a step further.Kagbeni is known for strong dusty winds and it is very difficult to withstand without any support .   By straying on the wrong path, we had to walk for another 2 hours.  Finally, we reached Eklabhatti at 1700 hours.  Meanwhile, children were worried and were enquiring about our whereabouts.  As we had gone on the wrong side, they only got negative reply which added to their worry.  Meanwhile, my children went to the banks of Kali Gandaki river and while reciting the sloka told by my father , they were able to collect some Saalagramams right from the  holy river.  As  told by my koil Archakars ,one murthi was that of Sri Rama, one Sri Srinivasar, Varahar,Matsya murthi and few Hiranya garbhams.  They also collected 2 big Saalagramams which we wanted to gift to our Kushaiguda temple.  But maybe it was  Perumal’s will  to stay back in Jomsom itself as  the airport authorities did not allow us to take the bigger ones. It was already dark when we reached Eklabhatti and as we had another 1 hour trekking, the pony rider advised my wife to ride on pony.  My younger daughter trekked with me for more than  one and half hour amidst chanting  bhajans and hare Krishna maha mantra  We reached Jomsom at 19 hours.  We were pleased to hear about our ticket confirmation from the hotel owner.  Our flight was scheduled to leave Jomsom at 9 A.M. the following morning.Thanked God for all His grace and retired for the night.  We called home from the satellite telephone and informed Lords grace in giving us a darshan .Afterall any SriVaishnavaite desires he vist all the Divya desams and take to spirituality . It was a pleasant experience

 Jomsom to Pokra (Flight got cancelled)

                           Next day, i.e. on 9th October,2006, when We were about to check out, the hotel manager approached us and informed that the flight to Pokhara was cancelled due to technical failure of the aircraft. As the technical support for rectifying the aircraft has to come from Katmandu and also keeping the weather conditions in mind, he said that it was doubtful whether the flight would take off that day.   On hearing this, We were totally shattered .  He advised us to either take a helicopter (a private one-Manang airlines) which he was arranging for others by paying for the tickets in  dollars (INR 30,000)  or either go by jeep upto 20 kms, walk for about 15 hours to reach Thathopani, take a bus to Pokhra which would take about 20 hours.  As the second option was impossible, we decided to opt for the first one and gave our consent.  Arrangements were made to get a helicopter from Katmandu .  Though the scheduled departure was at 12 noon as promised by the hotel manager, the helicopter arrived at Jomsom at 1600 hours only. We had no other choice other than loitering around.  WE got our Gorkha Airlenes ticket cancelled but were advised to collect the refund at Pokara office as the tickets were issued by Pokara office. 

                    We were thoroughly whisked by the security in the airport as we are not supposed to take saalagramams with us.  We hid the small saalagrams in different baggages and were ardently praying to the Lord to help us out of the situation but 2 big saalagramams which we wanted to gift to our Kushaiguda temple was retained by the authorities.  Tension was once again mounting as we had to go to Janakpur that night itself and reach Gorakpur on 10th at any cost.  We were told that night journey to Janakpur is not advisable due to moists attacks which was very common in that route.  Even the car drivers resent to travel during night which meant that we had to cancel our Janakpur even if we got further delayed.

                          The technical engineers arrived in a small copter at 1630 hours and we all boarded it and reached Pokhara at 1700 hours. The 20 minute journey by helicopter was  very inconvenient and fearful. Worst with noise and full of congestion.  Adiyen was continuously chanting Maha mantra and the moment we left the copter, 2 devotees who hail from England  approached me and offered Prasad saying that they had done Pournami pooja at Muktinath, a day before we reached the holy shrine. I was happy to learn that they have migrated to Kashi and having undertaken penance, they are simultaneously doing research on Vedas.   <>

                            It is only due to the abundant grace of Perumal on this sinner that Adiyen could visit all the divya desams with my wife and children. I attribute this to my previous janma wherein I would have been associated with Srivaishnavas by touching the dust of their feet or I must have done some petty kainkaryam which yielded this fruit of visiting the divya desams in this janma.  May the divine forms of Perumal of all divya desams remain fresh in our memories and may our lips continuously chant the holy myriad names of the Lord.  May our visit to the divya desams remain fresh in our minds so that when we leave this human body, we would be qualified to get moksha.

 Pokra to Janakpur

                        The cab driver whom we got used to address as “kaka” was waiting for us at the airport.  We rushed to the hotel where we had left our baggages and without losing any time, and  left the place to go to Janakpur.   Thanked  the Hotel manager and his brother-in-law for all his intervention and help.  But for him, it would have been impossible for us to go to Muktinath.  We decided that we offer our prayers to Sita Piratti .Taking clue from the fellow Nepalis we dashed into the cab with the available 24 hrs left . We traveled whole night and at 01.00 hrs we alighted at a thickly populated area and rested in a hut. At 5AM we resumed our journey to Janakpur which is located near Bihar border in Nepal is one of the most attractive tourist spots. 

                     This is the birth place of Goddess Sita and the place where the famous “SITA RAAMA KALYANAM “ took place.  So, we didn’t want to miss this.  It took about 8 hours to reach from Pokhara  and we had to cross Chitwan jungle in the midnight. Some info that we learnt as to how wild animals encounter the passers by was enough to put us in fear and as usual, we sought  Hanuman’s intervention. We were not prepared to face any such encounters with either wild beasts or moists.    We reached Janakpur at 0800 hours on 10th October,2006.  The driver informed us that it would take another 10 hours for us to reach Gorakhpur provided there was no traffic jam.  We had to hasten ourselves as we had to be in Gorakpur at any cost that night. We quickly went inside the palace –converted into temple.  Prayers on Goddess sita was written in Hindi on display boards.  Morning abhishekam was just over and we had to wait for few minutes to have darshan of Thayar.  In the  sanctum sanctorum, Lord Rama, Sita Devi and King Janaka are seen.  During aarthi, prayers on  Sita Devi were sung.  Apart from this, the palace houses other shrines too.  In one of the shrines, we could find full family of Janaka - Lord Rama –Sita, Lakshmana-Urmila, Bharata, Shatruguna –Srutikeerthi, King Janaka, his brother, his queen .  Apart from this, this shrine houses 3,000 Saalagramams which were covered by a red cloth.  Impressed by the songs sung by my daughters on Lord Rama, the priest started enquiring about our trip.  He was very happy to learn that we  had been to Muktinath,and immediately to our astonishment, removed the red cloth and showed us the Saalagramams.  He advised us to make an offering for annadhaanam for a day by paying 251/- and gave us some rice as prasaad which he said would bestow progeny on the couple who prepared rice with it.  Else , we could simply place it in the pooja altar .  After our photo session with him, we went round the temple where we saw continuous chanting of Raama naamam 24 hours a day by some devotees.  We proceeded to Sita Rama Kalyana Mantapam which is situated just outside the palace on the left side. Rs.5/- is charged as  entrance fee . A big mantapam in the centre with life –size images . Lord Rama, and  Sita in Kalyana Thirukolam in sitting posture,Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatruguna also in Kalyana Thirukolam, King Janaka and his brother in standing posture, Dasaratha,his queens, Sage  Vasishta and other rishi in sitting postures, Brahma, Shiva and other devas blessing. The sight was a real feast to the eyes.  Around the mantapam, on 4 sides, there are 4 sannidhis for all the 4 brothers with their wives.  We were regretting for not having the camcorder with us. 

 Janakpur to Gorakpur (Tension on Road)

                            We left Janakpur at 0930 hours and having visited all the places as per our schedule, we continued to reach our final destination, Gorakhpur.   We crossed Nepal border at 1500 hours (that was the last day of our permit) in bihar.  The highway roads in Bihar is the most horrible one with full of bumps and it took more than an hour to cross the border on the Indian side. There is absolutely no cleanliness, no hygiene, no traffic rule, no proper roads.  Uttar Pradesh which we entered around 6 P.M. was more horrible with traffic jams.  We were stuck in traffic jam for more than 5 hours. No police to regularize the traffic.  We learnt that it was very common and most of the truck drivers had left their trucks on the road itself and were loitering.  Once again , our sincere prayers to Lord Hanuman was answered.  After hours of pleading the truck drivers, we somehow got way to move . But the way was not sufficient for a car to pass through. the the driver literally tilted the car because of muddy road on his left and drove only on 2 wheels carefully for more than 2 kilometres .  With great difficulty, the impossible task was made possible by the grace of Lord.  Reached Gorakhpur at 2300 hours in the night.   Checked into one of the hotels near the station, and retired for the night.  Thanked God profusely for the successful, impossible adventurous trip to Nepal. 

                 Boarded Secunderabad-Gorakhpur Express at 0600 hours on the following morning, i.e. 11th Oct,2006 and reached Secunderabad at 1830 hours the following day.  Thus ended our trip to Saalagramam.

Mukthinath Trip completed

<>After a short break of 2 days, we went to Tirumala with our parents and thanked God for His abundant Grace on this sinner . As part of our VIMSATI DARSHANAM scheme, we participated in Suprabhata seva, Unjal seva, Archana Anantara seva for 2 days and also performed Thirukalyana utsavam to Malayappa swamy ( our parents performed the same). 

                WE also visited Thiruvellikeni and thanked Sri Parthasarathy Perumal for successful completion of divya desa yaatrai as way back in 1998, we had prayed to this Perumal for visiting the divya desams. 

                  During this trip, Adiyen’s faith was put to test  several times and Adiyen passed this only due to the grace of my acharyar and all devotees of Lord.  <>

Adiyen may be contacted for any guidance while planning for this yathirai. I can be contacted on 09849635903 any time or on  my e mail  varadhan_k@hotmail.com


Dasan varadan

Our travel diary

29th Sep 06        Left  Secunderabad to Gorakhpur by Secunderabad-Gorakhpur Express at 0800 hours
30th Sep 06        Reached Gorakhpur at 20.00 hours and took rest. Train dealyed
1st Oct 06           0900 hours left for Pokra via Lumbini (birth place of Buddha)
2nd Oct 06          In Pokra Local site seeing.
7th Oct 06           Pokra to Jomsom Left at 1100 hours and reached Jomsom at 1140 hours.

                            Trekking commeced at 1200 hours

                            Reached Ekalbhatti after two hours of trekking.
                            Around 6 PM reached Khinga. Stayed in a settlement for the night. (Originally supporsed to reach Jarkot)

8th Oct 06            0530 hours left for Jarkot reached at 6.30 AM
                              One hour further walk to Muktinath. Reached temple by 0900 hours

                               Left around 1100 hours trekking back to Jomsom. Reached Jomsom around 1900 hours

9th Oct 06            Left Jomsom to Pokra by helicoptor (flight got cancelled) 1600 hours to 1700 hours

                              Left for Janakapur from Pokra in the evening itself. Night stay in a hut enroute

10th Oct 06            Reached Janakpur 0800 hours. Left the temple by 0930 hours. Reached border at 1700 hours and Gorakhpur by 2300 hours.

11th Oct 06            Train to Secunderabad at 0600 hours.
12th Oct 06            Reached
Secunderabad by 1830 hours.

In addition to this, since we had three days free from 2nd Oct due to non availability of flight tickets to Jomsom we had been to these places for children's educational purposes but not part of mukthinath pilgrimmage.

<>3rd Oct 06            Pokra to Chitwan
4th Oct 06             Chitwan to Katmandu.
5th Oct 06            Local sight seeing in Katmandu
6th Oct 06            Katmandu- Bhakapur (Patan)- Pokra

Our stay details

Gorakhpur:         Hotel Standard (rate Rs 350/)
Pokra:                Hotel Blue Heaven on 2nd Oct.
Chitwan:             Resort in the Jungle.
Katmandu:          Hotel Taj
Pokra:                Hotel Degchee (punjabi owner) on 6th Oct.
Jomsom:            ? (rate 350/)
Jharkot:            Hotel Mukthinath( planned but could not reach in time after our trekking. Stayed in a settlement at Khinga)
On the way to Janakpur: In a Hut ?

Mode of travel

Road travel by BOLERO for Gorakhpur to Pokra, Pokra to Katmandu, Pokra to Janakpur and finally to Gorakhpur.

Pokra to Jomsom: By Air. Gorkha Airlines while going and returned by Helicoptor since the flight was cancelled.

Jomsom to Mukthinath: Pony ride for children and trekking for me and my wife.

Important tips.

<>Adiyen suggests people who undertake this yaatrai to ensure the following:

Sthala puranam

Adiyen wishes to share sthalapuranam and some interesting facts about this divya desam which may be helpful for future pilgrims.

Muktinath is situated in Upper Mustang area which is a protected zone and hence permit is required from the government.   WE had read in some book that this divya desam is in the midst of forest in an isolated place with no facility but it looks like it is developing now.  One need not worry about this as you find travelers now and then, there are sign boards and some hotels/lodges at settlements enroute.  One can hire a pony so that the baggages can be tied to it and the pony incharge will himself act as guide. Chant the holy names while trekking and GOD will take care of everything.  I was enthusiastic in revealing the legendary stories about this punya stala to my kids who are distinguished  as they also joined in the 106 Divya desam yathirai effortlessly.  <>  <>

Gandakyamcha uttare teere
Girirajasya dakshine
Dasayojana vistheernaam
Mahakshetra Vasundharaa

Saalagramamo Mahadevo
devi Dwaravati bhaved
Ubhayossangamo yatra
Muktisttattra na samsaya."

"To the north of the river, Gandaki (also called Narayani), and south of the Himalayas, there is the holy region of Saalagramama, which is ten yojanas extent, where Dwaravati merges into Saalagramama. Undoubtedly such a place is capable of vouchsafing Moksha." Actually, about 140 miles from Khatmandu is situated Muktimati or Muktikshetra, also called "Saalagramama-kshetra

Legend has it that once Bramha was exasperated at the rate of increase of the sinners among his creation. Then drops of sweat rolled down his cheeks (Ganda), ultimately collecting themselves into the form of a female child called "Gandaki." She took it into her head to do a severe penance which became so overwhelming that the Devas started trembling before her. As usual they offered her the bait of a boon on return for her stopping her penance, but they met a Tartar in her, for she wanted to mother all the Devas. Not having the power to grant such a boon, the Devas pleaded their inability, at which Gandaki became furious and cursed all the devas to be born as worms on the earth below. The Devas in their turn placed a countercurse on her head that she should become "Jada" or inert matter.
Naturally Bramha was concerned with this unexpected development. Unable to find a way out, he consulted Indra and Rudra. With them also he drew a blank. Finally, all the three turned to Vishnu, who said: "Inasmuch as the curses have been already pronounced, they cannot be revoked, and both parties affected must suffer them. The problem is how to make them work to their mutual and ultimately universal benefit."

 After consideration, Vishnu said: " I shall take up my abode in the Chakra Teertha near Saalagramamakshetra. You, Devas, shall migrate to this hallowed region as "Vajrakitas" eating into the pebbles. Gandaki shall in the form of a river fill the universe enveloping the shilas hallowed by me." Saalagramama stones are obtained only from the river Gandaki, which is a Himalayan stream, celebrated since antiquity as Narayani, Saligrami, Hiranvati and Hiranyavati. The epic Mahabharata speaks of its sanctity (Bhishma-parva) . The puranas also describe it as a sacred stream in which all the gods and titans abide . By merely looking at it, one would eliminate all his mental defilement’s, by touching it his bodily sins are burnt up, and by sipping its water the verbal demerits are thrown out: One who comes into contact with this sacred stream will be liberated from the cycle of birth and deaths, even if he be a sinner. And for the reason, the river Gandaki became among all the rivers extraordinarily sacred Being a mystic river, looking at it, touching it, bathing in it and sipping its waters will be conductive to eliminate all sins, even the greatest of sins pertaining to the body, speech and mind.

   I told them there  are many aspects of this pilgrimage right from   going to the Holy Tirtha of Saalagramam high in the Himalayas; the challenge of one's faith, to be there and to find one's worshipful Lord; the material elements, and other various hardships - walking many miles/kilometres, high altitude, no food, the weather, the constant wind, wild animals, dacoits and theives, mundane trekkers, so many things.   We were trekking near the banks of Gandaki river. Which  rises beyond the Himalayan ranges, probably in Tibet, and flows (in the north-south direction) into Nepal, There is a lake at the source of the Kali-Gandaki , called Damodar-kunda on the Nepal . The lower Gandaki is well known as Mukti-natha-kshetra, also called Saligrama-kshetra. The sacred stones are largely found on the banks of Kali-gandaki near Tukche, between the two mountains Dhavala-giri and Annapurana. Damodara-Kunda is  considered as  Saivite place of pilgrimage by Nepalis. This is the punya kshetram where saligrama-stones are found within the Nepal territory. As advised by my father the children learnt the sloka  by heart  supposed to be chanted while we trek the route .The sloka  goes like this with meaning explained below

dheya sada savitra mandala madhya-varti---  naryanah sarasijasana sannivistah
    keyuravan makara kundalavan kiriti   --hari hiranmaya vapuh dhrita sankha cakrah

     Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be meditated upon in the center of the sun globe. He is situated on a lotus flower and seated in the lotus posture. He is adorned with beautiful golden bracelets, amulets, earrings, necklace and a crown. He has the golden effulgence and is seen holding the pure white conch and Sudarshana cakra in His lotus hands. Oh wielder of the conch, disc, club, and other natural weapons, You are the Lord and resident of the spiritual realm. Oh indestructible one, protector of the worlds, oh lotus eyed Lord, please save all of us who have taken shelter of you and appear before us .


·         The significance of Saalagramama kshetra is vividly mentioned in Himavat kanda of Skanda Purana  wherein Lord Subramanya explains to Sage Agastya about this kshetram and its mahatyam.

·         In Varaha Purana, Lord Vishnu Himself explains to Bhoodevi about the importance of this kshetram and the various theerthams in Someswar, Harihar and Mukthinath kandas.

·         As all the major rivers in Northern India like Ganges, Yamuna, Saraswati are associated with Lord Vishnu, Gandaki river did severe penance and God granted her wish by residing on the banks of the river and thus made it holy.  Gandaki river is treated on par with Ganges.

·         The river Gandaki is a very ancient river; and the geologists say that it existed even before the formation of the Himalayan ranges. It rises beyond the Himalayan ranges, probably in Tibet, and flows (in the north-south direction) into Nepal. And for the reason, the river Gandaki became among all the rivers extraordinarily sacred Being a mystic river, looking at it, touching it, bathing in it and sipping its waters will be conductive to eliminate all sins, even the greatest of sins pertaining to the body, speech and mind. My soul danced with joy looking at the nature and being in Gods own world.

·         Varaha Purana mentions that Perumal conceded to Gandaki’s request to be born as her son and hence Perumal manifested Himself as salagrams in water.  Due to the Perumal’s presence, this has become the most sanctifying river and a dip in this frees one from all sins committed by thought, word and action in innumerable lifetimes, forefathers shall reach heaven and finally attain moksham.

·         Near to this place is Someshwar , a mountain which is the abode of Shiva where he has manifested himself as lingams

·         The vast tract of land through which the sacred Gandaki flows is known as Saalagramama kshetra. As this area was full of “sala” trees, it is known thus.

·         Lord Vishnu with all the demigods is present in the form of Saalagramams .  These Saalagramams are worshipped in all the major temples across the globe.

·         Tulasi, wife of the demon Sankhachoodan cursed Lord Vishnu to become a stone as the Lord as part of His divya leela , deceived her.  Hence, Lord has taken this form as this is an easier form of worship.   The bones of Sankachoodan who was killed by Lord Shiva turned into conches and Tulasi transformed herself into Gandaki river.  The tresses of Tulasi turned into Tulasi bushes.  As per Tulasi’s request, Lord conceded to remain as stone on the banks of Gandaki river.

·         Lord summoned the divine architect, Viswakarma to make different images of Him indicating Lords’ various manifestations and accordingly, Viswakarma transformed himself into vajrakreeta worm and made various signs inside the Saalagramamam stone with its sharp nails. 

·         The origin of these saligramams are at Damodar kund which is another 3 days trek from Muktinath and special trekking permit is required from Nepalese government as it is at a higher altitude.  These stones mingle with the Gandaki river which has its origin beyond Damodar Kund and gets deposited along the river side. Damodar kund is the place where Nalakuvera and Manigriva , the sons of Kubera who were redeemed from their curse by Lord Krishna as Damodara had bath as per Lords’ instructions and attained effulgent bodies. Hence, this kund is known as DAMODAR KUND.  Just by visiting and bathing in this , on attains the ability to achieve all his desired objectives and become a detached person even if he is a householder and will not be troubled by pleasure or pain.

·         Any fossil stone found on the banks of Gandaki river is deemed to be saligramam especially the ones with marks of discus are manifestations of the Supreme Lord, Sriman Narayanan.

·         As a householder may find it difficult to offer prayers by doing homa etc. daily as in earlier yugas, Perumal has manifested Himself in this form which does not require any purificatory rite.  The aaradhanai can be started directly and is very simple. Aaradhanai to Saalagramam  is to be done with tulasi leaves placed on conch and water to be poured on the saalagramam through the nose of the conch.

·         Any act at this place fetches manifold benefits on the doer

·         A 2 minute walk from the temple leads to Jwalamukhi, the place where Brahma did penance for universal welfare and he invoked Lord Vishnu in the form of water and Shiva in the form of fire and offered sacrificial butter and payasam.  All the demigods personally attended the sacrifice and accepted the offerings. The remnants of this yagnam which is in the form of soil near by is partaken by devotees as prasadam.

·         Brahma performed 3 types of yagas at this place-DRavya yagna (sacrifice with materials), gnana yagna (mental sacrifice-in the sacrificial fire of minds with the sacrified spatula of breath he meditated on the Supreme Lord Narayana and burnt the material contamination in the form of offerings.), upsasana yagna.

·         Any living being which dies in this place attains moksham.

·         AT a particular place between the temple and Jwalamukhi, one can hear the sound of Ganges flowing into the Patalalok.

·         In Varaha Purana, Lord Varaha mentions about the importance of various theerthas and the results of having bath in those many of which are in different locations on the mountain.  He also mentions about Someswhar, the abode of Lord Shiva and the benefits of worshipping Him.

·         Many devotees and rishis like Ambarisha, Pundareeka etc have attained liberation after visiting this place.

·         As per Mahabaarata, King Bharath after renouncing his kingdom reached this kshetram and performed austerities .  this place is known as Galeshwar and there is a temple dedicated to Harihar Galeswarnath.  Shiva is present in the form of Sadguru Yogeshwar and Vishnu as Lord Jadeshwar.

On Salagrama worship

Saalagramam and its importance:

Ø       Saalagramams are small fossils beautifully carved by Vajrakreetam (an insect) and are available in and on the banks of River Kali Gandaki in Nepal.

Ø       These are considered divine manifestations of Perumal and hence they don’t need any special consecration rituals to be performed.

Ø       There is no dosham to Saalagramams and even it is broken due to accident or naturally, the divinity is said to exist.

Ø       The water which was used for performing abhishekam to saalagramam bestows liberation to the person who drinks it knowingly or unknowingly.  This practice is followed even today in all Vaishnava house when a soul departs from a body.

Ø       Saaligrama aaradhanai is always to be done with conch and tulasi. 

Ø       In the  Skanda Purana, Skanda classifies the types of Saalagramam to Sage Agastya :-

·         LORD VARAHA:- two proportionate marks of discusses on the face of Saalagramam

·         LROD VASUDEVA:- white in colour, very attractive, 2 proportionate marks of discus

·         LORD PRADHYUMNA:- long, yellowish, with small marks of discus and with many faces (surfaces)

·         LORD ANIRUDDHA:- dark saalgiram with marks of three lines and a lotus

·         LORD NARAYANA:- dark with features of Anirddha and has a protruding navel with marks of discus.

·         LORD MATSYA:- saligramam with a depressed top and a bulge on both the sides

·         LORD KURMA:- very bright three faced Saalagramam with signs of either conches or discus

·         LORD NARASIMHA:- very bright brown coloured Saalagramam with signs of three lines and two different discus- only brahmachary should worship this.

·         LORD LAKSHMI NARASIMHA:- salagra with signs of two discusses to the left and hallow –this bestows both material pleasures and liberation.

·         LORD VAMANA:- meronish coloured Saalagramam in the shape of a globe with 5 lines

·         LORD BALARAMA:-a conch shaped, yellowish tinged Saalagramam with the marks of plough.

·         LORD RAMA:- a conch shaped, yellowish tinged Saalagramam with the marks of bow

·         LORD PARASURAMA:- a conch shaped, yellowish tinged Saalagramam with the marks of axe

·         LORD SUDARSHANA:- reddish flower like Saalagramama with a blackish discus

·         LORD DAMODARA”- big Saalagramam with sudarshana features and with signs of mace and discus to the left, a line on the right and narrowish in the middle with signs of discus.

·         LORD PARAMESTI:- Saalagramam with signs of white lotus and discus

·         LORD SRIDHARA:- yellowish black bud shaped Saalagramam with signs of two big discus on the back, five lines in the form of a mace and vanamala

·         LORD TRIVIKRAMA:- bright dark coloured Saalagramam with signs of kadamba flower going from bottom to top on both sides

·         LORD HAYAGRIVA:- green tinged Saalagramam with manyhallows and signs of hook shaped discus and a line of knowledge

·         LORD GADADHARA:- saligram with 3 lines and any three signs

·         LORD ANANTA:- saligram with many faces and signs of many bows clubbed together in the form of a serpent

·         LORD KRISHNA:- dark coloured Saalagramam with the sign of a vanamala to its right-this grants health, pleasures, and fulfills all sorts of desires
















In Peria Thirumozhi, Thirumangai Azhwar has dedicated 10 songs to this divya desam.  In the pasurams, Azhwar advises his mind to go to Saalgramam and pray to Perumal who

as Sri Ramar  , humiliated Soorpanaka and killed Ravana thus emerging victorious in the battle,

as Sri Krishnar who killed Putanai, ate butter,

as Vamanan who approached Bali Chakravarthy and by asking for 3 feet land measured the 7 universes,  ,

as Sri Narasimhar who pierced Hiranya kasapu’s heart,

as the Lord whose expansions are the Sun, Moon, Ether, Mountains, Oceans, fire and who is the Preserver of the Universe,

as the Lord who redeemed Shiva from his curse who was roaming with kapalam in his hand due to brahma hathi dosham committed by him. 

He adds that Perumal who is residing at Thiruooragam(in Kanchipuram), as Perumal who is in half-reclining posture at Thirukudanthai (Kumbakonam), as Adi Ranganathar residing on the banks of Kaveri at Thiruppernagar (near Thiruchy),  the Lord with innumerable myriad names (sahasra naamam) is in Saalagramam.  He says that all the demigods, vaishanavas, brahmanas rishis offer prayers to this Lord who is residing in the mountain  which is decorated with varieties of flowers where the honey bees sing sweetly after sucking the honey from the flowers, where the lakes are filled with lotus and fish who happily jump about.  In the set of 10 pasurams, Azhwar advises his mind to go to Saalagramam and offer obeisance to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sriman Narayanan.  He further advises to either continuously recite the innumerable names of the Lord or recite the 10 pasurams on this Perumal.

Periazhwar  has composed 2 pasurams on this divya desam .  In pasuram 206, he  narrates that Krishna who stole butter from the gopikas’ house is residing at Saalagramam.  In pasuram 399, while composing hymn on Perumal at Kandum Ennum Kadinagar (Thirupiridi divya desam popularly known as Jyotir Mutt enroute to Badrinath), he recollects Perumal at Sri Vaikuntam, Saalagramam,Dwaraka,Ayodhya, Mathura and Badrinath and says that He is the same Lord who is residing at Thirupiridhi.

Divya Kavi Pillai Iyengar who has composed hymns on all the divya desams known as 108 Tirupati Andhadhi mentions that it is futile to be associated with a hoary lineage/family name/ varna/ name instead of being associated with Saalagrama Perumal’s name.  He advises to shed ones ego and advises us  to identify ourself as the most humble servant of the Lord.

In Nut shell 


Saalagramam, one of the vada naadu divya desams is the only one which is situated outside India in Nepal.  This divya desam is located in the Annapurna ranges of the Himalayas. Saalagramam is at a higher altitude about 2200 feet more compared to Badrinath which is at 10, 200 feet .



1.      BY AIR:-  from Delhi/Varanasi/Kolkatta to Katmandu and from there to Muktinath via Pokhara and Jomsom

2.      BY ROAD:- reach Gorakpur (Uttar Pradesh) directly or from Varanasi/Lucknow take bus/cab to Gorakhpur (3 hrs journey)- from there to Sunouli, the last Indian village on the Indian border, cross the border, go to Pokhara via Bhairawa

3.      BY ROAD: from Patna (in Bihar) to Raxaul (the last Indian village ) to Pokhara from Bhirgunj

4.      BY ROAD:- from Darjeeling/ Siliguri (assam) to Pokhara via Kakarbhitta

Usually, pilgrims prefer to go via Gorakhpur as it is not advisable to travel via Bihar .  <>

We can find both government owned and private buses stationed at Nepal border bound for Katmandu and Pokhara –the most sought after destinations. The fares range from 300NR to 400 NR depending upon the distance.  It takes about 6-8 hours from Sunouli to Katmandu; 8 hours from Katmandu to Pokhara.   <>
There are also few buses which ply inside the country but the buses are usually overcrowded .  Passengers sitting on top of the bus is a very common sight .  Hence it is not advisable to travel in fully packed buses as we have to pass thru ghat roads being a hilly region.  <>

It is advisable to take a taxi to go to Nepal if you are going by road. One can negotiate with the travel agents and can choose the places to visit according to our convenience but be prepared to  bargain.  Many travel agents provide services for sightseeing in Nepal at Gorakhpur itself.  They have a range of vehicles-cars, jeeps, buses etc  for us to choose from depending upon the number of pilgrims.   <>

If one wishes to cover other interesting places in Nepal apart from visiting Saalagramam, it is advisable to engage a vehicle at Gorakhpur itself.  Some of the places of interest are


Ø      LUMBINI:- the birthplace of Buddha; monastries, holy pond etc.

Ø      Katmandu,( the capital of Nepal)- Pashupathinath temple dedicated to Shiva,. ,Buddhanilakanta temple (Maha Vishnu), Harey Krishna (ISKCON),Buddhist stupas in Katmandu, Bhaktapur (Pataan), Lord Krishna temple and Durbar Square in Bhaktapur

Ø      POKHARA:- Gupteswar cave, Devi’s falls, Phewa Lake, Macchapure mountain, Manokaamna temple dedicated to Goddess (between Katmandu and Pokhara)

Ø      CHITWAN:- by pass road from Manokaamna temple – jungle for rare species of wild animals (this is near Bihar border)

Ø      JOMSOM:- base for Muktinath


Since Shiva is the ruling deity of Nepal, there is a belief that pilgrims must visit Pashupathinath temple in Katmandu before proceeding to Muktinath .  Similar belief in Badri too.  One has to first go to Kedarnath or atleast offer worship to Kedareshwar before entering the main temple in Badrinath. 

Adiyen would like to share with the readers that though I planned to visit Muktinath first and then visit Katmandu, I was forced to come back to Katmandu from Pokhara ,visit Pashupathinath temple and then visit Muktinath.  <>

Normal food expense at Katmandu and Pokhara would be app. 100/- per day (square meal consisting of rotis,rice, tea, tiffin) , we can get rice at Jomsom too (but costly) but way up , we can only get rotis )  As you go higher, the food bill increases and it may cost 300/- per person approximately. Due to globalization and as India exports all its food products to Nepal, we can get the same brands and don’t have to carry anything. Infact, but for the mountains, we feel that we are very much in India.