Pilgrimage to Muktinath: Spiritual Journeys in the Himalayas

The Himalayas have long been revered as a sacred landscape, drawing pilgrims and spiritual seekers from all corners of the globe. Muktinath stands out as a holy site of profound significance in the Nepali Himalayas. This temple lies in the Mustang district of Nepal, at an altitude of 3,710 meters (12,172 feet) above sea level. It is among the world’s highest temples and holds profound significance in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Annapurna Circuit trek is incomplete without a visit to this temple. If you are in the Annapurna Circuit, we recommend you visit the Muktinath Temple irrespective of your faith.

What does the word Muktinath mean?

The name “Muktinath” is derived from Sanskrit, where “Mukti” means liberation or salvation, and “Nath” signifies lord or master. Therefore, Muktinath translates to “the lord of liberation,” reflecting the temple’s significance as a place where devotees seek spiritual emancipation.

Architectural wonders of Muktinath

Muktinath Temple is renowned for its unique architectural design, influenced by the Indian subcontinent and Himalayan styles. The temple premises are surrounded by a wall, perhaps to preserve the sacredness.

The main Muktinath Temple shrine, built in pagoda style, has intricate ornate wooden carvings on its several tiered roofs, and it houses a sacred black Saligram (ammonite) representing lord Vishnu. The other shrines belong to different deities, including the Hindu gods Ganesha, Laxmi, Saraswati, and the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshvara. The statues in these shrines are of brass and bronze. One of the notable shrines on the premises is the Jwala Mai Temple. In addition, you can find several smaller temples.

Muktinath Temple is also famous for its 108 water sprouts. These brass sprouts, called Mukti Dhara (Liberation Sprouts), bear the heads of several animals, including lions, cows, and horses.

Another important temple in the Muktinath premises is the Jwala Mai Temple, dedicated to the goddess Jwala Devi. This temple is famous for its eternal flame fueled by natural gas.

Legend behind the Muktinath Temple

Muktinath Temple is closely tied with the Hindu tradition of Swasthani Barta (Fast). Swasthani is a goddess who fulfills the wishes of those who are pure and pray to her. During the Swasthani Barta, a special story is recited every day for a month, which is called the Swasthani Katha (story). This story originated in Kathmandu Valley.

Swasthai Katha states that Lord Shiva once had a fight with the demon King Jalandhar. Jalandhar wanted to defile Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva, so he changed his appearance to look like Lord Shiva and entered Parvati’s room. However, Parvati realized something was wrong, and asked Lord Shiva for help. A battle between Lord Shiva and Jalandhar ensued, but Lord Shiva could not kill Jalandhar attributed to Jalandhar’s wife’s faithfulness.

The gods understood this fact and planned to trick Jalandhar’s wife, Virnda. Hence, Lord Vishnu transformed himself into Jalandhar and deceived Vrinda. In the meanwhile, Shiva slaughtered Jalandhar. Later Vrinda saw through the deception. She then cursed Vishnu to become a stone. Vishnu chose to become a Shaligram. This is the reason why the main shrine houses Vishnu in the form of Shaligram. You can find Shaligram along the banks of Kali Gandaki in the Muktinath area.

Various patterns in these Shaligrams are regarded as the distinct manifestations of Vishnu. White Shaligrams symbolize Vasudeva, black represents Vishnu, green signifies Narayana, blue embodies Krishna, while golden yellow and reddish-yellow stones symbolize Narasimha and Vamana. These stones come in diverse shapes, some resembling the Panchajanya (conch) and the Sudarshana Chakra (a disc), both significant attributes of Vishnu.

There is another Hindu legend behind this temple. It also relates to the Swasthani Brata Katha. According to this story, when Sati Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Shiva, died, he became heartbroken and traveled all over the world with the dead body of Sati. The lifeless body of Sati started to deteriorate, and her organs fell into different places. Devotees believe that Sati’s face (“Mukh” in Sanskrit) fell at the exact place where the Muktinath temple stands today.

Buddhists revere this temple, attributing its importance to Guru Rinpoche’s meditation in its vicinity during his spiritual journey through the region. Tibetan Buddhists consider Muktinath among the 24 Tantric places in the world.


Great Himalyas in the background

Spiritual Significance of Muktinath Temple

Muktinath Temple holds profound spiritual significance for both Hindus and Buddhists. Within the Hindu sects, Muktinath is sacred to the Sri (meaning Laxmi) Vaishnava tradition. In the Vaishnava tradition, the goddess Laxmi (the consort of Vishnu) and Vishnu are revered together. Muktinath appears in Nalayira Divya Prabandham (Four Thousand Divine Hymns) – a compilation of 4,000 Tamil verses from Vaishnava poet saints in South India.

Buddhists venerate Muktinath as a place of meditation and enlightenment, associating it with the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshvara.

The water flowing from Mukti Dharas (108 water sprouts in temple premises) believed to originate from Gosain Kunda and cleanses the sins of humans and helps them attain spiritual purification.

Moreover, Hindu devotees believe this eternal flame demonstrates the power of goddess Jwala Devi, and they show their devotion to the goddess to get her blessings.

The hundred-and-eight water sprouts hold a deeper significance in Hindu philosophy. Hindu astrology accounts for 12 zodiacs (Rashi) and nine planets (navagraha); their combination gives 108. Similarly, the 27 lunar mansions (nakshatras), each divided into four quarters (or padas), contribute to the total count of 108 padas, further enriching the symbolism surrounding this numerical.

The number 108 also appears in Buddhist traditions. The Buddhist Malas or rosaries have 108 beads, symbolizing the number of volumes Buddha supposed to have spoken in the Tibetan Buddhist canon.

The Pilgrimage Experience in Muktinath

Pilgrimage to Muktinath Temple is not merely a physical journey but a profound spiritual experience. Pilgrims from all walks of life traverse rugged mountain trails and endure challenging conditions to reach this sacred site, driven by a deep sense of devotion and reverence. The pilgrimage to Muktinath is imbued with rituals, prayers, and offerings, creating a transformative journey of self-discovery and spiritual renewal. The pilgrimage also tests your faith in god.

Best Time to Visit Muktinath Temple

The best time to visit Muktinath Temple is spring and autumn – from March to May and September to November, respectively. During these months, the weather is generally clear, with mild temperatures and minimal precipitation, making it ideal for trekking and pilgrimage activities.

Additionally, the surrounding landscapes come alive with vibrant colors, offering breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks and lush valleys, enhancing the overall pilgrimage experience.

Required Travel Permits

Since Muktinath lies in the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) in Nepal, you will need the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) card. Additionally, you may need special permits to enter the Upper Mustang area. If you choose to travel with us, we will acquire these permits for you.

Best Route to Visit Muktinath Temple

The most popular route to visit Muktinath Temple is via the classic Annapurna Circuit trek, starting from either Besi Sahar and passing through picturesque villages, lush forests, and high mountain passes, including the famous Thorong La Pass (5,364m).

If you do not want to sweat out the entire Annapurna Circuit, you can fly from Pokhara to Jomsom, the nearest airstrip to Muktinath. The flight lasts approximately 20-25 minutes and offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas.

Upon reaching Jomsom, you can hike or take a jeep ride to Muktinath. The trek from Jomsom to Muktinath usually takes 5-6 hours on foot. Alternatively, you can hire a jeep for a more comfortable ride, which takes about two hours.

Attractions around Muktinath Temple

Apart from the sacred Muktinath Temple itself, the surrounding area is rich in natural and cultural attractions that add depth to the pilgrimage experience:

Mukti Kunda: This is a sacred water pond within the temple complex, and people believe the waters in this pond carry therapeutic properties. Pilgrims take ritual baths in the Mukti Kunda to cleanse themselves of sins and attain spiritual purification.

Ranipauwa Village: Ranipauwa, adjacent to Muktinath Temple, offers a glimpse into the local way of life in the Himalayas. Visitors can explore traditional houses, interact with locals, and witness daily rituals and festivities.

Kagbeni: Kagbeni gets renown for its ancient architecture, narrow alleys, and Tibetan-influenced culture. The village also serves as a gateway to the restricted Upper Mustang region.

Kali Gandaki Gorge: Known as the deepest gorge on earth, the Kali Gandaki Gorge offers stunning views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks, including Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. Trekkers often marvel at the sheer magnitude of this natural wonder as they traverse the rugged terrain.


Muktinath Temple pilgrimage is more than just a physical journey. While it keeps you rooted in earthly matters, at the same time, it transcends earthly realms. With its serene beauty, rich history, and profound significance, Muktinath continues to draw pilgrims seeking solace and enlightenment. If you want to visit Muktinath, we invite you to the Annapurna Circuit Trek.


Where is Muktinath temple located?

Muktinath Temple lies in the Mustang district of western Nepal, in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas.

Why is Muktinath Temple considered sacred?

Muktinath Temple revered for its significance as a place of spiritual liberation and salvation in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

What is the 108 water sprout in Muktinath?

The 108 water sprouts at Muktinath Temple also symbolize purity and cleansing. Devotees often take ritual baths under these sprouts as part of their pilgrimage experience.

How long does it take to reach Muktinath Temple?

The duration of the journey to Muktinath Temple can vary depending on the chosen route and mode of transportation. Generally, it takes around 2-3 days to reach the temple from Pokhara, including trekking and travel time.

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