India helps fill gap in hallowed Nepal pilgrim shrine

June 21st, 2010 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 21 (IANS) Thousands of pilgrims will now have their journey to one of the most hallowed religious destinations made easier, thanks to the new dharamshala -accommodation for budget tourists - built by the Indian government in mountainous northern Nepal.
Journeying to the Muktinath temple in northern Nepal, revered by Buddhists, Hindus and Jains alike, came within the reach of the budget tourist from India after the Nepal government built a road.

Now the Indian government has built a 44-bed dharamshala with separate space for reception, a meditation room and cafeteria that will save pilgrims from the rush to return to nearby Pokhara or Jomsom towns for accommodation at night.

The temple, located at a height of 3,750 metres, is probably the only Hindu temple that is looked after by Buddhist nuns with a Buddhist priest offering the daily ritual worship.

Hindus believe that the stream that leads from here to the Kaligandaki river is the source of all shaligrams, the stone regarded as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Buddhists believe the Dakinis or Sky Dancers, a magical race, reside here, making it one of their most important tantric shrines.

For the non-religious, Muktinath is a draw as well being located in Mustang, the northern most district in Nepal touching the Tibetan border that was once part of an ancient Tibetan kingdom and still preserves the old Tibetan culture and relics.

It was from Mustang that Tibetan warriors, resisting the invasion of China’s People’s Liberation Army, kept up a guerrilla war with support from the US and Indian governments.

Mustang therefore still remains a sensitive area for Beijing, which is none too happy with the road or the dharamshala.

The Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, inaugurated the dharamshala Sunday, a statement issued by the Indian embassy Monday said.

The abode for pilgrims was built at a cost of NRs.3 crore as part of the India-Nepal Economic Cooperation Programme.

Given the large number of tourists that flock to the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, the Indian government has built a dharamshala there as well and a museum at Lumbini in southern Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha.

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