According to a legend, river Goddess Gandaki was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and worshipped Him with a mother’s love (Vatsalya Bhakti). She practised severe austerities to get Vishnu as her son. Pleased with her devotion the Lord granted her a boon that He would take the form of Saligrama stones marked with the emblem of His Sudarsana Chakra and remain in her womb (waters) for ever.
As per another legend, the Lord concedes to the prayers of His devotees and appears as tree or stone and Salagramam is an example. There lived a sage Pulaha. He was meditating on the Lord. The Lord appeared before him and asked what the sage wanted. Normally, many meditate on Indra, Kubera, etc., and seek boons and so the Lord wanted to know, why the sage meditated on Him. The sage prayed that the Lord should always be there and nothing else he needed. When the Lord wanted to know how He should be present, the sage, looking at the surrounding hills and trees, said that the Lord should remain stable like the hills and trees! Immediately, the Lord appeared as Sala Vruksham. Then after very long time, the tree got multiplied and all those trees after very long periods, became fossils and are seen as Salagrama. Thus as per the wishes of the sage, the Lord was a tree and later became a stone! In Science also we have studied that plants under great pressure over long period, are converted into fossils. This boon for the sage was combined with river Gandaki's prayers! Saligrama is a sacred stone worshipped by Vaishnava devotees as a symbolic manifestation of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. In almost all Vaishnava homes the sacred Saligrama is kept in a silver or copper samputa wrapped with silk cloth to maintain the sanctity of the holy stone and is daily worshipped with faith and devotion.
Muktinath:This temple is considered to be the 105th among the available 108 Divya Desam, which are considered sacred by the Sri Vaishnava cult. We had an wonderful sight of two mountains, Nara and Narayana located near Badrika Ashram in our previous articles. Muktinath is also called by the Hindus as Mukthi ksehtram, which literally means "place of salvation". Salagrama stones are naturally formed round stones, with circular or spiral markings and are fossil ammonite stones found in the rivers of Himalayas, in particular kinds of ocean sediments, which have been uplifted to the top of the Himalayas. Located between the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountain ranges, the Gandaki River flows through the village of Saligrama or Muktinath and the Ashrama of Pulaha. All these mountains are part of Himachal mountain ranges. We cannot directly reach from Badrika Ashram to Salagramam, since Badrika Ashram is located in the west of Himachal and Salagramam is located in the east of Himachal. Probably, Thirumangai Alwar might have reached directly on his horse Adalma. We need to get down from Badri and then only go to Mukthinath.
This sthalam is one of the Ashta (eight) suyambhu (which develops on its own) sthalams. Other seven sthalams are
Vaanamaamalai Sri Thothatrinatha Perumal Naanguneri Temple:
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam:
Sri Mushnam Bhoo Varahaswamy Temple:
Thiruvengadam Temple, Tirupati
Pushkar Lake, Ajmer
Naimisaranyam (Vishnu is found in the form of forest):
Badri Vishala Perumal, Badrinath:
Thirumangai Azhwar (Kaliyan) composed 10 Paasurams on Salagramam - Periya Thirumozhi (1-5-1):
Kalaiyum kariyum pari mavum tiriyum kanam kadandu poi
Silaiyum kanaiyum tunaiyaha senran venri serukkalattu |
Malaikondu alaineer anaikatti madil neer ilangai valarakkar
Talaivan talai pattaruttu uhandan salagramam adai nenje
Thirumangai Azhwar states in his pasuram that Lord Rama resides in Salagramam in the form of Mukthinath. Lord is in centre, besides Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi are present. The Lord here is with Four arms. Upper Two arms are holding Discus and Conch. The lower arms are on His knees, with right arm holding a well blossomed lotus flower and left arm holding mace. Here we can notice a difference or wonder. Unlike at other places, we can touch the Lord and worship. Even one can hug the Lord! We ourselves can perform pooja. It is said that worshiping Salagrama is the easiest and simplest. In our house, keeping big idols and performing strict poojas as prescribed in Agamas, is very difficult. We have to daily prepare some quantity of prasad and offer. These are difficult for household persons. Salagrama aradhana is simple. With only water [and if possible milk] for abhishekam and tulasi for offering, tiruaradhanam could be completed within Half an hour! To demonstrate this simplicity, the Lord here is very simple to be worshiped by us.
We can see many wonders in the creation of Lord. We have seven wonders in this world which are beautiful, remarkable and marvellous. We have old and new list in the wonders of the world. The places which we are seeing is also one such place, which are ancient holy Punya Kshetrams. The Gandaki river is located between the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountain ranges. Gandaki river is known as Narayani in Nepal. Gandaki river origins at Himachal and flows in south direction for a shorter distance and turns towards east and continues its flow.
How to reach this place: Route 1 - Reach Gorakpur, Sunauli (India/Nepal border crossing) cross this broder and then, Pokhara - from here travel by Jeep or aeroplane to Jomsom and then to Salagramam.
Route 2 - Reach Kathmandu and from here plane or helicopter to Pokhara and then to Jomsom from Jomsom - travel by donkey (3.5 hrs), Jeep(2 hrs) or walk(6 hrs).
Only those who are willing to undergo physical discomfort and rigour can go to Muktinath. Above all, one should have the Grace of the Lord to visit Muktinath. The convenient routes to Muktinath from India are: via Gorakhpur, Sonauli, Bhairawa and Pokhara, the last big town on the way to Muktinath; via Raxaul, Birgunj and Pokhara or via Darjeeling, Siliguri, Kakar Bhitta and Pokhara.
There are many ways to reach Muktinath. Either take a flight from Pokhara to Jomsom or hike for 7-8 hours from Jomsom or trek all the way from Pokhara through Kali-Gandaki valley, which takes 7/8 days. There has a trekking route one of famous treks name of Muktinath. Nowadays the Bus & Jeep Services are available from Pokhara via Beni, Then Beni to Ghasa, via Tato pani, to Jomsom there Jeep services which take time 12-15 hrs. From Jomsom to Muktinath it takes 1.30 hrs by Jeep. After Beni to Jomsom the road is graveled through the Kaligandaki river bank. and Jomsom to Muktinath road is graveled through the Kaligandaki river bank & Hill area. Helicopter services are also available from Pokhara & Kathmandu. The sight of the bewildering Annapurana and Dhaulagiri ranges will enchant you as you approach towards Pokhara Valley by air or surface. The next morning when you discover the clear sky and views of mountain, you then discover you are on your special journey to the Muktinath. Apart from walking to Muktinath all the way, there are many ways one can travel, depending on time and budget.
River course: The Kali Gandaki river source is at the border with Tibet at an altitude of 6,268 m (20,564 ft) at the Nhubine Himal Glacier in the Mustang region of Nepal.
The headwaters stream on some maps is named the Chhuama Khola and then, nearing Lo Manthang, the Nhichung Khola or Choro Khola. The Kali Gandaki then flows southwest (with the name of Mustang Khola on old, outdated maps) through a sheer-sided, deep canyon before widening at the steel footbridge at Chele, where part of its flow funnels through a rock tunnel, and from this point the now wide river is called the Kali Gandaki on all maps. In Kagbeni a major tributary named Johng Khola, Kak Khola or Krishnaa descends from Muktinath.
The river then flows southward through a steep gorge known as the Kali Gandaki Gorge, or Andha Galchi, between the mountains Dhaulagiri (8167 m) to the west and Annapurna I (8091 m) to the east. If one measures the depth of a canyon by the difference between the river height and the heights of the highest peaks on either side, this gorge is the world's deepest. The portion of the river directly between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna I (7 km downstream from Tukuche) is at an elevation of 2520 metres, 5571 metres lower than Annapurna I. The river is older than the Himalayas. As tectonic activity forces the mountains higher, the river has cut through the uplift.
South of the gorge, the river is joined by Rahughat Khola at Galeshwor, Myagdi Khola at Beni, Modi Khola near Kushma and Badigaad at Rudrabeni above Ridi Bazaar. The river then turns east to run along the northern edge of the Mahabharat Range. The largest hydroelectricity project in Nepal is located along this stretch of the river. Turning south again and breaking through the Mahabharats, Kali Gandaki is then joined by a major tributary, the Trishuli, at Devighat, then by the East Rapti River draining the Inner Terai valley known as Chitwan. The Gandaki then crosses the outermost foothills of the Himalayas—Sivalik Hills—into the Terai plains of Nepal. From Devighat, the river flows southwest of Gaindakot town. The river later curves back towards the southeast as it enters India where it is called the Gandak.
Below Gaindakot the river is known as the Narayani or Sapt Gandaki (Seven Gandakis), for seven tributaries rising in the Himalaya or further north along the main Ganges-Brahmaputra divide. These are the Kali Gandaki, the Trishuli River, and the five main tributaries of the Trishuli known as the Daraudi, Seti, Madi, Marsyandi and Budhi.
The entry point of the river at the Indo-Nepal border is also the confluence called Triveni with rivers Pachnad and Sonha descending from Nepal. Pandai river flows into Bihar (India) from Nepal in the eastern end of the Valmiki Sanctuary and meets Masan. The Gandak flows southeast 300 km across the Gangetic plain of Bihar state through West Champaran, Gopalganj, Saran and Muzaffarpur districts. It joins the Ganges near Patna just downstream of Hajipur at Sonepur (also known as Harihar Kshetra). Its drainage area in India is 7620 km2.
Salagramam means, sala means rejoice [kondattam in Tamil], and gramam means community or group; that is, group of rejoicing. We are leaving Sonpur, the place where Gajendra Moksham took place and travelling towards Sitamarhi.