MUSTANG, Nov 18: A visit to Muktinath, a sacred shrine in Mustang district for both Hindus and Buddhists, has been quick and comfortable due to road facilities available of late.The religious site lies at an altitude of around 4,200 meters is also a famous destination from tourism point of view.
On one hand, the road access has drawn the place nearer but pilgrims are said to have a visit to Muktinath risking their life due to jeopardy and difficult roads in many places after Myagdi district headquarters, Beni Bazaar and on the other, the roads constructed in an irresponsible manner have minimized the attraction of the area.
The local inhabitants and tourists worry whether the places of religious, historical, and cultural importance get affected in the name of modernization.The Muktinath Temple is located 100 kms away from Beni Bazaar and one can reach there through vehicles in a few hours. Earlier, the travelers would have to undertake a five-day long trekking to reach Muktinath and come back to Beni.
However, the travelers don´t have the option to reach to Muktinath in a single vehicle. A vehicle leaving Beni would drop them in Ghansa and they need to take another one for Jomsom. Still, they need to take yet another vehicle to reach Muktinath from Jomsom.
The pilgrims would face problems due to poor road conditions, high rate of fare, and others. The journey by vehicles becomes more expensive due to syndicate system created by transport entrepreneurs of Mustang district.
Kailash Upreti, a visitor, said the construction of the road has made visit to Muktinath as well as Mustang district possible to complete it in a short time, but the journey has become very expensive for the internal tourists.
During a conversation with Upreti, who is learnt to be a teacher at Padma Kanya Campus, Kathmandu, he added that the road has hardly connected the district but there is a need to upgrade it and give benefit to local people as well.
A fifty-seven years old visitor, Niranjan Pokhrel from Gulmi said, he had come to visit the Muktinath area due to availability of road access but has changed his mind not to go through jeep on his return trip fearing the risky road. It was just built by removing the landslide debris, Pokhrel added. However, he shared his feeling that old and disabled pilgrims were found to be excited from the road facilities.
The rural roads constructed in a rampant manner have affected the beauty of Muktinath area and the whole Mustang district, said another visitor Sagarmani Shiwakoti of Dhaijan, Jhapa district.He suggested not to link areas beyond Kagbeni to protect the importance of Muktinath area and continue it as the main tourism destination in the future, tooHe added, Mustang is a place, which gives heavenly pleasure to anyone who reaches there, but the rampant construction of rural roads around it has destroyed the beauty.
Moreover, Mustang is also considered to be rich in apple farming. With a road link, the apple that was to be sold at Rs.10 per kg two years ago is sold at Rs. 40 per kg from the farm. But the same apple costs Rs.70 per kg. once it is in the hands of the traders. The real apple farmers could not get full benefit due to local agents.
The internal tourists complained that they have difficulties to get shelters once they moved beyond Jomsom and were not responded fairly for the local hotel entrepreneurs await for foreign tourists.There are attractive and modern hotels keeping in view of providing the services to foreigners.
A Charitable Trust built by Swami Kamal Nayanacharya has been an attraction for pilgrims. It facilitates them with shelter free of cost. The Trust services have made visitors to make their visit comfortable to some extent, said Balkrishna Subedi, Manager of the Trust.
Lord Vishnu is worshipped at the Muktinath Temple opened throughout the year but especially during Hindu festivals, Rhishitarpani, Ram Navami and Bijaya Dashami, and thousands of pilgrims gather here to celebrate them.The Vaishnava family of the Hindu religion and Indian pilgrims are found visiting the temple in large numbers. Hindu devotees take holy bath in the chilling waters of 108 Muktidhara (water spouts) believing that it brings them salvation.
The 108 waterspouts are also the origin of Kaligandaki River. The River is only a river where Shaligrams are found. The Shaligrams are stones supposed to be symbol of Lord Vishnu The most suitable time to visit Muktinath is from March to June, as the weather conditions would not be safe enough to travel in other months. The journey passes through many archeological sites and temples in the district.
In addition, local people fear that the Mustang area has to face cultural intervention due to modern practice in the name of development, which they said, may affect the unique features of the area.
Mukhiya Gurung, who is devoted for the researches of various aspects of the district, said the increasing modernization that the district has witnessed for the last few years has created high risk of affecting the cultural heritages of the district.
Gurung expressed his concern that the old and historical arts and culture, archeological and natural heritages would disappear if the present situation gets continuity, and asked, then why would the foreigners come to visit Mustang ?
British tourists David Augustus also agrees with Gurung. Augustus said, "We like to see typical cultures and features of the district, but the people are found practicing modern way of living.” The local hotels offer menu of Five Star Hotel or the city food items though the foreign tourists wish for local dishes, Augustus added.
Nowadays, Mustang people are competing to construct rough and fair weather rural roads instead of constructing trekking routes and promoting local arts and cultures that attract the tourists.
The visitors, who arrive here to get pleasures of a different world, not only feel comfortable from the journey facilitated by the road facility, but also express worries that the modern facilities available in the name of development might depreciate its value.
Mustang would always remain an attractive destination to tourists if the bodies concerned and the local people paid necessary attention in time for preserving its originality.