Receiving a tika at the Muktinath Temple during the festival of Dasain was messy but felt good! There are many dieties worshipped in Nepal and festivals are celebrated throughout the year. Dasain occurs during November before the full moon and has many different aspects; particularly important are family get togethers and people travel from all parts of the world to be reunited with family and their community. The temple is beautiful, set on the hillside, many steep steps up from the town. The temple is important to both Buddhists, who call it Chumig Gyatsa (hundreds waters) and Hindus to whom it is the second most holy site in Nepal. It has a sense of peacefulness that belies its rugged setting and offers astounding views of the mountains.
There are hundreds of bells as you walk towards the temple which are rung by the Hindu worshippers as they pass by and momentos and photographs of loved ones pinned and placed around trees. There are prayer wheels and a shrine to Lord Vishnu situated in the centre. As one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world, the temple also features 108 spouts of icy water, gushing through the open mouths of bulls’ heads. Hindu pilgrims run beneath each spout to cleanse themselves before entering the shrine. We saw other rtituals but I have to confess I don’t know what we were watching – it was fascinating though. The people there were unfazed by visitors with cameras even as they performed their holy rites, but I chose not to enter the shrine itself, feeling that should remain a private moment.