Mountains and Legends of the Annapurna Circuit
‘The Annapurna Circuit’ is the popular name for a 300 kilometre trek in Nepal, and one of the best-known treks around the Annapurna mountain range in the Himalaya. Reaching an altitude of 5,300 metres on the ‘Thorong La’ pass, the trek touches the edge of the Himalayan plateau. ‘Thorong La’ is the highest point on the trail, and can cause acute mountain sickness in unwary trekkers who have not acclimatised themselves to the altitude – it is very important to follow the advice of local guides.
The mountain scenery also includes ‘Annapurna 1’ (8,091 metres) which was the first 8000 metre peak to be climbed, and the tenth highest mountain in the world. Its summit was the highest ‘summit’ achieved for three years, until the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953. The Annapurna peaks are some of the world’s most dangerous mountains to climb and should only be tackled by experienced, and well-prepared, climbers.
Dhauligiri and Machhupuchare
Also located along the Annapurna Circuit is the ice pyramid ‘Dhauligiri’ (8,167 metres), once the home of the legendary Buddhist Padmasamba. A pilgrimage site for Buddhists, inside the mountain is said to be a treasury for the happiness and prosperity of the entire world. The trek also visits ‘Machhupuchare’ (6,993 metres), which many consider to be the most beautiful mountain in the world. Revered by the local population as a sacred site of the God Shiva, it is off-limits to climbers, though a trekker can still enjoy its beauty. The double summit resembles the tail of a fish, leading to its name meaning ‘Fishes Tail’ in Nepalese. It is also nicknamed ‘the Matterhorn’ of Nepal’, after that other iconic mountain in the Swiss Alps.
Following paths used as trade routes between Nepal and Tibet, the Annapurna Circuit has enabled a flow and exchange of cultures and religions in the otherwise inaccessible region. Today, Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, and the lesser-known Bon-Po religion all coexist with each other, meaning the region is deeply steeped in religion. Partly for this reason, on average, two-thirds of all trekkers in Nepal visit the Annapurna Circuit; of course for the diverse scenery of high mountains and lowlands villages, but also for the unique cultural experiences available.
Muktinath is a sacred site for both Hindus and Buddhists. It is located close to the village of Ranipauwa, which is sometimes mistakenly known as Muktinath as well. The Hindu name for the site is ‘Mukti Kshetra’, literally meaning ‘Place of Salvation’. The Buddhists call it Chumig Gyatsa, which in Tibetan means ‘Hundred Waters’. Muktinath is home to several temples of the different religions, including one of the most ancient Hindu temples to the God Vishnu, making it a fulfilling yet difficult-to-access pilgrimage site.
The Goddess Annapurna
The ‘Annapurna’ of the Annapurna Circuit is a Sanskrit name, which in literal translation means ‘filled with food’. It’s usually translated as ‘Goddess of the Harvests’ – in Hinduism, Annapurna or Annapoorna is a goddess of fertility and agriculture, depicted as holding a bejewelled golden ladle in one hand, and a bowl full of delicious porridge in the other. It is said that she does not eat a morsel unless all her devotees have been fed in her temple.
Author: Jude Limburn Turner – is the Marketing Manager for Mountain Kingdoms, an adventure tour company that specialises in the Annapurna Circuit and trekking holidays in various destinations including North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Central and South East Asia.
Photo Credit: erikalmas.com
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