POKHARA, May 13: Locals in Mustang district are excited with the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Muktinath temple, a famous Hindu shrine in the district. On Saturday morning, Modi flew from Kathmandu to Muktinath, spent around one hour at the temple, where he offered worship for around 25 minutes.
Modi’s visit is expected to significantly attract religious tourists to the district in future.
Indra Dhara Bista, provincial assembly member of Province 4, has said that the tourism sector of Mustang can reap benefits of Modi visit. “His visit will help promote Muktinath, which will help to increase Indian tourists in this area,” Bista said. “And this will ultimately help to upgrade the financial status of Mustang.”
Bista was upbeat about the Indian media covering Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Mustang.
According to Tulasi Dahal, conservative officer of Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) located at the district headquarters Jomsom, around 25,000 Indian tourists visit Muktinath every year. As per ACAP, in 2011 a total 14,124 Indian tourists went to Muktinath. Similarly, 20,850 went there in 2012, 12,094 in 2013, and 18,099 in 2014. However, only 8,459 Indian tourists went to Muktinath in 2015.
In 2016, a total of 15,478 Indian tourists had arrived in Muktinath and the number rose to 24,888 in 2017.
“After the earthquake of 2015, the number of tourists is gradually increasing. And now, Modi’s visit is likely to boost up the number of tourists further,” said Dahal.
The number of religious tourists coming to Nepal from India, among the South Asian nations, tops the list. Most of the Indian tourists have a belief that Muktinath temple should be visited once in their lifetime as Muktinath temple is believed to be a place for salvation, Dahal added.
Tourism entrepreneurs have also said that Modi’s visit will boost up religious tourism of the country. Hari Sharma, past president of Paschimanchal Hotel Association, said that Modi’s visit is fruitful for the promotion of religious tourism. Via the land and air routes, Indian tourists come to Nepal to visit Muktinath temple. Of which, South Indian Baishnav community is the largest one to visit Muktinath as they worship Lord Bishnu, Sharma said.
The peak season of Indian tourists to visit Muktinath is October-November and March-June. “Modi’s visit has added significance of the Muktinath temple among Indian religious tourists,” Sharma said, “And it will help Nepal to welcome more Indian tourists.” Most of the pilgrims prefer Pokhara-Jomsom air route to reach Muktinath temple since the road condition is not so convenient for elderly pilgrims.