3Pilgrims and Saligrams
All through the year bands of pilgrims, Hindu and Buddhist, travel to the sacred site of Muktinath, high in the Himalayas of Nepal.
On their journey they pass along the Kali Gandaki river, famous for its sacred ‘saligrams’, black ammonites which are worshipped and treasured.
The village of Kagbeni, on the banks of the river, is a day’s journey from Muktinath. Many pilgrims stop here to rest and prepare and to search the river bed for saligrams. It is in this area that the Jurassic rock ‘Blue Lias’ which contains the fossils can be seen, just as in Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast.
In the evening crowds gather by the river to bathe, wash garments and shave. At sunrise they return to light fires and prepare offerings dedicated to the dead and set to float downstream.
Photos are taken and the river bed scoured one last time for the dark, round stones before it’s time to leave.