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A Pilgrimage to Heleshi

Mount Everest is known throughout the world as one of the most majestic natural features on the planet, luring thousands of adventurers and climbers to its treacherous peaks each year. But a mere hundred and eighty kilometers to the south west of this wonderous landmark, is a place of peace, tranquility and pilgrimage known as Heleshi. This spectacular destination is also often referred to as Maratika, which is its Tibetan name. But no matter what name is used, Heleshi remains breathtaking, and a vital part of Nepali culture.

Located in the Khotang District of Nepal, Heleshi is home to the religious cave and to the Maratika Monastery. It is said that Heleshi was the site where the sacred consort and the second Buddha Padmasambhava spent three months in ritual worshipping, and were blessed with a state that was far beyond death and life. During this state, while in the Heleshi cave, they recieved a realization and learnt about immortality. It is for this reason that the pilgrimage to Haleshi is associated with longevity and practices of Padmasambhava and Mandarava. The cave is referred to in twelth century documents, in a biography written about Padmasambhava, where the entire experience within the Maratika cave is described. Other literature in regard to the sacredness of and the pilgrimage to Heleshi was written between 1730 - 1780 by Khamtrul Choki Nyima, in the Guide to the Sacred Places of Nepal. It also descripes Maratika in great detail, as well as the history and religious significance of the site.

The Maratika Monastery have a variety of festivals throughout the year, with some celebrations taking place within the cave itself. The monks of the monastery also perform daily rituals in the mornings and the evenings, consisting of Pujas for long life and offerings of holy-smoke. Life at the monastery is lived in simplicity, as there is no electricity and the cave is surrounded by endless farmlands. Any supplies that are needed, are brought in either by train or mule. The monks also attend classes and teachings, and welcome visitors to the cave to share its beauty and religious importance. They hope that by educating visitors about Heleshi, more Buddhist practitioners will make the pilgrimage here.

 



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