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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Plane crash in Himalayas - Jomsom, the gateway to Mukthinath

For starters in Crossword – ‘Plane Crash in Himalayas’ was an easy clue (Anagram of Plane) – Nepal .. .. but a plane crash is horrendous !!

Mustang Caves or Sky Caves of Nepal are a collection of some 10,000 man-made caves dug into the sides of valleys in the Mustang District of Nepal.    Explorations of these caves by conservators and archaeologists have been going for centuries – they are situate  on the steep valley walls near the Kali Gandaki River in Upper Mustang. Research groups have continued to investigate these caves, but no one has yet understood who built the caves and why they were built.

Kathmandu – Tribhuvan International Airport appeared more akin to Vijayawada Railway station – there were so many aircrafts – big, small, smaller – and belonging to so many Airlines of so many different countries.  Travellers, tourists, many of them aspiring to trek Himalayas were steaming in from different parts of the globe – there are many Airlines too.  Nepal Airlines Corporation is the flag carrier of Nepal. Founded in 1958, it is the oldest airline of the country.  Of the many other Airlines – there is another – now most searched on web – “Tara Air”.  It is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, found that Yeti too were operating especially between Pokhara and Jomsam.

Sad to read that a turboprop Twin Otter 9N-AET plane operated by Tara Air had lost contact minutes after it took off from the tourist city of Pokhara around 10 am on Sunday.The Canadian-built plane was flying from the city of Pokhara to Jomsom, a popular tourist town in central Nepal.  Reports add that this is not the first air crash to take place in Nepal; a 2018 AFP report had stated that there have been 27 fatal plane crashes in the country in the past three decades, an average of one almost each year. Most of these involved small aircraft.

It appears that there would be no survivors – rescue  teams in Nepal have pulled out 14 of the 22 bodies from the wreckage of a Tara Air's plane that crashed on 29.5.2022 morning in Kowang village of the Mustang district. Four Indians were also on board the ill-fated aircraft.News agency AFP quoted spokesman saying, "Fourteen bodies have been recovered so far, search continues for the remaining. The weather is very bad but we were able to take a team to the crash site. No other flight has been possible."The search operation for the missing Tara Air's 9 NAET twin-engine aircraft resumed this  morning. The Nepal Army along with search and rescue operation troops physically located the site of the Nepalese private plane crash at Sanosware, Thasang-2, Mustang.Pieces of the wreckage of the passenger plane that crashed on Sunday were found at 14,500 feet in Sano Sware Bhir of Thasang in Mustang district in northwestern Nepal, after about 20 hours since the plane went missing, the Nepal Army said.A team of 15 Nepali Army soldiers has been dropped near the crash site to retrieve the bodies, news agency ANI quoted Nepal Army spokesperson as saying.

We suspected all the passengers on board the aircraft have lost their lives. Our preliminary assessment shows that no one could have survived the plane crash, but official statement is due," Phadindra Mani Pokhrel, Spokesperson, Nepal's Home Ministry was quoted as saying by ANI.The search operation was halted on Sunday morning due to snowfall. Meanwhile, helicopters have now been deployed for search and rescue operation in Mustang district.

The Canadian-built aircraft took off for Jomsom from Pokhara at 9:55 am on Sunday (29 May, 2022) and merely within 15 minutes after take off, it lost contact with the control tower. The flight between Pokhara to Jomsom, a popular tourist town in central Nepal, usually takes 20-25 minutes.The Indians, who were on board the Tara Air craft that crashed, were from the same family and were residents of Thane in Maharashtra. Of the total 22 people on board the Tara Air flight, 19 were passengers and three crew members. Two German nationals, four Indians and 13 Nepali citizens were among the those on the flight.

Media reports suggest that there are multiple reasons why flying in Nepal is tricky and dangerous. The mountains, poor regulation and lack of new planes have contributed to the country’s poor aviation record.The terrain has been attributed as the toughest challenge for flying in the Himalayan nation.  Furthermore, the weather changes quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.Another cause of these crashes is the lack of proper radar technology — pilots have to navigate the treacherous terrain and tricky Weather Conditions by sight.Nepal also does not have the required and sufficient skilled, trained and highly self-motivated civil aviation staff to perform the assigned duties fully.

Accidents do happen – and should not deter mankind from travel.  For Srivaishnavaites, this place, this route is of supreme importance. Holy Mukthinath (Salagrammam divyadesam) – the only divyadesam outside Bharatha kandam – situate at an altitude of 3,710 meters (12,172 feet)  at the foot of the Thorong La mountain pass (part of the Himalayas) in Mustang, Nepal. Certainly the one situate at the highest altitude.  The name "Mustang" is derived from the Tibetan word meaning, "Plain of Aspiration” ~ and here is our holy shrine Muktinath.

Devotees reach Shalagrammam from Jomson (mostly from flight from Pokhara and sometimes from Kathmandu). Muktinath is Sanskrit name, has religious overtone and emotional attachment for Sri Vaishnavas.   Mukthi is salvation and the Emperuman in sitting posture here -  Muktinath, is the provider of salvation.

Here are two videos taken from  Tara flight from Jomsom to Pokhara taken during our visit in  2018:  &

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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