Standing tall at 22,000 feet, Mount Kailash—known to be the abode of Lord Shiva—is one of the world’s most revered holy places. A peak in the Kailash range, Mount Kailash is a part of the Transhimalaya in Tibet. Courtesy its high altitude and remote location in western Tibet, only a few thousand pilgrims are able to do the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra every year.
The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
The yatra is mainly known for two things: doing a parikrama of Mount Kailash and taking a holy dip in the Mansarovar Lake. These are said to relieve pilgrims of any sins and bringing salvation to them.
Open for people between the age group of 18 and 70, the yatra can be done on foot or the voyage can be performed using 4500 CC Land Cruisers, luxury AC buses and helicopters. To pre-book, one can either go through the Ministry of External Affairs (there is a selection process for the same) or through a private tour operator in Nepal/Tibet. The complete yatra including a medical check-up (in Delhi) can take 10 to 30 days.
Routes as Declared by the Ministry of External Affairs for 2017
There are two routes for this Yatra. The route through Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand), which involves some trekking is estimated to cost about Rs.1.6 lakh per person. It will be conducted in 18 batches of 60 pilgrims each. The duration of the Yatra is 24 days for each batch including 3 days in Delhi for preparatory work. This route passes through important sites like Narayan Ashram, Patal Bhuvaneshwar. Yatris can also see the scenic beauty of Chialekh Valley, or the ‘Om Parvat’ which has the natural occurrence of snow in the shape of ‘Om’ on this mountain.
The route through Nathu La Pass (Sikkim) is motorable and suitable for senior citizens unable to undertake arduous trekking. From Gangtok the route passes through scenic places like Hangu lake, and through the vast landscape of the Tibetan plateau. It is estimated to cost about Rs.2 lakhs person, and duration would be 21 days including 3 days in Delhi for preparatory work. This year 8 batches of 50 pilgrims each are scheduled for this route.
You may also check with private tour operators for individual trips and bookings.
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After the difficult trek to reach Mount Kailash, pilgrims are then required to circumambulate the peak of the mountain. This walking around in clockwise or anti-clockwise direction is known as parikrama. For those who cannot do it on foot (since it usually takes 3 days), there is an option of hiring a yak or a pony.
It’s mainly the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Bon that consider Mount Kailash as a sacred place. As per the Hindu belief, Lord Shiva, along with his wife Parvati, resides at the peak of Mount Kailash in a state of meditation. According to Jains, Kailash is the place where the first Jain Tirthankara attained Nirvana. In Buddhism, the belief goes that Kailash Parvat is where the Buddha, representing supreme bliss, resides. The Bon (a religion which predates Buddhism in Tibet), however, believe that the entire region is the seat of all spiritual power.
The highest freshwater lake in the world, at a height of 4500 metres, Lake Mansarovar stands at the foot of the sacred Mount Kailash. Located in Tibet, it’s considered as one of the holiest lakes in Asia and is an important part of the yatra. This lake is also believed to change colours. While it is clear blue near the shores, it changes to an emerald green colour towards the centre. The lake looks absolutely stunning in moonlight.
Other Major Attractions
Besides Lake Mansoravar, other attractions of the yatra are Tirthapuri–an interesting place pilgrims visit post the yatra where they bathe in spring pools, Gauri Kund–also known as the Lake of Compassion, Yam Dwar–the initial point from where the parikrama starts, Asthapad–the bottom of the sacred mountain and Tarboche–the flagpole with numerous prayer flags, a very important part of Tibetan spirituality.
In 2017, the Yatra is scheduled from during the period of 12th June to 8th September through two routes. For more information on 2017’s schedule, check the Ministry of External Affairs website.
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