Carry waterproof clothing, a good sleeping bag and clean water
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 Mansarova 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. In 2014, the yatra started in the month of May and will go on till September. 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 medical check-up (in Delhi) can take 10 to 30 days.
The trek to reach Mount Kailash is beautiful to say the least (if you are going on foot). It passes through the landscape of the picturesque Himalayas. Right in the lap of Mother Nature, pilgrims stay in huts and sleep on mattresses on the floor with basic amenities available. The natural beauty, however, more than accounts for these modest amenities.
One can also choose to take a 13 day jeep safari package, a 14 day yatra by an AC coach or an 11 day voyage via helicopter. The journey starts from Kathmandu and takes pilgrims through Kodari, Nyalam (where one will be required to complete the immigration formalities to go on the China side), then moving to Dongba, Lake Mansoravar, Darchen, Yama Dwar and and a few other pit-stops. The parikrama will also be performed in between.
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 fresh water lake in the world, at the height of 4500 metres, Lake Mansarovar stands at the foot of the sacred Mount Kailash. Located in Tibet, it’s considered 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.
For those who haven’t yet experienced the Kailash Mansoravar Yatra, I will just say, try it – its pure bliss!