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Kailash Mansarovar
Pilgrimage Destinations of India


Kailash Mansarovar

INTRODUCTION

Kailash Mansarovar is situated amidst a picturesque landscape in the remote mountains of western Tibet. A journey to this sacred shrine is the experience of a lifetime. One of the highest, loveliest and most desolate places on earth, Kailash Mansarovar has been an ancient pilgrimage for the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Jains and the Tibetan Bonpos. The sublime snow-clad Mt. Kailash, situated at an altitude of 22,028 ft (6,714 m), is revered as a site of immense natural power where the temporal and the eternal unite and divinity takes the physical form. The Mansarovar Lake, on the other hand, is the source of four great rivers: the Indus, the Sutlej, the Brahmaputra and the Karnali.

The Himalayas (abode of snow) are considered the mystical dwelling of the gods from ancient times. Ancient texts, such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and the Vedas, all sing in unison of the glory and wonder of the Himalayas. A large number of mountain peaks and ranges in the Himalayas are named after Lord Shiva, the Lord of Mountains.

The pilgrimage to Kailash and Mansarovar is considered one of the most difficult treks in Asia. The distance is tremendous, the weather harsh, the supplies almost non-existent, not to speak of the lurking fear of bandits. In spite of these difficulties and hardships, a magnetic pull draws thousands of pilgrims and tourists to this place every year.

LOCATION

Kailash lies in the Nagri region of Western Tibet. A part of the region is inhabited by few nomadic tribes while the rest is a vast empty plain, devoid of any vegetation. Naked hills of rose, violet and flaming orange scatter off into the distance. The Mansarovar Lake is 15 miles wide and 55 miles in circumference. The turquoise water of the lake is said to possess miraculous healing properties.

TIME TO VISIT

The best time for visiting Kailash Mansarovar is between the middle of May to the middle of October. The weather is generally stable and visibility is at its best during this time. Temperatures are cool during the day and below freezing at night.

MYTH

Hindus regard Mt. Kailash as the mythical Mt. Meru, the divine center of the universe around which the whole creation revolves. It is described in the ancient texts as a fantastic “World Pillar”, its roots in the lowest hell and its top touching the heavens. Sprawling below is the sacred Mansarovar, which is born of the mind of Brahma. A single circuit of Kailash is said to erase the sins of an age, while 108, a holy number, ensures Nirvana.

Buddhists regard Mt Kailash as the Kang Rinpoche, the precious snow mountain. For them, Kailash is a gigantic natural mandala; it is the epicenter of tantrik forces. Buddhists believe that Queen Maya, Buddha's mother, was carried here by the gods and washed before giving birth to Buddha. They undertake arduous journey from Ladakh, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and every corner of Tibet to this place. The Jain religion considers Kailash as Mount Ashtapada. Rishabhdev, the founder of Jainism, attained spiritual liberation atop this summit. To the Bonpos, who are the followers of Tibet's old pre-Buddhist beliefs, it is the ‘nine-story Swastika Mountain'–the mystic ‘soul' of the entire region.

KAILASH MANSAROVAR PARIKRAMAThe parikrama around Mt. Kailash starts and finishes at Tarchen. From Tarchen, the pilgrim circuit enters the Lha Chhu (God's River) valley, a spectacular canyon below the mountain's western flanks. In the northern face, the trail climbs to the Dolma Pass (18,600 ft.), and then descends quickly into the Lham Chhu Khyer valley before returning to Tarchen. It is 52-km circuit around Mt. Kailash.

The Mansarovar parikrama covers Huore, Chugu and Zaidi, a distance of around 75 km.

VICINITY

Shortly after the Dolma Pass is a large lake called Gouri Kund. A dip in the holy waters of Gouri Kund is believed to vanquish all languor.

Rakshash Tal is just 10 km from Mansarovar. It is at a height of 14,900 ft and is 150 ft deep. The two lakes, Mansarovar and Rakshash Tal, are the highest freshwater bodies in the world connected by a channel called Ganga Chu.INFORMATION

This pilgrimage is conducted by Uttar Pradesh State Government and Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) in association with the Ministry of External affairs. KMVN makes all the arrangements up to the Lipu Lekh Pass, which includes accommodation in tin sheds at all the night halts, electricity through generators, simple vegetarian food, etc. The cost of all these facilities is included in the package by KMVN. All kinds of medical and security facilities are also provided. The U.P. Police, the Prantiya Suraksha Dal and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police provide the required service to the pilgrims. Ponies and porters are also arranged for the convenience of the travelers.

After Lipu Lekh Pass, Chinese authorities take over and provide the necessary facilities. The Chinese authorities do not arrange for food during the parikrama. Hence, the yatris should carry their own provisions in Tibet.

In order to undertake the journey from India, one has to go through the Ministry of External Affairs and submit application. Only around 200 pilgrims are selected every year from among thousands who apply. The most important requirement for the journey is the medical fitness certificate test. The test has to be cleared to undertake the arduous trip in which trekking of almost 20,000 feet is involved. For this purpose, a clinical checkup of the traveler's physical condition is made for two days.

After that, one has to undergo the visa and foreign exchange formalities. Pilgrims are allowed to take US $500 for the yatra of which $400 has to be given to the Chinese authorities to cover expenses of accommodation, transportation, coolies, etc.

The duration of the entire trip is 32 days from Delhi of which only the first and last two days are spent in bus. The entire trip is under the guidance of the Ministry of External Affairs and Kumaon Vikas Mandal Nigam (a unit of U.P. Tourism, responsible for the pilgrimage on the Indian side).

HOW TO REACH

The route from New Delhi consists of both bus journey and high-altitude mountain trekking. The bus route covers the following track:

Delhi - Gajraula - Kathgodam - Nainital - Bhowali - Almora - Kausani - Bageshwar - Chowakari – Didihat - Dharchula via Jauljibi - Tawaghat.

The trekking route which takes the pilgrims through some beautiful terrains and passes, covers the following:

Tawaghat - Thanidar - Pangu - Sosa - Narayan Ashram - Sirkha - Rungling Top - Simkhola - Gala - Jipti - Malpa - Gudhi - Guji - Garbhyang - Kalapani - Avidhag - Lipu Lekh Pass - Pala - Taklakot.

The first halt is at Kasauni near Nainital, which is famous for its sunrise beauty, and the next at Dharchula.



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