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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.