Mt. Kailash the striking peak standing in the remote south-west corner of Tibet in the Himalayan Mountains. Rising to an elevation of 6638 m (21778 ft) it is one of the highest parts of the Himalayas and serves as a source of some of the longest rivers in Asia. Known as Gang Tise or Gang Rinproche in Tibetan it is a precious and prominent symmetrical peak. Made up of black rock Mt Kailash is a wonderful diamond like shaped mountain that is surrounded by beautiful landscape which is rugged and dry.
Mount Kailash is known as one of the most sacred mountains and has become an important pilgrim for four faiths : Buddhists, Jains, Hindus and Tibetan religion of Bon. Every year thousands of people from all over the world make pilgrimage to this place. Followers from various beliefs have been visiting Kailash from thousands of years and have been circumbulating this holy mountain on foot. It is believed that visiting Kailash and following this tradition would bring in good fortune and wash away sins of ones lifetime. However the journey of 52kms/32miles on foot in a single day is not easy and one needs to be strong both physically and mentally to complete it. Generally people take 3 days to finish this walk. The Hindus and Buddhists pilgrims walk around in a clockwise direction but the Jain and Bön followers walk around counterclockwise.
According to Hindu legends, Shiva, the god of devastation and rebirth, resides at the pinnacle of this famous mountain named Kailasa. Mount Kailasa is considered in many sects of Hinduism as heaven, the ultimate destination of souls and the holy center of the world. The narrative in the Puranas, Mount Kailash's four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. Refereed as the pillar of the world that rises 84,000 leagues high. From it flow four rivers, which stretch to the four quarters of the world and divide the world into four regions.
Tibetan Buddhists trust that Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok who symbolizes supreme harmony. They also state it was on this sacred mountain that Buddhism relocates Bön as the primary religion of Tibet. According to myth, Milarepa, winner of Tantric Buddhism, arrived in Tibet to challenge Naro-Bonchung, who was the spokesperson of Bön. The two magicians engaged in a great sorcerous battle, but neither was able to gain a crucial advantage. Buddhism in Tibet known as the religion “Bon” believes Mount Kailash as the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen.
In Jainism, Kailash is known as Mount Ashtapada and is the place where the creator of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained freedom from rebirth.
Places of Interest during visit to Holy Kailash
Tirthapuri, positioned northwest of Mount Kailash in Western Tibet are intimately associated with Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). It is one of the interesting places near Kailash, pilgrims particularly come here after completing their kailash pilgrimage. They bathe in the pools fed by the holy springs and also pay a visit to the cave and monastery which is connected with Guru Pinpoche and has his footprints. The barren landscape around the Tirthapuri hot spring is filled with steam and colorful prayer flags stretched across the river gorge makes this spot a scenic & magical view for all.
Gauri Kund, a water body that is also known as the Lake of Compassion, lies on the way while going on downwards from Drolma - La (Drolma la Pass). This steep descent from Dolma Pass is a wonderful lake which is at an altitude of 5608m. As per Hindu mythology, there is a fascinating tale about Gauri Kund and has been described in legend “Shiva Purana”. The lake is also famous as “Parvati Sarovar” as this was the place where goddess Parvati had acquired her son Ganesha (Elephant headed God). Goddess Parvati had formed an image of Ganesh from the soap lather on her body and breathed life into it. She placed Ganesha at the entrance of her home as her janitor to prevent anyone from entering while she was bathing. Now Lord Shiva happened to return at this point of time and was stopped by Ganesha. Offended by this disrespectful act from Ganesha, Lord Shiva cut off the boy's head. Pravati was grief-stricken by seeing it and insisted that the boy needs to be brought back to life. Lord Shiva took the head of a wandering elephant and placed it on the body and life was restored and Parvati had her son back.
Yam Dwar is situated in Tarboche which is approximately 30 minutes drive from Darchen. The exact meaning of the Yam Dwar in Hindi lingo is “the gateway of the God of Death”. It is the initial point of circumambulation of Mount Kailash. Known as Chorten Kang Ngyi which means two legged Stupa in Tibet.
Located at a height of 17000 ft, Asthapad is the bottom of Mt. Kailash and one of the main holy places for the Hindus and Buddhists. It is also considered a major Jain Tirths as the first of the 24 Jain Tirthankara “Shri Adinath Bhagwan” had attained salvation (Nirvana) at this place. The literal meaning of Asthapad is “Eight Steps” as Astha means Eight and Pad means Steps in Sanskrit and that’s how the place derived its name.
Just around 2 hours walk from Deraphuk Gomba situated on the way to Dolma – La is Siwastal. Many pilgrims visit this place as it is known a duplication of the magical funeral ground at Bodh Gaya. Pilgrims here experience ritual death and enter into the dreadful presence of Yama, before being reborn on top of the Drolma La. One can easily notice the ground which is laid out with unbelievable collection of clothing, shoes, and bags along with terrible things like bones, hair and even blood. These things are mainly the offerings which are made by the people who pass from here. Above the burial ground is a red foot print of Milareppa (Tibetan yogi & poet) on the surface of a rock.
Tarboche flagpole, is one of the most important aspect of Tibetan spirituality. On “Saga Dawa” which is an impressive and capturing annual festival of Mt. Kailash this giant flagpole which has numerous prayer flags on it is brought down and replaced. This annual festival or one can also mention it as a carnival attracts Tibetans from all over along with other tourists and pilgrims. This ritual is performed every year on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, to celebrate Sakyamuni's enlightenment”. During the flagpole ceremony as the poles tip is raised and pointed east towards Gyangdrak Monastery, monks of that monastery carry out a special ritual. A cacophony of music from long trumpets, conch shells and other instruments welcomes the rising flagpole. It is like a magical event that captures one’s senses. People gathered there attach there prayer flags and help in making the pole rise again. The flagpole should be standing in a perfect upright position or it is believed that things will not be good for Tibet.
Holy Mansarovar Lake
Lake Mansarovar situated about 2000 kms from Lhasa is world’s highest freshwater lake. Known as Lake Manas Sarovar in Sanskrit and Mapham Yutso in Tibetan this huge lake with the mirror like image of snow capped mountains in its crystal clear waters is just fabulous. The lake is located at the southern foot of Mount Kailash, stretching up to 55miles (88kms) in perimeter it goes 330 feet deep and about 120 sq mi of total area. Lake Mansarovar has exceptional beauty that varies from crystal clear blue water near the shores and a deep emerald green colour at the center. There are a few monasteries on the shore of the lake and most striking of all is the ancient Chiu Gompa Monastery, which has been built right onto a steep hill.
This holy lake is one of the important pilgrimages for Hindus and Buddhists. It attracts thousands of tourists and religious people towards itself every year from various parts of the world, but mainly from India, Tibet and its neighboring countries. The best to visit the lake is during springs as it is during this time the lake melts and allows people to bathe in its holy water. As believed by bathing and drinking this water one becomes fortunate and clears all his sins. Many travel agencies have annual pilgrimage group tours to this place and are often known as “Mansarovar Yatra”.
As per the Hindu mythology it is believed, Lake Mansarovar was formed by Lord Brahma, who is the creator god. He found it to be an appropriate place for religious rituals. Hid 12 sons, who were also holy men performed rituals and austerities on the dry land at the site. And to give them a more appropriate place to earn value, Lord Brahma created a wonderful lake which today is known as - Lake Mansarovar. And as per Buddhist religion, they relate Mansarovar with Anotatta Lake. It is said that Lord Buddha was conceived at this very lake, as stated in the legends Lord Buddha's mother was brought on the lake by the gods and as she bathed in the sacred waters of Mansarovar her body was purified. Later she saw a white elephant running to her from Mount Kailash and Lord Buddha entered her womb