Information about Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar
This part of the blog is about Kailash Parikrama or Kora, which can be covered in 3 days and covers a distance of around 52 kms and is gateway to the valley of Gods. It involves passing Drolma La at an altitude of 18,500 feet, which is highest pass on the Kailash Kora and represents the most challenging and rewarding point of the Kora. The crossing over this pass represents a transition from the former life to a new one.
Mount Kailash is located in the western part of Tibet known as Ngari at an altitude of 6,638 meters. Mount Kailash is believed to be the most sacred for these religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Bon and Jainism.
Hindus say that Kailash is the throne of Lord Shiva. According to Hinduism, Shiva resides at the summit of the legendary mountain named Kailash, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his consort, Parvati. For the Hindus, Mount Kailash is the earthly manifestation of Mount Meru, spritual centre of the universe, described as a fantastic ‘world pillar’ 84,000 miles high, around which all else revolves, its roots in the lowest hell and its summit kissing the heavens. This mountain is believed to have four faces as per Hindu Puranas. Each face symbolizes one particular gem – ruby, gold, crystal and lapis lazuli. This one has four distinct faces, almost aligned with the four directions.
The east face is said to be made of crystal and is associated with the Brahmaputra River. The west face is said to be made of ruby and is associated with the Sutlej River. The south face is said to be made of lapis lazuli and is associated with the Karnali River. The stunning north face of Kailash is said to be made of gold and associated with Indus river.
Many claim that Kailash is the gate to Shambhala or Shangrila “place of silence and peace”, is a mythical paradise spoken of in ancient texts, including the Kalachakra Tantra. According to legend, it is a land where only the pure of heart can live, a place where love and wisdom reigns and where people are immune to suffering, want or old age. The land where no name of suffering can be heard. They caution that only part of the journey is physical; arrival depends on knowing certain mantras and other spiritual techniques.
To Tibetans, it is known as Khang Rinpoche (Precious Jewel of Snow). According to the Tantric Buddhism, Kailash is the residence of the Buddha Demchok, also known as Chakrasamvara, who represents supreme bliss. There are numerous sites in the region associated with Guru Padmasambhava who has practiced Tantra in holy site around Tibet and finally established Buddhism as the main religion of Tibet in the 8th century.
All around Mount Kailash there are signs of a legendary contest for control that involved Milarepa who spent several years here meditating in a cave, and Naro Bönchung, the Bön master. According to Buddhists, Milarepa was victorious in all the various challenges, but despite this Naro Bönchung still argued for a final contest, a straightforward race to the top of the mountain. Mounting his magic drum, Naro Bönchung immediately set out to fly to the summit. Unperturbed by the progress made by his rival, Milarepa rose from his bed at dawn and was carried by a ray of light directly to the summit. Shocked by this feat, Naro Bönchung tumbled off his drum, which skittered down the south face of the mountain, gouging the long slash marking Mt Kailash to this day. Gracious in victory, Milarepa decreed that Bön followers could continue to make their customary anticlockwise circuits of Mt Kailash, and awarded them Bönri as their own holy mountain. That is why Hindu, Buddhist and Jain pilgrims make a clockwise circuit of Mount Kailash and BonPo circumambulate Mount Kailash in the opposite direction.
Orthodox Tibetans do 3 or 13 rounds of the Kailash and the Manasarovar and some of the more pious pilgrims do the sashtanga-danda-pradak-shina (prostration-circuit) of Manasarovar in about 28 days and of Kailash in 15 days. Several Tibetans do the parikrama of Kailash in a single day which is called ningkor. It is believed that one parikrama of the Kailash Peak washes away sins of one life, 10 circuits wash away the sins of one kalpa, and 108 parikramas secure nirvana in this very life. But personally I do not think merely doing it as a ritual or some exercise will bear the merit. I met guides who had done 100s of parikramas but were as conniving as anyone of us. The thought process, the devotion and being aware and receptive will bring the change.
2014 was the Year of the Horse. Going around Mount Kailash (Kora) once during horse year is karmically equivalent to 13 Kora hence making it the most holy year for the parikrama. Horse year comes once in every twelve years meaning thousands of pilgrims will embark on Mount Kailash yatra and pay their homage.
Bons explain Kailash as the mountain of Swastik; the central force of the universe.
Jains refer to Kailash as “Astapada”, the holy land where Rishabhdeva attained his spiritual realization.
Though Manasarovar has been associated with origin of four rivers, no river originally originates from it. All have radius of 40-50 kms within range of Kailash Manasarovar. Indus Langchen Kambab (Elephant river), The Indus, called the Senge Tsangpo or Lion River in Tibetan, arises from the Lion Spring (Senge Kabab), 45 km north of Mount Kailash. Sutlej is designated as the Langchen Tsangpo, or Elephant River, in Tibetan mythology. In Tibetan mythology, the Brahmaputra is referred to as the Tamchok Tsangpo, or Horse River. The Karnali is Mapcha Tsangpo or Peacock River.August 6, 2016 (Day 16) – Darchen to Deraphuk (Day 1 of Parikrama)
Day 1 of Parikrama
Today was the first day of Parikrama. It was from Darchen to Deraphuk. We left around 10.15 am from hotel in Darchen to Deraphuk. Total distance is 19 kms and first 7 kms was covered by bus. I didn’t take the kitchen staff as porter as they will leave you midway to cook meals. Instead, I decided to go with Nigam porter, which is randomly allotted through a lottery system. The porters on Tibetan side will not carry backpacks heavier than 6 to 7 kgs so make sure that your backpack weigh more than that. Since the main luggage stays at Darchen and you will get it only after completing parikrama, do make sure that you have eatables, important medicines and sufficient warm clothes. I couldn’t carry my tripod due to weight restriction. In hindsight, I regret not carrying it myself.
|Beginning of Kailash Parikrama|
|Me and my porter|
|West Face of Mount Kailash|
|On Way to Charan Sparsh|
|Lottery system for allocation of porters|
|Starting point of Parikrama|
Yam Dwar is situated in Tarboche, which is approximately 30 minutes drive from Darchen. The exact meaning of the Yam Dwar in Hindi is “the gateway to the God of Death”. It is the initial point of circumambulation of Mount Kailash. It is also known as Chorten Kang Ngyi, which means two legged Stupa in Tibet. It is said that, once you have reached here, you are in Kailash and equivalent to have performed the Parikrama. Yama is the deity who brings mortal souls to their onward journey. Symbolically, the Kailash region is likened to the divine world, separate from Earth. To enter this region, one must abandon the mortal self and hence pass through the Yama Dwar.
|At Yam Dwar|
Tarboche is also site of the popular Saga Dawa festival organised every year in late spring. Just next to it is a sky burial site where, as per tradition of the last ritual, the mortal remains of eighty-four Buddhist saints were fed to the birds of prey. Kora starts at Tarboche. In May in full moon, Sagar Dawa festival takes place. Near Tarboche is first of the four prostration places (Chakstal Gang). From the starting point of parikrama, one can see the Yam Dwar and south face of Mount Kailash also called Dakshina Murthi Shiva but since it was overcast we could not see the south face of Mount Kailash. Little later we entered the Lha Chu valley. Tarboche flag pole (4750m), which is another hour’s walk. Tarboche flagpole, is one of the most important aspect of Tibetan spirituality. On “Saga Dawa” Tarboche, which is an impressive and capturing annual festival of Mount Kailash, this giant flagpole which has numerous prayer flags on it is brought down and replaced. 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.
Beyond Tarboche, the valley narrows down at an area called Sershong. After passing through a series of ruined Chörtens and a number of long mani (prayer) walls, the trail reaches a small bridge across the Lha-chu. The bridge is directly below Chuku Monastery. Chuku Monastery (4820m), founded in the 13th century by Götsangpa Gompo Pel, a Kagyupa-order master, is perched high on the hillside, a steep 15-minute hike above the valley. From the Chuku bridge, it’s about 3 hrs walk to Deraphuk Monastery. One can see North Face of Mount Kaialsh from Diraphuk Monastary. Three lesser mountains are arrayed in front of Mount Kailash: Chana Dorje (Vajrapani) to the west, Jampelyang (Manjushri) to the east and Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara) in the centre.