Kailash Manasarovar – The dream of any ardent Hindu devotee is the soul fulfilling spiritual visit, often called as the ultimate pilgrimage is to the abode of the supreme Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati at Mount Kailash.
The beautiful, calm and mystical Linga shaped peak is located at an altitude of 22,028 feet above sea level. The majestic peak is situated among the Gangdise Mountains, also known as the Kailash Range. The range forms a part of Transhimalaya in Tibet China.
The two mystical water bodies – Lake Manasarovar (believed to have been a creation of Lord Brahma’s mind) and Lake Rakshastal (Lake of demons or Rakshas) lie just beside the peak.
The holy peak is believed to have been worshiped even before the beginning of Hinduism and other religions. It is religiously significant not just for Hindus, but also for the Tibetan religious sect called Bon, Buddhism, and Jainism.
The Buddhists call the peak as Gangs Rin-po-che or the Kangri Rin-po-che meaning “Precious Jewel of Snows”. The Bon call the peak as Nine Stacked Swastika Mountain and Water’s flower.
The trek to the base of Mount Kailash is however extremely arduous and risky. The peak is situated in a remote and inhospitable area. Persons willing to have a glimpse of the Mount should be extremely fit and tolerant to altitude sickness and low oxygen conditions. No one is allowed to set foot on the peak. One can only circum-ambulate Mount Kailash or worship it from a distance.
The pilgrimage to Mount Kailash is incomplete without paying respect to the mystical and enchanting Lake Manasarovar. This lake is the situated at an altitude of 14, 750 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. The circumference of the lake is 88 km long and its complete circumambulation takes 4-5 days to complete.
The lake is near the source of River Sutlej, and a few kilometers away from the source of River Indus and the Brahmaputra. It is believed that the Lake was once surrounded by eight monasteries. However, only a few are left today, the Chiu Gompa being the prominent one. The lake is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas of Goddess Sati.
History of Kailash Manasarovar
- It is believed that Mount Kailash and the Lakes of Manasarovar and Rakshastal have existed since time immemorial. They are the creations of God that nobody can put a date to. Hundreds of pilgrims belonging to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism take the pilgrimage to this divine place to receive the blessings of their respective beliefs of God.
- The Kailash Manasarovar Yatra was stopped between the period of 1954 – 1978 due to political and border disputes between India and China. It was renewed later in the 1980’s.
- According to Hindu beliefs, Lake Manasarovar was created in the mind by Lord Brahma. Hence, the name “Manas” meaning Mind and Sarovar meaning Lake was given to the Lake. The Buddhists associate the Lake with legendary Lake Anavatapa, where Maya is believed to have been conceived with Buddha.
- According to the legend regarding the origin of the lake, it is believed that Lord Brahma had 12 sons who performed rituals and several austerities on the dry land. To create a more serene and suitable place for them to earn their merit, Lord Brahma created the Manasarovar Lake.
- As per Buddhist legends, Buddha’s mother Maya was transported here by the Gods. She took a bath in the water of the Manasarovar Lake and her body was purified. She witnessed a white elephant running towards her down the Mount Kailash as Buddha entered her womb.
- The Rakshastal Lake has a legend of its own to contribute to the glorious Hindu mythology. The lake lies just west of the Manasarovar Lake and is also known as the Ravana Tal. It is believed that the Lake was created by the King of Lanka, Ravana when he was performing severe penance to Lord Shiva in order to obtain the Atmalinga from him. The lake is a saltwater lake, unlike the Manasarovar Lake which is fresh water in nature. The lake does not support aquatic life and hence considered poisonous by the locals. Even though the visitors don’t enter the lake, they do pay their respects along their journey to it. The two lakes are connected via a small stream of water named Ganga Chhu.
Significance of Kailash Manasarovar Pilgrimage
- It is mentioned in the ancient scriptures that anyone who takes a dip in the holy Mansarovar Lake and circumambulates the peak, gets absolved of his or her sins for generations and attain salvation. The Kailash Manasarovar Lake is believed to have healing powers.
- Kailash Manasarovar Lake is believed to be the abode of the Hamsa or the Swan of Lord Brahma, one of the holy Trinity.
- The Lake is also considered to be one of the fifty-one Shakti Peethas where the Right hand of Goddess Sati fell to Earth after the Daksha Yagna episode of Hindu mythology. The Goddess is worshiped here as Dakshayini. The site is extremely sacred to the Shakta sect of Hinduism.
- In the Vishnu Purana, a description of Mount Kailash states that the four sides of the peak are made up of Crystal, Ruby, Gold and Lapis-Lazuli (deep blue semi-precious antique stones).
- The Mount Kailash is also known as the Axis Mundi of the World. This means that the Mount provides the connection between the physical world and the spiritual world. It is the axis around which the world has been created by the Gods.
- The visit to Mount Kailash peak is considered extremely sacred as it is situated near the sources of some of the longest and the holiest rivers that flow through Asia. These rivers are Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, and
- Apart from being considered as extremely sacred by Hindus as the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the peak has significance in other religions too. The Jains call the peak as Mount Ashtapada or the Meru Parvat, where the founder of Jainism and the first Tirthankara Rishabhadeva attained Moksha. The Buddhists consider the peak as the navel of the universe. It is also the home of the Buddha Demchok or Chakrasamvara, the representation of supreme bliss and harmony. The three hills rising from the peak are considered as the abodes of Bodhisattvas Manjushri, Vajrapani, and Avalokiteshwara. The Bon religious sect worships the peak as the abode of the sky Goddess Sipaimen.
- It is religiously believed that no one should step or climb the peak as it is considered a sin. It is claimed by locals that such ventures have ended up having tragic and disastrous consequences. It is believed that the stairways or the ridges on Mount Kailash lead to Heaven.
- During the journey to Mount Kailash, one can also visit other holy peaks like Ravana Parvat, Hanuman Parvat, Padmasambhava, Manjushri, Vajradhara, Avalokiteshwara, Jambeyang, Shavari, and Norseng. These peaks are extremely sacred for the Buddhists.
- In Buddhism, Lake Manasarovar is believed to be round shaped Sun representing “Brightness and Good Nature” while the Lake Rakshastal which is crescent shaped represents “Darkness and Evil”. The narrow connection named Ganga Chhu represents the small difference and the gray area between these two aspects of life.
- The famed Gauri Kund or the Parvati Sarovar is located en route to Mount Kailash. This is believed to be the lake where Goddess Parvati gave birth to Lord Ganesha and made him stand as a guard while she was taking a bath. Lord Ganesha stopped Lord Shiva from meeting Parvati and in a fit of rage, Lord Shiva beheaded Ganesha. Distraught Parvati requested Lord Shiva to forgive Ganesha and bring him back to life. Lord Shiva replaced Ganesha’s head with the head of a nearby elephant and since then, Ganesha came to be known as the “Elephant headed God”.
Kailash Manasarovar Temple Timings
The Kailash Manasarovar Yatra is organized by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India in co-operation with the Indian Mountaineering Federation every year between the months of May-September.
Dress code at Kailash Manasarovar
- Tibet is an extremely cold and dry part of the world. The weather is unpredictable throughout the day. During the months of May-September, the day temperature is most likely to be around 10-20 degree Celsius. The nights are expected to be extremely chilly and windy. Hence, one must be prepared with warm clothes, sweaters, socks, gloves, mufflers, ear covers, scarves, Vaseline, dry fruits, umbrellas, torches and sports shoes.
- Although medical facilities will be provided by both the Indian and the Chinese Governments, it is recommended that one should carry basic medicines for fever, body pain, altitude sickness, dehydration, vomiting, and dysentery and muscle pain.
How to reach Kailash Manasarovar
A limited number of Indian pilgrims are allowed to visit the Kailash Manasarovar every year. They are monitored by the Indian and the Chinese Governments.
There are two routes to reach Mount Kailash from the Indian side. They are mentioned as below:
- Route 1: The Lipulekh Pass Route. The Yatra begins with a 3-4 day stay at Delhi. The tentative duration for the yatra would be 25 days with a cost of about 1.6 lakh per person.
- Route 2: The Nathu La Pass Route. The Yatra begins with a 3-4 day stay at Delhi. The duration of the yatra would be 23 days with the cost of 2 lakhs per person.
- Apart from the Government conducted travel package, one can also book a private package that reaches Mount Kailash via Kathmandu, Nepal. This journey takes only 16-18 days to complete and is covered in jeeps. However, the cost, as well as safety, remains an issue as the packages are privately operated and do not come under the Government preview.
- The path around Mount Kailash is 52 km long. The circumambulation is made in the clockwise direction by the Hindus and the Buddhists while in an anti-clockwise direction by the Jain and the Bon followers.
Where to stay
The Government tours provide accommodation to the pilgrims both on the Indian as well as the Chinese side. The tour cost includes basic accommodation for all the devotees. The Tibetan authorities have constructed small hotels and lodges to facilitate easy movement and rest for the visiting pilgrims. Private packages include a comfortable stay for devotees and camping gear is also provided to whomsoever who wish to stay outdoors. One can also hire or buy private tents and stay on the banks of the Manasarovar Lake or in the monasteries.
Where to eat
The devotees are served pure vegetarian cuisine during their trip to Mount Kailash and Manasarovar. The cuisine is mainly North Indian or Chinese. Breakfast items are generally Bread toasts, Paranthas or Pooris. Rice is served as lunch. It is advised to carry snacks and dry fruits in the case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.