Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrimage is widely known for its religious significance among people of Hindu, Buddhism, Jain and Bon faith. Mount Kailash standing tall at 22,000 ft is known to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Parikrama has to be done around Kailash which takes 3 days. And the journey is not an easy feat, you have to trek the rough terrain of rocks, glaciers in extreme climatic conditions at an altitude of 19000 ft. Due to its difficulty and remote location, only a few hundreds of people complete Kailash Mansarovar Yatra successfully every year.
People do circumbulation (parikrama/kora) around the mountain. Many people think, we have to trek to reach peak of the Kailash, but in actuality, we have to do parikrama of the mountain which takes 3 days to complete. In this phase, will only talk about the Mount Kailash.
The religious significances of Kailash
In Hinduism, the Mount Kailash is known to be the abode of Lord Shiva where he lives with his consort Parvati and other gans. He resides on the peak in the state of meditation. Vishnu Puraan describes Kailash four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold and lapis. The pilgrims do parikrama in the clockwise direction starting from the South face. It is believed that doing 1 parikrama is equivalent to turning 1 round of wheel of life. The mountain is the pillar of the world and the entire universe is operated from this place.
Mount Kailash is the major pilgrimage site in Buddhist traditions. This is the place where Buddha represents supreme bliss. It is said that Milarepa ( Buddist saint) the only person of pure soul who could reach on the peak of Kailash riding on the sun rays. Like Hindus, the pilgrims do Kora in the clockwise direction starting from Yam Dwar facing south face of Kailash.
According to Jain, the first Tiranthkara - Rishabhdeva attained moksha (liberation from cycle of life and death) at the mountain Ashtpad which is next to Kailash. He came here to gain knowledge and then wanted to go back. But after being touched by Kailash he left everything behind and decided to merge with the mountain.
Bon mythology holds that Mount Kailash is where the founder Thonpa Shenrab Miwo came down from heaven and spread his spiritual knowledge. They regard it as a nine-story swastika and a seat of spiritual power.
Time flies at Kailash
I have read about the existence of Shangrilla near Kailash Mansarovar but, People have failed many times to find this place. Shangrilla works in 4th dimension of time but still un discovered. Little time spent at this place is equivalent to many generations gone in the time we live. This is far beyond my understanding. Even aging happens at Kailash also due to difference in time frame. Pilgrims experience sudden growth of nails and hair at this place. According to some estimates, 12 hours spent in this area is equivalent to 2 weeks of normal time.
Mount Everest (8848 mt), the highest peak of the world has been conquered by thousands of trekkers successfully. But the Kailash (6638 mt) is unscalable so far. A lot of trekkers from Russia, Switzerland have attempted but failed to climb up. Few started to climb but suddenly they lost their way because mountain changed the direction and their navigation machine stopped working. Few reported that the moment they started climbing they lost their physical energy.
Axis Mundi: Centre of Universe
The Axis Mundi is the place where heaven meets the Earth and also known as the cosmic pillar of the world. There are many spots in world where Axis Mundi is present with high spiritual energies. In India, the place is Mount Meru and in Tibet it is Kailash. Like in our human body, the spine holds all lowest to highest realms of the body. Similar to this, the Axis Mundi is the cosmic connection between all the universal consciousness of heaven and Earth. And this metaphysical axis is found in every religion depicting some form.
My experiences of Mount Kailash
4th June, 2018 (Monday)
After Mansarovar Parikrama, we spent night at Darchen (15,010 ft). I woke up early morning in the cold weather and came out of room to witness sunrise and I saw Kailash at back of our hotel rooms. I could only see 1 snow-covered peak and sun rays falling on it which made it very beautiful. It looked like a jewelled crown in the entire region.
After breakfast, we packed our bags, got ready with trekking clothes and necessary items in a small bag for 3 days (extra 1 pair of clothes, socks, raincoat, thermals, torch etc). Since I hired porter, I gave my bag to him and carried only mini bag with my mobile, wallet, candies and water bottle in it. As we had to do full day trek, we were given a packet of lunch.
Around 9:30 AM, we handed over our luggage to tour operator and boarded the bus. It takes around 30 minutes from Darchen to the Yam Dwar, from where trek begins. We were very excited to start our biggest journey of lifetime by chanting Om Namah Shivay. As we were going close to Kailash, the kind of serenity was fascinating us. Even after the delay in trip, we were happy that we will be doing Kailash Parikrama on Monday.
Arrival at Yam Dwar
Finally, we reached Yam Dwar which is the official start of the trek. Yam Dwar is the gate of the lord of death. One who crosses the Yam Dwar becomes free from shackles of life and death. It is the gateway to enter the heavenly abode of Lord Shiva. Tibetans call this place as Tarboche and they install prayer flag pole every year on the full moon day of fourth lunar month. They also start and finish their Parikrama (kora) from this point. This place has beautiful arrays of flags all around the Yam Dwar. The weather was in our favour, so we could see the south face of Kailash very clearly.'
From here the group divided into two parts, the one is going for Kora and others who cannot proceed had to return Darchen. The tour guides explained difficulties in advance, so Mauli being hit by AMS and few others from our group returned to Darchen after visiting Yam Dwar. Many of the group members took pony and porter to complete kora.
South Face of Kailash
The trek begins from South face which looked extremely beautiful. As we moved ahead, we simply looked at the gorgeous view. Everything looked amazing around in the entire region. Such a beautiful creation of God, felt like God has opened door for us into heaven. The place was very lively and it was like every mountain is talking to you. Most of the mountains had cave inside them and there must be some sages or God living inside the cave. Even few mountains had faces engraved on them. The imprints of the faces will always make you think to the other dimension.
The day was sunny and damm windy too, so all the time we were wearing UV sunglasses and cap for protection. I had nuts and energy bars which I used to eat regularly. Trekking is not the race, so best thing is to walk at your own pace and enjoy the nature. This is the journey of lifetime and nobody knows when we will get the chance to come again. So explore and absorb everything from the surrounding.
After trek of 1 hour, we saw group of Tibetans doing dandvat pranaam (full prostration) to complete kora. The trail had rocks, rivers, galciers at extreme climatic conditions where it became difficult to walk and breathe. And these people are doing full body prostration. I was amazed to look at them, I don't know what kind of fire is burning inside them to take that level of the difficult task. We were packed with good trekking gears, had food to eat and booked accommodation for 3 days. Whereas these great people had nothing to eat and no shelter. But still, they were doing this task with unshakable faith and energy. This takes them more than 1 month to complete kora. I can't even imagine and scale the thoughts of these souls. This is not just the picture, this is LOVE for your LORD!
Such a magnificent view and great place can only exist at Kailash.
West Face of Mount Kailash
After few hours of hike we saw the west face of sacred Mount Kailash. If you concentrate you can see big face on the mountain. I sat on rock and gazed at the mystic mountain. The whole serenity was filled with infinite positivity and bliss because people of all 4 religions have put so much faith into the godly land of Tibet.
All the time Rupa and I were almost at same pace. We had some beautiful conversations which I will never forget. She explained to me the meaning of "Om Namah Shivaay", it was deep and in some ways it is far beyond human understanding. I was playing the famous "Shiv Tandav Stotram" on my mobile and explained her the story behind it. The one which describes the beauty and power of Lord Shiv. It was composed by great Ravan seeking forgiveness after he tried to lift Mount Kailash. It's one of the toughest and most beautiful composition that you must listen to. We had these kinds of discussions right during the Kailash Parikrama.
After some time we saw a restaurant and had our lunch there. I had no headache or breathing problem, but body was fully tired. I took some energy drink and moved ahead. The beauty of the place and the thought of what is coming next will keep you moving.
North face of Mount Kailash
Subash, Rupa and I were hiking and reached Derapuk. Then suddenly I turned my head to right and saw North face of Kailash. I folded my hands and prayed to Shiva. This face of Kailash has always attracted me which has actually driven me to do Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. It was like my dream has come true and I am seeing Shiva in the mountain. That was the moment when the whole world has stopped for me.
After hiking for a kilometer, the view got more clear and I was in front of the giant, magical, majestic and mystic mountain. Rupa and I sat on the ground at distance. Only the mountain and I with no other distraction. I gazed at the peak and within seconds I got merged with the mountain. I did full prostration and wanted to be taken away by lord Shiva.
While I was clicking some pictures of Kailash, I saw a bird flying. These birds must be the luckiest and blessed creature on the planet who live in the region of Kailash and can fly and touch Kailash anytime they want.
It started getting dark, so we got up to reach dormitory at Derapuk (16010 ft). Every dormitory had 20-30 beds and whatever bed you get just grab it. No choice, no preference. The rooms were made at the foothills of Kailash and we could see the peak from our window itself. What else do you want if you are getting to sleep at the foot of Shiva. After some time I got soup and a plate of popcorn which gave me enough energy to wear shoes and go out again. But walking for even a few meters took my breath. And this was the only first day, where the second day would be the toughest day.
Briefing for the second day of Trek
I went into the room where Rupa, Jyothi and Sudhakar occupied beds. Everyone was too much exhausted due to high altitude and cold weather. Then few Sherpas came there and explained all the difficulties of the second day of trek which was 25 kms long. We have to start from Derapuk (16010 ft) early morning and cross Dolma La pass (19000 ft). The oxygen will drop and climatic conditions will be worse, also we have to cross big rocks and glaciers. Also, we may not get medical facilities at the time we require. The second day of the trek is known for taking lives of dozens of people every year. So, it was up to our will and medical conditions whether we want to go ahead or not. If anything happens on the route, the tour operator will not be responsible. So, those who wanted to go ahead signed on the agreement and most of the people backed out listening to the Sherpas. I signed on it without giving any second thought.
Then Sherpas served super-hot delicious Khichdi in dinner on the bed itself. And then I went out and saw the sky full of big stars. Looking at the stars at that altitude and drawing out giant Kailash in the night was an amazing experience. I crashed on bed and Krishnee aunty highly positive lady who came from Africa was next to me. We both helped each other to settle with the blanket and a lot of stuff on the bed.
Overall the day went awesome where we had darshan of three faces of Kailash. And more than this, we were sleeping at the foot of Lord Shiva. This was the most peaceful and beautiful night of my life.
There is a lot much about Kailash to feel and express and everybody experiences it differently. You have to come yourself to feel Shambhoo with you. Stay tuned for my upcoming post for the second and third day of trek. And, follow the posts if you have not gone through
Information on Mansarovar lake:
Stay fit and happy traveling. Om Namah Shivaay!