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Why and How to Take a Lifetime Mount Kailash Yatra or Pilgrimage?

November,25 2019 BY Sonam Tenphel 0 COMMENTS

In the far west of Tibet lies the holy mountain known as Mt. Kailash. Standing like a giant Egyptian pyramid amidst the barren landscape of the Tibetan Plateau, this sacred mountain is an important pilgrimage destination for thousands of travelers every year. Known to the locals as Kang Rinpoche, the mountain is sacred to the believers of four separate religions - Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Bon. Around this sacred mountain lie five Buddhist temples, each one shrouded in centuries of mystery and legend. Located just 15 miles away from Mt. Kailash is the serene Lake Manasarovar, which is another important site for pilgrims who wish to cleanse their past sins by taking a dip in its pristine natural waters. The exceptional natural beauty of this unscathed region makes the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra one of the most sought after pilgrimage journeys through rural areas of Tibet, where love and peace have prevailed since eternity.

Why Mount Kailash Yatra

Considered to be one of the most beautiful mountains in China, Kailash is a divine mountain, with four almost symmetrical sides, its snow-capped peak glistening white in the sunlight. Bounded by the religious virtue and spiritual ethos of several religions, the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra is believed to be one of the most sacred pilgrimage journeys, which takes pilgrims to the revered site of Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar in Tibet. Each year thousands of pilgrims decide to go on a journey towards the consecrated lands, with ever more enthusiasm for the eccentric virtue of belief and hope that they can relinquish their past deeds and cleanse out their sins.

 Mount Kailash Yatra A devout pilgrim is doing Kailash kora with a prayer wheel

Standing at a high elevation of 6,638 meters above sea level, Mt. Kailash is considered to be the center of the universe. Blessed by the geographical and mythological significance of Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, pilgrims are consistently astounded by the pure magnificence of this sacred pilgrimage journey. Believers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Tibetan Bonpo accept the primarily belief that the journey to Mt. Kailash renounces their spirits and gives them a chance of experiencing divine intervention during this lifetime.

The Tibetan religion of Bon believes Mount Kailash to be their ancient spiritual seat of power. Meanwhile, in Jainism, Kailash, referred to as Mount Ashtapada, is the place where the creator of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained freedom from the cycle of life and rebirth.

The peak of the mountain is almost always enveloped in clouds, and it is believed by the locals that anyone who gets to view the peak clearly will be very lucky. Mt. Kailash has been an alluring site for pilgrims for centuries, and many explorers have traveled to the region to investigate this holy site. However, to date, no one has ever made it to the peak, due mainly to the devout religious significance of the mountain.

The area of Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar is also the source of four of the major rivers in Asia, the Sutlej River, the Brahmaputra River, the Indus River, and the Ganges River. All four rivers have their sources within 100 km of the mountain, and are the habitats of many local species of birds, wildlife, and plants.

Why Lake Manasarovar Yatra?

Lake Manasarovar is Tibet’s holiest lake. It is located in far western Tibet, not far from the sacred peak of Kailash. Lake Manasarovar - known in Tibetan as Mapham Yum Tso, or “invincible turquoise lake” - is Tibet’s holiest lake. Located in far western Tibet’s Ngari Prefecture, it is over 1,200 kilometers from Lhasa. The lake is only 32 kilometers from Mt Kailash, Tibet’s most sacred peak, and sits at an elevation of 4,950 meters. While it is not even the highest lake in Tibet, it is the highest freshwater lake in the world, and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in China. Surrounded by massive Himalayan peaks to the south, including Gurla Mandhata, Manasarovar is a major pilgrimage destination for Buddhists, Hindus and followers of the indigenous Tibetan religion of Bon.

Buddhists consider Lake Manasarovar to be associated with the legendary lake Anavatapta, which is where the mother of Buddha (Maya) is believed to have conceived Buddha. Another version is that Queen Maya was bathed in Lake Manasarovar by divine beings before she gave birth to Buddha. Either way, Manasarovar is the holiest lake to Tibetan people.

 Lake Manasarovar Drinking Lake Manasarovar's water can wash away all the sins of one’s life

Lake Manasarovar is another Tibetan location that draws in pilgrims from all over the world, and from different religions. Hindu pilgrims have been going to the lake for well over 1500 years, as they believe the god Brahma created the lake. According to Hindu mythology, Manasarovar was first created in the mind of Lord Brahma hence justifying its name - “Manas” meaning mind and “Sarovar” meaning lake. It is believed by the Hindu religion that Mount Kailash was the place where Lord Shiva resided and is therefore considered as the earthly demonstration of heaven. The well-known Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa, in the 4th century wrote that the water from the lake was “like pearls and that to drink them erases the sins of a hundred lifetimes”. It is common to see Hindus wade or swim in Lake Manasarovar as well as drink some of the water. It is believed that bathing in the lake or drinking its water can wash away all the sins of one’s life, leaving you clean and pure again.

Situated at the southern base of Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar is celebrated around the world for its uncommon magnificence and has been stunning the world for a number of years. Looking at the historical backdrop of Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, without much stretch of the imagination we can presume that they both have been a noteworthy piece of numerous religions for many centuries.

How to Take Mount Kailash Kora

In Tibet, the most famous pilgrimage tour is the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, which takes place every year and atttracts thousands of pilgrims. Kailash Manasarovar Yatra is known for its religious value, cultural significance, physical beauty and thrilling nature. Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage tour is one of the most demanding and challenging of treks for pilgrims in the world. This is a route opening up unending stretches of barren land, lush green valleys, snow capped peaks and pristine blue lakes. It is absolutely an experience of a lifetime.

Every year, thousands of pilgrims throng to the Mount Kailash. Some pilgrims even venture a much more demanding regimen, performing body-length prostrations over the entire length of the circumambulation. To some extent, Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is an ultimate destination for every pilgrim.

Mount Kailash Kora Map(Simple click to enlarge the map)
Time-honoured pilgrimage route around holy Mt. Kailash

Part of the Yatra is to walk the kora around Mt. Kailash, and many thousands of travelers and pilgrims do this during the months of the Yatra. This holy ritual is believed to bring good fortune, both now and for future generations, and help them to better attain enlightenment. If is believed that anyone who completes the kora will clear away the sins of a lifetime, and those who walk it 13 times will be brought to enlightenment within their lifetime. It is also believed that anyone who can complete the kora 108 times continuously will attain instant enlightenment.

The different religions have different beliefs about the circumambulation of Mt. Kailash. Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims complete the kora walking clockwise, while those of the Jain and Bon religions walk around the mountain counter-clockwise. This belief stems from the legend of the battle between Milarepa and Naro Bonchung, who fought for control of the sacred site. After defeating Bonchung, Milarepa wisely allowed the Bon followers to continue to worship at the mountain, but they would have to walk the kora backwards, and to this day, they still do so.

However, the length for kailash kora is about 56km and the average altitude is 5,000 meters. The terrain is quite dangerous and rough. All pilgrims need to complete the kora on foot, so tourists need to get over altitude sickness and strong physical fitness is required. In remote areas of Tibet, tourists should be prepared for the poor accommodation, food and other services of local facility, which cannot be compared with the same services in Lhasa.

The food and accomodation are very basic. Only basic dorm beds are available in guesthouses and small inns at remote places and always lack of water and electricity due to the harsh geography conditions. There is also no fresh meat or vegetables in local and the price is quite high. So bringing your own food will never be wrong, such as some dry food, instant noodles, fruits and so on. Although Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is a long and challenging journey, you will find it worth a visit. Mysterious and sacred, Tibet is never short of surprise for you.

Best Time for Kailash Manasarovar Yatra

As the journey of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra goes north to the Tibetan plateau, one has to understand that the weather conditions can get very harsh so choosing the right time to go for Kailash Manasarovar Yatra is a necessity for the pilgrims. Winter is not a good time to trek to Mt. Kailash, as the passes from India into Tibet are often blocked, and there are many Hindus that come from the Indian sub-continent to pray and perform the “parikrama” at the mountain and lake.

 Best Time for Kailash Manasarovar Yatra Best time to visit Kailash and Manasarovar offers you astounding scenery of the Tibetan landscape

Ideally, the best time to visit Kailash and Manasarovar for the Yatra is from mid-May to October, as the climate conditions are best for the long treks across the plateau. Majority of the pilgrims make this their time to travel to the area, and one can often see thousands of travelers walking the long roads to the mountain. During these particular months, the weather conditions are normal enough to let you experience astounding scenery of the Tibetan landscape. The weather is considerably stable and visibility is at its best, which makes it the finest time of the year for pilgrims to plan a Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. However, if you are planning to take a trip to holy Mt. Kailash, do keep in mind that the temperatures can vary widely too, and it can get very cold at night.

Some Other Major Attractions on the Yatra

Apart from the Manasarovar Lake, pilgrims are also likely to come across some other very beautiful and unique places, including Tirthapuri, where pilgrims take a bath in spring pools after finishing their Yatra. Gauri Kund, which is famously known as the lake of compassion, is another sight on the route, as are Yam Dwar, which is the starting point of the Yatra, Asthapad, which is the base of Mount Kailash, and Tarboche, which is the flagpole where numerous prayer flags are flying in the breeze. This spot holds significance in Tibetan spirituality. And it is not just these few places. There are a lot of places which can be of equal fascination for visitors, especially for the first timers who have never seen the mystic lands of Tibet on a Kailash Manasarovar Yatra.

Photos taken on Kailash Manasarovar Yatra

north face of kailashThe north face of Mt. Kailash

 Mount Kailash Kora Thousands of travelers and pilgrims do Mount Kailash Kora during the months of the Yatra

wild animalsYou may encounter some unusual wildlife on the way to Mt. Kailash

lake manasarovarBreathtaking scenery of Lake Manasarovar

devout pilgrimsDevout pilgrims are prostrating themselves towards Holy Kailash

Sonam Tenphel

About the Author - Sonam Tenphel

Energetic, responsible and reliable, Sonam is a guide with more than seven years experience informing visitors about heritage sites and attractions places in Tibet.

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