Kailash Mansarovar, famous for Mansarovar Lake and Mount Kailash (Mount Kailas), is a popular pilgrimage destination. Kailash Mansarovar is located in the western part of the Tibetan Himalayas.
Kailash Mansarovar is considered to be the ultimate pilgrimage destination in the Himalayas. Mount Kailash, located at an altitude of 6,690 meters above sea level, nearby Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal, is a revered place visited by the followers of various religious sects like Bon, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Mount Kailash is also known as Mount Ashtapada as per Jain texts. It is believed that Rishabh Dev or Adishwar, the first Jain Tirthankar, attained salvation at Mount Kailash. According to Buddhism, Mount Kailash is the home of Buddha Demchok and the region surrounding it was the seat of Dorge Phangmo. The followers of Bon believe that Mount Kailash is the seat of spiritual power.
According to Hindu mythology, Mount Kailash or Kailasa Parvata is believed to be the holy abode of Lord Shiva. Kora or the Parikrama is the most important part of the pilgrimage to Mount Kailash, where pilgrims circumambulate Mount Kailash and cover a distance of about 55 km on foot or pony.
In and Around
Mount Kailash is a peak on the Gangdise Mountains, which are a portion of the Himalayas in Tibet. It is located near the source of some of the largest Asian rivers: the Brahmaputra, Indus, Sutlej (a prime tributary of the Indus) and the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges). The mountain is nestled near Lake Rakshas Tal and Lake Mansarovar in Tibet. Kailash is considered as a sacred mountain by a number of faiths and cults like Bon, Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. The Hindus consider it as the abode of Lord Shiva, as the unusual contours of black granite look like a Shivalinga. Through ages, yogis, monks and pilgrims from across the globe have undergone hardships to reach this abode of gods. In Hindu religion, a pilgrimage to Kailash is considered as the ultimate yatra. Moreover, the journey to Kailash is also quite difficult.
Kailash Parikrama is considered as the most difficult part of the tirth yatra or pilgrimage. It is believed that Mount Kailash is the holy icy abode of Shiva and Parvati and thus pilgrims need to perform a Parikrama to show reverence. This Parikrama or circumambulation of the Kailas Parvat involves walking around 32 miles. It takes around three days and includes trekking rough terrain, scaling steep trails, crossing streams, jumping from one boulder to the other and traversing a pass high in the mountains at an altitude of 19,200 ft.Camping is generally done on the mountain side. The term Kora is used by Tibetans to refer to clockwise circumambulation. It is believed that the Parikrama will sanctify the soul from all sin and is a path to attain salvation.The parikrama is generally performed in clockwise direction. However, believers of Bon perform the activity anticlockwise. In case of Buddhists, the Parikrama around Kailash is same as experiencing a cycle of life and rebirth into a new life.
The sacred lake of Mansarovar, situated at a height of 4556 meters is related with many legends and myths. The lake spans an area of 350 sq km and has a depth of 300 ft. This lake creates an enchanting backdrop to the Kailash peak. Every year pilgrims from all over India undertake the famous Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. It is firmly believed by the devotees that the serene water of the lake purifies the body and soul from all sins. According to Hindu religion, this lake originated in the mind of Brahma. According to mythology, this lake is the haven of swans, which are traditionally considered as sacred and wise. Buddhists also believe that Queen Maya conceived Lord Buddha at this very place. There are a number of monasteries at Mansarovar, among which the most remarkable is the Chiu Gompa Monastery. The lake is flanked by Gurla Mandhata on the south and Kailash on the north. Rakshas Tal lies on the west side of the lake whereas some hills lie on the eastern side.
Another major sightseeing location of Kailash-Mansarovar is the Gauri Kund, associated with a number of legendary tales and mythological stories. Popularly known as Parvati Sarovar, Gauri Kund lies at an altitude of 5608 meters.According to the Shiva Purana, this water body is described as the lake of compassion. The reflection of the Chhota Kailash peak falls on the surface of the lake.
Lake Rakshas Tal lies near the west of Lake Mansarovar and Mount Kailash. River Sutlej originates from the north-western tip of Rakshas Tal. It spans a total area of 70 sq km and is located at an altitude of 4,752 metres. Though the lake is a short roll away from Lake Mansarovar, Rakshas Tal is not equally revered as its east neighbour. It is because Rakshas Tal, the ‘lake of the rakshasa’ is associated with the ten-headed demon king Ravana. It is believed to be the dwelling of Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. In Buddhism, Lake Mansarovar and Lake Rakshas Tal lie in contrast to each other. Buddhists consider the round shaped Lake Mansarovar as the symbol of brightness whereas the crescent shaped Lake Rakshas Tal symbolises darkness. Again, the water of Lake Rakshas Tal is salty, which lies in sharp contrast with the fresh water lake of Mansarovar. The water of Lake Rakshas Tal, which nurtures no fish or aquatic plants, is considered as toxic by local dwellers. There are four islands in Lake Rakshas Tal, namely, the Dola, Topserma (Dose), Lachato and Dosharba. Local people only visit the island during the winter season and utilize it as winter pastures for yaks. However, Lake Rakshas Tal is also admired for its beauty. The lake is connected with Lake Mansarovar by a natural channel, Ganga Chhu. The hills, islands and the white cobbles along with the deep blue lake draw a large number of tourists.
The best time to visit Kailash Mansarovar is between mid-May to mid-October. The weather is considerably stable and visibility is at its best during this time. Temperatures, however, are cool during the day and below freezing at night.
How to Reach
The route from New Delhi consists of both bus journey and high-altitude mountain trekking. The bus route covers the following tracks:
Delhi- Gajraula- Kathgodam- Nainital- Bhowali- Almora- Kausani- Bageshwar-Chowakari-Didihat- Dharchula via Jauljibi-Tawaghat.
The trekking route which takes the pilgrims through some beautiful landscape and passes, covers the following:
Tawaghat-Thanidar-Pangu-Sosa-Narayan Ashram-Sirkha-Rungling Top-Simkhola-Gala-Jipti-Malpa-Gudhi-Guji-Garbhyang-Kalapani-Avidhag-Lipu-Leh Pass-Pala- Taklakot.
The first halt is at Kasauni near Nainital, which is famed for its sunrise beauty, and the next at Dharchula.
Stay / Eat
Where to Stay
There are many accommodation options including rest-houses and budget hotels in Dharchula. The Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) rest house offers good facilities.
Where to Eat
Along the trekking route, there are local restaurants and guesthouse at the stop of everyday. Now tourists do not need to prepare their own food and tents.