The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is a tradition carried forth over thousands of years. This annual pilgrimage is considered as the means to attain the ultimate salvation on Earth not just for Hindus, but for Jains and Buddhists alike.
Pilgrims perform a seriously challenging walk around the base of Mount Kailash that involves trekking at high altitudes of up to 19,500 feet, under inhospitable weather conditions of extreme cold and a rugged terrain. In spite of these tough conditions, thousands undertake this yatra that takes place only during a few months of every year.
The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is not just an opportunity to view some of the most magical scenery on the entire planet but is also, a life changing experience.
Mount Kailash, standing tall at nearly 22,000 feet, is located in the Tibetan Region. Four sacred rivers of the Indian sub-continent, Sutlej, Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus originate from this mountain.
Hindus regard Mt Kailash as the earthly manifestation of Mt Meru, the Axis Mundi - the center and birth place of the entire world. According to popular belief, Lord Shiva resided at the summit of Kailash mountain, where he practiced yogic austerities and sat in a state of meditation along with his wife Parvati. For a Hindu, to make the arduous pilgrimage to Kailash and have the darshan of Shiva's abode is to attain release from the clutches of ignorance and delusion and attain spiritual enlightenment.
The holy ritual of circumambulating the 52 km circuit of the mountain to attain salvation is made by Hindus and Buddhists in a clockwise direction. Jains and Bons (believers of the Bon religion of Tibet) make it in a counter-clockwise direction. This is known as a Kora, or Parikrama, and normally takes three days.
The most challenging moment of the Parikrama is crossing the Dolma-La (pass) at 18600 feet between two valleys. The Yamasthal at this point is crossed to reach the Shiva-sthal, a spot symbolic of death. Here pilgrims leave old clothes, strands of hair, even a drop of blood in the hope, that Yamraja (The master of death) will accept these and allow the Yatries (travellers) to be born in spirit and cross the Dolma- La pass. The pass is marked with numerous fluttering Tibetan flags hung by pilgrims.
Devotees go to unimaginable lengths to complete the sacred Kailash Parikrama. Some attempt the entire walk in a single day, while others do body-length prostrations to cover the entire distance.
It is a popular belief in many religions that the stairways on Mount Kailash lead to heaven.
Lake Mansarovar located at the base of Mount Kailash at an altitude of 14, 950 feet is considered the highest freshwater body in the world. The name "Manasa sarovaram" in Sanskrit is a combination of the words for "mind" and "lake".
According to Hinduism, the lake was first created in the mind of Brahma after which it manifested on Earth. It is believed that bathing in the crystal-clear lake and drinking the pure water cleanses one of all past sins.
The beauty of the lake under the full moon is not the only reason to plan the trip keeping these dates in mind. Doing a Kora around Mt Kailash during the full moon is considered very auspicious. It is also, believed that taking a dip in the lake on a full moon day washes away the sins of not only the current but past 100 lifetimes.