Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarova
Mount Kailash is a peak in the Gangdise mountains which is part of the Himalayas in Tibet, the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia—the Indus River, the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus River), the Brahmaputra River, and the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges River) — and is considered as a sacred place in four religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and other faith. In Hindu religion, it is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The mountain lies near Lake Manasarova and Lake Rakshastal in Tibet.
There have been no recorded attempts to climb Mount Kailash; it is considered off limits to climbers in deference to Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. It is the most significant peak in the world that has not seen any known climbing attempts.
A great mass of black rock soaring to over 22,000 feet, Mt. Kailash has the unique distinction of being the world's most venerated holy place at the same time that it is the least visited. The supremely sacred site of four religions and billions of people, Kailash is seen by no more than a few thousand pilgrims each year. This curious fact is explained by the mountain's remote location in far western Tibet. No planes, trains or buses journey anywhere near the region and even with rugged over-land vehicles the journey still requires weeks of difficult, often dangerous travel. The weather, always cold, can be unexpectedly treacherous and pilgrims must carry all the supplies they will need for the entire journey.
How long have people been coming to this sacred mountain? The answers are lost in antiquity, before the dawn of Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism. The cosmologies and origin myths of each of these religions speak of Kailash as the mythical Mt. Meru, the Axis Mundi, the center and birth place of the entire world. The mountain was already legendary before the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, were written. Indeed, Kailash is so deeply embedded in the myths of ancient Asia that it was perhaps a sacred place of another era, another civilization, now long gone and forgotten.
Hindus believe Mt.Kailash to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Like many of the Hindu gods, Shiva is a character of apparent contradictions. He at once the Lord of Yoga and therefore the ultimate renunciate ascetic, yet he is also the divine master of Tantra, the esoteric science that regards sexual union as the most perfect path to spiritual enlightenment. According to legend, immortal Shiva lives atop Kailash where he spends his time practicing yogic austerities, making joyous love with his divine consort, Parvati, and smoking ganja, the sacred herb known in the west as marijuana, Hindus do not interpret Shiva's behaviors as contradictory however, but rather see in him a deity who has wisely integrated the extremes of human nature and thus transcended attachment to any particular, and limited, way of being. For a Hindu, to make the arduous pilgrimage to Kailash and have the darshan (divine view) of Shiva's abode is to attain release from the clutches of ignorance and delusion.
Kailash is sacred to other religions as well. The Jains call the mountain Astapada and believe it to be the place where Rishaba, the first of the twenty-four Tirthankaras attained liberation. Followers of Bon, Tibet's pre-Buddhist, shamanistic religion call the mountain Tise and believe it to be the seat of the Sky Goddess Sipaimen. Additionally, Bon myths regard Tise as the sight of a legendary 12th century battle of sorcery between the Buddhist sage Milarepa and the Bon shaman Naro Bon-chung. Milarepa's defeat of the shaman displaced Bon as the primary religion of Tibet, firmly establishing Buddhism in its place. While the Buddha is believed to have magically visited Kailash in the 5th century BC, the religion of Buddhism only entered Tibet, via Nepal and India, in the 7th century AD. Tibetan Buddhists call the mountain Kang Rimpoche, the 'Precious One of Glacial Snow', and regard it as the dwelling place of Demchog (also known as Chakrasamvara) and his consort, Dorje Phagmo. Three hills rising near Kang Rimpoche are believed to be the homes of the the Bodhisatvas Manjushri, Vajrapani, and Avalokiteshvara.
Pilgrims to Kailash, after the difficult journey getting there, are then confronted with the equally arduous task of circumambulating the sacred peak. This walking around the mountain (clockwise for the Buddhists, counter-clockwise for Bon adherents) is known as a Kora, or Parikrama, and normally takes three days. In hopes of gaining extra merit or psychic powers however, some pilgrims will vary the tempo of their movement. A few of them, practicing a secret breathing technique known as Lung-gom, will power themselves around the mountain in only one day. Others will take two to three weeks for the Kora by making full body prostrations the entire way. It is believed that a pilgrim who completes 108 journeys around the mountain is assured enlightenment. Most pilgrims to Kailash will also take a short plunge in the nearby, highly sacred (and very cold) Lake Manosaravar. The word 'manas' means mind or consciousness; the name Manosaravar means Lake of Consciousness and Enlightenment. Adjacent to Manosaravar is Rakas Tal or Rakshas, the Lake of Demons. Pilgrimage to this great sacred mountain and these two magical lakes is a life changing experience and an opportunity to view some of the most magical scenery on the entire planet.
Lying 20km southeast of Mt. Kailash and north to Namnani Peak, Lake Manasarovar is the highest freshwater lake in the world, with an altitude of 4,588 and an area of 412sqkm.
Lake Manasarovar, "Mapam Yumco" in Tibetan, means the "eternal and invincible jade lake" named to mark the victory of Buddhism over the local Bon Religion in the 11th century. It is Tibet's most sacred lake and is holy to both Buddhists and Hindus. Xuan Zang(600-664AD), an eminent monk of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), described Mapam Yumco Lake in his book Records of Western Travels as "a jade pond in west".
Early legend has it that there are countless treasures at the bottom of the Lake Manasarovar. Hindus and Buddhists alike believe that the Lake Manasarovar has the power to cleanse away a person's sins, either by drinking (Tibetans) or bathing in the water (Hindus). Many pilgrims come to Lake Manasarovar to be healed of their illnesses.
Lake Manasarovar enjoys a reputation equal to the holy Mt. kailash. Indian legend claims it to be a place where Siva and his wife Goddess Woma, daughter of the Himalayas, bathed. Tibetan legend claims it to be where the God Guangcanlong lived. In Buddhist scriptures, the lake is named the "mother of the rivers in the world".
There are 9 monasteries surrounding Lake Manasarovar. Gyiwu Monastery and Curgu Monastery are the best known of them. The area surrounding Curgu Monastery is respected as a holy and pure bathing place. The holy properties of the lake notwithstanding, the beauty and tranquility of the lake is enough to soothe a weary soul.
Lake Manasarovar and Curgu Monastery are reachable from Darchen(Ta'erqin), which is 30km to the south. Alternately, hitchhiking along the main Ngari-Burang Highway can get you to a point 6km from the lake. Walk southwest from the highway to the lake.
There are two hostels opened by Tibetans in the small villages near Jiwu Temple.
No restaurants near the attractions. The hostels provide plain rice and vegetable dishes. Travelers better bring some instant noodles or solid food. There are furnaces and dry cow dung that can be used for burning, you can cook by yourself.