Kailash Manasarovar Yatra 2004

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Over the ages of several millenia, the people of India have intensely pursued their spiritual aspirations and found fulfilment in their sincere devotion to the all benevolent Lord Shiva. Sages and Saints from all over India have gone into devotional raptures expressing their undying spiritual love for Him. And more so when they undertake pilgrimages to places that have the power of bringing out the best of these devotions. Undoubtedly, the most important of these places has been the abode of the Lord - Mount Kailasa and Lake Manasarovar.

These pages combine in it a photo exhibition of the Yatra to the Holy Kailash Manasarovar along Tibet's vast mountainous plateau from Kathmandu, Nepal, as well as a detailed diary of it. These pages also contain a brief overview of why such yatras are important as well as a general description of preparing for such yatras - 'a yatra blueprint'. In addition, of use to potential yatris are the specifics of how this yatra was undertaken - this has been an important aspect of all conversations with many devotees post yatra. The 'how-to' includes tips on selecting and negotiating with the travel agency, tips useful during the journey, details of medical fitness and preparations including a medications checklist.

For effective browsing, please note:
These pages have some 70+ photographs. All photographs in these pages have been taken during the yatra using two simple cameras: a Nikon Coolpix 3100 digital camera and a Canon SureShot 60 Photofilm camera. The images have been edited minimally for clarity using GIMP freeware. The Maps were hand-drawn and so I do not vouch either for scale or for accuracy. For users of internet having a dial-in line, it is recommended that you loadup the browser and cache all the pages initially before reading through each of them. The total size of the downloaded pages (with the images) would be 3+ MB and might take upward of 20 minutes on a 36kbps modem dialup line. A pdf version of this travelogue book is also available with me. If you come across any mistakes in these pages, kindly send me an email.

The title photograph (see above) of Mt. Kailash was taken from Chuggu across Lake Manasarovar, in the evening of 31st July, 2004, even as the dark clouds of Monsoon was gathering.

Routes to Mt. Kailasa

     . The Indian route is briefly described in Kumoan Vikas Mandal Nigam's website: www.kvmn.org . The Government of India website that gives details of Indian route is www.mea.nic.in . One finds very good descriptions as well as helpful information on Tibet in general and western Tibet in particular in the tourist guide books published by Lonely Planet. More details are in the lonelyplanet website:www.lonelyplanet.com The Tibetan phrase book published by them is excellent. There are several good books on how Mt. Kailasa was 'discovered' by the westerners. And more so about the legendary Swami Pranavananda who in his travels in the early 20th century, kept the measure of all the distances with the beads even as travel there was very difficult and dangerous.

The Route Map to Mt. Kailash via Kathmandu
This hand drawn map is neither accurate nor correct. The total distance from Kathmandu to Mt. Kailash is about 900 kms. Driving on dirt tracks and mud 'roads' one reaches Lake Manasarovar after 6 days. The River Brahmaputra is crossed before Saga.

Our Itinerary

     Summer in the Himalayas and Tibet ensures long daytime hours and short nights. So the day breaks around 5am IST and will not be dark until about 7.30 pm. Remember, Nepal is 15 min ahead of Indian Standard Time (IST) and Tibet two and half hours ahead of IST (Beijing Time). Hence local reference to time could be skewed - evening twilight around 9 pm local time.

This is the itinerary that we completed during our journey. We started from Kathmandu on Monday 26th July around 5 am and returned on 7th August 2004 by 9 pm. It was a hustled up schedule because we had got delayed for a few days initially and we had a hard deadline - to reach Kathmandu before 8th August to catch the flight out. Note that all altitudes as well as distances mentioned herewith is just approximate. .

Day 1:      Monday July 26th 2006. Started from Hotel Gangjong at about 5 am. Drove for about 100 kms by bus (5 hrs) to Kodari (1600m). Crossed the border. Got into Land Cruisers. Drove 5 kms to Zhang-mu (1900m). Overnight stay in a village Inn.
Day 2:      Started late. Drove 40 kms to Nyalam-mu (3800m). Overnight stay in a village Inn. Should have acclimatized for atleast 24 hours. But was there only for about 14 hours.
Day 3:      Started at 4 am. Drove 230 kms (8 hours) to Saga (4700m). Crossed the 'Sishama La' pass (5120m) enroute. Later in the day, crossed the River Brahmaputra by ferry. Overnight stay in tents after the town..
Day 4:      Drove 290 kms (about 9 hours) to Paryang (4540m). Beautiful plateau. Overnight stay in tents after the town.
Day 5:      Drove 270 kms (about 8 hours) to Lake Manasarovar. (4,740m). Reached around 4pm. Start the Lake Parikrama. Visited Gompas along the way. Drove along Rakshas Tal for a couple of hours. Wonderful Shravan Purnima sight over the lake . Overnight stay in tents at Chiu Gompa on the banks of the Lake.
Day 6:      Took holy dip in the Lake. Puja time. Meditation time. Soaked into the spiritual ambience. Late afternoon, drove 35 kms over the Parkha Plains to Darchen (4700 m). Overnight stay in the village Inn.
Day 7:      Drove 6 kms to 'Tar Po Che'- the Valley of Gods - along river 'Lha Chu' and started the Kailasha parikrama. Trekked for about 5 hours and 16 kms along the banks and reached Dheerpuk Gompa (4850m). Overnight stay in tents.
Day 8:      Early in the morning, started the parikrama. Climbed to cross Drolma Pass (5650m) by noon. Came by Gauri Kund and crossed the glacier. Descended down and reached the 'Lham Chu' river valley. Treked for another 5 hours to reach Zutulpuk Gompa (4790m). Covered 22 kms. Overnight stay in tents.
Day 9:      Completed the parikrama trekking about 15 kms and 5 hours along the Lham Chu river until it reaches the Parkha plains. Then drove to Hor Chu along the Lake Manasarovar. Puja and Meditation at Hor Chu. Overnight stay in tents.
Day 10:      Drove to Paryang. Stayed overnight in a village Inn due to inclement weather and truck problems.
Day 11:      Drove to Saga. Stayed overnight in a town Inn due to inclement weather and soggy camp grounds.
Day 12:      Started late from Saga. Delayed at the ferry crossing. Started driving in the evening around 530 pm. Overnight drive! Reached Nyalam-mu at 2 am. Stayed rest of the night in a village Inn.
Day 13:      Drove to Zhang-mu. Completed immigration and crossed over to Kodari by 2 pm. Drove to Kathmandu to reach Hotel Gangjong by 9 pm August 7th 2004.

The Kailasha Manasarovar Yatra

The Kailash Manasarovar Yatra can be undertaken by Indian Pilgrims via two routes: the Indian route via Kumaon in Uttaranchal Pradesh, India and the Kathmandu route. Pilgrims from the rest of the world have the only option of going via Kathmandu.. It is very advisable that the Indian Pilgrims fully explore and attempt going along the Indian route first before going by the Kathmandu route.

Pilgrims who have done both within a span of month (june and july 2004) have reported vastly greater satisfaction, more trekking (and healthy acclimatization) via very scenic and inspiring trails in Uttaranchal, better organization, more time to spend (a total of 7+ days) in Kailash / Manasarovar and at lesser cost. Note that for the Indian route, the Indian Government will not entertain people who have already completed a yatra to Kailash by whichever route as there are set quotas of pilgrims every year and there are too many people competing for a chance. In addition, only the robustly healthy and medically fit qualify through the rigourous selection process. If you get a chance on application, consider yourself very lucky. Yes, there are constraints like you cannot travel with your select group, the total yatra time is more than 25 days (ex. New Delhi) and the bureaucracy looks dominating. Applications are invited during Feb/Mar every year (advertised in major newspapers as well as the government website -Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India) and the screening procedure will look daunting. Persist through and you might succeed.

All this only indicates that the urge and the preparations for doing the Yatra spans several months (or perhaps atleast a year). And several factors need to fall in place for the successful completion. Needless to say, the first is the inner call along with the blessings of the Lord for a smooth ride!

Typically the yatra is done such that one is at the Manasarovar on a Purnima day (Full moon day). And the most auspicious purnima is one in the month of Shravan (July-Aug) This date with the Moon is synchronized so that one will be at Manasarovar either before doing the Parikrama of Kailasha parvata or after it. The yatra programmes are open from May end through August end every year. Early June is pretty cold while August is rainy though relatively warm during the day. The temperatures are just about right in July end and early august - warm days (30 degrees celsius under the sun and about 18 degrees in the shade) and relative better but still cold nights (with a minimum of about 6 degrees celsius). There can be several disruptions (landslides, overflowing rivers, roads cut and washed away, rains making everything messy and soggy) during the Sravana Purnima yatra.

The Route Map to Mt. Kailash via Uttaranchal in India
This hand-drawn map is neither accurate nor correct. There is a considerable and very nice trek for the pilgrims along the India Nepal border and along River Sarayu (Sarda) before entering Tibet. Several temples of Lord Shiva dot the trail within India.

The India organized yatra starts at New Delhi. After a overnight bus ride, the trekking formally starts at Dharchula. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police formally checks the medical fitness once more near the border before allowing the yatris to climb to Navidhang. The chinese take over at the border. Again travelling by bus one reaches Darchen within six hours after a day's stay at Taklakot. The group splits so that one group can do the Kailash parikrama while the other does the Manasarovar Parikrama. In all, yatris get to stay there for about 7 days.

The yatra via Kathmandu is described in brief in the side box and in detail later.

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© 2004. T S Mohan, Bangalore. All Rights Reserved.