Kailash Manasarovar Yatra 2004

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The First Sighting of Holy Mount Kailas and Lake Manasarovar
This prayer flag spot marks the place from where all pilgrims from Paryang get to first see Lake Manasarovar and the distant Mount Kailash. On the return journey we complete the Lake Manasarovar Parikrama here.

Mt. Kailash over the Lake Manasarovar
Along the parikrama of the Lake, we stopped at several Gompas. This is a view of Mt. Kailash across the Lake from the Chuggu Gompa.

Turning the Prayer Wheels
Every Gompa includes several prayer wheels that can be turned by the devoted folks. This one at Chuggu was plentiful with the prayer wheels as well as colorful. Inside it was serene and blissful.

Sunset over Rakshas Tal
When we were there, with the dark rain clouds up, Rakshas Tal was true to its name. Yes, there is beauty around. With no inhabitations or spiritual activities on its shores, it stood cast aside as it were - in the humans quest between the good and the evil.

See it there to know the beauty it was!
This is the sight that everyone longs for. Shravana Purnima over Lake Manasarovar. This year (2004) there were two of them in the month of Shravan! Perfect for meditation. With the moon electric bright over the landscape.

Near Mt. Kailash.
This village - Darchen - at the bottom is the base camp for all those starting the Kailash parikrama. Climbing up the mountain above the village leads to 'Ashtapad' and further up gives a beautiful panoramic view of the Mt. Kailash. Don't miss this climb - though I could not do it.

The Yatra Diary

Day 5: Friday 30th July 2004
From Paryang To Lake Manasarovar

Next morning, again after a quick breakfast and a lunch packed up, we started for Lake Manasarovar. After a gruelling 7 hour journey and another 250 kms or so we reached the prayer place that marks the first sightings of the Holy Lake and the Holy Mountain on the route. The tall prayer flagstaff along with the prayer flags add to the spiritual ambience. The vehicles circle it and later the (tibetan) drivers do a full pranams on the ground. Beautiful place - wonderful sight.

After about half hour later we started for a partial parikrama of the Lake and towards our night halt - near the Chiu Gompa. The glistening aqua-marine green waters along with the dark clouds and the distant peaks added to the mystery of the sacred place. Mountains on one side and the Holy Lake on the other - it was wonderful. A lot of green shrubs and small flowering plants are blooming on the banks. There was hardly any habitation or wildlife. Definitely there were no boats! The Lake has a perimeter of about 140 kms. (Guess it grows and shrinks with seasons) A typical parikrama around the lake takes 3 days on a horse back but a few hours with the vehicles.

Hindu Spiritual Literature on Mt. Kailasa

     There is no part of India or for that matter, parts of South East Asia that have Saints and Sages who have not expressed their devotional love for Lord Shiva. Through out the spiritual literature of the South Indian Tamil Saints over the ages, there are several references to their travel to Mt. Kailash. Contemporary Hindu religious and spiritual movements capture several of these ancient treasures in their publicatiions and preachings.

For a Saiva viewpoint, more details of Shiva Mahima and Kailasa can be found in the Saiva Siddhanta Website : www.shaivam.org
For a Vedantic non-dual poetic expositions of Lord Shiva, (especially the compositions of Sri Shankaracharya) one can pick up literature in:
* The Ramakrishna Math, Chennai Center. www.sriramakrishnamath.org
* The Ramana Ashrama, Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu., India www.ramana-maharshi.org
* Mata Amritanandamayi Math, Amritpuri Kerala, India www.amma.org
* The Chinmaya Mission, Sandeepany, Mumbai, India. www.chinmaya-mission.com
* Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, Uttaranchal Pradesh, India www.dlshq.org
* Advaita Vedanta www.advaita-vedanta.org

After a few of hours of drive, we branched off to go to Rakshas Tal. Again another beautiful sight greeted us - with the sun setting over the lake and the distant mountains. We drove for more than an hour along the Rakshas Tal before heading back towards Lake Manasarovar near the dried up 'Ganga Chu' in the dark. When the Lake Manasarovar becomes full, it overflows into Rakshas Tal via this rivulet. The full moon - holy Shravan Purnima - has risen! It is just beautiful. After an hour we reach Chiu Gompa. The campsite is ready - as the trucks had taken a shortcut and reached early.

The moon is just too bright and lustrous over the lake - sometimes the dark clouds cover it - sometimes not. Wonderful time and place for deep meditation, bhajans and chant. So after dinner (with garlic to help out for the upcoming trek) we disperse - each into his / her world. The Moon, The Lake, The distant Mount Kailash across the Parkha plains, the quiet and solitude! My mind said - Meditate... Meditate... .Meditate! And I did. Despite the garlic!

Four Major Religions Worship Mt. Kailasha harmoniously

     Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar are holy to several religious and spiritual persuasions from the Indian Subcontinent as well as Tibet. Ofcourse Hindus have been worshipping the abode of the Lord Shiva since recorded times of Rig Veda. In addition, for some, it represents the pauranic Mount Meru.

The Buddhists from all over the world revere 'Kang Rinpoche' as Mount Kailash is called as well as 'Tso Mapam' as Lake Manasarovar is called, with several Buddhist Notables having experienced spiritual oneness here. The Jains worship the mountain and the lake as one of the early Jain Thirthankaras had lived and done his austerities here. The Tibetan BonPas - the prehistoric religion preceeding Tibetan Buddhism also worship the holy mountain.

While all devotees come to circumbulate Kailash and Manasarovar - do a 'kora' or 'parikrama', the BonPas are unique in doing the same in a counter-clockwise manner and the more inspired amongst doing it with full prostrations all along the 50+ kms along the sand, rocks, boulders, rivulets and snow that one might come across.

The Kora route starts at 'Tar Po Che' - the 'valley of Gods' and is mostly along the beautiful river valleys of 'Lha Chu' and 'Lham Chu' except when crossing the 'Drolma La' pass (5600+m) and the glacier nearby. And in our contemporary times, even the curious trekkers and mountaineers get to do the 'kora' reverentially. Ofcourse, none have climbed the mountain in due respect and reverence of the sensitive feelings of the devotees. The holy rivers of Brahmaputra, Sutlej, Karnali and Indus start near the vicinity of Mount Kailash.

Day 6: Saturday 31st July 2004
From Chiu Gompa to Darchen

Next morning, some of us were off to the Lake - sit, pray and meditate on the banks of the Lake. It was cold and prolonged shivering did not add to the spiritual ambience. Nevertheless the prayers continued for more than three hours! Rudram, Chamakam, Lalitha Sahasranamam, Devi Sthuthi, Durga Suktam, Siva Sthuthi, etc etc.... And then after a late breakfast, we were off for a 'snanam' in the Lake. It was chilly and other devotees were also taking their dip - shivering and quick. We got in to the waters and were able to bear the cold!

A quick three dips with namaskarams to the distant Mount Kailash along with 'argyam' to all the Gods and forefathers (my father is still alive and kicking so it is 'argyam' for pitrus) as well as prayers for all our people marked the occasion. Later we briefly joined another group going through a Gayathri homam nearby. It was wonderful time. Sun shining hot, but wind blowing cold! With the Lake glistening around in the noon, the deep throated chant of a Buddhist Lama's assistant wafted through the ambience. Wonderful. Again the mind said ... Meditate... Meditate... Meditate!

After lunch we packed up and left for the village of Darchen near the base of Mount Kailash some 30 kms away over the Parkha Plains. It is wonderful to see Mount Kailash with its southern face, in such close quarters while going towards this village. From within the village, the mountain ranges surrounding Mount Kailash obscure it totally. After settling in an inn, we took a long walk to acclimatize for the next day trek. No we did not go to the Ashtapad nor the Gompa nearby. Our guides would not help. Mount Nandadevi and other peaks in India were visible from here (a quick look up a detailed map along with a compass confirmed this). Everyone was excited. Dinner over, horses and yaks booked, everyone retired. We chose to walk the parikrama. It was cold in the night.

The Ecological Damage

     Tibet and for that matter Holy Mt. Kailas and Lake Manasarovar was out of the reach for most people! And the Buddhist culture was a self contained content one. That maintained its pristine purity! But with the opening up, there has been considerable ecological damage done due to the discarded plastics and bottles everywhere! Every village that you pass (there are just about 7 or so), you will find a lot of broken beer bottles - Lhasa Beer! And in addition, a lot of discarded plastic wrappings of various edible items.

And on the Mt. Kailas parikrama, it is terrible - you will be stepping on glass pieces at several places along the way. Or look at the clothes and other items left behind by the Bon-Pa as part of their tradition (they are to leave behind something valuable after they cross the Drolma Pass). Just that they leave the non-degradable materials that will last ages!

In other places, the garbage is mostly chinese. Some are from other parts of the world - chocolate wrappers, aluminium cans, plastic covers, used mineral water bottles, medication cans - like the US or Europe or South East Asia and from India (like the 'Food World, Chennai' plastic cover near Drolma Pass!).

When you travel, always carry bio-degradable toilet paper and wipes! In addition, never leave behind any plastic bags or sheets. And insist that your sherpas not just bury out such non-degradable garbage but actually burn it off! And everyday at that. Carry back the rest. Spread the clean environment awareness with the group that you travel with!

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