Famous for/as: Pilgrim
Languages: Tibetan, Hindi and English
Best Season: May – Oct
Weather: Summer 15 to 30°C,
Winter -5 to 24°C
Altitude: 5750 m
Mount Kailash is a peak in the Kailash Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which forms part of the Transhimalaya in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China.
Mt. Kailash lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus River, Sutlej River, Brahmaputra River, and Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges River). It is considered a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The mountain lies near Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal.
The mountain is known as Kailāsa (कैलास) in Sanskrit. The name may be derived from the word kelāsa (केलास), which means “crystal”. In his Tibetan-English dictionary, Chandra identifies the entry for ‘kai la sha’ (Wylie: kai la sha) which is a loan word from Sanskrit ‘kailāsa’ (Devanagari: कैलास).
The Tibetan name for the mountain is Gangs Rin-po-che. Gangs or Kang is the Tibetan word for snow peak analogous to alp or hima; rinpoche is an honorific meaning “precious one” so the combined term can be translated “precious jewel of snows”.
“Tibetan Buddhists call it Kangri Rinpoche; ‘Precious Snow Mountain’. Bon texts have many names: Water’s Flower, Mountain of Sea Water, Nine Stacked Swastika Mountain. For Hindus, it is the home of the mountain God Shiva and a symbol of his power symbol OM; for Jains it is where their first Tirthankara was enlightened; for Buddhists, the navel of the universe; and for adherents of Bon, the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen.”
Another local name for the mountain is Tisé mountain, which derives from ti tse in the Zhang-Zhung language, meaning “water peak” or “river peak”, connoting the mountain’s status as the source of the mythical Lion, Horse, Peacock and Elephant Rivers, and in fact the Indus, Yarlung Tsangpo/Dihang/Brahmaputra, Karnali and Sutlej all begin in the Kailash-Lake Manasarovar region.
According to Hinduism, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer [of evil], resides at the summit of a legendary mountain named Kailāsa, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his wife Pārvatī. He is at once the Lord of Yoga and therefore the ultimate renunciate ascetic, yet he is also the divine master of Tantra.
According to Charles Allen, one description in the Vishnu Purana of the mountain states that its four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. It is a pillar of the world and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus.
In Jainism, Kailash is also known as Meru Parvat or Sumeru. Ashtapada, the mountain next to Mt. Kailash, is the site where the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva, attained Nirvana/moksa (liberation).
Tantric Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok (also known as Demchog or Chakrasamvara), who represents supreme bliss.
There are numerous sites in the region associated with Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), whose tantric practices in holy sites around Tibet are credited with finally establishing Buddhism as the main religion of the country in the 7th–8th century AD.
The Bön, a religion native to Tibet, maintain that the entire mystical region and the nine-story Swastika Mountain are the seat of all spiritual power.
Even before the Himalayas rose into existence, Mount Kailash towered above them. The Kailash Range is 30 million years old and its supreme peak, the 6,675 meter high Mount Kailash was formed of shining granite with its white glacial crest, was already a huge, structure even when the Himalayas were just beginning to protrude out of the Tethys Sea. Hindus and Tibetans seem to have been aware of the uniqueness of this mountain from the most ancient times. To Hindus it is the earthy embodiment of the dominant mountain of heaven, Meru, and the residence of Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati. To Tibetans it is Sumeru, the cosmic centre of the universe. Consequently Mount Kailash has held a great charm for pilgrims for centuries.
As might have been expected, most of the Himalayan passes in Kumaun and Garhwal provide access to this sacred mountain. Today, however, pilgrims from India are allowed to journey to Mount Kailash only through the Lipulekh pass in Kaumaun. Moreover, the pilgrimage to Kailash, and to the sacred Mansarover lake that lies 30 Km to its south, is run exclusively by a government organization, the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN). The organization works in collaboration with the Government of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, and the Government of China. Kailash – Mansarovar lies in Chinese-occupied Tibet.
Best Season / Best time to visit
Kailash Mansarovar is generally cool during nights and warm during days.
Summers (May to August) are very pleasant with moderate climate, with average around 15°C. Summers is ideal for all outdoor activities, temple visit, dip in holy waters and also for visiting nearby attractions.
Monsoons (September to November) are accompanied with little rain falls and also temperature drops down to 10°C.
Winters (December to April) are chilly days with average minimum touching near 5°C. Minimum can touch sub zero levels to -15°C. Snow falls often during winters.
The best season to visit Kailash Mansarovar is from May to November.
May to November offers cool and pleasant climate and the right period to spend meditation and also good for visiting temples in and around.
December to April is snow bound and chilly. Tourists typically keep off chilly snow bound days in winters.
Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune. The peregrination is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists. Followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions circumambulate the mountain in a counterclockwise direction. The path around Mount Kailash is 52 km (32 mi) long.
Some pilgrims believe that the entire walk around Kailash should be made in a single day, which is not considered an easy task. A person in good shape walking fast would take perhaps 15 hours to complete the 52 km trek. Some of the devout do accomplish this feat, little daunted by the uneven terrain, altitude sickness and harsh conditions faced in the process. Indeed, other pilgrims venture a much more demanding regimen, performing body-length prostrations over the entire length of the circumambulation: The pilgrim bends down, kneels, prostrates full-length, makes a mark with his fingers, rises to his knees, prays, and then crawls forward on hands and knees to the mark made by his/her fingers before repeating the process. It requires at least four weeks of physical endurance to perform the circumambulation while following this regimen. The mountain is located in a particularly remote and inhospitable area of the Tibetan Himalayas. A few modern amenities, such as benches, resting places and refreshment kiosks, exist to aid the pilgrims in their devotions. According to all religions that revere the mountain, setting foot on its slopes is a dire sin. It is a popular belief that the stairways on Mount Kailash lead to heaven.
Following the political and border disturbances across the Chinese-Indian boundary, pilgrimage to the legendary abode of Shiva was stopped from 1954 to 1978. Thereafter, a limited number of Indian pilgrims have been allowed to visit the place, under the supervision of the Chinese and Indian governments either by a lengthy and hazardous trek over the Himalayan terrain, travel by land from Kathmandu or from Lhasa where flights from Kathmandu are available to Lhasa and thereafter travel over the great Tibetan plateau by car. The journey takes four night stops, finally arriving at Darchen at elevation of 4,600 m (15,100 ft), small outpost that swells with pilgrims at certain times of year. Despite its minimal infrastructure, modest guest houses are available for foreign pilgrims, whereas Tibetan pilgrims generally sleep in their own tents. A small regional medical center serving far-western Tibet and funded by the Swiss Ngari Korsum Foundation was built here in 1997.
Walking around the mountain—a part of its official park—has to be done on foot, pony or yak, taking some three days of trekking starting from a height of around 15,000 ft (4,600 m) past the Tarboche (flagpole) to cross the Drölma pass 18,200 ft (5,500 m), and encamping for two nights en route. First, near the meadow of Dirapuk gompa, some 2 to 3 km (1.2 to 1.9 mi) before the pass and second, after crossing the pass and going downhill as far as possible (viewing Gauri Kund in the distance).
Where To Stay
With Minimal infrastructure, modest guest houses are available for foreign pilgrims, whereas pilgrims generally sleep in their own tents. A small regional medical center serving far-western Tibet and funded by the Swiss Ngari Korsum Foundation was built here in 1997.
How To Get Around
By air to Kathmandu and further by road to Lake Mansarovar. Land cruisers then take one to Mansarovar via Lhasa to Mount Kailash.
9 & 12-day helicopter tours of Kailash for those who are short of time or cannot take the rigours of a grueling high altitude road journey. The tour uses fixed wing aircrafts for the flight from Kathmandu to Nepalganj and from there to Simikot.
By road from India – the Government of India organizes tours to Lake Mansarovar. This is a 26 days trek but you need to book your tickets well in advance, because the number of seats is limited. About 500 people make it out of the nearly 6000 that apply each year.