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A spiritual pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar

Saturday , 12 December 2015

Braving tough terrain, every year, pilgrims make it to Kailash and Mansarovar

The trek up the mountains and through the deep recesses of the Himalayas to visit Mount Kailash – which stands in the south-west corner of Tibet – and Lake Mansarovar is steeped in faith and mysticism. Let’s find out more about the region that is as hazardous as it is beautiful.

The Land

Mount Kailash: Towering at an altitude of 6,638 metres, the striking peak is also known as Kang Rinpoche or Jewel of the Snow. The mountain holds a special place in the hearts of not just Hindus, but Buddhists, Jains and Bons as well. Mount Kailash is also considered the navel of the earth and the axis of the universe and lies near the source of four major rivers of Asia: Sutlej to the west, Brahmaputra to the east, Indus to the north and Karnali to the south.

Mansarovar: The freshwater lake is situated at an altitude of 4,590 m above sea level. Spread across 320 sq km, it is 300 ft deep. Its circumference spans around 80 km. To its west lies Rakshas Tal and its salty water is a stark contrast to the freshwater of Lake Manasarovar.

The Legend

The rough terrain around Mount Kailash is steeped in mythology. It is believed that Lord Shiva resides here with Goddess Parvati, his consort. The mountain is also believed to be a manifestation of Lord Shiva. While a single circumambulation around the mountain is believed to erase a lifetime of sins, 108 circumambulations are said to bestow salvation or nirvana (eternal bliss). The circumambulation – also known as parikrama or kora – around Mount Kailash is 52 km long; it is performed in a clockwise direction and starts from Darchen. While it takes visitors 3 days to complete this pilgrimage, locals can do it in just one day.

Lake Mansarovar is also believed to be a manifestation of Goddess Parvati. For Hindus and Jains, a dip in Lake Manasarovar and a circumambulation around it is akin to washing away a 100 years of sins. According to another belief, the lake was conceived in the mind of Lord Brahma and is a combination of two words, ‘manas’, which means mind and ‘sarovar’, which means lake.

The Prerequisites

The trip to Kailash and Mansarovar is considered as one of the most adventurous of walks, barring the spiritual angle. The nature of the trip itself – trekking for 52 km amid rugged landscape and jagged terrain, with bone-chilling winds in tow – is no mean feat in itself.

Besides an undying passion for adventure; faith, determination and physical fitness are basic requirements for this expedition. This journey demands steadfastness of mind, body and spirit.

The journey itself represents an unspoken pact with the deity of the mountains, the culmination of which results in the merging of divine energy – with the divine spark within. At best, it can be described as a spiritual encounter that begins well before the journey and continues to unfold long after the pilgrims have reached their homesteads and immersed themselves once again, in worldly duties. The trek is also symbolic of an elevation of thoughts words and deeds.

Participants are required to register through the government’s website dedicated to the Ministry of External Affairs ( and undergo medical screening to be deemed fit for the journey. Only Indian nationals, aged between 18 and 70, who hold a valid Indian passport, are entitled to apply for the trip.

Best time to visit: The pilgrimage is undertaken between June to September since the weather is relatively warm and pleasant around this time. However, chilly winds are predominant in the evening and night.

Getting There

The Indian government facilitates the journey every year and makes arrangements for permits and visas as well. There are two trekking routes.

Route 1

Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand)

There are 18 batches of 60 members each; 25 days duration per batch; approximate cost is Rs 1.5 lakh per person

Route 2

Nathu La (Sikkim)

There are 5 batches of 50 members each; 23 days duration per batch; approximate cost is about Rs 1.7 lakh per person

For more details – visit

By Road

The trek takes about 28-30 days. Pre-booking is mandatory since the number of seats are limited. Being physical fit does not guarantee a trek up to Mount Kailash since participants are chosen through a draw by the Ministry of External Affairs. From about 6,000 applicants, roughly only 400 participants make it to the pilgrimage site.

By Air

Tourists can board a helicopter from Kathmandu to Nepalganj, on to Simikot and Hilsa. The ride not only cuts back on an arduous trek, but also offers breathtaking aerial views.