Mt Kailash – the most enchanting of mountains

CSP brings to you a series on the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra by travel storywriter G Kameshwar

Salutations to Siva, the Lord of the Southern Land,
Salutations to Him, who is the Lord of the those of every country,
Salutations to Him, who resides in Kailasa Mountain!

– (tiruvAcakam of mAnikka vAcakar)

परम रम्य गिरिवर कैलासू, सदा जहाँ शिव उमा निवासू।।
रचि महेस निज मानस राखा। पाइ सुसमउ सिवा सन भाषा।।

Supremely enchanting is the best of Mountains, Kailasa! Eternally, where, reside Siva and Uma!
Siva composed (Ramacharita-maanasa) and kept in his Maanasa;
And when the auspicious time came, he conveyed it to his consort, Sivaa (Parvati)!

– (Goswami Tulasidas in Ramacaritamaanasa)

“You are crazy!” was the unspoken reaction of some of the folks when they heard that I was setting out on Kailasa-Manasarovar Yatra. The floods and the terrible tragedy of Uttarakhand  had just happened, and anyone who wanted to go at that time to anywhere in the Himalaya, and that too for a Teerth-Yatra was justly considered “crazy”.  But the call to visit the most holy abode of Siva had come a month back, before all floods of Uttarakhand… And although the route from there to Kailasa – Manasarovar was blocked, the Nepal route (which we were taking) was open…. So, the way was there, it was but a question of will… A friend wrote in saying – “Wow! I have heard that Kailash yatra is not an easy task even for the ones who are in top physical shape. I think you already know this, and would have taken the necessary steps… Take care..my prayers are always with you.jai pashupati nath!”… Some others gently warned of the altitude problems (watch out for fluid in the lungs… If that happens you are done for, unless you get back to lower altitude pronto … etc)… And so it went….

But the heart felt call… The call of Siva, who the great Tamil Saiva saint Sundarar had addressed as “Pittha – The Crazy One”, and so all this craziness was a family affair, and the yatra was on…

Father, here I come…

Shall we begin our journey with the lines of Sundarar…

piththA piRai sUdI perumAnE aruLALA
eththAn maRavAdhE ~ninaikkindREn manaththu unnai
vaiththAy peNNaith thenbAl veNNey ~nallUr aruL thuRaiyuL
aththA unakku ALAy ini allEn enal AmE.

“O Crazy One!
Adorned with the crescent moon!

O the great one
Who bestows Grace-Blessings-Compassion!

You have chosen to reside in my mind,
I contemplate you constantly,
Without any forgetfulness!

O, the one who Graces
From (the temple of) Thiruvennai-Nalloor
That is to the south of river Pennai!

O, my Father!

Knowing who you are,
Can I ever say,
Hereupon,
That I am not your slave!”

Oh yes, it is His grace, His call, His compassion, that takes one to Kailasa!

Quite a few people ask me – ‘how does one prepare for the yatra… What stuff does one take for the trip?’ Etc

Well, for one thing, try and get to do lots of walk… And do some climbing (stairs is a nice place to start). As regards items to carry, tour organizers give you a list of stuff.. So get that…

My experience is, “Keep it simple. Keep it minimum…”

Absolute must are:

  • A good pair of trekking shoes, which you need to get used to, well before the yatra… Your regular walking shoes won’t do. You need to get good hiking shoes that hold your foot above your ankle…
  • Some good socks… Sounds trivial… But its not…
  • A pair of good quality Sun goggles… At high altitudes, you need protection from UV rays… There is risk of sun burn and there is a lot of glare out there, reflected by the snow and ice… Also get some good quality sunscreen cream for your face….And do not forget to take lip balm…
  • At least one rain-proof trekking trousers.
  • Inner thermals… Take at least two pairs of uppers and lowers… Layers matter when it comes to dressing for the cold…
  • A good (North Face type) thin warm jersey
  • A down jacket (you can also hire this from the tour organizers)
  • Warm gloves, muffler, woolen cap… A summer cap as well…
  • A poncho raincoat (with hood)
  • A nose mask or two (even the local folks, the porters and guides, cover their nose when they walk in the cold)
  • A trekking pole
  • Torch
  • Some ready eats (dry fruits, kismis)…. More about food later….
  • A little bottle of sandal oil (useful fragrance when you are fighting mountain sickness)
  • Your regular medicines and first aid stuff…

This is but an indicative list. Tour organizers give you an exhaustive list… much of this stuff can be bought later on.. In Nepal or even in Tibet… And it may be less expensive too… So if you forget something, no sweat… You can pick it up later… Our tour organizers also gave us a duffel bag, a backpack and a woolen cap… So just take minimum must-haves from where you start….

Well, lets come back to the yatra…

Our trip was via Nepal. So here I was in Delhi, a few days ahead of flying out to Kathmandu…

I was out walking with my friend Roy, who told me that his mother had that look “He must be crazy” when he told her of  the yatra that I was setting out on… So there we were… Late evening time in Vasant Kunj… Walking near the Biodiversity park (wildlife reserve)…

Delhi-kunj

Gently came the dark. It was a full moon night… Roy took me around a quiet area in Vasant Kunj, and we came upon two Peepal trees. People had lit lamps around one of them, and the scene was enchanting.. Roy is a Pranic healer, and he has insights into energy… He told me that the tree was special, and that he would invoke some special connection with the energy-consciousness of the tree for me and for the success of the yatra. Standing near that tree, full moon night, oil lamps flickering around, and a healer logging on to nature.. It was magic…

After that he took me to a quiet temple of Siva… A nice large hall with paintings of scenes from epics led to the sanctum sanctorum, where there was a Siva Linga in the centre, and other idols around… Two priests were sitting in silence… There was no one else in the temple… Water for abhisheka was kept nearby. I poured that on the Siva Linga… Prostrated… Came out to the courtyard… And on an impulse, chanted Sri Rudram, the great Stotra of Siva, from the Yajur Veda… Felt blessed… A good start to the Yatra… The “crazy one” would grant me more opportunities to chant his hymn during the yatra…

Next day, went to Kamakshi temple at RK Puram, where the priest broke a coconut for Ganesha – for the success of the yatra. One also went to Sringeri temple in Vasant Vihar…. Prayed to Chandramouleeswara and Sarada Devi…

Ready now for Kathmandu…

Let’s check out some of the routes to Kailash-Maanasarovar for pilgrims going from India.

nepal-tibet-route

As you can see in the picture above….

Route via Nepal: The route is marked in Dark-brown-arrows above…From Kathmandu, cross over to Tibet-China to Nyalam… Go via Saga and Parayang to Manasarovar. Kathmandu to Manasarovar is around 870 Kms…. And takes four days by road. We took this route… If Day-1 you arrive in Kathmandu, you will be back on Day 13…

Route via Lhasa: Route marked in Green till Saga.. From where route is same as above… Total tour will be around 18 days.

And then there is the India route….

India-route

This is the route taken by the Indian Government organized tour, via Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.

This year due to the floods in Uttarakhand, the route has been closed down recently… This is said to be a very picturesque route… But takes longer… The tour takes around 24 days from Delhi. And there is lot more trekking to do (Indian side)… But from India border to Kailasa, this is the shortest route… From Navidhang (near the beautiful Om Parvat) to Manasarovar is just little over 120 Kms or so…

It is this route that was taken by Swami Tapovanam (Swami Chinmayananda’s guru) during his return from Maanasa-Kailasa in 1925 (see his book Kailas Yatra)… Swamiji, a Keralite who became a hermit of the Himalaya, has described graphically his whole tour – starting from Kathmandu in April 1925  and reaching Maanasarover and Kailasa in July. Leaving Kailasa in end of July, and walking back to Takkalkot, crossing the Lipu Ghats (Lipulekh pass, which is at 17,500 feet) facing enormous difficulty.,..Reaching Kalapani, considered the starting point of Kali Ganga, tributary of Sarayu…Walking a hundred miles along the banks of Kali river… Reaching a village called Garvyang, where he stayed during Krishna Janmashtami… Then walking on and reaching Dharchula, which is a hundred miles from Almora… Walking on, going past Ram Ganga river…Finally reaching Almora… His walk from Takkalkot to Almora took almost a month… Whole of September he stayed on in Almora… And finally left for the plains and reached Hardwar-Rishikesh in end of October 1925… What an epic Yatra… From April to Oct 1925… A Sadhu with just a kamandulu and a stick, no money or provisions, with one younger Sadhu for company, walking for months, often on the edge of life and death, in total surrender to the care of Lord Siva, basking in the bliss of the beauty of the Himalaya that he had become “One” with…

Here is another map of that route.

India-road-route

As you can see in the map above, there are two routes from Almora to Dharchula. The way up (way to Kailash, marked in red) is via Baijnath… Baijnath one of the very sacred Kshetra-s of Siva. The other route (marked in blue) is via Pithoragarh and Jageshwar. Jageshwar is another ancient temple town which is also believed to be another Jyotirlinga kshetra.

Traditional Indian pilgrimage to Kailasa were via these routes. There is an interesting mythological account associated with the Siva temple of Baijnath (Vaidyanath). Ravana, the King of Lanka, a great devotee of Siva, had been to Kailasa. Readers would know of the tale of how Ravana, proud of his strength, tried to uproot Mount Kailasa… Siva pushed Kailasa back down with his toe, and crushing Ravana’s hands.. His pride humbled, Ravana atoned… He sang the praise of Siva, and played the Veena… He then performed severe penance at Kailasa. Pleased, Siva offered him a boon. Ravana asked for an Atma Linga from Siva to take it to Lanka for his personal worship. Lord Siva gave him one, and told him to take care not to keep it on the ground on the way, as the Linga would get fixed to the first spot where it was put down. When Ravana came to Baijnath, he was tricked by the Gods to put it down… And the Linga came to be here forever… So it is that the place has an ancient linkage to Kailasa! And the route too has been around since the most ancient of times.

Here is a picture of the Baijnath temple of Kumaon…

baijnath

*

Other than the Kumaon (Almora) route, there is a route from Garhwal region of Uttarakhand as well… From Badrinath… A much tougher route… Said to have been taken by Krishna, Pandavas, and Rama… And by Swami Tapovanam in his second Yatra to Kailasa in 1929…More on that route, in the next post…

Signing off this post with a verse of the great Tamil Saiva sage, Appar (Thirunavukkarasar)… This is the final verse of his thirukkayilai pathigam in praise of the Lord of Kailasa… (Appar’s journey to Kailasa is a tale of supreme penance… Appar is also believed to be incarnation of Saint Vageesar, who was with Siva in Kailasa… It is he who interceded with Siva to spare Ravana when Siva’s toe pushed Kailasa and crushed Ravana…)…

Praise be to you (O Siva), who exist without food or sleep;
Praise be to you, who know the Veda without learning them;
Praise be to you, who crushed the King of Lanka when he
with scant respect, attempted to uproot Kailasa;
Praise be to you, who then heard with joy the song of praise reverentially offered (by Ravana);
Praise be to you, who entered into my heart before itself;
Praise be to you, who (eternally) exist as the Protective Eye of the World;
To you, the dweller of Kailasa Mountain, Praise! Praise!

To be continued…

(The author is a Traveler, Writer, Story Teller, Software Engineer)

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