“If you can really be with Kailash, even for a few moments, life will never again be
the same for you. It is a phenomenon beyond all human imagination.”
(during the Kailash Yatra)
Nestled in the laps of gigantic mountains of Himalayas, lie the crystal blue waters of the serene and tranquil Mansarovar Lake near the Mount Kailash. Together, they are often referred to as the ‘Pillar of the World’. The Lake is surrounded by the snowy Mount Kailash standing at the astonishing height of 21,778 ft.
The stories and myths related to this natural wonder dates back to the time beyond human comprehension. Beliefs of sages have marked this place as one of the rarest areas where anyone can attain nirvana.
As awe-inspiring and promising is it’s tales of magical beauty are, the path to the destination of thousands of pilgrims every year is equally difficult and harsh.
Let’s take a walk and find out more.
Lake Mansarovar, nourished by the Kailash Glaciers, sits near the Mouth Kailash of Tibet. It’s 15,060 ft high above the sea level with a depth of around 300 ft. The Lake is close to the mouth of the origin of the river Sutlej. Sources of many other rivers like Indus, Brahmaputra and Karnali lies near this region.
The freshwater Lake itself is circular in shape with a circumference of about 88 km.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit this astounding place is April – June, and September – October. The temperature is somewhere around 10-15°C – an ideal range for sightseeing, trekking, visiting the nearby pilgrim spots, and much more.
Although, one must always be wary of the snowy trails and must carry woolens all times and comfortable footwear for the rough and rocky terrain of the treks.
Saga Dawa Festival, a Tibetan festival, is also conducted during this time.
How To Reach
Buses to Kailash Mansarovar are prepared by the government of India regularly. The main region of the Lake can only be reached through the land routes. But there are no local buses.
A journey by road is encouraged as it is accompanied by the scenic route of the area. Since the mountain itself is at such a high altitude, keep yourself fit and carry the necessities, including a medical kit.
There are no train stations near the area of Mansarovar. The nearest station is the Lucknow station. From there one can book a cab or taxi for the further part of their journey.
Just like the scarcity of the train stations, there are no international airports near this region either. The closest international airport is Choudhury Charan Singh International Airport, Lucknow.
Kailash Mansarovar has a cold and dry climate. Although the peaks of Mount Kailash are always snow-covered, summers are bright and warm with the temperature hovering around 15°C. Heavy rainfall starts in September and lasts till late November. Winters start thereafter till April. The weather is chilly and the mean temperature is 5°C. It is escorted with heavy snowfall and sometimes even the lake freezes over!
History & Religious Importance
The Holy Lake holds as much significance in the mythology of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Bön religion as much as it’s world-renowned beauty.
It is said in the Hindu culture, that Lake Mansarovar was the first lake that formed in the mind of the supreme Creator, Brahma, after which it came into existence on Earth. Hence, the name, that is derived from Sanskrit, Manas = mind, Sarovar = lake.
In Hinduism, this lake is said to be the personification of purity and everything pious; he or she, who took a sip or bathed in the waters of the mountain, is said to be purged of all their mortal sins and a place in the abode of the deity, Shiva, after their death. Some say that Shiva and his wife, Parvati, used to meditate near the lake.
In Buddhism, the legendary lake is said to be the place where Gautama Buddha was conceived by Queen Maya. It’s reported in the Buddhist Literature that Buddha, in his later life, came to the lake to stay and meditate many times.
There are a lot of monasteries near the shores of the Lake, Chiu Monastery being the most famous of them all. The architecture of the Chiu Monastery is alluring as it seems like the Monastery has been carved out of the mountain rock itself!
Lake Mansarovar is also a subject of Tibetan meditation culture and rightfully named as the “Jewel of Tibet.”
In Jainism, this Lake holds equal religious importance as the other two. According to the Jain scriptures, Bhagwan Rishabhdev, the first Jain Tirthankara, had attained nirvana on the Ashtapad Mountain.
There are even stories of Ravan and Mandodari Bhakti among many others.
In Bön religion, the region is the epitome of all the spiritual powers.
Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar are in the Tibetan region of the Himalayas. The culture, art and lifestyle of people of Tibet dominate the surrounding villages and towns. Most people near this region speak Tibetan, Zhang-Zhung and many other Indian languages.
Saga Dawa Festival, celebrated on the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar, celebrates the birth, nirvana (enlightenment) and parinirvana (death) of Buddha, all during the same time – 15th day of the month – known as the Saga Dawa Düchen.
During the festival, the Buddhists roam around the most important flagpole of Tarboche with incense sticks and juniper sticks and later the flagpole is taken down to remove the previous prayer flags. After the ceremony, people then attach hundreds of multi-coloured new prayer flags to the pole, each representing one prayer. The pole is then set to its upright position, the symbolism of goodwill spread to all the creatures of the world.
Other Sites To Visit Nearby
The abode of the God of Destruction, Shiva. It is the major tourist attraction due to its sacred importance in different religions. The black uneven granite walls of the mountain vaguely resemble the Shivalinga itself!
The mountain is considered to be the home of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Thus, to honor the divine beings, a parikrama
(clockwise) is done. It appears to start from the Yam Dwar.
The most difficult part of the pilgrim is Parikrma. Trekking the steep hills, the rocky terrain, crossing the streams, and jumping boulders at the height of near 20,000 ft! For all the adventurous people, this might be the most interesting part of the journey.
Lake Rakshas Tal
The Lake of Demons. The crescent-shaped lake is on the west of Lake Mansarovar. It is connected to the round lake by the natural channel, Ganga Chhu.
Considered as the dwelling of the demon king, Ravana, Lake Rakshas Tal is in stark contrast to the round Lake Mansarovar. While the former is saline, the latter is freshwater.
In Buddhism, Lake Mansarovar symbolizes all the good while Rakash Tal represents the evilness.
Lake of Compassion. Believed to purify all the sins and, devotees bring the water of the lake back home for the purification rituals. The legendary tale associated with this lake says that Goddess Parvati got her elephant-headed son, Lord Ganesha, back near this very lake.
Tucked away at the foot of Chota Kailash or Little Kailash, the reflection of the entire hill, a replica of Mount Kailash in Indian territory, is visible in the lake.
- Altitude sickness is very common on most any trip to the Himalayas, particularly above 10,000 ft. Lightheadedness, vomiting and shortness of breath are some of the symptoms. Descent sometimes can be the only treatment. Start exercising a few weeks before the trip to build your stamina.
- Never let yourself dehydrate. Drink at least 3 liters of water each day. There is a scarcity of clean water, hence pack and store boiled water with you all the time.
- Carry a light backpack, so you don’t tire yourself out while trekking.
- Wear appropriate shoes that will help you walk through the stony paths.