Mount Kailash is a sacred Himalaya Mount situated in Tibet. The word Kailash Mount is derived from two words Kailash+ Mansarovar, where Kailash refers to Mount or home of Lord Shiva.
Mansarovar word comprises of Manas(mind) and Sarovar (lake). Lord Brahama is the creator of this lake. The lake in Hindu mythology is also supposed to be the summer abode of Swans, who are considered very wise and sacred water birds. It is also believed that the Devas descend to bathe in the lake between 3 and 5 am, the time of the day known as Brahma Mahurta, Brahma auspicious time.
Mount Kailash is the highest peak in Gangdiri mountain range and the sacred place for Buddhist, Bonit, Hindu pilgrims and people from Jain faith. It is believed Lord Shiva one of the three Gods of Hindus resides atop mount Kailash.
Lake Mansarovar lies at 4590 mtr (15060ft) above mean sea level, a relatively high elevation for a large fresh water lake on the mostly saline lake studded plateau. Lake Mansarovar is relatively round in shape like Sun, with a circumference of 88 kms. Its depth reaches 90 mtr (300 ft) and surface area is 320 kms. It is connected to a nearby lake Rakshastal by natural Gnagachhu channel. Lake Rakshastal is a salt water lake and is shaped like a crescent moon. It is believed mighty king of Lanka, King Ravana did penance to Lord Shiva for 5000 years on an island in this lake.
There are lot of misconceptions about Kailash Mansarovar yatra. I went, with my wife, for this yatra from 06 June 2018 to 18 June 2018. When we were preparing to go there was a lot of mis-information fed to us. I bi-lateral knee replacement surgery in 2014. I am 66 years old, on medicines for high blood pressure, thyroid, prostrate and cholesterol. So, I was discouraged by most of the people I interacted. But when I met Brig B B Dogra who had gone on this yatra in 2016, he was all encouragement and assured me nothing will go wrong I went with a positive mind. My aim of writing this article is to share my experience with the readers and clear mis concepts.
Who can go?
Any one who is above 18 years and below 70 years of age. Any one who is declared medically fit by certified doctor. Person who does not suffer from asthma, breathlessness, high blood pressure, diabetics and epilepsy can go. More than anything else any one with positive attitude can certainly go.
Who can not go?
Any one who suffers from above diseases or is declared medically unfit and does not fulfill age criteria cannot go. Any person with negative attitude should certainly not go
When to go?
When you are above 18 and want to enjoy nature and adventure must go. Do not wait for later years of life. The yatra starts from mid-May onwards. Best time to go will be before monsoon sets in. From May to June end and September is the best period when you can avoid rains and cold weather.
How to go ?
The following are the modes of going on this yatra :-
Yatra conducted by Government of India
Government of India conducts this yatra since 1980. There are two routes on which this yatra is conducted.
a) Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand to Dharchule, Delhi. This route involves trekking. By this route yatra takes 24 days, including 3 days in Delhi for medical examination and documentation. This year 18 batches of 18 person each were scheduled on this route. It costs 1.6 lakh each person for yatra on this route.
b) Nathula in Sikkim route. This route was opened after Prime Minister Modi met Chinese President in 2015. This route was closed in 2017 over Doklam issue and was opened this year again. This is motorable route.It takes 21 days, including three days in Delhi for medical and documentation. The route passes through Gangtok, Hanger Lake and Tibet. It costs Rs 2 lakh each person on this route
Yatra on both these routes is conducted under the Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India. The comprehensive medical examination of all the shortlisted applicants is conducted by Delhi Heart and Lung Institute and Indo-Tibet Border Police base hospital Delhi. The applicants are short listed by draws conducted by External Affairs Minister in Delhi.
Yatra via Kathmandu
Yatra via Kathmandu is conducted by following modes :-
a) Yatra By helicopter
The pilgrims have to reach Kathmandu on their own. The tour package starts from Kathmandu. We fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj by 50- seater plane. From Nepalgunj we fly to Simikot by 15-seater plane. From Simikot we fly by Helicpoter (5 seater) to Hilsa which is border village of Nepal and China (Tibet). After Hilsa bus takes to Lake Mansarovar and up to Yamdwar. There after either by horse or by walking up to Deraphuk which is the base of Mount Kailash. Complete yatra takes 12 days.
The Yatra by Helicpoter costs 1.67 lakh. In addition, one has to pay Rs 38000 for horse and porter.
This route has been opened after four years. The road was damaged during earthquake in Kathmandu. The route passes through Dhunche or Syabrubese, Kyrong, Dongba, Poungu se lake, Brahmaputra river, Lake Mansarovar, Yamdwar and Deraphuk. Total distance covered is approximately 1100 kms one way.
It takes 14 days to complete the yatra and it costs Rs 1.27 lakh per person.
Yatra Via Lhasa
From Kathmandu one flies to Lhasa. Thereafter, it is all by road. The road route passes through Shegtase, Saga, Lake Mansarovar, Yamdwar, Draphuk and back. Total distance covered by road is approximately 1150 km one way.
It takes 16 days to complete yatra by this route. It costs Rs 2.25 lakh per person.
One can book with any tour operator in India or directly with any tour operator in Kathmandu. Ultimately yatra Kathmandu onwards is conducted by tour operators from Kathmandu. All Indian tour operator are tied up with them. Invidivudlaly one can not enter Tibet. Chinese Government does not issue visa to indvidual person. They issue visa to groups only and complete group enters and exits Tibet together.
What preparations are required ?
Consult your doctor and seek his clearance well before you start planning for the yatra.
Gather complete information about rules applicable for yatra for the year in which you are planning to go. Chinese Government keeps changing rules every year.
Documents required for the yatra include Indian passport with at least six months validity period remaining, Medical certificate, Voter ID card or any other Identity card issued by Government office. Pan Card and Aadhar card are not valid documents for entering Nepal.
Chinese currency Yuan for expenses Tibet onwards. In Tibet they do not accept any other currency.
Pack medicines which you regularly take for at lease one month to cater for unforeseen delays due to bad weather etc.
Pack some emergency medicines also.
Other things to pack should include small hand sanitizer bottles, wetnapkins, Suncreme, soapstrips, vaseline, thermosflask, rain coat, water proof shoes, spare polythene bags, power bank for charing mobilescameras and torch. Dry fruits are must
In clothing must to carry woolen vast, Thermal ware pajamas, one or two full sleeves sweater, lightjacket, Cap Balaclava, muffler, hand gloves woolen socks.Tour operator issued jackets to all on returnbale basis.
What to do and where
When in Kathmandu.
In Kathmandu visit Pashupatinath temple, Boudhanathstupa, Swayambu Nath temple, Guhyeshwari Devi temple, JAL Vishnu temple and Kathmandu durbar square. Buy Rudraksh and Chinese currently. Chinese currency is required only if payment for horse has not been made in advance. In that one requires at least 5000 yuan, otherwise 500 Yuan will be more than enough.
When in lake Mansarovar
Take a dip in the lake, collect holy water, collectstones (Shivlingas) from the lake. Every stone has an image of a deity. Meditate at night. Remain awake from 3 am onwards and be in the open in the court yard. Keep your eyes to the sky. Lord Shiva, Mata Parvati and Rishis descend in the lake between 3 AM to 4 AM. You will see bright cluster of light descending in the lake. We were lucky to see. Also do hawan pooja after bath. Every group has their own Pandit Ji with them who carries complete pooja material. In the morning do Pitra pooja.
When in Yamdwar
Yamdwar is a small temple. Complete one parikrama from outside, one from inside. Then tie any used cloth like handkerchief or scarf with the rope inside the temple. The myth is those who tie cloth there do not die sudden death.
When in Deraphuk
Here you are at the base of Holy Mount Kailash. Enjoy full view of the Mount. Observe closely. You will find images of Lord Ganesh on the right edge, Hanuman on the left and Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati in the middle. On the adjoining hill, on the right, we can see Nandi Dev Ji. We hear the chanting of OM and ringing of bells.
A word of caution
In Kathmandu and Nepalgunj there are very good hotels with attached bathrooms and on twin sharing basis rooms. In Simikot and Hilsa there is dormitory type accommodation with 6-7 beds in each room and common sharing toilet and bathroom. Once we enter Tibet it is all the same for all pilgrims.They may arrive via any route/any travel agent. Same type of accommodation and same food will be served to all. In Darchen there is ok type hotel with attached bathroom. There after, everywhere, there is dormitory type accommodation, with Tibetan style toilets and no bathrooms. The toilets one cannot use, so everyone goes in the open with no privacy except that of the dark hours of the night. But this should not deter you. The food served in all places is very good. Hot tea and coffee, hotwater, fresh fruits, biscuits will be always there. The tour guides and Sherpa accompanying are very helpful and respectful.
Kailash Mansarovar yatra is one in life time experience. Anybody and everybody who is medically fit and has positive frame of mind can go. We went via Kathmandu by helicopter. The whole yatra is as simple as going to Mata Vaishno Devi. If we could do it you too can-do it you too can do it. May Lord Shiva bless you with his invite and make your yatra a grand success.
(The author is a former Colonel)