Mt. Kailash Pilgrimage
Mt. Kailash pilgrimage is considered one of the most challenging and sacred pilgrimages in the world. The journey to Mt. Kailash, located in the remote western region of Tibet, is a strenuous trek, but the spiritual significance of this place draws thousands of pilgrims every year. In this article, we will delve into the history, religious significance, and practical aspects of the Mt. Kailash pilgrimage.
Religious Significance of Mt. Kailash
Mt. Kailash (6638m) is located in western Tibet. It is a mysterious mountain for travellers and explorers but for Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Bonpo adherent it is a sacred mountain. To the pilgrims who walk around the mountain path of 55-km Kailash Parbat (mountain) is Meru in ice and stone. There is a strong belief among Hindus and Buddhist that a single walk around the holy mountain would wash away all the sins of a lifetime. Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims circle the peak anti-clockwise. The mountain is known as the throne of “Shiva”, a powerful God in Hindu mythology.
Buddhist considers it as Kang Rinpoche, the precious Snow Mountain. A devotee of the Jain religion considers the peak as Mount Ashtpada. It is believed Rishabanatha, found of Jain faith, gained spiritual liberation on the summit of Mt. Kailash. Bon-Po, pre Buddhist religion in Tibet, followers believe that this is the ‘Nine storeys Swastika Mountain’ that leads to heaven. The Kirantis, descendants of early mountain dwellers in the foothills of the Himalayas consider Shiva as Kirateshor – The God of Kiratis.
The travellers and explorers see in its raw form the amazing beauty in the middle of the dull landscape and the faithful feel that it is the sanctuary of God that gives life to the entire human being. For everybody, it is always something. Therefore it is the sublime soul of the entire region.
Though the entire Himalayas are regarded as a divine dwelling, yet Mt. Kailash is the only peak in the entire Himalayan range that is revered as ultimate sanctity. It is also one of the highest Mountains in Tibet at over 6714m (22,022 ft) and Lake Manasarovar at 4558m (14,950 ft) is probably the highest freshwater lake in the world that is known to possess special elements in its water for purification. Pilgrim takes bath in the lake Mansarover, known as Mana (mind) of Brahama.
Mt. Kailash and lake Mansarover are two sides of the same coin. Mt. Kailash is the most sacred of all the pilgrims for Hindus, Jains and Buddhist alike. It is regarded as the spiritual centre of the Universe.
The top of the peak is considered as the abode of Lord Shiva and below is Lake Mansarover. Ritual bath in the lake, especially on the full moon, deliver the pilgrim to Lord Brahma’s paradise and a dip in the holy water relinquish the sins of hundreds of lifetimes. On the other hand, Hindu mythology has that on full moon night the moon shines on the face of Lord Shiva who is also known by the name “Shome” because he always has a sign of the moon on his forehead; in this form, the Lord is as subtle as the moon. So, depending upon how you feel both places are auspicious.
The Geographical and Historical Background
The place is certainly remote and difficult to reach especially in the extreme weather conditions and often on a dusty and rough road. The distance from Kathmandu is about 1000 km and from Lhasa, it is almost double. On the geographical aspect, the mountain is the source of four great rivers that merge in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. It is the source of the civilization of Indus and Brahmaputra river valley in India. Despite the reality of the Cultural Revolution in China and Tibet, regions around Kailash suffered the least. Though many monuments around it and in the vicinity were destroyed yet the faith of its followers has remained stronger than ever. More than the pilgrimage of your lifetime it is also truly an adventure that remains with you for a lifetime. For western visitors, it changes the way you look at life and for Hindus, it is sublimation and moksha.
Making a parikrama (walking around Mt. Kailash) wash your sins away. Especially when this is done on an auspicious year or time. On such an occasion a circuit equals 13 circuits completed during the year.
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