On Thursday, the 9th of August, we woke up at around 6AM Indian time at the tiny town of Hilsa, where we piled up on layers of clothing to protect us from the cold. We were given one small tumbler (Around 100 ml) of warm water to brush our teeth and wash our face.
In about an hour’s time, we packed our duffel bags and loaded it into a vehicle while we took our backpacks and started towards the Chinese customs office. We walked for about 2 minutes on a rocky surface after which we had to cross a rather frightening suspended steel bridge which was close to a 150 meters in length.
Once we had crossed the bridge, there was a small tent where a solitary Nepali customs officer sat and stamped our Visa saying “Departed”. A rather unique facet of this is that we got a ‘Departed’ stamp without having an ‘Arrived’ stamp because we entered through the homogenous Indo-Nepal border by road. If you think about it, this can actually only otherwise happen in your country of birth.
Once we crossed the Nepali customs, A bus came to pick us up and take us to the Chinese customs office, around 50 meters away, where each of us had to get our bags checked and pass through a biometrics scan.
While the rest of the group got through uneventfully, I alone was taken into a senior officer’s room and made to sit while he called up his superiors and checked some things out on his computer. This scared me out of my wits because my brother, who was on his third trip to Kailash Manasarovar, told me to not look at the Chinese soldiers, to not speak to them and to not take any photos. He further added that they wouldn’t hesitate to shoot me down if I acted suspiciously.
While sitting in that room, my prayers had become really intense with all these thoughts running in my head. But it turned out to be completely the opposite. The officer handed over my passport, smiled at me and told me to have a nice trip. Turns out, they were just being extra cautious because nobody really comes for a Kailash Yatra when they are 20 and hence, suspected me to be a spy of sorts.
Once this was over, we got back into the bus and headed for a place called Taklakot in Tibet where we would stop for lunch. Enroute, we stopped at two lakes, Lake Rakshasthal and Lake Manasarovar.
According to Hindu scriptures, Lake Rakshastal was created by Ravana for the express purpose of his Penance to garner superpowers by pleasing Lord Shiva, who resided on Mount Kailash nearby. It was upon the banks of a special island in this lake that he would make a daily offering with one of his ten heads as a sacrifice to please Shiva. Finally, on the tenth day, Shiva was moved enough by his devotion to grant Ravana his wish to obtain superpowers.Lake Rakshasthal offered a beautiful, scenic view with its crystal clear water and beautiful surroundings. In fact, it is Lake Rakshasthal that gets water directly from Mount Kailash. To my knowledge, a certain set of people consider Rakshasthal water to be the holiest and collect water from it whereas majority of the people consider Lake Manasarovar to be the holiest.
Lake Manasarovar is fed by a mountain called Gurla Mandatha, which lies directly opposite to Mount Kailash. It was on the Gurla Mandatha mountain that Ravana’s maternal grandfather Sumali, sat facing mount Kailash and did his Penance. Gurla Mandatha is also the origin of many rivers, most famously, river Brahmaputra.
Just a few minutes after we left from Manasarovar, there was a roadblock where our vehicle had to stop, and as we were aimlessly looking at the sky, the clouds just breezed away to reveal to us the most beautiful sight. We had the most breathtaking view of Mount Kailash. Lord Shiva had so beautifully chosen to reveal himself to us at that particular moment. Let me tell you yet another amazing significance a few paragraphs later.
We travelled for another hour or so and reached the hotel in Darchen at about 4 PM local time. Darchen is a Chinese (Tibetian) town at an altitude of 4700 Meters and is the base camp for the Kailash Parikrama.
The hotel was an experience of its own where first off, the hotel employees (Or anyone in Tibet for that matter) had an aversion towards English and we couldn’t even voice our concerns. Next, the flush did not work in our room, or in any other room. However the worst and most shocking thing was that the bathroom had glass doors. Yes, you read that right. Glass doors with no lock (Why would you need a lock for a glass door anyway?) so we literally had to inform our roommates that we were going to use the bathroom, so please do not venture anywhere nearby.
Anyways, putting all that aside, let’s focus on the things that went right. They say everything happens for a reason. I had also mentioned in my previous blog posts that when we are the Guests of Lord Shiva, he knows what is best for us. I truly learnt the significance of the statement that day.
At around 5:45 PM, right from the window outside our hotel room, we could see Mount Kailash in such close quarters which was such a magical feeling. As we stood there in awe, my brother started chanting Rudram, and I too joined in from what I had learnt during my Undergraduation at Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.
What I learnt later was a truly mystical and amazing significance that shook me up. While I had personally cursed the immaculate wait at Nepalgunj, it all happened for a reason. The day we had our first Darshan was Pradosham day and the time we got to see Mount Kailash in close quarters and chanted Rudram was the EXACT Pradosham time. While this may sound like pure Coincidence for a layman, when your mind is on the Lord and you actually experience these kind of things first hand, you know that it surely isn’t a coincidence.
Pradosham is a Bi-monthly occurrence that falls on the 13th day of every fortnight as is considered to be a very Auspicious day for the worship of Lord Shiva. Especially, the time just before sunset is believes to be the most Auspicious time for worship where devotees wear Rudraksha, Vibuthi and worship Lord Shiva along with Nandi.
After having a wonderful Darshan literally right at our doorstep, we went back into our rooms and had to completely rest the next day to get acclamatised to the weather. However, throughout the day, we were super excited about the journey to come and what more the Lord has in store for us. While sitting here and writing this, I already know what amazing things we got to experience during the Parikrama, but I’ll have to put it in a separate blog post, so stay tuned 🙂
ॐ त्र्यं॑बकं यजामहे सु॒गन्धिं पुष्टि॒वर्ध॑नम् ।
उ॒र्वा॒रु॒कमि॑व॒ बन्ध॑नान् मृ॒त्योर् मु॑क्षीय॒ माऽमृता॑त् ।
“He who has divine fragrance, who makes men powerful and full of plenty; Him we worship, the three-eyed Rudra. As easily as a ripe berry falls from its stalk, release me from death, and let me not turn away from immortality and enlightenment.”