It had come! The day had finally come where we were set to commence our Parikrama around Mount Kailash as the Guests of Lord Shiva.
It was at around 6AM Local time, that I woke up with an air of excitement in the atmosphere, quickly freshened up rushed down for breakfast. Though the food was unpalatable, I paid little attention to it and ate as quickly as possible as my mind was focused more on the events that would unfold for us today.
I returned to my room and finished up the last of my packing where only bare essentials had to be kept in the backpack and the rest had to be locked in a duffel back and left behind at the hotel in Darchen since we obviously could trek only with a limited baggage allowance of 5KG.
When dealing with the Lord, one should always be expecting the unexpected. As I woke up that day, I had developed a severe headache and a cold due to which I couldn’t do the Parikrama by walk and had to take a pony instead. While this left me disappointed, I actually realised later on that I could enjoy the Parikrama better from the pony and I wouldn’t have had the stamina to walk the entire distance.
We started from the hotel in a bus with shouts of “Jai Bholenath” and “Om Namah Shivaya” and drove for about 5 minutes to reach our starting point of the Parikrama. The starting point of the parikrama is the Yama Dwar, or the Gates of the Lord of Death. Yama is the deity who brings mortal souls to their onward journey. Symbolically, the Kailash region is likened to the divine world, separate from Earth. To enter this region, one must abandon the mortal self and hence pass through the Yama Dwar.
We commenced the holy Parikrama by offering Aarthi to the holy Mountain and then going around the Yama Dwar 3 times before finally walking through it, thereby entering Shivalok.
After this, 3 of our members who were to perform the Parikrama by walk, started off their trek while the rest of us who were to take a pony waited for each of our Sherpas to arrive. We made most of our as we took in the beauty of the south-West face of Lord Shiva’s abode and also video called our family and friends to give them door Darshan of the magnificent mountain.
At this point, I’d like to talk a bit about the wonder and mystical-ness of Mount Kailash. While any mountain would be of an irregular shape by nature, Mount Kailash is shaped like a pyramid and has 4 clear & distinct faces. What’s more, if you look at it in its entirety, Mount Kailash is an EXACT manifestation of a Shiva Lingam and it even has the ‘Aavudai’ and the base to it. It is also has religious significance for 4 different religions. For Hindus, Mount Kailash is the abode of Lord Shiva, and is considered the ultimate destination for a Hindu in their lifetime.
Mt. Kailash is called Kang Rinpoche in Buddhism and means ‘the precious jewel snow peak’, and according to the legend it is the abode of Chakra Samvara and Guru Rinpoche – Padma Sambhava, who brought Buddhism to Tibet and beyond. In Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that Mt Kailash is the dwelling place of Chakra Samvara Demchog (the Wheel of Bliss) and his consort, Dorje Phagmo. It is also venerated as the abode of one of the great Tibetan yogi – Milarepa. It is in Manasarovar that Lord Buddha’s mother, Queen Maya, was transported for bath before he was conceived. Buddhist pilgrims perambulate clockwise around the mountain and it is called Kora.
In Jainism Kailash has a special significance as their first Tirthankar, and founder of the Jain faith, Rishabh Dev performed his severe penance here to attain Nirvana. In Jainism the Kailash area is known as Astapada and one can have a marvelous view of the south face of Kailash from this place called Astapada. A lot of people, other than Jains also, hike to this place for a close view of Kailash and Nandi and perform Puja and worship of Kailash here.
In Tibet’s pre-Buddhist, Shamanic Bon religion, Mt Kailash is abode of Sky Goddess Sipaimen, and is in the form of a giant Mandala that is the central point of all Tantra Rituals and Forces. The founder of Bon Religion, Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche is believed to live on Mt Kailash, which is considered as nine- story Swastika Mountain, and the axis mundi – the central pillar of the world. The Bonpo Pilgrims walk counter-clockwise around the Mt Kailash.
Coming back to the Parikrama, we started off on the Parikrama once the horses arrived, taking in the exuberance of the nature around. The first day’s trek was a rather straight forward one where we had to go on a flat pathway along the south face of Mount Kailash, go around it, and stop right in front of the North Face. The entire day 1 trek was about 12 KM or so and took about 5 hours to complete.
Along the way, we first took in the beauty of Mount Kailash for a while after which it goes out of sight, behind the mountains in front of it. But when it started coming into sight again, we watched with our mouths wide open as the beauty of it was just amazing.
At the end of Day 1, we stopped at a place called Derapukh, where we had to stay in tin roofed sheds, squeezing in 7 people in a room, and having to truly enhance nature to answer nature’s call. But all this was negated by the fact that Mount Kailash could be viewed in its full magnificence, literally from just a step away.
That night, we had the best meal we had eaten in a week. We took boiling water and made ready-to-eat upma, poha and bisi Bella bath. After this sumptuous meal, we went to bed, piling up on layers of clothing complimented by thick blankets but yet went to sleep shivering. Even though most of us couldn’t care any sleep, our minds were absolutely focused on the goal, to complete the Parikrama the next day with Lord Shiva in our minds.
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.”