Day 9: Completing the Parikrama

On day 9, we woke up at around 5 Am local time in the freezing cold weather and had to get ready to leave early since the pass that we were to cover that day could get really sunny later in the day leading to a possible sunstroke. When I opened my eyes however, I realised I was feeling really really sick and couldn’t even move my body without great difficulty. I actually wanted to drop out of the trek that day and wanted to be taken back to the base camp by ambulance. However, my brother and aunt coaxed me and helped me get up, go out and brush my teeth and get ready.

After this I had a hot cup of tea and some biscuits followed by some tablets, and I was feeling much better already. I was feeling sick because the high altitude was new to me and my body hadn’t adjusted yet. By this time, the pony & porter guys start barging into your rooms and eat your head to leave fast. This allows them to complete the trek faster and go back to the start point earlier.

Anywas, as we started, we had one last look at the beautiful North face of Mount Kailash illumined by the beautiful morning sunrise. After this we started on our day 2 trek with by first walking for almost a Kilometer or so before we crossed a small, rickety bridge over a stream of water. After this, we got on our pony and started our ascent of the trecherous Dolma La pass. Dolma La is the Tibetan name of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva believed to be residing at Mount Kailash. The pass can be treacherous if the weather is not favourable. It is said that one can cross the pass only if the goddess bestows her grace upon him/ her. Blessed we were, that the weather on our route was just perfect. Not sunny, but not raining either. Just the perfect weather to enjoy the trek and take in the beauty.


Though the entire distance of the pass was only around 4 Km Up and 4 Km down, It was going to be a long and tiring journey, as it is not meant for the weak headed. As we climbed about 300 meters, the path got narrower, the pass got steeper and we needed to take a break every 100 meters or so. There were boulders all throughout the path, making the trek even more arduous without a clear path in sight.


After we had climbed about 2 and a half Km or so, we could see on our right, way below, some small emerald green puddles of water. This was the Gauri Kund lake which was in reality, humongous, but looked small to us because of the height perspective. It was in this Gauri Kund, that Lord Ganesha was born. When Mother Parvathi was to have her bath in this lake, she created Ganesha out of the soap she was using, breathed life into him and made him stand guard. When Lord Shiva arrived at that spot, he was stopped by Ganesha, who obviously had no clue who he was. Enraged by this, Lord Shiva cut off Ganesha’s head but was then admonished by an inconsolable Mother Parvathi. To make amends, Lord Shiva found brought the head of a wandering elephant and placed it back on Ganesha. This was how Ganesha came be known as he is remembered and revered till date.


We finally reached the top of the Dolma La pass, which stood at 5600 meters above sea level where we were asked to get off the pony and start our trek down the pass. The weather on top was freezing cold and we could see snow lining up the sides of our path. The climb down was a very very challenging one and took almost 3 hours to finish. On the way, we also saw the “Axe of Karma”, a rock formation which resembles an axe and is worshipped by the Tibetians.


I would like to share a very interesting incident that happenned on our way down. While we were coming, myself, my aunt and our family friend Shankar Ram uncle were descending down almost together. At this point, Puneet, the most experienced member of our group, who had chosen to walk the entire trek, had actually caught up with us and was helping us with the trek. Suddenly, someone came to my aunt and said that a south indian gentleman from her group had fallen down. Everyone immedietly assumed that it was my uncle who had fallen and Puneet immediately started running in the reverse direction to go and help my uncle. As he reached the spot where my uncle was, he saw him walking comfortably. Just at the moment when he went to enquire, my uncle slipped, but Puneet was there to catch him and blocked his fall. This was a very mystical incident and my uncle was saved in the nick of time. This might seem like a pure co-incidence,  but Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba always used to say “Co-incidences are miracles where God chooses to stay anyonomous”.  Truly, this was an incident where God chose to stay anyonomous.

After we finally completed the pass and came back to level ground, we finally sat in a tent and took some good rest while waiting for the car to pick us up and take us back to base camp. On our way back, we even got a glimpse of the magnificent East face of Kailash which is not visible very often. We also got to see a certain area of the mountain where there were different colours of soil on the same area. We could see as many as 4 colours of soil. There was also a hilarious incident that I would like to narrate here.


One of the ladies from our group had walked down the entire Dolma pass ahead of the entire group and started looking for us  after giving her jacket to her Horseman. But when she was unable to find any of us, she thought we were much ahead and started walking even further, leaving her horse behind. When we all came down , we could see her horse, but couldn’t find her. Immedietly our guide started searching for her but all efforts went in vain. All of us were alerted that this person was missing and they started going forward in search of her. Finally, they found her way ahead in the next village looking for us. While this was a relief, this was also a rather stupid thing to do, trekking in the snow and rain without any protective gear.

We finally reached our hotel at Darchen around 3:30 PM Local time and were overwhelmed with a melange of emotions having successfully completed the Parikrama. The Kailash parikrama is considered to be one of the most sacred spiritual destinations and we had successfully completed it. The feeling was surreal to say the least and I firmly believe that everyone should go for it atleast once in their lifetime.

The next day, we left from Darchen and went to lake Manasarovar where we spent a lot of time and even had our bath there. It is believed that taking bath at Mansarovar cleanses you completely and washes away all your sins. (I really hope it’s true. Got a lot banking on that). And with that, we completed all the major agendas of the trip, returned home with a feeling of exuberance and exasperation of the entire trip, carrying with us a lot of fond memories close to our heart.


Thank you dear readers for following my blog. I hope I did a decent job and I really hope to resume my blog on my next trip.

Om Namah Shivaya
Praise be to Lord Shiva

Day 8: Entering Shivalok

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.

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.”

Day 6 and Day 7: Altitude Adjustment

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 🙂

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.”

Day 4 and Day 5: The wait is finally over!

Being a huge cricket fan, a near-perfect anology comes to my mind when thinking about our current situation. During the finals of IPL 2018, Shane Watson played 10 consecutive Dot-Balls before he got off the mark. Chasing a stiff target of close to 180, 10 dot balls is almost a throw away.

But then, the innings that followed was something that will be remembered by any CSK fan for years to come. Shane Watson ended up scoring a century in the next 41 balls to give Chennai Super Kings their 3rd IPL trophy.

Resembling the first 10 balls of Shane Watson’s innings, our 4th day too was spent waiting in Nepalgunj. However, instead of staying put at the hotel, we rushed to the airport after receiving news that the skies had opened up and that flights could operate.

We went to the airport at Nepalgunj which looked like any other airport from the outside. But it was when we went into the airport did we get a shock of our lives. The airport resembled a chaotic bus stand where different airlines put up their small counters (Like the ones you would see at a fair or a carnival) and shout out various destinations. Hearing this, people who wish to travel to a particular destination go to the counter and purchase their ticket.

The reason for this is that for many of the places in Nepal, the only mode of travel to Nepalgunj is by air. Even the smallest of traders and farmers have to take a flight to go to come to Nepalgunj and procure their necessities. Hence, there are small flights that keep coming in whose next destination is based on the demand from the passengers.

Another surprising fact is that neither does the boarding pass have the passenger’s name nor does it have the time of the flight. The person at the counter scribbles an incoherent number on the boarding pass which somehow, the security person manages to decipher later on.

This too has a very logical explanation. First, like I said in the previous point, there are so many passengers going to different destinations, most of them being illiterate, thus making it pointless to have a name on the boarding pass. Also, the time of departure isn’t mentioned on the boarding pass for the simple reason that all flights are scheduled by the weather gods. The administration has absolutely no say over when the flights may leave.

Adding to the previous point, it makes sense to have uniform boarding passes because ancellation of flights is a very common occurrence too, and that’s exactly what happened to us.

As we were waiting eagerly to board our flight, we could see around half a dozen flights bringing back pilgrims who were stranded in Simikot for 4-5 days one after another. Just as we were about to board our flight, we recieved news that the weather had become bad in Simikot again and hence all flights were cancelled.

Our excitement did a somersault and turned into disappointment as we all picked up our backpacks and slowly returned to the hotel. We were probably the only ever people to have checked out of a hotel after lunch and checked-in again just in time for tea.

The only consolation for me was that we atleast had some Chinese food at the restaurant instead of the Roti and dal that was being arranged for us everyday. By the time we went to bed that night, we had successfully spent 3 full days waiting in Nepalgunj.

The next day, I woke up with a sense of optimism and the feeling that things will go right today. True to that feeling, we got a call from our operator to immediately rush to the airport after a quick breakfast. As soon as we got to the airport, we were called to board our flight (In a manner similar to how bus conductors call you to board a particular bus).

Our flight was a small, 18 seater, dual propeller aircraft with 2 pilots and a single airhostess. I got to sit right at the front and could see the various equipment being operated by the pilots. The flight was a very exciting, one-of-a-kind experience where the pilot navigates through various mountains and valleys, offering you some of the best views you can ask for.

We could see a lot of tiny settlings practising step cultivation in a magnificent manner. The flight is also quite a scary travel and is a significant challenge for people with weak stomachs. The pilot goes immensely close to a mountain, almost crashing into it, before he just turns around to get into a valley beside the mountain.

Particularly, the landing makes your heart beat significantly faster, almost wanting to tear apart your chest. The runway is a single strip of land surrounded by mountains on 3 sides. The pilot skilfully navigates right onto the runway and stops the aircraft just before the tarmac ends.

Once we landed at Simikot with our hearts nearly in our mouths, we were taken to a shack, which supposedly was the airport at Simikot, where we were made to register ourselves for the helicopter to Hilsa. It was also time for us to get our winter clothing out as we could feel the significant difference in temperature due to the altitude change. Simikot is close to 3000 Meters above Sea level and Hilsa, another 1000 Meters above Simikot.

One thing that HAS to be spoken about here is the hospitality of the local Nepalese at Simikot. Since helicopters were limited, the same helicopters would have to do multiple trips because only 6 people can fit into one Helicopter (Excluding the Pilot). While we were waiting for our turn, we were very evidently hungry due to the fact that it had been close to 6 hours since our last meal.

Observing this, the local Nepalese villagers made steaming hot rice and cooked cabbage that had freshly been plucked from the fields and told us to eat. Neither did we ask for it, nor were they obliged to serve us. Just seeing us eat gave them so much joy that cannot be expressed in words. As a student looking to go into the hospitality industry, that will be the kind of standards that I will set for myself.

Just as we were finishing our meal, we were called to board the helicopter waiting for us. Being the youngest of the group, I was given the front seat, right next to the pilot and the experience is something I will cherish throughout my life. The feeling was a mixture of fear, delight, excitement and awe of what was going on around. The view was that was offered was outstanding and magnificent. Please Do check my Instagram profile @tedxplorer for more breathtaking photos from the Helicopter ride and a special thanks to Shankar Ram uncle for clicking these wonderful photos.

We landed at Hilsa in about 20 minutes, around 3:30PM IST, and were eager & ready to cross over to China, with the customs office being just 50 meters away. However, much to our dismay, our operator told us that it would not be possible to cross over on the same day as Chinese customs closes at 6Pm China time and the Chinese are 2 and a Half hours ahead of us.

Reconciling with the fact, we walked to the hotel in Hilsa. The reason I used The hotel instead of A hotel is because there is only one hotel in Hilsa. Hilsa is an extremely village with an area of about 100 square meters, which exists for the sole purpose of receiving Kailash pilgrims before they can cross over.

That night, we stayed in small, but cozy rooms where there were 7 beds and 7 people had to sleep in one room. We went to bed with a deep prayer that everything goes well and that we reach the abode of Lord Shiva soon.

But the scoring had begun. While the first 4 days in Nepalgunj were like Shane Watson’s first 10 balls, moving from Nepalgunj to Hilsa was the six to get us off the mark, and I’m sure there’s a century coming up ahead.

नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च

Salutations To Shiva, the Auspicious one, unto Shivatara, the one other than whom none more Auspicious can exist

Day 3: Awaiting his beckoning

We woke up today to a clear blue sky outside our hotel room here in Nepalgunj and swiftly assumed that today would be the day we would embark on our next leg of our journey.

But our host, Lord Shiva, had other plans. Though it was bright and sunny here in Nepalgunj, the weather in Simikot was still unconquerable for a pilot.

To talk a little about how dangerous the airport at Simikot is, it is a single airstrip with mountains on 3 sides of it. Only a single side is open to sky through which flights enter and land, turn, and take off again. If a pilot overshoots due to lack of visibility, the flight would head straight into the mountain and it most certainly wouldn’t be the mountain that would take the hit.

I also took this opportunity to start an Instagram page for my travel photos. Do give it a look for amazing photos of my trip. @tedxplorer

Right in the morning, In a very optimistic mood, all of us packed our luggage into similar looking, Bright Orange duffel bags which would later on help us identify bags that belong to our group. The packing however isn’t done as we do normally. Clothes are sorted day-wise and rolled into polythene covers with a tag on each bag and then they are taped before finally keeping them inside the bag.

This kind of sorting serves 2 purposes. One, It makes it easier to quickly change on the go without the need of flushing through your entire bag to find the dress of your liking. And Two, it prevents clothes from getting soaked in case of rain or snow.

Another point to mention here is that I finally was able to have a hot water shower after 2 days of ice cold showers. Turns out, the Nepalese like to twist things a bit. For some strange reason, the hot water came through twisting the shower knob to the right (Clearly marked blue) and cold water came though twisting the knob to the left (Clearly marked red), which is the exact opposite of how it works everywhere else the world over. I’m yet to find out if this is a blatant mistake or a misunderstanding of how the global colour coding system works.

As we were waiting for the call from the travel operator to go to the airport, we found out that there was a Rudrabishekam happening in the hotel. This is a very holy puja that happens on a Monday during the ‘Shravan’ month. This month is a very holy month with respect to Lord Shiva for various reasons. The most popular reason for this is that Lord Shiva drank the deadly ‘Halahala’ poison to save the world during the Shravan month.

Halahala is the name of a poison created from the sea when the Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) churned it (see Samudra manthan) in order to obtain Amrit, the nectar of immortality.

Fourteen different rathnas (gems) were recovered in this exercise, mostly retained by the Gods after the Demons tried to cheat them. But before Amrit could be recovered, Halāhala was produced, which started killing both sides. As no one could bear the poisonous fumes emitted by the poison, both Devas and Asuras began to collapse due to asphyxiation. They ran for help to Brahma, who directed them to Vishnu who advised them only Lord Shiva could help them. So both parties went to Kailasha and prayed to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva chose to consume the poison and thus drank it. His wife Goddess Parvathi, alarmed, stopped it in his throat with her hands, thus earning him the name Visakantha (the one who held poison in his throat). He was later saved by the [mahavidya] Tara, a form of the goddess Parvati. The poison made his throat turn blue; hence, he is also known as Nilakantha (the one with a blue throat).

Apart from this, there was also a beautiful Pashupathinath Lingam at the hotel near the place where the Puja was happenning.

Pashupathinath is a form of Lord Shiva where he has 5 faces, each representing an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The 5 faces are Sadyojatha, Vamadeva, Tatpurusha, Aghor and Ishana. They face West, North, East, South and Zenith(Sky) Respectively and they represent the 5 basic elements namely Earth, Water, Air, Light and Ether.

The Pashupathinath temple in Nepal is one of the biggest in the country and also is home to one of the 12 Jyothir Lingams, the only one outside India. Also, Tibetians worship Goddess Parvathi in the form of Taradevi, known as the ‘Mother of Liberation’ and represents virtues of success in work and achievements

Later, as we sat in our room, eagerly waiting for the call to come, we did get a call, but it wasn’t from our tour operator. Our relatives from Chennai called us and were very worried. Apparently, the media had sensationalised that there were pilgrims stranded in Nepalgunj and Simikot without any food, water or shelter. It took us a while to convince our relatives that we were perfectly okay, seated in a nice comfortable place with sufficient amenities.

One has to understand that going to a place like Kailash isn’t a vacation or a holiday where you expect luxury along the entire journey. When going on a spiritual pilgrimage, one must come prepared to face all kinds of tests by the Lord and luxury most certainly shouldn’t be one’s main concern. If we offer ourselves with a sense of complete surrender to the Lord, he will surely make things happen your way. After all, I strongly believe that we are the Guests of Lord Shiva and he surely won’t let us down.

Update: Just as I’m about to publish this post, we get a call telling us to be ready and that flights will start operating soon. I wish and pray that my next post is from Taklakot, about the amazing flight through the mountains and entry into China.

नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च

Salutations To Shiva, the Auspicious one, unto Shivatara, the one other than whom none more Auspicious can exist

Day 2: A rainy affair

I had mentioned in my previous blog that one never gets to decide when to go to Kailash. When Lord Shiva decides that he wants to have you over, he charts out the entire itenary for you.

As the saying goes, ‘Man proposes, God disposes.’ While we had made our own plans about leaving Nepalgunj yesterday, the weather gods thought otherwise. Continuous rain in Nepalgunj restricted the take off of flights from here resulting in our group having to stay put at the hotel.

Instead of idling away our entire day, we went and visited the Baheswori temple here in Nepalgunj. The Baheswori temple is a temple of goddess Durga and is one of the biggest temples in this region. It also features a very rare idol of Lord Shiva with a Mustache, one of the only two such idols in the country

The temple had a rustic, Nepali feel to it with the buildings resembling Buddhist Constructions and painted in red. The temple also had a beautiful, sparkling pond (What we would call the tank of a temple) with the statue of Lord Shiva placed in a gazebo right in the center of the pond

Another interesting facet of this temple is that while most temples in India wouldn’t allow us to go into the Garba Graha (The Sanctum Sanctorum), the Baheswori temple allows devotees to not only enter the Garba Graha, but also to perform the pooja for the Goddess themselves.

Following this, our entire group was adorned with a HUGE red dot on our forehead which is the sacred KumKum with rice grains.

At this time, I think it would be right to talk a little about our group. While in the government Yatra, the groups are chosen based on a lottery system. But when going through a private operator, a group of people come together and go on the trip. One may think that the group is manually decided and whoever wants can go, but it isn’t so. Whoever gets the calling, goes, as simple as that.

My cousin, Prashanth, who is on his 3th trip to Kailash was the one who coordinated the entire group for this trip. He goes for the trip in July /August and as soon as he is back home, he starts preparing for the next year.

As part of that, many people tell him that they would love to come the following year, but finally so not make it due to various reasons. On the other hand, there are a people who are asked in the last minute and accept the offer off the cuff. Even I was never in the picture for a Kailash Trip, but I joined in during the 11th hour, right on the day the visa list was being sent for approval.

We also have in our group Puneeth, who is visiting Kailash Manasarovar for the 7th time (He missed going in 2013 due to the Uttarakhand floods). He has also gone to Kinnaur Kailash and Shrikandh Kailash(These are part of the Pancha Kailash or the Five holy peaks of Kailash). He is the most experienced member of our group and has a ready answer to all our queries.

Other than this, our group comprises of a melange of people from various walks of life, with me being the youngest at 20, to 2 friends in their early 30’s, a couple in their 50’s, a family friend in his 50’s , my aunt and 2 other ladies in their 50’s my uncle, in his late 60’s and one lady in her 70’s being the oldest.

We may all be distinctly different people with varied personalities. But we all have come together for one common goal – To reach Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. When do we get to go there? I don’t know yet. Let’s see 🙂

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.”

Day 1: Crossing Borders

It’s 5:30 AM on a Saturday, a time when most people would be fast asleep and even the early risers would just be out of bed. But one place which was in full action was the Airport and us, a group of 7 from Chennai were aboard flight 6E 244 to Lucknow, starting our first leg of a 14 day trip with a goal, wish and prayer to visit Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva.

To talk a little bit about this trip, it is said that one can never be an uninvited guest of Lord Shiva. Nobody can go to Kailash unless they have been called. And to go there, one goes through 3 countries, climbs up 15000 Feet and stays in the bitter cold, with an air of uncertainty about what would happen next.

We landed in Lucknow at around 11:30 AM and were greeted by 2 cabbies who were assigned to take us to Nepalgunj, a place on the borders of Nepal. (The border in subject refers to just 2 barricades being placed and a couple of officers standing and watching out)

We faced our first roadblock right away at the airport. We were 9 of us now(2 people joined us at Lucknow) with 15 days worth of luggage with only 2 cars for us. We then communicated with our operator who fished out another car from the city an hour later.

Finally, at around 1:30 we started our journey to Nepalgunj, stopping on the way at a Small Dhaba a couple of hours away for lunch, where we had some amazing Tandoori Roti and different Panner subjis.

Another couple of hours later, we reached a pillar saying “Welcome to Nepal” and witnessed a drastic change in the quality of the roads(No questions which way was the drastic change). That’s the only way we knew we were in Nepal.

Just 5 KM into Nepal, we reached our hotel, a nice and comfortable stay which also offered free Wi-Fi (What more could you ask for). Here, we met our operator and 4 more people who would be part of our group (Including one person who is doing the trek for the 8th time)

We were briefed about our plan of action for the next day, where we would have to take a Flight through the mountains to a place called Simikot and then a helicopter into Hilsa, on the border of China. This could however be delayed depending on the visibility in Simikot and at this time, we were also told that there were already 2 planeloads in the queue who were supposed to go on Saturday, but were in denial.

Did we go there? Or were we too made to wait in Nepalgunj? I don’t know it yet. Let’s find out in my next post. 🙂

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.”