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Tibet: Mansarovar Kailas Yatra: Preamble, Preparation, The Journey, Lake Mansarovar, Mount Kailas Parikrama
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Today we would be in Mansarovar. After driving for yet another round of 8 hours, I saw the first glimpse of the lakeÖ crystal blue water a few kms ahead of us. Wow! I finally made it to Mansarovar. The view made me forget the 3 days of grueling drive. Our guest house, letís call it a mud house, for the evening would be in the town of Chu Gumba on the banks of Lake Mansarovar. The name of the guest house was Qi Huo Si Miao Yu Chu Bin Guan. Thatís right; the guest house had more alphabets in its name than beds in its rooms! Today, it was 5 in a room. Prior to entering the town we did two things. One, fill up gas and two, partly circle the lake.
My driver honked in front of a broken, run down house. I was wondering why? In a few minutes, the door opened and a man walked out. After exchanging pleasantries with the driver, the guy opened a window and pulled out a hose pipe. God, that was a gas station. The meter was attached to the pipe itself. I could have bet my liver to the fact that there was no way of knowing that a gas station was actually around.
After filling the 4X4, we approached Lake Mansarovar and began to circle it. The circumference of the lake is almost 70 kms. To circle the lake is considered very auspicious. Since doing it on foot was not on the agenda, using the vehicle was a via media! After driving on the banks for a few kms, the vehicle stopped at a location that offered excellent view of Mount Kailas on the right and the peaks of Guru Mathela on the left. Separating the two were crystal clear waters of Lake Mansarovar. We couldnít have asked for more. The sun was up and the sky was clear. Most of us in the group took a dip in the lake, performed religious rituals and sang hymns on the shores. I refrained from taking a dip. My plan was to avoid the chill lest I fall sick disabling me to trek Mount Kailas. I had all plans to immerse in the waters on the return legÖ wouldnít matter then
After spending an hour on the shores, our 4X4 cut across a hilly slope and cruised on the other side of the mountain to meet with a nice tarred highway that connected Taklakot and Lake Mansarovar. On the left of the highway was Lake Rakshastal. Rakshas means demon. Legend has it that the lake was formed when the Demon Ravana was trying to shift Mount Kailas from its present location to Lanka (Ravanaís Kingdom). The lake is considered inauspicious.
As we drove from Rakshastal towards Mansarovar, we crossed Shiv Valley offering full and majestic views of Mount Kailas. From here, I could clearly see the holy mountain in the distinct shape of a Shivling.
The morning was kept aside to perform religious rituals. I was lucky to have been part of a group which came from the State of Karnataka. A fellow traveler named K Umesh doubled up as a priest. A learned priest at that. He and his team set up a Yadnya (a fire in which sandle wood, butter, sugar, some grains and spices are poured as mantras are chanted). The ritual that was performed was called RudraJaap. Blessed we were.
Post lunch, we drove to Darchen which was only 30 kms away. Darchen is a small town at the base of Mount Kailas. After checking in our dorms (11 in a room) in a hotel (Happy Destination would be a literal translation of the hotelís Chinese name) we opted for a tour to Ashtapadi. Those interested paid Yuan 100 for the trip that lasted for about 4 hours.
Only a 4X4 could make it to Astapadi located on a hill a few kms away from Darchen. Our vehicles crossed rugged terrain and a shallow river to reach a place where vehicles could be parked. From there on we trekked uphill for about a km. From the top, we were supposed to get a clear view of Ashtapadi, The Nandi Hill and Mount Kailas. Weather played a negative role. Apart from Ashtapadi we could see nothing as everything was shrouded in clouds. As mentioned earlier, Ashtapadi is where it is believed that Adinath Vrishabdeva - the first Jain Tirthankara attained Nirvana here. Nandi (the bull) is the official vehicle of Lord Shiva. The shape of the Nandi Hill actually resembles a bull in a sitting posture.
The next morning we would commence our trek to negotiate Mount Kailas along its circumference.
Lake Mansarovar Image Gallery Photo viewer
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