Mt. Kailash, the striking peak standing in the remote south-west corner of Tibet in the Himalayan Mountains. Rising at an elevation of 6638 m (21778 ft) it is one of the highest parts of the Himalayas and serves as a source of some of the longest rivers in Asia. Known as Gang Tise or Gang Rinproche in Tibetan it is a precious and prominent symmetrical peak. Made up of black rock Mt Kailash is a wonderful diamond like shaped mountain that is surrounded by beautiful landscape which is rugged and dry.
Mount Kailash is known as one of the most sacred mountains and has become an important pilgrim for four faiths : Buddhists, Jains, Hindus and Tibetan religion of Bon. Every year thousands of people from all over the world make pilgrimage to this place. Followers from various beliefs have been visiting Kailash from thousands of years and have been circumbulating this holy mountain on foot. It is believed that visiting Kailash and following this tradition would bring in good fortune and wash away sins of ones lifetime. However the journey of 52kms/32miles on foot in a single day is not easy and one needs to be strong both physically and mentally to complete it. Generally people take 3 days to finish this walk. The Hindus and Buddhists pilgrims walk around in a clockwise direction but the Jain and Bön followers walk around counterclockwise.
According to Hindu legends, Shiva, the god of devastation and rebirth, resides at the pinnacle of this famous mountain named Kailasa. Mount Kailasa is considered in many sects of Hinduism as heaven, the ultimate destination of souls and the holy center of the world. The narrative in the Puranas, Mount Kailash's four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. Refereed as the pillar of the world that rises 84,000 leagues high. From it flow four rivers, which stretch to the four quarters of the world and divide the world into four regions.
Tibetan Buddhists trust that Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok who symbolizes supreme harmony. They also state it was on this sacred mountain that Buddhism relocates Bön as the primary religion of Tibet. According to myth, Milarepa, winner of Tantric Buddhism, arrived in Tibet to challenge Naro-Bonchung, who was the spokesperson of Bön. The two magicians engaged in a great sorcerous battle, but neither was able to gain a crucial advantage. Buddhism in Tibet known as the religion “Bon” believes Mount Kailash as the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen.
In Jainism, Kailash is known as Mount Ashtapada and is the place where the creator of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained freedom from rebirth.
Places of Interest during visit to Holy Kailash
Tirthapuri, positioned northwest of Mount Kailash in Western Tibet are intimately associated with Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). It is one of the interesting places near Kailash, pilgrims particularly come here after completing their kailash pilgrimage. They bathe in the pools fed by the holy springs and also pay a visit to the cave and monastery which is connected with Guru Pinpoche and has his footprints. The barren landscape around the Tirthapuri hot spring is filled with steam and colorful prayer flags stretched across the river gorge makes this spot a scenic & magical view for all.
Located at a height of 17000 ft, Asthapad is the bottom of Mt. Kailash and one of the main holy places for the Hindus and Buddhists. It is also considered a major Jain Tirths as the first of the 24 Jain Tirthankara “Shri Adinath Bhagwan” had attained salvation (Nirvana) at this place. The literal meaning of Asthapad is “Eight Steps” as Astha means Eight and Pad means Steps in Sanskrit and that’s how the place derived its name.
Tarboche flagpole, is one of the most important aspect of Tibetan spirituality. On “Saga Dawa” which is an impressive and capturing annual festival of Mt. Kailash this giant flagpole which has numerous prayer flags on it is brought down and replaced. This annual festival or one can also mention it as a carnival attracts Tibetans from all over along with other tourists and pilgrims. This ritual is performed every year on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, to celebrate Sakyamuni's enlightenment”. During the flagpole ceremony as the poles tip is raised and pointed east towards Gyangdrak Monastery, monks of that monastery carry out a special ritual. A cacophony of music from long trumpets, conch shells and other instruments welcomes the rising flagpole. It is like a magical event that captures one’s senses. People gathered there attach there prayer flags and help in making the pole rise again. The flagpole should be standing in a perfect upright position or it is believed that things will not be good for Tibet.