Hinduism's Holy Heartland, Kailash Parbat and Lake Manosarover

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Shrouded in sacred symbolism, Mount Kailash is a dramatic lone peak on the skyline and a visual as well as a spiritual metaphor of its power over the emotions.A pilgrimage to Kailash and the adjacent Lake Manasarovar is an essential ritual for all devout Hindus and a ‘parikrama’, or circumambulation of it’s of it base, is believed to absolve the pilgrim of a lifetime of accumulated sin.

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Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar

Mount Kailash standing at 6714 metres high is known in Tibet as Tise (the peak) of Khang Rinpoche (Jewel of Snows). For Hindus, Mount Kailash is the home of Hindu God Shiva and his partner Devi, whilst for Tibetans, it is the home of God Demchong and his consort Dorje Phangmo.

According to legend, it is here that Milarepa - a great Tibetan Yogi and master of Tantric Bu For thousands of years this region has been the ultimate goal for pilgrims. It is the home of the Gods for Hindu, Jains, Buddhists and Bon

Buddhism - contested with Naro-Bonchung - a grandmaster of Bon - to prove the superiority of Buddhism. Many contests took place, but the final one was to see who could first reach the summit of Mt Kailash at the crack of dawn. Riding his damaru (ritual drum) Naro-Bonchung flew towards the peak only to be overtaken by Milarepa at the last second. Naro-Bonching was so astonished that he let go of his drum, which crashed down mountain leaving a vertical scar – a distinctive feature of the south face.

Two lakes Manasarovar and Rakastal

with only around 2 km distance between them, lie at the Southern food of Mount Kailash. Rakastal is associated with forces of darkness, whilst Manasarovar represents forces of light.

For Hindus, Lake Manasarovar (at 4588 metres with a total area of about 350 square km), floats beneath the shadow of holy Kailash as the lake formed in the mind of God. It was created to show the omnipotence of Brahma’s mind ‘manas’. Tibetans know it as Mapham Tso, ‘the Unconquerable Lake.’

Excerpt from Kalidasa, the Hindu poet, written in 3rd century:

“When the earth of Manasarovar touches anyone’s body or when anyone bathes therein, he shall go to the paradise of Brahma, and how drinks its water shall go to the heaven of Shiva and shall be released from the skins of 100 births. Even the beast that bears the name of Manasarovar shall go to the paradise of Brahma. Its waters are like pearls.”

Rakastal is also referred to as Rakshas in Hinduism, which literally translates into ‘demon’. The negative energy associated with this lake is a result of …. Refer to Ravaan’s story. Ravaan a devotee of God Shiva is said to have performed austerity in front of Kailash from the Rakshas lake. …

Pilgrims perform circumambulation (parikarama) in a clockwise direction around Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash. During the circuit around Lake Manasarovar pilgrims pick up pebbles or fill containers with the holy water. Ritual bathing in the lake is also performed to purify and cleanse the soul from any sins. One circuit takes about three days to complete (100km).

The final and most strenuous parikarama is that of Mt Kailash which takes devotees two to three days to complete. It is said that who complete this circuit 108 times are assured entry into Nirvana. Most Tibetans attempt either three or 13 circuits.

Arguably the most sacred mountain in Asia, to unbelievers, new-age travellers and geographers, Mt Kailash is a little more than an interesting geological example. It consists of stratified conglomerate masses with a distinct gully running down the south face from the summit, which cuts across a horizontal rock-band and earns Kailash the name of the ‘swastika mountain’. There are four faces to the pyramidal mountain, each matching a compass point. It is also associated to the facets of a great jewel: the eastern face is believed to be crystal, the western ruby, the southern sapphire and the northern gold.

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