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Mount Kailash (Tibetan: , Kangrinboqê or Gang Rinpoche; simplified Chinese: , Gāng rén bō qí fēng; Sanskrit: , Kailāśā Parvata) is a peak in the Gangdisê Mountains, which are part of the Himalayasmarker in Tibet. It lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus Rivermarker, the Sutlej Rivermarker (a major tributary of the Indus Rivermarker), the Brahmaputra Rivermarker, and the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges Rivermarker). It is considered as a sacred place in five religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Ayyavazhi and the Bön faith. In Hinduism, it is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The mountain lies near Lake Manasarowarmarker and Lake Rakshastalmarker in Tibet.

There have been no recorded attempts to climb Mount Kailash; it is considered off limits to climbers in deference to Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. It is the most significant peak in the world that has not seen any known climbing attempts.

Nomenclature, orthography & etymology

The word Kailāśā means "crystal" in Sanskrit. The Tibetan name for the mountain is Gangs Rin-po-che, meaning "precious jewel of snows". Another local name for the mountain is Tisé ( ) mountain, which derives from ti tse in the Zhang-Zhung language, meaning "water peak" or "river peak". In the Jain tradition, the mountain is referred to as Ashtapada.

Chandra (1902: p.32) in his dictionary identifies the entry for 'kai la sha' ( ) which is a loan word from Sanskrit 'kailāsa' (Devanagari: कैलास).

Religious significance

In Hinduism

The south face
An illustration of the Hindu significance of Mount Kailash, depicting the holy family of Shiva, consisting of Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Muruga (Kartikeya)


According to Hinduism, Shiva, the destroyer of evil and sorrow, resides at the summit of a legendary mountain named Kailāśā, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his wife Pārvatī, the daughter of Himalayamarker. Kubera, the god of wealth was also said to have his abode on or near the mountain.

This Kailāśā is regarded in many sects of Hinduism as the ultimate destination of souls and the spiritual center of the world.

According to one description in the Vishnu Purana, Mount Kailash is the center of the world, its four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. It is the pillar of the world; is the center of the world mandala; and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus. The four rivers flowing from Kailash then flow to the four quarters of the world and divide the world into four regions.

The largest and most important rock-cut temple, Kailash Templemarker at Elloramarker, Maharashtramarker is named after Mount Kailash. Many of its sculptures and reliefs depict episodes relating to Shiva and Parvati, including Ravana's tale. (Ravana was a devotee of Lord Siva, just like Lord Ram. Ramayana does not document Ravan shaking Kailasa mountain.) Ravana's mother had fallen ill, as they were great Shiva devotees, he had attempted to carry the temple on his back to bring it closer to his mother. Shiva being stunned by his bravoure, had blessed him with immortality as Ravana had passed Lord Shiva's test on devotion.

In Buddhism

The Tantric Buddhists believe that Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok (also known as Demchog or Chakrasamvara), who represents supreme bliss.

There are numerous sites in the region associated with Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), whose tantric practices in holy sites around Tibet are credited with finally establishing Buddhism as the main religion of the country in the 7th-8th century CE.
Stupas under Mount Kailash
It is said that Milarepa (c. 1052-c. 1135 CE), champion of Tantric Buddhism, arrived in Tibet to challenge Naro Bön-chung, champion of the Bön religion of Tibet. The two magicians engaged in a terrifying sorcerers' battle, but neither was able to gain a decisive advantage. Finally, it was agreed that whoever could reach the summit of Kailash most rapidly would be the victor. While Naro Bön-chung sat on a magic drum and soared up the slope, Milarepa's followers were dumbfounded to see him sitting still and meditating. Yet when Naro Bön-chung was nearly at the top, Milarepa suddenly moved into action and overtook him by riding on the rays of the sun, thus winning the contest. He did, however, fling a handful of snow on to the top of a nearby mountain, since known as Bönri, bequeathing it to the Bönpo and thereby ensuring continued Bönpo connections with the region.

In Jainism

The Jains, who refer to Kailash as Mount Ashtapāda, believe the founder of their faith, Rishabhadeva attained Moksha or Nirvana (spiritual liberation) at this place.

In Bön faith

The Bön, a religion which predates Buddhism in Tibet, maintain that the entire mystical region and the nine-story Swastika Mountain are the seat of all spiritual power.

Guru Nanak on Mount Kailash

Guru Nanak Dev, is one of the few people believed to have ascended the mountain peak. It is widely believed that Guru Nanak conversed with the Nath Yogi's who meditated on the slopes of Kailash concerning their spiritual beliefs and meditation techniques.

Pilgrimage

Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune. The peregrination is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists. Followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions circumambulate the mountain in a counterclockwise direction. The path around Mount Kailash is long.Some pilgrims believe that the entire walk around Kailash should be made in a single day. This is not easy. A person in good shape walking fast would take perhaps 15 hours to complete the 52 km trek. Some of the devout do accomplish this feat, little daunted by the uneven terrain, altitude sickness and harsh conditions faced in the process. Indeed, other pilgrims venture a much more demanding regimen, performing body-length prostrations over the entire length of the circumambulation: The pilgrim bends down, kneels, prostrates full-length, makes a mark with his fingers, rises to his knees, prays, and then crawls forward on hands and knees to the mark made by his/her fingers before repeating the process. It requires at least four weeks of physical endurance to perform the circumambulation while following this regimen. The mountain is located in a particularly remote and inhospitable area of the Tibetan Himalayas. A few modern amenities, such as benches, resting places and refreshment kiosks, exist to aid the pilgrims in their devotions. According to all religions that revere the mountain, setting foot on its slopes is a dire sin. It is claimed that many people who ventured to defy the taboo have died in the process.

Location of Mt Kailash


Following the Chinese army entering Tibet in 1950, and political and border disturbances across the Chinese-Indian boundary, pilgrimage to the legendary abode of Lord Shiva was stopped from 1959 to 1980. Thereafter, a limited number of Indian pilgrims have been allowed to visit the place, under the supervision of the Chinese and Indian governments either by a lengthy and hazardous trek over the Himalayan terrain, travel by land from Kathmandumarker or from Lhasamarker where flights from Kathmandu are available to Tibet and thereafter travel over the great Tibetan plateau by car. The journey takes four night stops, finally arriving at Darchen at elevation of , small outpost that swells with pilgrims at certain times of year. Despite its minimal infrastructure, modest guest houses are available for foreign pilgrims, whereas Tibetan pilgrims generally sleep in their own tents. A small regional medical center serving far-western Tibet and funded by the Swiss Ngari Korsum Foundation was built here in 1997.

Walking around the holy mountain—a part of its official park—has to be done on foot, pony or yak, taking some three days of trekking starting from a height of around past the Tarboche (flagpole) to cross the Drölma pass , and encamping for two nights en route. First, near the meadow of Dirapuk gompa, some before the pass and second, after crossing the pass and going downhill as far as possible (viewing Gauri Kundmarker in the distance).

Notes

  1. However, sources say Guru Nanak was able to reach on the peak to meet Yogis meditating there. Other notable peaks that are now closed due to religious concerns, include Machhapuchhare and Gangkhar Puensum.
  2. Sarat Chandra Das (1902). Tibetan-English Dictionary with Sanskrit Synonyms. Calcutta, India: Bengal Secretariat Book Depot.
  3. Allen, Charles. (1982). A Mountain in Tibet, pp. 21-22. André Deutsch. Reprint: 1991. Futura Publications, London. ISBN 0-7088-2411-0.
  4. .Snelling, John. (1990). The Sacred Mountain: The Complete Guide to Tibet's Mount Kailas. 1st edition 1983. Revised and enlarged edition, including: Kailas-Manasarovar Travellers' Guide. Forwards by H.H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet and Christmas Humphreys, pp. 22-25. East-West Publications, London and The Hague. ISBN 0-85692-173-4.
  5. http://www.khandro.net/deity_Chakrasamvara.htm
  6. Snelling, John. The Sacred Mountain, pp. 39, 33, 35, 225, 280, 353, 362-363, 377-378, . (1990) East-West Publications. London and The Hague. ISBN 0-85692-173-4.
  7. Snelling, John. The Sacred Mountain, pp. 31, 33, 35. (1990) East-West Publications. London and The Hague. ISBN 0-85692-173-4.
  8. The World's Most Mysterious Places Published by Reader's Digest ISBN 0 276 42217 1 pg.85
  9. .Snelling, John. (1990). The Sacred Mountain: The Complete Guide to Tibet's Mount Kailas. 1st edition 1983. Revised and enlarged edition, including: Kailas-Manasarovar Travellers' Guide. Forwards by H.H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet and Christmas Humphreys, pp. 25-26. East-West Publications, London and The Hague. ISBN 0-85692-173-4.
  10. The earliest known Janamsakhi (now referred to as the Bhai Bala Janamsakhi for identification purposes) records this event.
  11. However, sources say Guru Nanak was able to reach on the peak to meet Yogis meditating there. Other notable peaks that are now closed due to religious concerns, include Machhapuchhare and Gangkhar Puensum.


References

  • Nomachi, Kazuyoshi. Tibet. Boston: Shambhala, 1997.
  • Thurman, Robert and Tad Wise, Circling the Sacred Mountain: A Spiritual Adventure Through the Himalayas. New York: Bantam, 1999. ISBN 0-553-37850-3 — Tells the story of a Western Buddhist making the trek around Mount Kailash.
  • Snelling, John. (1990). The Sacred Mountain: The Complete Guide to Tibet's Mount Kailas. 1st edition 1983. Revised and enlarged edition, including: Kailas-Manasarovar Travellers' Guide. Forwards by H.H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet and Christmas Humphreys. East-West Publications, London and The Hague. ISBN 0-85692-173-4.
  • (Elevation) Chinese Snow Map "Kangrinboqe", published by the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.


Further reading

  • Allen, Charles. (1999). The Search for Shangri-La: A Journey into Tibetan History. Little, Brown and Company. Reprint: Abacus, London. 2000. ISBN 0-349-111421.
  • "A Tibetan Guide for Pilgrimage to Ti-se (Mount Kailas) and mTsho Ma-pham (Lake Manasarovarmarker)." Toni Huber and Tsepak Rigzin. In: Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places In Tibetan Culture: A Collection of Essays. (1999) Edited by Toni Huber, pp. 125–153. The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, H.P., India. ISBN 81-86470-22-0.
  • Stein, R. A. (1961). Les tribus anciennes des marches Sino-Tibétaines: légends, classifications et histoire. Presses Universitaires de France, Paris. (In French)
  • Johnson, Russell, and Moran, Kerry. (1989). "The Sacred Mountain of Tibet: On Pilgrimage to Kailas." Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont. ISBN 0-89281-325-3.
  • Govinda, Lama Anagarika. (1966). "The Way of the White Clouds: A Buddhist Pilgrim in Tibet." Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, Colorado. Reprint with foreword by Peter Matthiessen: Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boston, Massachusetts. 1988. ISBN 0-87773-007-5


See also



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