At 4,556m above sea level, the Kailash Mansarovar is without a doubt one of the highest altitude lakes in the world. It is a place of relatively untouched pristine beauty and amazing sceneries, one that would no doubt attracts adventurers from all over the world. In to the Hindus of India however, the lake is much more than a simple tourist attraction.
Photo credits - reurinkjan
According to Hindu mythology, Mt. Kailash is the physical manifestation of Mount Meru, which is the center of the universe, and the Kailash Mansarovar Lake has been created by Brahma, the creator of the Universe himself. The oldest manuscripts decreed that a parikrama of the mountain (a journey of one full circle) will free you from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. As such, the lake finds itself the center of a pilgrimage by many local believers.
There are two ways to reach Kailash Mansarovar: you can drive down and trek from Tibet or from India. Since I was on a travel tour in India, I drove down from New Delhi (Capital of India) to Tawa Ghat, which is situated at the confluence of Kali and Darma Rivers, at an altitude of 2,998ft. This was the starting point of the trek and I took some time to acclimatize and relax as much as possible because the trek ahead can vary from difficult to strenuous and will take anywhere from 15 to 25 days.
A guide is a must and most often than not, trekkers opt for a Mount Kailash tour package. It is considered as the best option because the concerned travel agency will take care of all your requirements including camping, food, and also porters. For my part, I chose to go along the old pilgrimage route from India with a friend who has been to Kailash Mansarovar at least 4 times. I was definitely in safe hands.
Photo credits - saumil
Photo credits - saumil
It took us 7 days and 6 nights of trekking to reach the India-Tibet (China) border, right after the Lipu Lekh Pass. Along the way from Tawa Ghat, we camped at various points during the night, the last one being Navidhang, the last point before we officially passed out of the jurisdiction of India. The views were simply breathtaking – all I could see for miles were snow capped mountains, along with the subtle sound of the chilly winds. Sometimes you can hear the sound of the creaking glaciers, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to witness one.
During the trek, we were often joined by other people on a pilgrimage to the Kailash Mansarovar. As they trekked along on their religious journey, chants of “Om Namah Shivaya” can be heard reverberating gently through the mountains around us and the valley below. This was a spiritual experience of a different kind, one that even non-Hindus can enjoy and take part in.
As we trekked onwards, we readied ourselves to cross the Lipu Lekh Pass, one of the toughest segments in the entire journey. The whole pass has to be crossed before 9 in the morning, as the weather conditions turn bad extremely quickly in the high-altitude. Just in the middle of the pass, our Indian porters bid farewell and the Tibetan porters took over from there. Finally, at the end of the pass, a vehicle arranged by our travel operator picked us up for a 22km drive towards Taklakot, where we were able to rest, relax and stock-up on rations for the final leg ahead.
Photo credits - saumil
The Taklakot to Kailash Mansarover trip starts at 6am and we drive all the way down to Rakshas Tal. At the first glimpse of Mount Kailash, I am overwhelmed by the majestic appearance. Local legends and religious stories played back in my mind, painting the mountain as the abode of Lord Shiva. Indeed, the stunning landscape is worthy to be called such, the abode of the Gods. I walked slowly towards the Holy Kailash Mansarovar Lake and stood there watching the color of the lake change from turquoise to deep blue. It was as if time stood still and I couldn’t feel a thing – I couldn’t hear the people around me; the only thing I could hear was the sound of the placid waters of the Lake beckoning me to take the holy dip!
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About the Author. Parthajit. Parthajit is a nature & landscape photographer and trekker with travel experience in the Indian Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh), Western Ghats (India), Thailand, New Zealand, and Japan.