Manasarovar Kailasa Yatra 2004
With the blessings of H. H. Revered Dharmaratna Swami Shri Gopal Sharan Devacharyaji Maharaj, destiny came my way the day thee encouraged me to be a part of the divine journey to 6,740 metre high Mount Kailash in Tibet. I was amongst the fortunate few members of Golok Parikar who trekked to the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Kailash is the only Loka out of three namely Brahmaloka, Vaikuntha and Kailash, where humans can circumambulate and experience divinity. The Parikrama (also known as Kora), if completed 108 times, a person attains enlightenment and Nirvana. Kailash is truly, the crest of the Hindu religion axis and equally the most sacred pilgrimage for Jains, Buddhists and Bonpos (a pre-Buddhist community). Mount Kailash is the earthy manifestation of Mount Meru, the spiritual origin of our universe. Adinath Rishabhadeva attained Nirvana here. It is also known as Ashtapada in Jain literature. Buddhist Lama Saint Milarepa is believed to have meditated here for years. Tibetians refer to Kailash as Gang or Khang Rinpoche, "the precious jewel of snow". It is astonishing to note that four major rivers originate from Mount Kailash, namely- Satluj, Karnali, Brahmaputra and Indus (also known as Langchen, Mapcha, Tamchok and Senge). The Manasarovar Lake (4560 metres), is the Lake of Consiousness created by Lord Brahma and deliverance is assured for people taking a bath here. It is believed that Gods come to bathe every morning in this lake between 3 to 5 am and this time is called Brahmamuhurta. Positive energy, stimulating oxygen, fairy-tale landscapes, beautiful sky, dance of light, saturated clouds, aromatic rains, musical but noisy winds, lakes of nector, snow-laden mountain ranges, hard rocky areas, zig-zag treks, bumpy roads, sandy deserts, open barren fields form just a few of the phantom visuals that keep reocurring in my mind, the time i think of the sanctified escape of my divine soul on a spiritual trail to Manasarovar Kailash Yatra. Jai Shambhu.... Rajat Goyal. || Manasarovar Kailash Yatra || The Divine Soul sets out on a Spiritual Trail Text and Photographs: Rajat Goyal
Ode to Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar
At the center of the earth, there stands a great
Lord of Snows, majestic, rooted in the sea,
Its summit wreathed in clouds,
A measuring rod for all creation.
- Kalidasa (4th Century AD)
The Yatra to Manasarovar-Kailash is through the most arduous route and a difficult high altitude region with fluctuating extreme climatic conditions. We need to carry virtually everything from food and fuel to camping equipment besides oxygen and other essentials. It is a mammoth exercise in terms of logistics and needs to be planned carefully.
Our journey started with the Maha-Abhishek at Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal, the charismatic Himalayan kingdom, situated between India and China.
In the early hours of 21st May, 2004 our group of 31people left for the most spiritually enthralling journey from overland Kathmandu to Mount Kailash, which lies in the South-western part of Tibet. It was an incredible 1214 day package that included a Nepalese guide and a team of 13 sherpas. We had a brunch at breathtaking site of Mirabel Resort in Dhulikhel. We departed by two luxury coaches to the Kodari Friendship Bridge. Nine 4-wheel drive Landcruisers were waiting to pick us up and we moved on to Zhangmu, the Port City of China (Border) for obtaining custom clearance and immigration. The Chinese guide escorted us on rest of our tour. We stayed there at Sherpa Hotel until next morning. The sherpas accompanied us, carrying all the food, fuel and camping equipment required during this tour in two trucks.
On 22nd May, 2004, we drove to Nyalam (3750 metres), a sleepy town 115 kms. Alongside Bhote Kosi river and various waterfalls and landslide areas, we crossed the Lalungla Pass (5124 metres). Since we were moving towards a higher altitude, climatisation was necessary. Stay at the camp near a small water body in the evening was the first hand experience for almost all of us. The weather became violent with chilly winds blowing behind us followed by scanty rain and snow. This reminded us of many more unforeseen natural ordeals that lay ahead for us. The temperature dropped to zero. Some of the elderly members felt short of oxygen and high altitude sickness. The numbing cold at night amidst the sound of flowing water proved to be a good companion.
On 23rd May, 2004 we drove to Saga (4500 metres) about 250 kms. at a stretch. The fierce sun during the day accompanied by the bitter winds and the looming solitude with the everlasting dust brought along a strange face of nature that was in total contrast to the previous night. Roads and civilization are almost non-existent enroute. One realise it sooner, once every day 8-10 hour rigorous drive of over 200 Kms. is undertaken amidst a whirlwind of dust and extreme unpredictable winds, fording rivers and streams through mud and slush. Its a path-breaking journey to the roof of the world on the Tibetan highlands. Around 3.00 pm, we reached river Brahmaputra, which we crossed using a wire boat, over to the small town Saga. We stayed at Star Moon Hotel. With the great efforts of Satish Chandra Goel Ji and Prakash Ji everything was taken care of. While Praveen, Mukund and Vijay stood alert to serve Swamiji in demanding situations.
On 24th May, 2004 we headed for another long days journey. Our destination was a scary village named Prayang (4560 metres), 225 kms. away. My mind still carry the strange ritualistic visuals like use of black color on almost all houses and most of the doorways that were erected with the heads of dead yak. I wanted to escape from the weird land. It was the day mixed with negative emotions, anxiety and fear that over-powered the bliss hidden within us since we had crossed and re-crossed rivers and streams, climbed and conquered many treacherous passes. The only relief was the beautiful clouds in the shimmering sunset on the barren deserted looking mountains and obviously, an evening walk with Swamiji. The day appeared suddenly longer than usual. There was plenty of sunlight even at 9.30 pm! No wonder, we were far away into the two and a half-hour time difference zone from India.On 25th May, 2004 it was a nice sunny morning, everyone was excited knowing about the next camp that was non other than the Manasarovar Lake. There was a strange outflow of positive emotions that brought us closer to the divine endowment. Our faith became stronger and the impossible seemed possible. On our way, we encountered nomads herding their sheep and yaks. The feeling of transformation to another existence was quite persistently felt. As far as one could see there was an unending site of vast open land, as if one has reached the end of earth. Around the middle of the day, we had the first glimpse of holy Manasarovar Lake, which appeared blue with a tinge of aquamarine and purple and the water droplets glowed like gold. We could also see the immortal site of holy Kailash, which was about 30 kms. South-East from the lake. The amazing mountain range of Gurla-Mandhata overlooks the 110 kms. lake. Some of us took a holy dip with Swamiji and Swaroopanand Ji in the icy cold waters of Manasarovar. Our journey continued with the parikrama in jeeps and we came across another lake Rakshas Tal, where Ravana, the demon king had done penance to please Lord Shiva. Finally, we stayed at Chinmayanand Guest House on the banks of Manasarovar Lake. Nearby, there was a Buddhist Monastery on a hillside and far away one could view the snowy Mount Kailash hidden behind the golden rays of the sun. It is believed that Gods come to bathe every morning in this lake between 3 to 5 am i.e. Brahmamuhurta. At night, few of us namely - Jai Prakash, Naresh and Krishan Bhaiya along with Rashmi Bhabhi, Saroj Masi, Radha and myself decided to stay awake at night to witness the spectacular event. We waited patiently and chanted bhajans for almost four hours after midnight. The sky was laden with crystal clear stars and we could sense some strange movement up there, but it was nothing more than shooting stars. We were disappointed not to have become part of history. On 26th May, 2004 morning, a Yajna was performed to seek blessings of Lord Shiva. Swami Brahmanand Ji and Mauni Baba were also present during the prayers despite their ill health. The Darshan (divine sight) of Mount Kailash on the banks of Manasarovar Lake presented an out of the world experience for all. Later, it was a day to relax and enjoy the sunshine. At night, our minds were still struggling to stay awake and see the celestial beings descend into the lake. This time, we decided to stay indoors, as the previous night was too cold and tiring. Around 3.15 am, an unimaginable sight occurred, we saw two dimly lit stars coming down towards the lake, the entire sky was cloudy and no other star was visible. I wanted to capture it on camera but the extreme low light would not allow me to do so. Bhatt Ji also joined us this time and witnessed the majestic moment. Speechless, we prayed to the Lord to have blessed us with the divine sight. On 27th May, 2004 we revealed the good news to everyone, and unknowingly we had a great feeling and confidence in us to proceed and complete the Mount Kailash circumambulation. Now, only 11 people decided to go ahead on the 3 day journey to the gigantic mountains on the worlds highest plain while, the rest decided to meet us on our way back in Hore, on the opposite side of Manasarovar Lake. Darchen is located at 4560 metres approximately 8 kms. from Tarboche, the trek point of Kailash Parikrama. The trekking followed upto Dira Phuk Gompa (4775 metres) spread out to a distance of 12 kms. that we covered in almost 7 hours. We had a good view of Mount Kailash from the Western angle while passing through Lha Chu, Valley of Gods. Small squarish pieces of camphor neatly stitched inside a cloth band was tied around our necks to enhance the oxygen level, that served as an excellent local remedy against shortness of breath. Walking through the rough terrain on a fierce sunny day, we quenched our thirst with mineral water and juice. Vitamin rich candies and cookies helped regain our energy. Finally, we reached the first halt point and had a good nights sleep in the lap of holy Kailash. This divine feeling can not be expressed in mere words. On 28th May, 2004 we continued our second days parikrama, another tough day. We were supposed to reach Dolma La Pass lying 7 kms. away from Dira Phuk, accomodating Tara Devi the highest peak situated at an altitude of 5560 metres. We crossed over many hills and man-made bridges on the way. On reaching the top, a sense of achievement overtook our minds and it was equally well complemented by Swamijis blessings with gratification of the nature. The sacred place was scattered with vibrant prayer flags. We hurriedly offered our prayers as there was very low oxygen and more air pressure. It was too dangerous to stay there for more than ten minutes. We tied our ashrams flag as a token of gratitude. I felt like being in heaven and all my fears gradually vanished. It was like a rebirth - dvityam janma of my soul. There was so much calm and peace around. My heart and mind became one, enlightened with great divine content feeling. Soon we climbed down accompanied by sherpas, yaks and ponywalas towards Gauri Kund that was frozen. We also crossed a few glaciers. At the end of the day, we reached Zuthul Phuk Gompa (4700 metres) after a long arduous journey of 10-11 hours, stretching over to 22 kms. in a single day. We thanked the Lord for keeping the sky full of sunshine. On 29th May, 2004 our final day of parikrama ended after a 14 km trek through the landslide zone. On way, we could see lots of stones inscribed with Mantras. We proceeded to Hor Qu (4560 metres) and joined rest of the group, who were eager to know of our well being. Swami Swaroopanandji narrated his valuable experiences gotten from his previous trip to this heavenly place. This boosted our spiritual energy and motivated us to complete the most impossible pilgrimage. In the afternoon of this auspicious day of Ganga Dussehra, we took a dip in holy waters of Manasarovar Lake with Swamiji. Later, we collected fabulous miniature stone Shivalingams as souvenir and also collected holy water in canesters. On 30th May, 2004 we began our return journey around 8.00 am in morning and reached Saga 474 kms. 1.15 past midnight, skipping Prayang and took refuge at Star Moon Hotel. This part of journey presented more problems than any other day with most of the vehicles breaking down in mid of the journey. Next day, we again crossed Brahmaputra river by the wire boat and reached Nyalam to stay at Snow View Hotel. On 01st June, 2004 soon after reaching Zangmu we crossed over to Nepal and hired a helicopter from Kodari to Kathmandu and took a connecting Royal Nepal Airlines flight to New Delhi. The trail was tough but far outweighed the discomforts faced. It is truly an epic in itself that holds great expedition of time testing human endurance under the most difficult weather conditions. In the end, it turned out to be the most rewarding of all journeys ever known to man.
List of Manasarovar Kailasa Yatris
(Shri Golokdham Ashram, Brijwasan New Delhi)
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