KAILASH-MANASAROVAR HELICOTER TOUR: 11 DAYS
For many travelers, Tibet has a special appeal. This is particularly true of the remote south-western corner where the great curve of the Himalaya swings northwards tilting the Tibetan plateau towards the heavens. Here in isolation, is a solitary mountain and two azure lakes that have been a focus for human interest since earliest times.
Hindus regard Mt. Kailas as the earthly manifestation of Mt Meru, their spiritual centre of the universe. It is also known as a “world pillar,” 84,000 miles high around which all else revolves. On the summit sits Lord Shiva who shares this lofty peak with his consort Parvati, daughter of Himalaya. Below, Manasarovar floats in the shadow of holy Kailas as the lake formed in the mind of God. It was created to show the omnipotence of Brahma’s mind (Manas). To bathe in the lake and to drink its waters is to be delivered to the paradise of Brahma and to cleanse the sins of a hundred lifetimes. Lying as they do beneath the symbolic temple of Kailas, Manasarovar and Raksas Tal represent the water tanks present at the entrance to every Hindu temple. The round shape of the former is like the sun and the curved outline of Raksas Tal symbolizes the moon. These ideas are expressed in the names of the two lakes, Manasarovar being associated with ‘light’ and Rakshas Tal meaning the ‘lake of the demons’. To Hindus Manasarovar symbolizes the receptive, female aspect of creation, the yoni; while Mt Kailas symbolizes the active male aspect, the lingam. In 1948 some of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were ceremonially scattered on the holy lake.
For the Jains, Kailas is acclaimed as the site where their first prophet achieved enlightenment.
The area is also the land of origin of the pre-Buddhist Bon-pos and the site where their founder Shenrab descended from heaven. It is the spiritual centre of the ancient Bon empire which once included all of western Tibet. Mt Kailas is their soul mountain. They also call it ‘nine-storey Swastika Mountain’, thus describing the mountain’s prominent markings and recalling that the swastika is an ancient Asian symbol for ??. When a Buddhist revival embraced this area from Ladakh in the tenth century it absorbed many Bon traditions. The Bon-pa also circumambulate Mt Kailas but in their traditional anti-clockwise manner, opposite to Buddhists and Hindus.
Mt Kailash is known to the Tibetans as Kang Rimpoche, ‘Precious Jewel of the Snow.’ Like the Hindus, Tibetan Buddhists recognize Mt Kailas as the manifestation of Mt Meru, the ‘navel of the world,’ rising ‘like the handle of a mill-stone’ into the heavens. It is said that from the slopes of Mt Meru a stream flows into Manasarovar and from this lake four mythical rivers flow in the four cardinal directions to the ocean. These rivers are now associated with the four major rivers originating near here; the Indus, Tsangpo, Karnali and Sutlej.
Manasarovar, to, Tibetans know as Mapham Tso, the ‘Unconquerable Lake’. The name records a magical contest between the Tibetan poet and mystic Milarepa, and the Bon priest Naro Bhun Chon which occurred here in the tenth century. Their tussles are marked in numerous sites around the region. In any language it is the holiest most famous lake in Asia. For Tibetans, Mt Kailas is the mythical palace of Demchok, the powerful Tibetan tutelary deity who ‘tears asunder the elephant-hide of ignorance’ and his consort Dorjee Phagmo. The two symbolize compassion and wisdom, making Kailas and Manasarovar the perfect complement: father and mother of the earth.