* The most sacred mountain and lake in the world.
Mount Kailash is a peak in the Gangdise Mountains, which are part of the Himalayas in Tibet. It lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus River, the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus River), the Brahmaputra River, and the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges River). It is considered as a sacred place in five religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Ayyavazhi and the Bon faith. In Hinduism, it is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva and as a place of eternal bliss. The mountain lies near Lake Manasarowar and Lake Rakshastal in Tibet.
Hindus regard the peak as Shiva's symbolic Lingam or Phallus and worship Mt Kailash, which is the Sanskrit name for the mountain. Bonpos believe the sacred mountain to be the place where the founder of the Bon religion landed when he descended from the sky. Tibetan Buddhists believe Kang Rinpoche, which means Precious Snow Mountain, is a natural mandala representing the Buddhist cosmology on the earth and the Jains believe this is the place where their religion's founder was spiritually awakened.
Hindus believe Mt.Kailash to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Like many of the Hindu gods, Shiva is a character of apparent contradictions. He at once the Lord of Yoga and therefore the ultimate renunciate ascetic, yet he is also the divine master of Tantra, the esoteric science that regards sexual union as the most perfect path to spiritual enlightenment. According to legend, immortal Shiva lives atop Kailash where he spends his time practicing yogic austerities, making joyous love with his divine consort, Parvati, and smoking ganja, the sacred herb known in the west as marijuana, Hindus do not interpret Shiva's behaviors as contradictory however, but rather see in him a deity who has wisely integrated the extremes of human nature and thus transcended attachment to any particular, and limited, way of being. For a Hindu, to make the arduous pilgrimage to Kailash and have the darshan (divine view) of Shiva's abode is to attain release from the clutches of ignorance and delusion.
The Bon, a religion which predates Buddhism in Tibet, maintain that the entire mystical region and the nine-story Swastika Mountain is the seat of all spiritual power. Additionally, Bon myths regard Swastika as the sight of a legendary 12th century battle of sorcery between the Buddhist sage Milarepa and the Bon shaman Naro Bon-chung. Milarepa's defeat of the shaman displaced Bon as the primary religion of Tibet, firmly establishing Buddhism in its place. While the Buddha is believed to have magically visited Kailash in the 5th century BC, the religion of Buddhism only entered Tibet, via Nepal and India, in the 7th century AD. Tibetan Buddhists call the mountain Kang Rimpoche, the 'Precious One of Glacial Snow', and regard it as the dwelling place of Demchog (also known as Chakrasamvara) and his consort, Dorje Phagmo. Three hills rising near Kang Rimpoche are believed to be the homes of the the Bodhisatvas Manjushri, Vajrapani, and Avalokiteshvara.
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. It is said that Milarepa (c. 1052-c. 1135 CE), champion of Tantric Buddhism, arrived in Tibet to challenge Naro Bon-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 Bon-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 Bon-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 Bonri, bequeathing it to the Bonpo and thereby ensuring continued Bonpo connections with the region.
Eighteen miles southeast of Kailash is the circular, turquoise Lake Manasarovar, or Tso Rinpoche, a 64-mile circuit, which is rarely completed except by the most devout. Bathing in the lake, or even dousing one’s head with the holy water, is said to be of enormous spiritual benefit to those who can brave the icy water which many claim contain miraculous powers. Hindus are told that complete immersion into the lake ensures they be reborn as a god. Tibetans, on the other hand, avoid bathing in the lake so as not to make it dirty. This is a freshwater lake, three miles above sea level. There is a saltwater lake, separated by a narrow peninsula, named Raksas Tal, or devil’s lake. Pilgrims don’t bathe or circumambulate this crescent moon-shaped body of water, but do pay their respect by glancing in its direction.
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 Bonpo religions circumambulate the mountain in a counter-clockwise direction. The path around Mount Kailash is 52 kilometers long. This walking around the mountain is known as a Kora, or Parikrama, and normally takes three days. It is believed that a pilgrim who completes 108 journeys around the mountain is assured enlightenment. Most pilgrims to Kailash will also take a short plunge in the nearby, highly sacred (and very cold) Lake Manosaravar. Adjacent to Manosaravar is Rakas Tal or Rakshas, the Lake of Demons. Pilgrimage to this great sacred mountain and these two magical lakes is a life changing experience and an opportunity to view some of the most magical scenery on the entire planet.
Mount Kailash is also the source of four major rivers: the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Karnali and the Sutleg. The comparison to the Indian legend of Mount Meru from whose summit flows four great rivers that irrigate all of Asia is hard to miss.