My feelings towards mountains have matured over the years from fear to awe to love. I have enjoyed being around the Himalayas and the Alps,watching the peaks glow every morning and evening under the warm rays of the sun. However, the oneness that I felt at the feet of the Mystic Mountain -Mount Kailash in Tibet redefined my relationship with mountains unlocking the spiritual being within me. Growing up in a Hindu family in India, stories of Kailash where Lord Shiva (hindu God)resided were narrated by elders to keep the naughty, fidgety children mesmerised for a while. I was no different and often pleaded to Lord Shiva to grant me one visit to his abode and I would not ask for anything for the rest of my life. It so happened that my prayers were answered 3 decades later and am trying to live by the promise made years ago. After an energizing dip in Lake Manasarovar in the extreme cold; it was time for the Kailash Parikrama
Mount Kailash – Journey Begins Day 1
Mount Kailash (about 6600 metres) is a part of the Himalayan Range and is off immense spiritual significance to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. This is a single block mountain perpetually covered in snow, with deep ridges on all sides which allows pilgrims to circumambulate the entire 42 kms on foot or pony back which is referred as “Kora” by the Buddhist and “Parikrama” by the Hindus. No one in living history has been able to scale the mountain as yet.We assembled at Tarboche in the morning to be assigned with helpers or pony’s for the long trek through a difficult terrain. The assignment is random and once assigned,you have to be with the helper for the rest of the journey.
I was quite oblivious of what was happening around, admiring the low clouds extending their blessings for the journey of a life time that lay ahead. The journey from Manasarovar to Tarboche after a night halt at Darchen (base camp for Kailash Kora) had been one of anticipation, one of eagerness and often restless, thinking about my Ist Kora (Circumambulation) around Kailash. We passed through the Yama Dwar just before Tarboche which is symbolic of our ability to leave behind our mortal inadequacies before receiving the highest blessing. We had to trek 12 km through the highs and lows of the mountain terrain to reach Deraphuk(16500 feet) for a night halt.
As soon as our group was flagged off for the journey, I set out on foot with my helper along the Lam Chu River, negotiating stones, sometimes accidentally stepping on them, and generally looking around. I would often sit on a boulder to take a picture or two or simply chant “Om Mani Padme Hum” or “Shiv o Hum” marveling at nature’s creation and in gratitude for the locals who have been able guardians for them on earth.
After about 2 hours I took a short food stop, catching up with the group and chilling with the pristine pure stream water. I could feel the flow of water through my gut.
The next part of the journey was even better, often crossing makeshift, apparently robust but fragile looking bamboo bridges and sometimes stopping by to tie a Buddhist Prayer Flag. I could sense my feet were slowing down, wanting to pause every now and then. It was not mountain sickness, nor a bout of fatigue but a deep desire to relish every moment in the surrounding.
After walking another 2 hours in the divine surrounding, I could sight the North West Face of Mount Kailash. The snow covered peak appeared like a 5 hooded snake that is often seen with the images of Hindu Gods and is believed to be the ultimate protector. To me they are the symbols of our 5 senses ever so reminding us to maintain balance for a peaceful life. I stood there mesmerised, remembering my grand mother’s stories of Kailash and my own childhood whispers with moist eyes!! Finally, I was at the feet of the mighty Mount Kailash.
Though, I had imagined that Lord Shiva will be waiting there to welcome me into his abode in Mount Kailash, the people around the guest house, the cooks and sherpas accompanying our group were his able messengers taking care of our every need just as he would do. There was more to come the following day and I retired in my restful place after a hot bowl of delicious soup between the warm clean sheets, contemplating and attempting to journey inward in silence.
More about my time spent at the feet of the mystic mountain in the next part.