Maha Shivratri or the ‘Great Night of Shiva’ is one of the major festivals of India and is celebrated with great gusto and enthusiasm by the Hindu devotees. It is celebrated every year in the lunisolar month of the Hindi calendar. The day is marked with fastings, offerings, chantings and temple visits dedicated to the Lord and His several Jyotirlinga temples spread all across India. This year, Shivratri was celebrated on 24th February.
SHIVA’s ABODE in TIBET
If we are talking about Lord Shiva, we must not forget to mention the famous Kailash Manasarovar Yatra (KMY). Every year, hundreds of pilgrims look forward to visiting a virgin divine land on earth in Tibet. People call it an enthralling journey into Shiva’s abode. It not only gives them moments of introspection but also transfers them into a state of trance. More than anything else, this beautiful and tedious journey strengthens the faith of people and is extremely popular for its religious value and cultural significance. The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is about visiting the land where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati have lived and meditated forever. Ashtapad, the south face of lord Kailash is considered very auspicious by the Jains as they believe that their first Thirthankara Rishabhadeva, founder of Jainism attained Nirvana here. Gouri Kund (the kund where Goddess Parvati took bath) at the Dolma Pass is considered to carry the essence of all our Vedas.
Standing high at 22,000 feet, Mount Kailash is a legendary mountain in Tibet. It requires a lot of reverence in the heart and both mental and physical strength to do this once-in-a-lifetime trek where you must circumambulate the peak of the mountain and take a holy dip in the Mansarovar lake. While the peak is believed to be the center of the Universe and the region is the seat of the spiritual power, the visit remains incomplete without taking a dip in the Mansarovar lake. The legends say that the lake did not exist initially but was created. ‘Manas’ means ‘mind of Lord Brahma’. If we take a cue from the name, we can easily decipher that the lake is believed to be created from the mind of Lord Brahma.
THE KAILASH YATRA
One may start the journey from different parts of the world, but one must reach Tibet to submerge in the beauty of its snow-clad peaks in the Himalayas. The journey is not as easy as it sounds. One must be ready to travel in the freezing temperatures, challenging terrains, difficult trek trails and high altitude regions. From India, there have been two major routes for the Kailash Yatra but now there are many tour operators to help you through. Since it is a long distance trek, land cruisers take you to different levels of the journey and help in the transfers from one place to another, but once you are at the highest base, you must start hiking up to the mountain on your own. No one climbs the Mt. Kailash now but the parikrama is of utmost importance. It is a three-day trek covering 53Kms. At the same time, if you plan to do the circumambulation of Manasarovar Lake, it calls for a little over 100 km and takes 4-5 days to complete.
If you are already mesmerized and have an urge to cleanse off your sins, you must check for the online registrations for the Kailash Manasarovar before they close in March. If you do not wish to do the whole trek, you may also opt to go via helicopter which may save you on the time and physical endurance.
Some Very Important Things To Know About Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
- The best time to do the Kailash Yatra is May to November
- During this period, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) arranges for trips.
- Each year the trip is conducted in batches via different routes.
- Depending on the route chosen by you, there is a fee which must be borne by the applicants.
- One must meet the medical examination and fitness test standards to start the trip.
- To qualify for the final trek, one must acclimatize to the extreme conditions and complete the shorter treks before the big climb.
- You must be ready to face and overcome altitude sickness that comes with height.
- Have no inhibitions to sleeping in camps, sharing rooms, eating simple food, supporting other co-travelers.
- Watch your physical toughness and build on your strength few months before the trek. Practice carrying water bottles and walking with a heavy backpack.
- Prepare your clothing for extreme climates and double check for your thermal jacket, socks, cap, raincoat, etc.
- Do not forget to carry your passport, important documents and medicines.
We have all seen the Tibetan monasteries in India but when you see them in Tibet, it is a different feeling altogether. Lhasa, the capital contains a number of temples and monasteries. With an average elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 ft) and one that is famous for sharing the Mount Everest with Nepal, Tibet is the highest region on Earth. Several of our rivers also take their source from the Tibetan Plateau. Known as the ‘Roof of the World’ for several decades, it is a land of surreal beauty.