Kailash & Mansrovar Drive In / Drive Out
Mt. Kailash, 6,740 m, is situated to the north of the Himalayan barrier, wholly within Tibet. It is the perfect mountain with awesome beauty, with 4 great faces. It is the spiritual centre for four great religions: Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, the Jain religion and the pre-Buddhist animistic religion – Bonpo. To Tibetans it is known as Khang Rimpoche (Precious Jewel of Snow) and they see it as the navel of the world. It is said that a stream from the mountain pours into a nearby lake and from here rivers flow in the four cardinal directions. The River of the Lion Mouth to the North, the River of the Horse Mouth to the east, the River of the Peacock Mouth to the south and the River of the Elephant Mouth to the West. Strangely enough, four major rivers do indeed originate near Kailash, the Indus, the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), the Karnali and the Sutlej. Tibetans believe that it is the residence of Demchog, a fierce looking tantric deity who lives there with his consort, Dorje Phagmo. For the Tibetans also, it is a particularly special place in that their poet saint Milarepa, spent several years here meditating in a cave.
For the Hindus, Mount Kailash is the earthly manifestation of Mt. Meru, their spritual centre of the universe, described as a fanatastic ‘world pillar’ 84,000 miles high, around which all else revolves, its roots in the lowest hell and its summit kissing the heavens. On the top lives their most revered God, Shiva, and his consort Parvati.
For the Jains, an Indian religious group, Kailash is the site where their first prophet achieved enlightenment. For the older, more ancient religion of Bon, it is the site where its founder Shanrab is said to have descended from heaven. It was formerly the spiritual centre of Zhang Zung, the ancient Bon Empire that once included all of western Tibet. Bon people walk around the mountain in a counter clockwise manner, unlike the other religions.
Over the centuries pilgrims have constantly journeyed immense distances to achieve enlightenment or cleanse themselves of sin, braving enormous hardships, particularly harsh weather and bandit attacks.