Holy Mt. Kailash
is considered the holiest mountain on earth by a number of faiths and religions.
Through millennia, monks, yogis and pilgrims from all over the world have braved
unimaginable hardships to reach this abode of gods. Its exceptional isolation
and the peculiar contours of black granite that give it the appearance of a
Shivalinga, have caused Kailash to be venerated as a place that is both representative
and emblematic of Shiva. For Hindus, a journey to Kailash is considered the
ultimate yatra due to both the difficulty of reaching it and the level of sanctity
attached to it.
At a height of 6714 m, Mt. Kailash is locally called Kang rinpoche or "The
Precious Jewel of the Snow". It is striking with its snow - capped peak
against the clear blue sky which justifies its name Jewel of the Snow.
Kailash in Sanskrit means that which gleams in water. The water that covers
the peak in the form of snow is symbolic of flawless purity. Mt. Kailash also
known as Mt. Meru, is referred to as the navel of the earth. The word Meru is
drawn from the root words mi and ru literally means that which measures. The
measure of the universe must be greater than the universe and also run through
it like a measuring rod. The word ru stands for a great reverberating sound,
a centrifugal vibration that spreads outward to congeal into perceptible (audible)
matter leading to the appearance of the sensate universe.
Shiva whose legendary abode it supports, western Tibet is also a tangle of sublime
paradoxes. A vast desert, it is also source of four mighty rivers. Four legendary
rivers flow from within a radius of 50 kms in four different directions. To
the south is the sapphire face from where flows the Karnali from the ruby face
on the west flows the Sutlej from the gold face on the north flows the Indus
and eastwards from the crystal face flows the Brahmaputra also referred to a
Each of Mt. Kailash's face highlights different moods. The southern face reflects
majesty or splendor, it is fully covered with snow. The west face is enveloped
in an aura of compassion and benevolence. The north face is stark, forbidding
and daunting while the east, only visible from a distance is mysterious and
The southern face of Kailash displays the marking of the celestial steps a long
vertical cleft punctuated by a horizontal line of rock strata. The design resembles
a swastika indicating the rays of the sun in Hinduism, since the Vedic age.
It is the Buddhist symbol of spiritual strength.
Though cut off from the rest of the world by high mountain ranges, the desert
plateau has attracted the attention of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains from all
over the world. All their myths associate Kailash with important events in the
lives of their most revered figures. For the Bons, followers of the pre -Buddhist
shamanic religion of Tibet, it is the 'Nine - storey Swastika Mountain' which
contains the mystic soul of the region. The Buddhists believe that the Buddha
stepped on the mountain to keep it from being moved away by Ravana, a king of
the netherworld (not to be confused with the king of Lanka in the Ramayana).
For the Jains, Kailash remains a place where their first Tirthankara gained
a Tibetan ascetic, (Whose great - grand guru was Naropa, a learned pundit from
Kashmir) is also said to have done penance near Kailash. Milarepa went to Kailash
in the year 1093 and had many theological debated and magical contests with
the Bon shamanistic priest Naro Bonchung, defeating him each time. To establish
the unchallenged supremacy of Buddhism in Tibet, it was necessary to appropriate
the most sacred mountain and its environs. Milarepa was a follower of the Kargyu
sect, of the 'black hat' lamas. This is why Kailash is specially visited by
the followers of this sect.
For the Hindus, Kailash is both the abode and the emblem of Shiva. Despite differences
in climate, geographical contours and ethnic background, India and Tibet developed
an important link because of the sacred mountain. A number of Tibetan myths
about the region incorporate Indian myths. The Tibetan language, which was unconnected
to Sanskrit, developed a script drawn from Devanagari. The modes of worship,
too, became a blend of Indian and Tibetan.
For Indian pilgrims, a journey to Kailash becomes a special experience that
cannot but leave a lasting impact on their beings, shaping and altering their
vision, perspective and consciousness. It is not for nothing that those who
complete the journey are honored and often given a special welcome on their
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