The Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage is one of the most arduous and challenging treks for religious pilgrims in the world. Mount Kailash is abode of Lord Shiva and the mountain is the source of the giant rivers of India the; Brahmaputra, Indus, Sutlej and Karnali. Ancient texts refer to the mountain as the center of the world. The symmetrical mountain is one of the most beautiful and sacred of the Himalaya. A series of five ancient temples are situated around the mountain flanks. A journey around the mountain will free pilgrims from endless cycles of birth and death. Pilgrims having been making the trek to the region in a tradition that dates back at least several thousand years. The journey is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists while followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions travel the 52km trek around the mountain in a counterclockwise direction.
The journey to Kailash is best made in the months of June to September when the weather is most favorable with temperatures averaging around 15°C. Despite the generally favorable conditions the route to mountain is subject to difficulties as landslides and rains frequently close the few roads heading to the region. The peak itself is often enshrouded in clouds and locals believe those catching a glimpse of the mountain will find luck. Climbers are forbidden to approach the summit given the sacred nature of the peak.
Pilgrims heading to make the circuit of Mount Kailash frequently include a stop at Lake Manasarovar. It is believed that a swim in its divine waters will wash away ones sins. As per Hindu scriptures, Lake Manas Sarovar is a personification of purity, and one who drinks water from the lake will go to the Abode of Lord Shiva after death. Trips to Kaliash are most often arranged so that pilgrims can swim in the waters on the night of the full moon.
A grand religious festival Saga Dawa Festival is usually held at Mt. Kailash on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar to celebrate the enlightenment of Sakyamunis. Tibetans as rule do not eat any meat during the entire month. The day of the festival varies from year-to-year but generally falls in May or June.
Mount Kailash is the center of many traditions. Hindus regard the mount as Shiva’s symbolic ‘Lingam’. Tibetan Buddhists believe Kang Rinpoche (The Tibetan name for the mountain) is a natural mandala that represents Buddhist cosmology on the earth. Whereas, Jains believe this is the place where Mahavira was spiritually awakened. Similarly, Bonpos believe the mountain to be the location where the founder of their religion landed when he descended from the sky.