"That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material. " ~ Swami Vivekananda

Pilgrim Places


Legends of Kailash


Rajiv Butalia, inspired by isolated, mysterious Tibet, researches the legends of Kailash and gains different perspectives from trekker and pilgrim alike.

I was first attracted to Mount Kailash after reading "The Way of the White Clouds" by Lama Anagarika Govinda, who wrote, "There are mountains which are just mountains and there are mountains with personality. The personality of a mountain is more than merely a strange shape that makes it different from others. Personality consists in the ability to influence others, and this power is due to consistency, harmony, and one-pointedness of character. If these qualities are present in an individual in their highest perfection, then this individual is a fit leader of humanity either as a ruler, thinker or a saint, and we recognise him as a vessel of divine power. If these qualities are present in a mountain we recognise it as a vehicle of cosmic power and we call it a sacred mountain. To see the greatness of a mountain one must keep ones distance; to understand its form one must move around it; to experience its moods one must see it at sunrise and at sunset. Mount Kailash has become a symbol of the ultimate quest for perfection and ultimate realisation, signposts that point beyond worldly existence."

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The mountain stands stark and isolated in the midst of rugged terrain. The land that surrounds it is known as the abode of the gods. On one side is lake Manasarovar in the shape of the sun, on the other side is Rakshastal in the form of a crescent moon, where Ravana and other demons are believed to have done penance.

Legends and myths surround it from time immemorial. Hindus believe this to be the abode of Shiva and Parvati. Hindu mythology recognises it as the only abode of the gods that can be visited by man in his mortal body. While Brahma resides in Brahma Lok and Vishnu in Vaikunth, Shiva resides on Mount Kailash. Goddess Parvati has taken the form of Lake Manasarovar. Shiva and Parvati together are represented by Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, which together are referred to as Gauri Shankar. It is believed that Ganesha and Kartikeya both came into being on the Mandhata mountain here. According to the Ram Charitra Manas, Shiva related the story of Ramayana to Parvati in this place.

For Buddhists, Kang Rinpoche, the Precious Snow Mountain, as it is known, is the holiest of mountains. The descent of the bodhisattva into his last life is connected with Lake Anotatta (the Pali name for Manasarovar). Queen Maya dreamt that the couch on which she rested was carried by the guardian gods to the lake. This holy dip in the waters removed all human impurities so that the Lord Buddha could enter her womb. He came in the form of a white cloud from the direction of Mount Kailash. Padmasambhava, who took Buddhism to Tibet in the eight century, spent the last seven years of his life in this region.

For Jains, this is the region of Mount Ashtapada, on the summit of which Rishabanatha, the first tirthankar, gained spiritual liberation.
Queen Maya dreamt that the couch on which she rested was carried by the guardian gods to the Mansarovar Lake.

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The Bonpo, the ancient pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion refers to it as the 'Nine-Storey Swastika Mountain', the mystic soul of their land. It is a fact that the Gurla-Mandhata range when viewed from above appears in the form of a massive swastika.

The gods are believed to bathe every morning in the lake between 3 am and 5 am and this time is called 'Brahmamuhurta'. The gods and sages, many of whom are present at the lake in subtle form, bless the pilgrims who visit the spot.

Manasarovar is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Manas' meaning mind and it is believed that Lord Brahma created this lake from his mind. The gods are believed to bathe every morning in the lake between 3 am and 5 am and this time is called 'Brahmamuhurta'. Parashuram's ashram is believed to be situated on a hill here. The gods and sages, many of whom are present at the lake in subtle form, bless the pilgrims who visit the spot.

Each stone in the lake is revered as a lingam. Every step taken in this holy land has been blessed by innumerable pilgrims who have trod this very path in faith, with prayer and humility. The air reverberates with their vibrations. It is here that I hope to go, if it be so destined.


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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.