Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 34


Dawn at Kailasa

Good morning!

The yatra date is 3-July-2013

It is the second day of Kailasa Kora (Parikrama)…

Soota is up early… Before sunrise… He and Shiva head for the rocks behind the guest house for bio needs… It is shivering cold… But there is a feeling of immense freedom… After taking care of morning demands, one heads back to the guest house… Shankar and family are rising… Dash, the Peter-Pan, is in deep slumber… Hard negotiations are on with him to make him rise..

Tibetan ladies, selling this or that, walk into the room and make themselves at home… The porters come room to room, and ask their respective yatri-s to hurry up.. It is just past 5 am… A small lunch packet is handed to everyone…Hot Horlicks is served… Soota has the Horlicks drink but is none the better for it… He is feeling queasy … He walks to one side and upchucks the whole stuff.. Must have been the noodles of last evening… God only knows what it contained…

The camp is now up and about… Porters, Sherpas are all congregating… Money is changing hands…

Many of the Yatri-s are unwell and cannot continue the kora. They have to return to base camp at Darchen… Some, who are not unwell, are not keen to take on the daunting second-day of Kora… So they too decide to return…. For the second-day is the most strenuous.. We have to cover 22 kms today… And that includes going up to the highest point in the kora – the Dolma La pass – which at 18.600 feet, is roughly two-thirds of the elevation of Mt Everest…

Truth be told, Soota too is not a picture of confidence… It is Shankar, who powers him on, saying – ‘Hey! By evening today, we would be on the eastern side of Kailasa. Tomorrow, afternoon, we would have completed the parikrama.. So gidyap…’ Reminds one of the great proclamation of Swami Vivekananda “Arise! Awake! And stop not until the goal is reached!”…. Based on that great utterance of Katha Upanishad – which Yama, the God of Death, tells young Nachiketa – “उत्तिष्ठतजाग्रतप्राप्य वरान्निबोधत – “Arise! Awake! And attain the goal (Secret of Knowledge) by obtaining the guidance of the great (Guru)”… The statement continues – क्षुरस्य धारा निशिता दुरत्यया दुर्गं पथस्तत्कवयो वदन्ति ।। – the path is like the razor’s edge – difficult to traverse – formidable – so say the wise…

Ah yes, this path of the kora is difficult to traverse all right…

Local time (set as per Beijing time) is around before 6 am…

Time to leave…

Here’s a very-very short video clip that Soota took just as he set out from the camp….



A five or ten minute walk from the guest house, and one crosses a bridge, and comes to a place where all the horses and yaks and porters are waiting…He finds Sanjiv, the healer-mystic, also readying to leave on his horse… Soota locates his horseman… Heave ho, gidyap. ready to go…




Lets first get a perspective of the kora. Here is a picture from Google earth…



The red-orange line on the right indicates the first days kora, all along the Lha Chu valley. The green line on the left indicates the second day’s kora, from Dirapuk to Zutulpuk… A distance of around 22 kms…. First part of which is the ascent to Dolma La pass. Starting from close to 16000 feet at Dirapuk and going up some 6 or 7 kms to Dolma La, climbing around 2600 feet…




Soota and Sanjiv set off.. And they are joined by the retired school teacher from Bengal. He is one who speaks only Bengali… And wears a traditional panchakacham dhoti… Our Bengali Babu has his secret method that enables him to generate internal body heat (like Shankar has his daily chant of Agni Sahasranama)… Else how could he walk like this in this roof of the world?

Off they go… Almost all the co-yatri-s hire horses at least for this part of the kora – the ascent to Dolma La Pass.

The long haul starts …




The horseman is as strong as a horse.. And so he walks up the steep path with ease… Every once in a while, he decides to deviate from the regular path and cut across up a steeper path…. Granite boulders, rocks, big and small, strewn everywhere…




On the way one crosses a group of young ladies who are trekking up, like seasoned mountaineers… He later comes to know that they are from a group called WOW – ‘Women on wanderlust’ … More power to them!

An hour or so into the climb, some two miles from the starting point , they arrive at an area where one finds lots of clothes and stuff strewn on rocks. This is the Shiva-sthal area, which is at around 17700 feet elevation… Shivasthal is the place of symbolic death… Tibetans offer some clothing, or hair, or some drops of blood, and lie down here and enact death. They also leave some item belonging to any kin who has died, for his/her salvation. This place is said to be a counterpart of the burial ground at Bodh Gaya India.

Some pictures of Shivasthal from the Net (click here for source )

Click on pictures to browse…

From Shivasthal branches a route closer to Kailasa which is the path of the inner kora, which goes by the Khando sanglam mountain. The traditional belief is that one is entitled to do an inner kora only after doing outer kora twelve times… The inner kora is far more difficult as well, and should be done only with seasoned guides… There are people who do the outer and inner kora one after another… In six days… More power to them… It is also said that one can do the inner kora (without fulfilling the entry criteria of 12 outer kora-s) if it is the sacred year of the horse… 2014 happens to be such an year… Om!

We are in 2013 and doing the outer kora …Crossing the shivasthal area… One understands that there is a small lake known as Ganesh Kund, somewhere along the way, near Shivasthal.

Here’s a look from a lovely picture book



A short while from Shivasthal one crosses a rock with a footprint said to be of the great sage Milarepa ( Click for source )



Some half an hour or so later, one comes across two sets of ‘sinner test stones’ – known in Tibetan as Dikpa-karnak. One understands that the first one is a big boulder beneath which there is a narrow passage some 15 feet or so in length. The roof is not even though. The sinner test is to crawl through this hole, and if you succeed in doing that you are said to be ‘free of sin’. The only caveat is that the thin man wins! The fat man has to pay for the sin of his body by getting stuck and having to face the embarrassment of being pulled out by others! The second Dikpa-karnak is a short distance away and consists of another set of boulders that have a zigzag hollow path. The idea is to enter by the left and return by the right. Apparently, this hollow is big enough for a yak to pass the sinner test! So one need not lose hope if one fails in the first test! Then again, one read elsewhere that they have blocked the exit of the test stone passage… As far as Soota was concerned, he was blissfully unaware of these ‘sinner test stones’. And so he passed them by.

Generally speaking, one hardly gets to see Kailasa peak during the second day kora. Although one reads that there are a few spots from where one does get a glimpse. For instance, Swami Prananvananda says that from somewhere near the second ‘sinners test stone’, one gets a fine view of the peak of Kailasa, ‘shooting up from behind the peak of Jambyang (Manjughisha)’.

While Soota did not feel any particular discomfiture in terms of breathing, there were many who did. There is only half the oxygen at those heights, compared to sea level, and each breath is a blessing to be savored. Soota was rather fatigued though… The morning upchucking had not helped either. He had brought some dry fruits in his belt-bag, which he munched once in a rare while. And sipped water once in a more frequent while. Water was collected from one of the many streams we crossed. It was somewhat darkish in color because of the soil in ice. But it was Kailasa water. To Soota, it was Ganga. Each sip was amruta. The horse that he rode on was grey haired and comparatively gentle… It was not easy to ride, as it stepped between boulders, this way and that, making its way up the steep mountain. But he held on for dear life and limb. And God was kind.

Dolma or Drolma is the alias of Tara Devi. The mountain Dolma is also called Tara. This is in the north east or the Ishana direction. The direction of Siva. Tara Devi is common to Hindu and Buddhist tantric traditions. She is one of the ten Sakta Mahavidya goddesses. She is the one who enables the pilgrim to ‘cross over’ – from death to deathlessness, from illusion to wisdom, bondage to salvation. In Hindu tradition she is seen standing on the corpse-like body of Shiva. The death-experience… The enactment of death at Shiva-sthal…. And the actual crossover that happens when one crosses the Dolma La pass… The death of the “I”-notion… The cross-over to liberation from the bondage of “I”-illusion of body-mind identification… That is the significance of the completion of the kora… On the first day, we had crossed Yama-dvar on the South-west (Nirruthi ) direction… On the second day, we cross Dolma-La, which is in the opposite side of Yama-dvar, on the North-east, the Ishana direction. Ishana means Shiva. Where the grace of Tara enables the cross-over.

Explaining the passage from Shiva-sthal to Dolma La, Lama Govinda writes in “The Way of the White clouds” –

While climbing up to the high pass of Dolma, which separates the northern from the eastern valley, he comes to the place where he beholds the Mirror of the King of Death (Yama), in which all his past deeds are reflected. On this spot he lies down between huge boulders in the position of a dying man. He closes his eyes and faces the judgement of Yama, the judgement of his own conscience in the remembrance of his former deeds. And with them he remembers all those who were dear to him and who died before him, all those whose love he was unable to repay; and he prays for their happiness in whatever form they may have been reborn. And as a token of this he leaves little relics of their earthly days on this hallowed spot-a small piece of cloth, a strand of hair, a pinch of ashes from the funeral pyre, or whatever he could preserve for this last service to his beloved dead.

After he has thus made peace with the past and has gone through the gates of death he crosses the threshold of his new life on the snow covered pass of the all-merciful mother Dolma.”

So that is where we are… Morning hours of 3/July/2013… In the region of Tara, the direction of Siva. The idea is to reach the highest point of Dolma La before 10 am. For after that there is danger of blizzards… Lama Govinda writes – “Many a pilgrim has died from exertion on the ascent to the terrific altitude of nearly 19,000 feet, where a blizzard can freeze a man within a few minutes and where every gasp of breath has to be husbanded as if it were the elixir of life.”

Now on that last leg of ascent… Nearing the top of the pass…

Sometime past 9 am, Soota reaches the Dolma La pass… The high point of the three day kora…. Dark glasses save his eyes from the dazzle of Sunlight, reflected all around on the terrain of snow and ice…

Some pictures taken then.. Click and use arrow keys to browse…

At Dolma La pass is the rock of Dolma La, the Goddess Tara. Swami Pranavananda writes – “On the pass there is a big boulder called Domla (Devi) block and flags, festoons, streamers, and cairns are set up all around it. Fallen teeth are stuck by Tibetans into the chinks of the Dolma block, forming rosaries of teeth. Pilgrims smear butter on the boulder, hoist flags, and do the rounds of it. It is alleged that Devi disappeared under this rock in the form of 21 wolves; it may be noted that there are 21 forms or Avataras of Devi according to Tibetan scriptures.

Here is how Sven Hedin describes the Dolma La rock, in his chronicle of Kailasa Kora that he did in 1907…

At length we see before us a gigantic boulder, its cubical contents amounting perhaps to 7000 or 10,000 cubic feet ; it stands like an enormous milestone on the saddle of Dolma-la, which attains the tremendous height of 18,599 feet. On the top of the block smaller stones are piled up into a pyramid supporting a pole, and from its end cords decorated with rags and streamers are stretched to other poles fixed in the ground. Horns and bones, chiefly shoulder-blades of sheep, are here deposited in large quantities—gifts of homage to the pass, which is supposed to mark the hallway point of the pilgrimage. When the pilgrim arrives here, he smears a bit of butter on the side of the stone, plucks out a lock of his own hair and plasters it into the butter. Thus he has offered up some of himself and some of his belongings. Consequently the stone resembles a huge wig-block, from which black locks of hair flutter in the wind. In time it would be completely covered with Tibetan hair, were it not that the locks occasionally fall off and are blown away by the wind. Teeth are stuck in all the chinks of the Dolma block, forming whole rosaries of human teeth. If you have a loose tooth, dedicate it to the spirits of the pass.”

And now, a hundred plus years later, here we are, in front of Dolma rock…. The rock is completely covered with flags, festoons, streamers….

Here are a couple of  excellent photos from the Net ( Click here for source )..

First one shows a Tibetan guide tying a flag to the Dolma devi rock, which is completely covered by prayer flags…

Somewhere behind Soota, his co-yatri-s are on the way… Shankar, Shiva and Dash… The ladies have had to return… One has been severely affected by altitude sickness. And the other had problems with the horse and the handler, and had to return from somewhere along the way… Shiva is not keeping well too. But he is braving his way up on a horse, followed by Shankar… And on the way to the pass, Shiva falls off his horse. A mighty fall, on the hard boulder-strewn sloped of Dolma. That is not his only fall. He falls twice more… He is in serious pain… Yet he makes it to the top. Shiva and Dash helping him along….

Signing off this post with a video clip… Taken by Siva after he reached the pass… Sky is completely overcast…. It’s a cold day in the mountain…



NB: Blog date today is May 22, 2014.. This day is the Mahapuja day at Sri Ramanasramam, Arunachala. This commemorates the Mahanirvana day of Mother Azhagamma. The individual Azhagamma crossed over to become Tara, of Arunachala Siva Ramana…  To merge in Arunachala, and then be known as Mathrubhuteshwara – Siva who came as Mother…. Prostrations to Mathrubhuteshwara-Azhagamma-Arunachala!

** To be continued **


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2 Responses to “Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 34”

  1. G.L.N.Murthy Says:

    Thank u sir for this great posting.Yesterday night I returned from Manasasarovar yatra.As per our Guru’s advice (Sri Sidheswarananda swamiji of courthalam peetham ,Tamilnadu)we have stopped our yatra at Yamadwar and returned back to Hyderabad(115people).I have suffered heavy breathing problems in Manasasarovar and decided not to continue further.However we have moved up to Yamadwar and came back to Khatmandu.Your postings are so clear and lucid I am enjoying it reading and experiencing every word and every photo.Many thanks to you sir-Ganti


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