Posts Tagged ‘Kailas Yatra Routes’

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 3

July 25, 2013

As I write this series about Kailasa Yatra, quite a few people have got in touch with questions… “How was it? How tough is it? How does one prepare? What about the effect of low oxygen?” etc etc… Net-net, from many, the message seemed to be, “I would love to do it.. But not sure… Perhaps, had I been younger… But still….”. Recognize the tune?

Well, as a response, let me share a mail that came to me a few days ago… From a gentleman named KS Ramakrishnan, and this was our first communication…

He wrote:

Dear Kameshwar,

My son in law forwarded your Kailash yatra blog to me.  Very interesting to read the same.  I did the yatra in 2011.  I was 81 years old then.  It was tough especially the parikrama.  We had combined this with a tour of Tibet commencing from Lhasa.  The wilderness of Tibet is breath taking and one can but think of Kailasanath only all the time.  I had also written a travelogue after this trip.  If you are interested, I shall send it to you.  God bless you and yr efforts to propagate our culture and heritage.


Ab bolo!

Eighty one years old!

I got back in touch with him pronto. I gratefully accepting his offer of the travelogue of his trip to Mt Kailasa, which I read with much interest…  A humbling, inspiring, educating account…And with his permission, I am sharing it here.

Here’s the link… Kailash Yatra 2011 – Mr KS Ramakrishnan


Continuing now, from my previous post…

Let’s look at a couple of other ancient routes to Manasarovar, from Garhwal region of Uttarakhand…

The first one we check out is the one from Badrinath – via Mana Pass.

Swami Tapovanam, who took this route in 1929, tells us – “The Puranas say that Lord Krishna and the Pandavas, as well as several great Rshis, used this pass… There are innumerable traditions and statements in the Puranas suggesting that it was a  common custom for the great Rshis of ancient India to visit Kailas along this route…

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the route, shown in red.


As you can see in the map, one needs to proceed north from Badrinath along Saraswathi river, cross Mana Pass, reach Tholingamutt in Tibet, and then turn eastwards, to proceed to Mount Kailasa. This was one of the traditional trade routes between India and Tibet. The path was closed down by the Chinese in 1951, but reopened for native pilgrims and traders in 1954.  Guess it is impossible to cross except for a few months in the year… And even during that period, no guarantees.

A slightly more detailed map is given below.

The route marked in Red is the one via Mana Pass, taken by Swami Tapovanam in July 1929….


The journey described by Swami Tapovanam is like this…Mana village is near Badrinath… Near Mana village is the sacred Vyasa Gufa (Click here, for an earlier blog post about Mana and Vyasa Gufa)… River Saraswati is nearby.

Swamiji and a group of around seventeen Sadhu-s went from Badrinath to Keshav Prayag, the confluence of Saraswati and Alakananda, which is not far from Vyasa Gufa. They then proceeded northward along the route of Saraswati river. There is no marked road or path… They made their way across “boulders of rock and heaps of snow, with only Saraswati river for  a guide”…Crossed streams/tributaries that come in the way (not easy). The progress was very difficult, labored… At times one could hardly cross a mile in one hour.. Neela Parvat, the deep blue mountain, came into view. This beautiful mountain is the mythological abode of Kakabhusunda.

Swamiji’s group took seven days to go from Badrinath (which is close to 10,000 feet) to somewhere near the Mana Pass (which is around 18,000 feet). Altitude sickness struck most people… Some horses perished on the way.. One man too… A few kms short of the top of the pass, they reached Devasaras (also known as Deotal), a beautiful lake, that was frozen blue . Swamiji writes – “At a height of 18,000 feet on the shore of a celestial lake, I entered into deep Samadhi induced by Nature, forgetting Kailas, forgetting the pilgrimage, forgetting the world and the body”.

They were forced to spend the night there, entrusting themselves to the care of the deity of the Pass. A storm,  and chances of survival would have been bleak. Next morning, they ascended again… After a couple of miles, they came to a pile of stones that represented the deity of the pass. In gratitude, they made offerings to the deity and accepted them back as Prasada. Walking on, reaching the top, they crossed over into Tibet.  Descending the pass, they reached the plains by late afternoon that day.

Next day they walked ahead in the great Tibetan highland plains. On the way, they saw a place which, as per local belief, had the hoof-marks of the horses that Rama and Lakshmana had used when they came here. Walking on in the open country, they came across wild horses, deer, and even a tiger. Fourth day after crossing the pass, they reached Tholingamatam (Tholing), which lies in the region of the river Sutlej, as it flows from the vicinity of Manasarovar to the Indian sub-continent. Badrinath to Tholing, a distance of around 80 miles (130 kms or so), took them 13 days.

This same route is described by the Yogi “M” as well, in his book, “Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master – A Yogi’s biography”. He too had a significant spiritual experience at Deotal, on the way. “M” and his group took 21 days to make the same journey – from Badrinath to Thholingamutt. He describes the trek as very tough, and mentions that one faced terrible headaches and nausea due to the lack of oxygen…

More about Tholing Mutt later…

From Tholing, for Mt Kailas, one proceeds east, south of Sutlej river and north of the Himalaya… Swami Tapovanam walked twenty miles to Daba, and fifty plus miles more to Gyanima… Mt Kailas was another 40 miles north-east of Gyanima… The route from Tholing to Daba, and then on to Gyanima and  Kailas, was one frequented by highway robbers at that time… Through such perilous paths did the group of Swami-s tread in their holy pilgrimage…

The total distance from Tholing to Mt Kailasa would be around 180 or 190 Kms.

By this route, the pilgrim arrives first at Kailasa. By the other route from Almora (Kumaon), one arrives first at Manasarovar. However, this Mana route, a total of around 320 kms or so from Badrinath to Kailasa, is a longer and tougher route, which has been used since ancient times…

Swami Tapovanam talks of Mana Pass route in connection with the kayva (lyric poem) Meghaduta, composed by the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. In that poem, the lover, a Yakhsa who has been exiled from Kailasa to the middle of India, sends a message to his beloved who is in Kailasa. He entrusts that message to clouds that are going north, making them his messenger. Narrating the route that the cloud need to take to Kailasa, the Yaksha, speaking of the way ahead after reaching Himalaya, asks the cloud to rise in the Himalaya and cross by way of “Krouncha-Randhra (Krauncha Pass… A pass in the mountain Krauncha… Krauncha also means the bird Curlew… And the Crane – see footnote below )… Go by the way of the Swans (Hamsa-dvara), and soaring beyond, reach the mountain of Kailasa….” Hamsa, the word for swan, also denotes Ascetics…

Swami Tapovanam says : “Some scholars hold that the Crouncha Randhra described in ancient poems as the route used by Royal Swans of Lake Manasa, is the Mana Pass…”…

There are some others who say that the Meghaduta reference is to another Himalayan pass – another route to Manasarover – which we shall talk of in the next post…

Signing of this post with a short video from youtube, of cranes migrating to India in winter, crossing the Himalaya mountains… Meghaduta comes alive here, with the clouds rising in the Himalaya and confronting the flight of the birds, making them turn back… The cranes return the next day, rise above the world so high, and cross over to their beautiful winter sanctuary, India… A real nice video clip… A must see… Watch it on full screen…


Footnote -> Update: My good friend and co-yatri, Shankar, was the one who pointed me to the youtube video of the cranes. After reading this post, he also sent me wikipedia info on Demoiselle crane which says: “The Demoiselle Crane is known as the Koonj (कूंज, کونج, ਕੂੰਜ) in the languages of North India and Pakistan…. The name koonj is derived from the Sanskrit word kraunch, which is a cognate Indo-European term for crane itself.”

Food for thought , regarding Krauncha-randhra….

** * To be continued ***


Maanasa Kailasa Yatra- 2

July 21, 2013

Let’s check out some of the routes to Kailash-Maanasarovar for pilgrims going from India.


As you can see in the picture above….

Route via Nepal: The route is marked in Dark-brown-arrows above…From Kathmandu, cross over to Tibet-China to Nyalam… Go via Saga and Parayang to Manasarovar. Kathmandu to Manasarovar is around 870 Kms…. And takes four days by road. We took this route… If Day-1 you arrive in Kathmandu, you will be back on Day 13…

Route via Lhasa: Route marked in Green till Saga.. From where route is same as above… Total tour will be around 18 days.

And then there is the India route….


This is the route taken by the Indian Government organized tour, via Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.

This year due to the floods in Uttarakhand, the route has been closed down recently… This is said to be a very picturesque route… But takes longer… The tour takes around 24 days from Delhi. And there is lot more trekking to do (Indian side)… But from India border to Kailasa, this is the shortest route… From Navidhang (near the beautiful Om Parvat) to Manasarovar is just little over 120 Kms or so…

It is this route that was taken by Swami Tapovanam (Swami Chinmayananda’s guru) during his return from Maanasa-Kailasa in 1925 (see his book Kailas Yatra)… Swamiji, a Keralite who became a hermit of the Himalaya, has described graphically his whole tour – starting from Kathmandu in April 1925  and reaching Maanasarover and Kailasa in July. Leaving Kailasa in end of July, and walking back to Takkalkot, crossing the Lipu Ghats (Lipulekh pass, which is at 17,500 feet) facing enormous difficulty.,..Reaching Kalapani, considered the starting point of Kali Ganga, tributary of Sarayu…Walking a hundred miles along the banks of Kali river… Reaching a village called Garvyang, where he stayed during Krishna Janmashtami… Then walking on and reaching Dharchula, which is a hundred miles from Almora… Walking on, going past Ram Ganga river…Finally reaching Almora… His walk from Takkalkot to Almora took almost a month… Whole of September he stayed on in Almora… And finally left for the plains and reached Hardwar-Rishikesh in end of October 1925… What an epic Yatra… From April to Oct 1925… A Sadhu with just a kamandulu and a stick, no money or provisions, with one younger Sadhu for company, walking for months, often on the edge of life and death, in total surrender to the care of Lord Siva, basking in the bliss of the beauty of the Himalaya that he had become “One” with…

Here is another map of that route.


As you can see in the map above, there are two routes from Almora to Dharchula. The way up (way to Kailash, marked in red) is via Baijnath… Baijnath one of the very sacred Kshetra-s of Siva. The other route (marked in blue) is via Pithoragarh and Jageshwar. Jageshwar is another ancient temple town which is also believed to be another Jyotirlinga kshetra (for a post on that click here).

Traditional Indian pilgrimage to Kailasa were via these routes. There is an interesting mythological account associated with the Siva temple of Baijnath (Vaidyanath). Ravana, the King of Lanka, a great devotee of Siva, had been to Kailasa. Readers would know of the tale of how Ravana, proud of his strength, tried to uproot Mount Kailasa… Siva pushed Kailasa back down with his toe, and crushing Ravana’s hands.. His pride humbled, Ravana atoned… He sang the praise of Siva, and played the Veena… He then performed severe penance at Kailasa. Pleased, Siva offered him a boon. Ravana asked for an Atma Linga from Siva to take it to Lanka for his personal worship. Lord Siva gave him one, and told him to take care not to keep it on the ground on the way, as the Linga would get fixed to the first spot where it was put down. When Ravana came to Baijnath, he was tricked by the Gods to put it down… And the Linga came to be here forever… So it is that the place has an ancient linkage to Kailasa! And the route too has been around since the most ancient of times!

[btw: there are famous Baijnath temples in Bihar and Himachal Pradesh as well… Both are said to be Jyotirlinga kshetra-s. The Ravana legend is associated with both… The same legend is also associated with this temple in Kumaon (Click this link ). Also, the same tale is associated with the sacred temple town of Gokarna in the western coast of India… Let us say that Ravana made repeated attempts to get the Atma Linga…]

Here is a picture of the Baijnath temple of Kumaon… (Click on picture to see a larger view)



Other than the Kumaon (Almora) route, there is a route from Garhwal region of Uttarakhand as well… From Badrinath… A much tougher route… Said to have been taken by Krishna, Pandavas, and Rama… And by Swami Tapovanam in his second Yatra to Kailasa in 1929…

More on that route, in the next post…

Signing off this post with a verse of the great Tamil Saiva sage, Appar (Thirunavukkarasar)… This is the final verse of his thirukkayilai pathigam in praise of the Lord of Kailasa… (Appar’s journey to Kailasa is a tale of supreme penance… Appar is also believed to be incarnation of Saint Vageesar, who was with Siva in Kailasa… It is he who interceded with Siva to spare Ravana when Siva’s toe pushed Kailasa and crushed Ravana…)…

உண்ணா துறங்கா திருந்தாய் போற்றி
ஓதாதே வேத முணர்ந்தாய் போற்றி
எண்ணா இலங்கைக்கோன் றன்னைப் போற்றி
இறைவிரலால் வைத்துகந்த ஈசா போற்றி
பண்ணா ரிசையின்சொற் கேட்டாய் போற்றி
பண்டேயென் சிந்தை புகுந்தாய் போற்றி
கண்ணா யுலகுக்கு நின்றாய் போற்றி
கயிலை மலையானே போற்றி போற்றி.

Praise be to you (O Siva), who exist without food or sleep;
Praise be to you, who know the Veda without learning them;
Praise be to you, who crushed the King of Lanka when he
with scant respect, attempted to uproot Kailasa;
Praise be to you, who then heard with joy the song of praise reverentially offered (by Ravana);
Praise be to you, who entered into my heart before itself;
Praise be to you, who (eternally) exist as the Protective Eye of the World;
To you, the dweller of Kailasa Mountain, Praise! Praise!

                                                    **** To be continued****