In the far west of Tibet lies Mt Kailash, the most sacred mountain in Asia, venerated by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and the followers of the ancient Bon religion.
Mt Kailash is celebrated in many eastern cosmologies as Mt. Meru, the centre of the physical & metaphysical universe. For Hindus, the mountain represents the winter abode of Lord Shiva; For Buddhists, it is an earthly representation of the Wheel of Life; Jains revere the mountain as the place of enlightenment of their guru Rishabanatha; and in Tibet’s ancient pre-Buddhist religion, Bon, in which mountains are seen as power points linking heaven and earth, Mt Kailash is the sacred nine storey Swastika Mountain upon which the Bonpo founder Shenrab alighted from heaven. The struggle for the hearts and minds of Tibetans between traditional Bon and modern Buddhism therefore centred on Mt Kailash.
Pilgrims make a 53 km circuit, or Kora, around the mountain. This circumambulation is clockwise for Buddhist and Hindus and anti-clockwise for Bon followers and is said to erase the sins of a lifetime. The mountain itself is 6714m high and with its four sheer walls and snow capped peak is an awe-inspiring sight.
Lying below Mt Kailash is another important pilgrimage site, the beautiful and serene Lake Manasarovar. For Hindus it is the soul of Brahma, the creator. It is said to be the source of all water and therefore all life and indeed, it is from this area that four great rivers spring – the Bramaputra, the Indus, the Karnali (major tributary to the Ganges) and the Sutlej (major tributary to the Indus). Hence, at Mt Kailash, is the source of water flowing in the four directions.
Not only is this area immensely important in religious terms, it is simply a stunning place to visit!