Kailash – Kang Rinpoche in Tibetan - is a mountain in Western Tibet. It is considered to be the earthly counterpart of the mythical Mount Meru — the Centre of the world – in Eastern mythology. The mountain is considered sacred by four different religions; Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists and Bönpos. The latter is the religion which prevailed in Tibet before Buddhism was introduced in the middle of the 7th century and was completely dominant in the 12th and 13th centuries.
In the immediate area four major rivers have their sources; Brahmaputra River, Indus, Sutlej and Karnali River. The latter flows through Humla and is a tributary of the Ganges. The source area of the Ganges is a bit southwest of Kailash.
At full moon in May Buddhists celebrated Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. Then a lot of pilgrims come to Kailash from all over Tibet. They are dressed in their finest clothes. At a place called Tarboche, South of the mountain they erect a bar full of colorful prayer flags and everybody walk clockwise around the bar. A Buddhist always goes clockwise around Holy places or passes them on the left side. It is "congenital" among both children and animals. On the other hand, the Bönpos go counterclockwise around their Holy places.
It is a popular festival. Many of the pilgrims then go one or more laps around the mountain. It improves one's karma. It is approximately fifty kilometers to go around the mountain. The highest pass is 5700m. Top of the mountain is 6700m. Those who walk around Kailash 108 times will, according to the legend, come to Nirvana.
It takes approximately 10 to 14 days to walk from Humla´s headquarter Simikot to Kailash. If you take a car from the Tibetan border you will save a few days.
Lake Manasarovar lies 30 km to the South of Mount Kailash. Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar belong together. They are mentioned most often at the same time, and are regarded as the "father and mother of the earth". The Lake lies 4,600 meters above sea level.
I quote a paragraph from the Lama Anagarika's book "The Way of the White Clouds": "the mountain is so totally isolated in the Centre of the Trans Himalaya, that it is possible to go around it in two or three days; and its shape as regular as if it were the dome on a huge temple, which rises above the surrounding minor buildings. And as every Indian Temple it has its Holy pond. There are two sacred Lakes at the foot of Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar and Lake Raksastal, of which the former is round like the Sun and symbolizes the forces of light while the latter is shaped like a Crescent and therefore represents nature's hidden forces, which appears to be the dark demonic forces, so long as their true nature is not known or able to be channeled. These ideas are expressed in the names of the two lakes: manas means "spirit" or "consciousness", seat of the ability of perception, the forces of light and the ability to enlighten; rakas or raksas means "demon", and Raksastal simply means the "Sea of Demons ". (This quote is translated to English from the Swedish version of the book by Hans Alm).
According to Hindu tradition Lake Manasarovar is created by the God Brahma's "mind" ("spirit", "consciousness") so that the pilgrims to Kailash would have somewhere to wash themselves before they began to walk around the mountain. For a Hindu a ritual bath in the Lake Manasarovar is an important manifestation. In 1948 a part of Mahatma Gandhi's ash was spread over the Lake. This, if anything, indicate the importance of the sea even for "modern" Hindus.
In Tibet you can often see the sun and the moon symbols of Lake Manasarovar and Lake Raksastal on tankhas and above doors etc. Lake Manasarovar is in Tibetan called Tso Mapham, "The sea of the uncontrollable forces of Buddha" while Raksastal called Langag Tso, "the Lake of the dark deities". Many Buddhists combines a walk around Kailash with a walk around the Lake Manasarovar.
Around Lake Manasarovar there are eight monasteries and around Lake Raksastal there are no. In the Northwest corner of Lake Manasarovar lays the monastery Chiu (Chiu Gompa). In this monastery one of the most important introducers of Buddhism in Tibet, an Indian named Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, spent his last days in the end of the 8th century. He tends to be mentioned as the "second Buddha", which shows his importance. There are many legends about Padmasambhava and Lake Manasarovar.
Padmasambhava is considered to be the most important teacher in the lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, called Nyingmapa, to which the Bothias in Humla belongs.