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Kailash Manas Sarovar Yatra Series - 8

Kailas Parikrama –Drolma La Pass!

We had walked about 12 km in the rugged terrain of Kailas circuit to reach Dirapuk from Darchen. Mount Kailas is seen from a very close distance here. We were overwhelmed, excited and content. Dirpuk is located at 4, 600 meters above the sea level. Altitude sickness gets severe from here. We rested in tin sheds after initial excitement of passing the first stage of Kailas Kora.
Accommodation at Dirapuk, or at Zultulpuk is getting better year after year, I think. As we heard the experiences of those who had gone earlier, there used to be tents. Now, the Chinese Government has built tin sheds providing space for 4 members each in rooms. 8/10 rooms have been constructed. We didn’t see any latrine there. We had to use open space for the routine.
My aunt, uncle and I were little anxious, since my brother and his wife had not arrived. They arrived an hour later and we were quite relieved! Soon the shades of evening turned black and we were desperately waiting for the soup to be served. It was not hunger, I guess, we needed something hot, very hot. We sipped soups as if we had been starved for months together.
Climate at Dirapuk is quite uncertain. It can rain anytime, and sometimes even snowfall occurs. One can’t be sure of second day parikrama. Sherpas judge the climate condition and advice accordingly whether to proceed or to return. Despite Diamox intake we were feeling nausea, headache, and body temperature. That night, we could not eat much. I had gulped a tablet for fever, and at about midnight I was drenched in sweat. It was pouring outside! Ohh…good sign. I was wishing for the announcement of our return due to bad weather. Delusions of dark hours!!
Image credit:Prajna LS
Image credit:Prajna LS














Second Day was broken amidst fog and slight drizzles. Sherpas were confident of moving further and asked us to get ready. Those who feel very sick can return from Dirapuk, they advised. “Himmat Rakhkho…Himmat se kaam chalega” said Sangya Sherpa with a naughty smile. The Sherpas had already kept a barrel of warm water for washing purpose in front of our rooms. After having a brisk breakfast, we marched towards Zutulpuk which needed about 32 km trek.
This day was the toughest day of all during our Yatra. We were supposed to pass through the Drolma La Pass (18,600 ft) and the famous Gauri Kund. The trek included ascending the slope of Drolma La and then, descending the slope. Once after descending the slope, we had to take up a long trek along a river stream up to Zutulpuk. Exact calculation of the time and distance up to Drolma la (8km) and from there up to Zutulpuk (24 km may be) is not possible. We reached Drolma La pass (8 km up) in three stages. It is a steep up.
The surrounding had received good snowfall the previous night. Not a sunny day. Thick fog had covered the hills making it more difficult for a walk. We were on an unfathomable path, metaphorically! I just laid my burden on my destiny that had led me so far and was confident that I would be taken good care of by my guru Sri Datta.
Image credit:Prajna LS
Sherpas were holding two oxygen cylinders for emergency. But, they had advised us to use that only if it was necessary. They had warned that the oxygen supplement would have side effects, it may block lungs even more and if it happens one may have to go back. It was a testing period of our patience, will power, courage and luck.
We started moving slowly, one after another. It was a narrow strip on a snowy hill partially covered with snow. For every two steps I had to stop, take rest on my walking stick and then had move on. We had to pass through three steep acclivities of which the last ascent was breathtaking experience. Through the misty depth we passed, it was like experiencing the fate of an embryo inside the womb. We could see the last acclivity, on which some hikers were visible, though not so clearly.
We were not allowed to stop anywhere. “Keep walking” Neema Sherpa who was carrying my knapsack along with the camera bag used to poke. Senior team mates on the pony used to greet us occasionally. We walked to strange tunes hummed by the Chinese porters. We were crawling inside the depth of silence.
I was breathing heavily making sounds. I had to consume water in between to prevent dehydration. Dry fruits will help reducing energy loss; keep them in the pockets of your jacket. I was unable to hold even the flask. Neema Sherpa used to hold that and he used to open even the lid of the flask for me! He would give my camera whenever he felt it would be alright to stop for a minute for taking photos. I thank him for being so kind.
One of our senior mates, Manju aunty, had completed the first day Parikrama by walk. But, on the second day, she felt that she can’t climb the ascending slope. Luckily she caught hold of a pony man who was returning from the top after dropping a pilgrim. One will get Ponies till the top only. After reaching the top (Drolma La) one will have to descend a steep slope till some distance. Ponies can’t descend on that slope. However, for those who have booked ponies in advance for all the three days would get back to the pony ride after reaching the ground.
We were ascending the third slope. Someone was sick on the way, was being assisted with oxygen. Neema didn’t allow me to stand there. He hurried me to move on. It was a steep rocky slope. I could feel my legs shaking. The whole area was covered with thick fog. I had forgotten the world that I had left behind! Face of my darling daughter flashed through my mind, suddenly. Move or die! I had forgotten my state of being itself. Inexplicable state of mind that was…….. in tune with the symphony of unbound-ruthless-wild nature. Each step seemed heavy…a state of oblivion.
It was when Neema Sherpa said that we had reached the top I was not in state to rejoice really! Yes, we had reached the top of Drolma La Pass. Huh!



[To be continued….]  

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Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra Series - 7

Kailas Parikrama is nothing but a trekking process around the Kailas Circuit. Parikrama means circumambulation. Some go for 3 day trekking, some for 9 days, some for 13 and some choose one day depending upon their health. The total distance to be covered in a three day parikrama is approximately 52 km. This task is an important part of Kailas-Manas Sarovar Yatra, though not compulsory. People who are physical fit and mentally confident may take up the task. It is the hardest task of the yatra, but, the most fulfilling one!
Mount Kailas is revered with great devotion by Hindu, Jain and Buddhist followers. In the Jain tradition, Kailas is considered to be the mount (Ashtapada Parvat) on which the first Teerthankar Rishabhdev attained his salvation. According to Bon Buddhist tradition, the mount is a highly energetic place representing transcendental energy. This place is associated with Guru Rinpoche, the Padmasambhava.
Hindus consider the mount as to be the abode of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi. Kailas Parvat is said to be the source for many rivers. Indus, Satlej, Brahmaputra, and Ghagra Rivers originate somewhere near the Kailas circuit. By circumambulating the mount, it is believed, that one would attain supreme energy and would be purified.
One can take up the task only after reaching Lake Manas. The trekking starts from a place called Darchen, the base point actually. Darchen is located at about 8 km from Lake Manas, and can be approached by motored vehicles.
image credit: prajna LS

The night before the parikrama, our Sherpa team gave us some tips for the mountain walk. They showed us how to handle fatigue and breathlessness during the parikrama. Not only that, they had also narrated stories of devotees who had died half way! That was very scary and made us to think twice before deciding.
A small backpack containing dry fruits, medicine, a flask, a torch, a pain balm tube and tissue roles were kept ready. Even to carry such a lightweight backpack we had hired porters. Chinese porters will come at the gateway (Yamadwar, the starting point) and we had hired them for 700 yens. The sherpas will collect the money and I guess full amount will not be paid to the porters! Pilgrims who feel uncomfortable to walk can hire ponies. Book your pony for all three days; you may not get a pony in the middle of your parikrama.
Next day morning, after a small breakfast, we had moved towards Yamadwar, the starting point of our Parikrama. Dressed in three layered cloths, we had reached Yamadwar in a bus. Our porters and Pony caretakers had already gathered at Yamadwar. For our group (I, aunt and uncle, brother and his wife) the Sherpas themselves got ready to carry the backpack.

Yamadwar!

I don’t know why it is named like that. But, a scary name it was. Yama, as you all know is the governor of death according to Hindus. This is the gateway to his home! There is a small shrine inside which heads of slain goats and Yaks are hung. There is a small bell inside and by tradition every pilgrim would perform circumambulation of the shrine three times after ringing the bell for a safe return. We were already nervous looking at the shrine. We proceeded further after performing the circumambulation.
 
image credit:Prajna LS
Our target was to reach Dirapuk. We were instructed to walk very slowly leaning on to the walking stick whenever it was necessary. It is not a competion of any sort to reach first. It won’t be difficult to walk on a plain, but, it would be highly difficult for ups. Take rest for a while (not more than a minute) and move forward if you feel breathlessness. We saw a Buddhist devotee prostrating for every other step. He had covered his hands with shoes.
The route on the first day Parikrama was not so complicated. We walked along the Yak River. Our path pierced through the rugged terrain comprising steep rocky hills. These same hills would be covered with snow during winter, but, we had gone there in August. So, the terrain was uncovered, rocky and plain, resonating deep silence.
We could reach the target by afternoon. Dirapuk houses a Buddhist Gompa. But, a surprise was waiting for us when we reached there. It was the last up. We had taken about half an hour to climb up, then, we turned to our right and were dumbstruck at the sight of Mount Kailas from such a close distance. It was such a solemn and serene sight, that I would always cherish in my memory. As we sat on the ground below there, we felt as if we were sitting at the feet of Lord Shiva himself!

Wait for the next episode to read about the second and third day parikrama!
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Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra Series - 6


Lake Manas Sarovar  

Lake Manas Sarovar is widely known as Mapam Yumco in the Tibetan region. It is a precious site of visit for Hindu, Jain and Buddhist pilgrims. It is a freshwater lake situated on an elevation of about 15,000 ft above the sea level. The lake signifies purity of mind and heart. Devotees believe that a ritual bath in the lake would cleanse off all the sins committed so far.
The Lake is located near the Mount Kailas and the Meru Mountain ranges. This beautiful lake looks like a heavenly abode in a clear daylight. In fact, it is said that the ‘Devatas’ (gods) come here every morning to take bath in the lake. Keeping the Mount Kailash in the centre, two lakes are situated in that place, actually. One is the well known Lake Manas sarovar and the other one is Lake Rakshas Sarovar. Lake Rakshas is a saline water lake.
Lake in the backdrop of mount kailas (image courtesy:prajna LS)

For Buddhists, Bon Buddhists in particular, Manas sarovar basin is a holy site of meditation. Guru Rinpoche is said to have stayed in this place and we can see Buddhist Gompas around the lake. We visited the Chiu Gompa situated on top a steep hill.
We had arrived there at about 1.30 pm. It was a clear sky. We were bewildered by the serene lake and its beauty. White clouds had gathered over the lake like a white embroidered lace. Sun beams crisscrossed over the crystal clear water that reflected the color of the sky, which was blue at that time.
The place is well maintained by the Chinese authorities. A station has been built for the tourists accommodating a huge hall. There is enough space for a helipad around the building, in the forthcoming days one may get helicopter service upto Manas sarovar. The bus that we travelled dropped us there and it will come again to pick us on the last day of our Parikraman. Pilgrims do get special bus service meant for Manasarovar Lake (for pick and drop to nearby places).
Luckily, we got to have a dip in the lake. After that, we reached our base camp near another side of the lake. That night it rained like anything. We were speculating that the Kailas Parikraman would be cancelled if it continues to rain. We woke up to a clear, but a misty morning.
That day, in the afternoon, we were supposed to reach the base destination for the 3 day Kailas Circumambulation. Till then, we were allowed to take rest. Some devotees were performing rituals (Puja and havan), though it was not compulsory. In fact, the place does not have any Hindu temples, except some Gompas. Some were taking rest at the dormitory cells. We decided to explore the place. We visited the Chiu Gompa which was nearby.
The place where we had stayed is a small campus consisting rows of dormitory cells specially meant for the pilgrims. These dormitories will be booked in advance by the travel agencies. Rooms are equipped with solar electricity providing beds for 4-5 members. You can charge your camera cells and mobile phones. This is common during all three days of Kailas Parikrama. Earlier there used to be tents, now, tents have been replaced by tin sheds providing bare minimum amenities. Hot water will be provided for drinking and basic utility purpose. Common latrines were highly dirty. However, one must be prepared for extreme conditions.
Base Camp (Image Courtesy:Prajna LS)

In the afternoon, we left for Darchen located at about 8 km from the camp. The 3 day trekking will start and will end up in Darchen. On the first day, we walked from Darchen to Dirapuk (12km), on the second day, from Dirapuk to Zutulpuk (32km) and on the third day, we reached Darchen (8km) from Zutulpuk. Darchen is good for buying walking sticks, bead and Tibetan jewellery. As we walked back to our dormitory from the market place, a face of Mount Kailas was visible from a far distance. We were amazed at the sight of Kailas like that all of a sudden! Within a few minutes, the peak was covered behind a veil of clouds.
We stayed that night in Darchen. Our Parikraman began the next day morning. It is an experience for lifetime. Wait for the next episode!!

[To be continued]
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