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Not To Be Scaled By ‘Mortals’

It is a common belief among the practicing Hindus that Lord Shiva, the Great God of Death and Time and one of the principal deities worshipped in Hinduism, lives on Mount Kailash. Mount Kailash is believed to be the holy abode of Lord Shiva, who is said to be in an eternal meditation, along with his consort Parvati. There are quite a number of mysteries, stories and beliefs regarding Kailash. Much remains to be known about this mysterious mountain. At just 6,638mt above sea level, the mountain has, till date, not been scaled by modern man!

Apart from the Hindus, the Buddhists and Jains, too, consider Mount Kailash a sacred place. It is the highest peak in the Kailash Mountain Range that forms part of the Trans-Himalaya in the Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. The common belief is that no one can reach Mount Kailash, as the gods and goddesses live there.

Mount Kailash

As per Hindu Mythology, Kailash is a part of Mount Meru. However, it is mentioned in the Tibetan folklore that Vajrayani Buddhist monk, singer-poet, mystic, and teacher – Milarepa (1040-1123) – was able to climb to the top of Mount Kailash in the 11th Century. He chanted aloud Lord Buddha‘s prediction that Kailash would become an important site for the accomplishment of Buddhist practice, saying that his own master Marpa had likewise spoken highly of the sacred mountain. Milarepa also advised his followers not to visit the place. Many others ignored his warning, and tried to climb Mount Kailash. However, they either lost their way, or perished due to poor weather conditions.

The shape of Mount Kailash is like that of a pyramid. Some call it the Centre of the Earth, while others describe Kailash as the Cosmic Axis or the World Pillar. It is believed that Heaven meets the Earth in Kailash. According to the Tibetans, one’s nails or hair suddenly grow while returning from Mount Kailash. It is said that some Siberian mountaineers visited the forbidden area of Mount Kailash, and their age increased by a few decades almost immediately. However, the authenticity of this piece of information could not be verified. Hence, Mount Kailash remains shrouded in mystery.

Mount Kailash mirroring in Lake Manasarovar

The mountain is located near Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal, close to the source of some of the longest Asian rivers, such as the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, and Karnali in India. Lake Manasarovar is a high altitude freshwater lake fed by the Kailash Glaciers near Mount Kailash in Tibet. The lake, along with Mount Kailash to its north, are sacred sites in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. This lake lies at 4,590mt (15,060ft) above mean sea level, a relatively high elevation for a large freshwater lake on the mostly saline lake-studded Tibetan Plateau. Surprisingly, no matter how strong the wind, the water of Manasarovar always remains calm. On the other hand, the water of Lake Rakshastal always remains turbulent. According to Hindu Mythology, Ravana, the multi-headed Demon King of Sri Lanka, offered prayer to Lord Shiva in order to calm down the Hindu God. While offering prayer, he created the Lake Rakshastal. That is why the water of this lake remains turbulent all the time.

Lake Rakshastal

It may be noted that English civil servant and mountaineer Hugh Ruttledge (October 24, 1884 – November 7, 1961) studied the north face of Mount Kailash in 1926. Ruttledge, who was the leader of two expeditions to Mount Everest in 1933 and 1936, claimed that the summit of Mount Kailash was “utterly unclimbable“. He was exploring the area with Colonel R C Wilson, who was on the other side of the mountain with his Sherpa, named Tseten. Colonel Wilson claimed that Tseten wanted to climb Mount Kailash. In an article published in the Alpine Journal (Volume 40, 1928), Colonel Wilson wrote they were serious about climbing Kailash. “Just when I discovered an easy walk to the summit of the mountain, heavy snow began to fall, making the ascent impossible,” he added.

In 1936, Herbert Tichy made an attempt to climb Mount Kailash. When he asked one of the Tibetans whether the summit to Mount Kailash was reachable, the person replied: “Only a man entirely free of sin could climb Kailash. And he wouldn’t have to actually scale the sheer walls of ice to do it – he’d just turn himself into a bird and fly to the summit.” In the mid-1980s, the Chinese authorities allowed Reinhold Messner to climb the mountain. However, Messner rejected the offer.

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