The natural wonders of Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake lie nestled in the majestic Trans-Himalayas in a remote corner of the exotic west of Tibet. The lake is named as ‘Jewel of Tibet’ as it is a brilliant marvel in blue with crystal-clear waters.
The lake, located at 4,590 metres or 15,060 feet above mean sea level, is surrounded by the towering, snow-capped Kailash, standing at a height of 6,638 metres or 21,778 feet above sea level. The region has enchanted people for centuries and sages of many religions believe that it is one of the places where Nirvana can be achieved.
Lake Mansarovar is a large freshwater lake but most of the lakes in the Tibetan Plateau contain saline water. Mansarovar Lake is popular for its exceptional beauty. The colour of the water changes from clear blue around the shores to emerald green at the centre. The lake looks magical under a moonlit sky.
The source of few of the longest rivers in Asia, the Sutlej, Indus River, Brahmaputra and the Karnali are located within 50 km radius, and in four distinctive directions. In the west flows the Sutlej river, in the east the Brahmaputra (locally known as Yarlang Sangpo), south is the Karnali and to the north the Indus river.
The lake is round in shape, circumference about 88 km and it is 90 metres or 300 feet deep, with the surface area being about 320 square kilometres. The natural Ganga Chhu channel connects the lake to the nearby Lake Rakshastal, a saltwater lake. These lakes were part of the Sutlej basin but the region was detached due to tectonic activity in the region.
Some interesting facts:
- Mount Kailash is located exactly 6,666 km from the monument of Stonehenge, England.
- Time travels quickly for those at Kailash, something not witnessed anywhere in the world. Pilgrims have reported quick hair and nails growth within 12 hours which, under normal conditions, would take at least two weeks elsewhere.
- There are two lakes, namely Mansarovar or the ‘God Lake,’ and Rakshas Tal or the ‘Devil Lake.’ These are next to each other, divided by a narrow isthmus of the mountains. The two lakes represent solar and lunar forces, good and negative energies respectively.
- As the sun sets the shadow falling on the rocks draws a huge swastika, as if the Sun God is paying homage to Lord Shiva.
- People have not been successful in climbing Mount Kailash. The reason is that the mountain changes its position as a result of which all expeditions failed. It is said that only one person reached the top. He was a Tibetan saint Milarepa. Milarepa who preached Buddhist teachings through songs and poetry.
- Many travellers claim to have seen mysterious shimmery lights rise and fall into the lake.
- There are tales that the Sapta Rishis or seven sages mentioned in Indian mythology come and bathe every morning at the Mansarovar lake.
- The Russians conducted a study of Kailash and claimed the mountain could be a vast, human-built pyramid, the centre of an entire complex of 100 smaller pyramids.
The mountain shines as if made of gold. It is square with four sides larger at the top than at the bottom. Its four sides are made of four different precious substances: the south of lapis-lazuli, the west of ruby, the north of gold and the east of crystal and the southern side of the mountain is blue. The shine of the blue lapis-lazuli reflects on the lake waters in front.
Each of Mount Kailash’s faces reflects different moods. The southern face, covered with snow, reflects majesty or splendour. The shadow cast by the rocky outcrops on it draws a huge swastika. It surrounded by eight mountains. On the southern side are two mountains named Kailash and Karavira, which extend east and west for 144,000 miles.
On the northern side, extending for the same distance east and west are two mountains named Trisrnga and Makara. The width and height of all these mountains is 16,000 miles. On the eastern side of Mount Meru are Jathara and Devacuta, which extends to the north and south for 144,000 miles. Similarly, on the western side, the Pavana and Pariyatra extend north and south for the same distance.
For Hindus, the mountain is the home of the God Shiva; for Jains, it is where their first leader was enlightened; for Buddhists, the navel of the universe; and for adherents of Bon, the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen.
The Hindus revere the mountain as Kailash, while the Tibetan name for the mountain is Gangs Rin-po-che. Gangs or Kang is the Tibetan word for snow peak and rinpoche is an honorific meaning “precious one” so the combined term can be translated “precious jewel of snows”. Tibetan Buddhists call it Kangri Rinpoche or “Precious Snow Mountain.”
Bon texts have many names: “Water’s Flower,” “Mountain of Sea Water,” “Nine Stacked Swastika Mountain.” Another local name for the mountain is Tisé (Tibetan) mountain, which derives from “ti tse” in the Zhang-Zhung language, meaning “water peak” or “river peak”, connoting the mountain’s status as the source of the mythical Lion, Horse, Peacock and Elephant Rivers.
In the same way as “a rose by any other name” would smell as sweet, Mount Kailash, known by many other names, would still retain its highly religious significance in the world of Dharma.