April 18, 2018 5:37:28 pm
The journey of Kailash starts much before the physical journey and continues even after the physical journey ends. It is said that only one out of every five people on earth yearns to go to Kailash (if we put just Hindus and Buddhists together). The season for the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra is about to begin in couple of months and hundreds of pilgrims would have already booked their place or are thinking of booking a place on the several available tours. But this is not a journey to be taken lightly. Though, it is said that you can go only if you get the ‘call’, the potential pilgrim still has to do much to prepare for this journey of a lifetime (or several lifetimes, as your belief system might be).
The journey to Kailash is as mystical as Lord Shiva, who is believed to reside there. Hence, the preparation for the pilgrimage itself is a journey in itself. While many tour operators give an indication of the things to buy and carry during the pilgrimage, only a few help with non-materialistic preparations.
Preparation of the mind and other important guidelines
Go without expectations
Often pilgrims make the mistake to expect miracles or to ‘see’ certain visions or experience certain things that they may have heard or read from others who have been to Kailash. It is important to remember that the experiences were for that specific soul and it may not be for you. Go without any expectations. Just go with the flow and experience the things that happen to you.
Eat soul food
It is important to abstain from eating animal meat and products. It is advisable to avoid milk as well. Opt for fruits and vegetables that have been exposed to the sun. Get into the routine of eating before sunset, or around the time. Alcohol, smoking and drugs are also to be avoided.
Don’t indulge in negative experiences
Keep your emotional state clean and pure by staying away from gossip, judgemental thoughts, hatred, anger, greed or any other sort of negative energies. Stepping away from negative situations, and seek the company of positive and spiritual people is a good way to keep one’s own energies pure.
Close ‘open loops’
It’s said that a Kailash pilgrim comes back a new person, so before you take on the pilgrimage, try and settle all outstanding promises or monetary debts. This also applies to soured relationships. This is a type of cleansing yourself of the ego and making yourself empty to receive the gifts of grace from Kailash.
It is also a good idea to indulge oneself in some spiritual practice for a period of 21-40 days before the journey. This can be meditation or chanting the mantra of ‘Om Namah Shivay’ for a specific number of times in a day or some ritual that you may be comfortable with (like pouring water on a Shivling each day). It is important that whatever you do, you need to connect with it and not do it mechanically.
I have seen during my multiple pilgrimages to Kailash, the fittest of the pilgrims fall ill due to the high altitude and frail aged pilgrims finish their parikrama (circumambulation) around Kailash without any difficulty. However, it is always better to do some form of exercise (walk/jog/yoga/gym) at least two-three months prior to the pilgrimage to prepare the body.
Now that we have covered at least the basics of one’s spiritual preparations for the Kailash Yatra, it’s also important to know, understand, acknowledge, prepare for and embrace for some practicalities of the journey as well.
Breaking urban comfort zones
When I went to Kailash for the first time in 2013, at every step, my comfort zones and pre-conceived notions were broken. Listed below are some of the things one needs to keep in mind.
In most of the places on the way, there are no toilets or even if there are, these are just holes in the ground (which often becomes unusable). Depending on the tour operator and the money you pay, the pilgrims are kept in either hotels or Tibetan mud houses. Hotels usually have toilets (the infrastructure has improved massively over the years). During the Kailash parikrama, you won’t find any built toilets, so be mentally prepared. Remember to pack toilet rolls (at least six) with hand sanitizers and soap papers.
Incommunicable porters and pony owners
Due to the language difference, it becomes almost impossible during the parikrama of Kailash to communicate with the local Tibetan porters and pony owners. Be prepared for miscommunications and loving universal sign language – leave the rest to ‘happy’ accidents.
Many times we may not agree with local customs, however, it is important to just accept and observe the local customs of food and behaviour rather than try to enforce one’s own beliefs and behaviour on them.
Brevity in packing
One must carry only those few things that are absolute musts during the two-week journey. Most of the times tour operators give a large black bag for pilgrims to re-pack all their luggage only into that one black duffel bag, so overpacking won’t help. This is an arduous trek, so it’s advised to carry as little weight as possible (literally as well as figuratively).
Altitude sickness can hit anyone, even professional trekkers, so first-time pilgrims should take this extremely seriously. It can even be fatal. So, listen to the tour guide’s advice and follows instructions. Walk slowly and remain calm (not speak in agitated or excited manner), especially after crossing 10,000ft. The trick is not to lie down immediately once a higher destination is reached, but instead walk around slowly in the hotel or around, to acclimatise oneself of the increased altitude. A dull headache is a common symptom and could be indicative of altitude sickness. Alert your tour guide and drink lots of water.
Must-haves in your luggage
There are few absolute musts – a good pair of waterproof shoes with thick soles for heavy trekking; a waterproof winter jacket with a hood; warm, waterproof trousers; waterproof gloves; plenty of warm socks and inner wear; medications you take (with additional ones for anti-vomiting, fever, painkillers, bandages, bandaids, pressure bandage, altitude sickness medication, etc.); extra Chinese currency (about 3000 Yuan at least); good quality walking stick; good quality sunglasses; torch with extra batteries; dry fruits and chocolate bars; hot water bottle; toiletries (such as Vaseline, a good sunscreen, anti-fungal powder, etc.), swimwear (if you plan to take a dip in the Mansarover lake), raincoat or poncho (which covers your backpack too).
I learned my lesson the hard way. During my 2014 Kailash parikrama, my group had to suddenly take helicopters as a massive flood swept away parts of the road connecting Nepal to Tibet. I shelled out extra (with other pilgrims for this copter as this was the only way out of the situation). As I didn’t have a proper insurance, I could not claim this money back. Find out an insurance policy that covers Indians, specifically made for Kailash pilgrimage.
Having covered the basics, though, when your pilgrimage is done, you will realise that no amount of preparation can prepare you for the absolute life-changing phenomenon called Mount Kailash. But one can always try and make sure the memories are all pleasant.
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