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Kailash Highlighted Sites

Asthapad Maha Tirth (place of worship) is one of the major Jain Tirths and it is situated nearly 5 km up in the mountain from Darchen. Thousands of years ago Shri Adinath Bhagwan, first of 24 tirthankars, attained salvation at this place. After his salvation his son king Bharat made a palace (known as “Sinh-Nishadha”) of real gemstones with 24 idols of Jain tirthankars on Ashtapad mountain in his memory. Ashtapad derived its name from the fact that it has eight steps to go up the mountain (Ashta means eight and pad means steps in Sanskrit). Other names for the tirth are Ratnamay (made of gemstones) Rajatadri and Sfatikachal (the crystal palace).

Gauri Kunda (Yokmo Tso)
Gauri Kunda, which is 50 to 60 m. down from the Dolma-La pass (5608 m.) is the highest lake in the World. Tibetan people called it Yokmo Tso, that means ‘Maid Servant’. Once upon a time, the maid of a rich family had an illicit affair and bore a baby boy. She took him to Mt. Kailash and by the lake she took a drink. Through carelessness, the baby slipped into the water and sank without a trace. The maid stayed here for days, heartbroken, and spent all her waking hours watching the lake’s surface. Finally, a message appeared on a rock next to her. The baby was in fact a deity and he asked his mother not to worry but to perform the 13 circuits around the mountain and then go home a new women. This small rock smudged with butter, is still here. Pilgrims circumambulate the lake, but unlike Indian pilgrims Tibetan do not immerse themselves. In general, they consider immersion a defilement of the sacred water. Instead, they perform ablutions – rituals called trusol – to purify and consecrate. Pills that are previously sanctified are thrown into the water and purification mantra repeated. After this, pilgrims take some lake water and splash it over their heads. In order to make it easier to take some of the water home, they might mix it with earth and then shape the mixture into small balls.

Siwastal is located on the way to Dolma-La, which is approximately 2 hours walk from Deraphuk Gomba. Siwastal is considered as a replica of the fabled burial ground at Bodh Gaya, India. Here pilgrims undergo ritual death and enter into the horrific presence of Yama, before being reborn on top of the Drolma La. On the ground is an incredible assortment of clothing, bones, saddle bags, hair, shoes and endless other objects. All who pass leave something even offerings of blood (cut a finger or scrape the gums). Many lie on the ground and visualize their journey after-death. A few brave ones stay overnight. Above the cemetery is a red foot print of Milareppa (Tibetan yogi & poet) on the surface of a rock.

Saga Dawa is the most important annual festival of Mt. Kailash, during this time, the giant flagpole is ritually taken down and the prayer flags along its length replaced. Tibetans from all over Tibet pour into the area, most of them two or three weeks before the actual date, the full moon of the forth lunar month. Many bring products to sell and the result is a remarkable carnival. During the flagpole ceremony, as the pole’s tip is raised and pointed east towards Gyangdrak Monastery, monks of that monastery perform a special ritual. A Cacophony of music from long trumpets, conch shells and other instruments welcomes the rising flagpole. After the Tarboche is fully upright, Tibetans scrutinize its position for omens. If the column is ramrod straight, all will go well: disease will abate, livestock will be healthy and everyone will prosper. If the pole leans toward Kailash, local inhabitants will suffer famine, disease and perhaps untimely death. If the flagpole tilts away from the mountain, great alarm is generated. Tarboche’s importance is linked to the sanctity of the nearby cemetery of Drachom Ngagye Durtro, situated on a ridge east of the flagpole. Gotshangpa, first explorer of Kailash, and Guru Rinpoche are known to have blessed the site. The latter predicted that the trunk of an exceptionally tall, ‘self-originating’ (rangjung) tree would serve as the flagpole. The present one is a replacement and lacks the original’s vital power (neupa), but pilgrims still chip off pieces of wood to take home as sacred relics.

The only other point of pilgrimage considered essential to the traveler in the Kailash region is Tirthapuri, located on the Sutlej River. The traditional order of the pilgrimage is first to circumambulate Manasarovar, then Kailash, and then to go to Tirthapuri. This is almost always the final stop. Perhaps this has something to do with the soothing waters of the shallow hot springs, where weary travelers can relax, soak their feet and contemplate the adventures they have undergone. Tirthapuri is best known for being a sacred place of Padmasambhava and his consort Yeshe Tsogyel. The monastery which was formerly connected with Hemis monastery in Ladakh was completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt in 1980s.
Behind the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh is a cave where Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogye both meditated and a granite rock with their embedded footprints. The hot springs are surrounded by pink and white limestone terraces, which make a favorite picnic spot for Tibetans. Small pure opaque calcium balls are found among the terraces; search carefully for these small beads are considered to be powerful medicine. Ravens and rainbows abound in this magical spot. Tirthapuri can also be visited as part of a journey to or from the kingdom of Guge, or as part of a return journey to Shiqunhe. To reach it turn southwest off the main road at Menjir (also called as Mensi) and continue for 13km (8miles). From Tirthapuri to Toling is approximately one long day of driving, so consider spending an extra night here and enjoy.

Yam Dwar
Yam Dwar (entrance) is located in Tarboche which is approximately 30 minutes drive from Darchen. The literal meaning of the Yam Dwar in Hindi language is the gateway of the God of Death. It is the starting point of circumambulation of mount Kailash. In Tibet, it is known as Chorten Kang Ngyi i.e. two legged Stupa.

Zutrul Phuk (Cave of Miracles) Monastery
The Zutrul Phuk Monastery is on the right Bank of the Zhong Chu. Around the monastery is a large collection of Mani stones and piles of stones and rocks carved with mantras. Also in the vicinity are destroyed Chortens and along the slope many meditation caves. On the valley floor are number of long, finely crafted mani walls. During the summer time, Pilgrims & travelers pitch the tent along the grassy meadows. The Zutrul Phuk Cave was the site of the celebrated magical contest between Milareppa and Naro Bonchung, a competition to determine who had the greater power to build a shelter. It was agreed that Milarepa would build the ceiling and Naro Bonchung the walls. Milarepa proceeded to a huge rock and with his bare hands sliced it in two. One part, designated as the roof, he suspended in mid-air to allow the walls to fit underneath. Naro Bonchung, overwhelmed by his performance, was unable to produce the site walls and Milarepa finished the cave-shelter alone. A final test was held to see who could fly to the top of Mt. Kailash first. Bonchung started before sunrise, mounted his drum. Milarepa was relaxed at the base of the mountain, totally unconcern with the Bonpo’s progress; he was waiting for the morning’s first light. By catching a ride on a ray of sunlight he reached the top instantaneously, thus beating Bonchung handily. Subsequently, the Bonpos relinquished their hold on Kailash and were given the small mountain of Ponri to the east compensation. The cave’s most important object is a statue made of precious metal li. According to tradition, it was created by the sage himself before his death. Milarepa claimed it had great powers to bless and protect. The black ceiling has the hand-prints and head prints of Milarepa; pilgrims imitate him by putting their head into the depression. These impressions were created when Milarepa used his head and hands to push the roof up. He Maculated and the ceiling was raised too high. He then climbed on top of the stone to stamp it back down with his foot and left behind his foot print.