Mt. Kailash - Kailash means 'Treasure or Saint of Snow Mountain' in Tibetan. The name originates from the year-round of snow on its peak and its historical religious connections. The mountain is sometimes called 'Mother of Iceberg'. It appears to be gazing at another mountain, Namcha Barwa, or 'Father of Iceberg' in the far distance.
Mt. Kailash is the highest peak in the massive Gangdise mountain range with an altitude over 6,600 meters (21654 ft.). Kailas peak is very pointed and looks like a pyramid piercing the sky. Seen from the south, the vertical ice trough and horizontal rock formation combine as the Buddhist symbol Swastika, which represents the eternal power of Buddha. More often than not, clouds will gather above the peak, so clear days are thought to be a blessing because local residents can get an unimpeded view.
Legend has it that a high lama named Milarepa competed with Naro Bonchung, the leader of Bon, for supernatural power. Milarepa was triumphant, and thus the mountain came under the guidance of Buddhism. However, the mountain is also said to be the gathering place of masses of gods, among which are the highest gods of Hinduism. So it is no surprise that many pilgrims of different faiths visit here.
Walking around the mountain is a popular ceremony despite the length and difficult terrain. According to the sayings of Buddhism, one circle around the mountain can atone for all the sins committed throughout one's lifetime. Completing ten circles around the mountain will prevent eternal damnation of hell tribulation in one's reincarnations for 500 years. Completing one hundred circles will make a person one with Buddha. While walking, Buddhists follow clockwise, while Bonists proceed in a counter-clockwise direction. In the horse year when Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, is said to be born, worshippers get credit for thirteen circles for every one completed. Naturally, these years draw the largest number of tourists.
Mt. Kailash lies at the centre of an area that is the key to the drainage system of the Tibetan plateau, and from which issues four of the great rivers of the Indian subcontinent: the Karnali, which feeds into the Ganges (south), the Indus (north), the Sutlej (west) and the Brahmaputra (Yarlung Tsangpo, east).
Mt Kailash, at 6714 m, is not the mightiest of the mountains in the region but, with its hulking shape - like the handle of a millstone, according to Tibetans - and its year-long snow-capped peak, it stands apart from the pack. The mountain is known in Tibetan as Kang Rinpoche, or "Precious Jewel of Snow".
Kailash has long been an object of worship for four major religions. For the Hindus, Kailash is regarded as the centre of the universe and the domain of Shiva, the Destroyer and Transformer. To the faithful Buddhist, Kailash is the abode of Demchok, a wrathful manifestation of Sakyamuni thought to be an equivalent of Hinduism's Shiva. The Jains of India also revere the mountain as the site at which the first of their saints was emancipated. And in the ancient Bon religion of Tibet, Kailash was the sacred nine stories Swastika Mountain, upon which the Bonpo founder Shenrab alighted from heaven.
Manasarovar Lake; Mansarova lies about 20 km (12.43 mi.) southeast of Mt. Kailash. It means 'Invincible Jade Lake' in Tibetan. The name originates from a story that Buddhism wins a victory against Bon in a religious match beside the lake. The lake is the same 'Jade Pool of the Western Kingdom' described by the high monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in his Westward Diary. The altitude of the lake is about 4,588 meters (15,052.49 ft.), making it one of the highest fresh water lakes in the world. The water is very limpid and bright. The Hindu legend has that it is the amrita designed by the great god Brahma that can wash away all one's sins as well as any anxiety or improper thoughts. Many pilgrims bathe in the lake and take some water back as a gift to their relatives and friends. The surrounding area is the point of origin for India's two most famous rivers, the Indus and the Ganges. Walking around the lake also has ceremonial value for the Tibetans. There are many temples along the way, the two most notable being the Jiwu and the Chugu.