(You can read Part 1 of my pilgrimage here )
We have reached Darchen (a village at the foothills of Kailash @ 4650m) around 7pm in the evening, an hour or so before sunset. This is where I got my first glimpse of His Highness, staring me right into my face. Shiva Shambo! He looked so alive!!!
While preparing my backpack for the upcoming three-day parikrama in my little so-called hotel room, I suddenly got this severe urge to step outside. As if somebody chained my heart centre and pulled me out of the room. Leaving my things half packed on the bed, I stepped out of the building, and right in front of me, there was a small patch of rainbow smiling at me. I took this as a ‘divine welcome’ 🙏🏻, a beautiful omen 😇.
Having looked around, I noticed that everyone else was oblivious of this strip of a rainbow patch. It’s fascinating, how these signs are custom-carved at times. I’ve experienced this on countless occasions in my life (In fact, I’ve even written a blog on this here). Having folded my hands and expressed my gratitude to the Divine for calling me to this Sacred place, I rushed back to my room to complete my packing for the following day’s pilgrimage, before it got dark.
Kora: Day 1 (11km)
We started our trek at the crack of dawn. Many Tibetan families with their children on their backs and big smiles on their faces were alongside embarking on this Journey of a Lifetime. For Vajrayana Buddhists, it is the home of Buddha Cakrasamvara (Demchog), representing Supreme Bliss. And not only, it is said that the great Tibetan yogi, Milarepa, among others, has meditated here, too. Tibetans did not seem to have any physical challenges walking whatsoever. They felt very much at home, given climatic conditions. I was told that most of them finish the kora in one full day (around 20 hours or so).
Well, this is definitely not the case for ‘outsiders’. Only two thirds of our group started the trek, to begin with. The ones, who stayed back, either fell very sick or realized that they would not be physically able to do the circumambulation. Our experienced tour guide told us, that most people come to the base of Kailash and end up staying in Darchen village for a few days, without even attempting the parikrama.
No doubt, the trek at this altitude is challenging. One thing is to watch a YouTube video on Mount Kailash, lying on a couch at home, and think you can do this. Quite another thing is to actually go there, and experience all the physical hardships that this sacred place presents for yourself.
Interestingly, our tour guide mentioned, that he was yet to meet one German or Russian, who had failed to finish the full circumambulation. (Not only most of them are fit, but they come with a rock like determination to complete it.) On the other hand, according to him, only one third of Indians complete the parikrama around this Supreme Shiva’s abode. A big majority of them attempt only the Day 1 distance on a pony or with a porter and then return to Darchen village the very same or the following day. I am not sure how much this holds true though.
Whatever be the case, this mysteriously magnetic mandala is definitely not a small affair for a majority of folks. Despite my physical body being severely down with cold, I kept my spirits high. How could it have been otherwise?! I was in the lap of Shiva Himself. I have already given myself to Him prior to this trip, and trusted He would take me till the end, despite all the tests He had put me through prior (as mentioned in part 1).
The weather on the first day proved to be superb. Sunshine, blue sky and just a slight breeze. Only towards the end the wind picked up, bringing along many clouds. Having spent quite a bit of time in the upper Himalayas in the past, I was weary, that mountain weather was very unpredictable and could change within a matter of minutes.
As I was walking through Tarboche valley, I could not but keep looking to my right. This is where His physical glory was manifesting itself. During the circumambulation, I was watching His face change, from Southern to Western and eventually, to the most visible form of His- the Northern Face. With the latter view in front of us, we halted for the night. The lodging itself was charged with a lot of energy as it was situated right by the famous Dirapuk Monastery premises (@4950m).
I could hardly sleep that night. Not sure, if it was the energy of the place, the altitude or my body fallen completely sick. I even stepped out in the middle of the night to check out the full Moon and all Her beneficiaries majestically bathing under Her beams. Even though, the Moon was semi- covered with clouds, nevertheless, it all felt Divine!!!
Day 2 (22km)
By 4 am our whole team was up and ready to face the most difficult part of the kora. But…. Suddenly I felt my physical body so weak and nauseated, that I was not sure, if I would be able to move at all. My fever was up there, too.
Our tour guide came up to me and seeing me in this ‘poor’ condition told me upfront, “Maybe you should just stay back, and we’ll get you a pony to take you back to Darchen. Today’s trek is extremely challenging- 5 hours uphill, 2 hours downhill and another 4 hours over the flat land. Given your physical condition, I am not sure…”
Oh yes, my physical body was happy to hear this, but my mind would not give up. I reassured our guide: “I will do my best. Slowly, but I will do this.” It was the day when Shiva was putting me through the toughest (physical & beyond) challenges ever! Will I be able to do this?
Having started together as a group, within half an hour or so, we naturally dispersed and found ourselves walking on our own. Not only did everyone’s physical capabilities differed, but these types of journeys are not to be done in a chit-chat ‘walking together’ style. Everyone was connecting to this high energy axis individually. For some, it was just a ‘tick’ for a physical challenge- to be the first one to reach the next halting place. For others, this Mountain was the embodiment of a very sacred energy centre. Thus, plugging into this high frequency ‘space’ with each and every step was more important than a ratio of linear time & physical distance covered.
Within a couple of hours or so, post our departure, the first signs of dawn unfolded, yet with each passing minute I started feeling more and more sick. Not only could I not sip water from the bottle I carried, but even the thought of doing so would make me feel even more nauseated.
Shall I continue or go back? This was my last chance to return, as the Monastery we stayed at was still visible in the distance. The return would be downhill. Do I really have enough strength to finish today’s trek? I am about to touch the toughest leg of the journey. Is my instrument fit enough for this steep uphill challenge in this condition?
(to be continued in Part 3)