One of the most arduous treks, the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra or KMY is a trip exclusive for Indians popular for its religious significance.
Devotees of Lord Shiva visit the snow-clad peaks in the Himalayas to pay him a visit and seek his blessings. This yatra that takes place only during a few months of the year is not meant for everyone.
Freezing temperatures, rugged terrain, dangerous trekking trails and high altitudes make this religious tour suited for physically fit people.
Not just Hindus, but even Buddhists, Jains and Bons consider Mount Kailash sacred. For Hindus, this majestic peak is where Lord Shiva, along with his wife Parvati, resides. According to Jains, the first Jain Tirthankara attained Nirvana here. In Buddhism, the belief goes that Kailash Parvat is the abode of Buddha. The Bons (a religion which predates Buddhism in Tibet) believe that their saint Shenrad descended on this very peak.
The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
Due to the high altitude and remote location in western Tibet, only a few thousand pilgrims are able to undertake the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in a year.
You can either trek to Mount Kailash or fly there. The Yatris mainly perform two significant rituals– the revered Kailash Parikrama and a dip in the holy Mansarovar Lake– during the holy visit.
The most important part of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, the Parikrama, requires devotees to trek to Mount Kailash and then circumambulate the mountain peak. However, the trek to the mountain can get strenuous. The Parikrama involves walking around the peak in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. It usually takes around 3 days and can be either done on foot or on a yak/pony.
Located at the foot of the sacred Mount Kailash, Lake Mansarovar is the highest freshwater lake in the world (4,500 metres). Your Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is incomplete without taking a dip in this holy lake. Legend has it that this lake was created by Lord Brahma himself for meditation. Another legend states that Queen Maya was given a bath in the lake by the Gods before Siddhartha (Gautam Buddha) came into the world!
The Yatris usually visit the lake for a second time during their night outings as it looks absolutely stunning in the moonlight. The lake is also believed to change colours; it is clear blue near the shores and emerald green towards the centre.
There are certain criteria for someone to be selected for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. One needs to be an Indian citizen with a valid Indian passport of at least months. One also needs to be physically fit without any major health ailments and a BMI of 25 or less. People below the age of 18 and above 70 cannot apply for the yatra. Once you submit your application, the MEA selects people via a computerized process. But given the nature of the yatra, only those who are physically fit should apply.
Your initial selection does not promise you a confirmed place for the yatra. An applicant suffering from medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, epilepsy, etc. will most likely get rejected as they aren’t deemed fit to undertake the trek.
The people who are selected are informed three to four weeks prior to the scheduled departure. Selected yatris are required to assemble in New Delhi 3-4 days before the commencement of the yatra. At the national capital, the yatris undergo medical tests to obtain clearance on the basis of their fitness. Once their results are approved by a doctor, the yatris qualify for the trip.
Keep the following items ready
- Scanned copy of passport size photograph (in JPG format not exceeding 300 kb in size).
- Scanned copy of Passport (page containing photo & personal particulars) and last page containing family details in <.pdf> format only not exceeding 500 kb in size.
- If applying with another person, also keep ready the above items(1 and 2) for the person.
After successful online registration of your application:
- Take a printout of the application form and keep with you for reference.
- You will receive SMS and e-mail after successful submission of the application.
Possible ways to visit there
KMY is organized by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) annually. This year, the yatra will take place between June to September. There are two routes that the MEA offers for pilgrims.
The Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand which has have 18 batches with costs about Rs 1.6 lakh per person for the 25-day trip. The second route is Nathu La in Sikkim takes 23 days and costs about Rs 2 lakh per person. But this route has only seven batches.
If in case, you plan to embark on the pilgrimage with your spouse, do mention that in your application. Spouses will be automatically selected (provided he/she has also submitted an application for the Yatra) subject to clearing the medical test.
Modes of Transport
Air: The nearest airport is Lucknow. Lucknow airport is well connected with other airports in North India. From here, one has to travel to Nepalgunj (about 75 km) and trek to reach Mansarovar.
The popular trek route is Nepalgunj – Semikot – Tuling – Kermi – Yangar – Torea – Sipsip – Nara La Pass – Hilsa – Taklakot – Kailash Mansarovar.
You can also board a flight from Nepalgunj to Simikot and then charter a helicopter to Hilsa. From there drive to Purang and Kailash Mansarovar.
Rail: The nearest railway station is in Lucknow. Lucknow is well connected with regular passenger and express train services with all major cities in India.
Road: The nearest point to Kailash Mansarovar where state-owned bus services are available is Nepalgunj which is about 75 km from Lucknow.
Do’s And Dont’s
- Carry strong and rough bags and don’t keep the fragile items in your bag. These bags are mostly carried on the Yak. A duffel bag is a great idea.
- Pack some eatables like mints, sweets, candies, chocolates, glucose, khakra, etc that is light and filling.
- Before the trip, get into fitness exercises like early morning walks/runs, aerobics, yoga and practice pranayam everyday.
- Walk in a group with a ‘team spirit’ and help your group members in case of any emergency or need.
- Do carry good sunglasses to protect your eyes against snow-blindness.
- To avoid sunburn, carry sun cream or lotion.
- When doing the Parikrama, walk at a very steady pace. It is important that you immediately inform your tour guide in case you feel dizzy or breathless
- Do not travel if you are asthmatic or are dealing with any kind of breathing problem
- Do not carry extra baggage or too many clothes with you.
- Do not wear lot of thick clothes. It is better if you carry wind-cheater.
- Do not sleep with your boots/shoes on.
- Don’t overexert yourself. Know your limit and walk accordingly.
- Avoid alcohol or smoking.
- Avoid skipping meals and drink lots of water.
- Do not touch several clothes lying on the rocks on your second day of Parikarma
- Avoid combining sightseeing with walking.