The Mystery of Mt. Kailash

Mt. Kailash is an intercultural, interracial, inter-religious and crossborder mountain. Regardless of the Tibetans, Mongolians, Indians, Nepalese, Buddhists, Bon religion, Hindus and Jains, Mt. Kailash is worshipped as the center of the world.

Mt. Kailash
Mt. Kailash

The status of holy mountains is related to political power. For example, Mt. Yar-Lha-Sham-Po, the head of the "Four Great Holy Mountains," is not magnificent just because it is located in the Yalong Valley and was developed during the Tubo Dynasty. It also surpasses the more famous Amne Machin Mountain, Nianqing Tanggula and other holy mountains. 

As the most famous god mountain in ancient times, with the death of the Katao Dynasty and the decline of the Bon religion, Mt. Kailash gradually marginalized in the later Tibetan holy mountain system.

However, Mt. Kailash is still a unique holy mountain. Its pride lies in that it is a cross-religious, cultural, ethnic and national holy mountain, and is widely worshipped by the Tibetans, Indians, Nepalese, Mongolians and Sikkimese who believe in different religions. 

From the perspective of Lhasa, Mt. Kailash is situated in the desolate Ngari area, on the edge of Tibetan territory. But in ancient times, when the Katao Dynasty was strong, the edge of the Tibetan territory was its advantage. Standing in the convergence zone, where many civilizations intersected, the influence spread across the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

For more than 2,000 years, Mt. Kailash has surpassed the geographical barrier of the Himalayas and has become a center of faith that unites many ancient religions in Asia. Mt. Kailash has a different meaning in different religions and has great religious significance in these various faiths.

Tibetan Buddhists call it "Kangri Rinpoche," which means 'Precious Snow Mountain.' For Hindus, it is the home of the wild mountain god Shiva and a symbol of his penis; For Janis, it is where their first leader was enlightened; For Buddhists, Mt Kailash is the navel of the universe; Bon religion has many names for Mt. Kailash, such as Water's Flower, Mountain of Sea Water, and Nine Stacked Swastika Mountain.

Below are the ties that Mt. Kailash has with these different religions:

Mt. Kailash in Bon Religion

Bön, a religion native to Tibet, maintains that the entire mystical region and Kailash, which they call the "nine-story Swastika Mountain."

Puran County, located in the south of Ngari, is called the area surrounded by snow mountains. It is an active area of the early civilization of Ngari region, the ancient Shangshung culture. In addition, Bonismo, the national religion of Shangshung Dynasty, also developed and spread here. Khyung lung Dngul mkhar, which is the imperial palace of the Shangshung Dynasty, is also near Mt. Kailash.

Sinwan Mivo, the ancestor of Bon religion, was born in Weimulongren, Shangshung. The word "Shangshung" means the place where the big roc birds live in the Shangshung language. As early as the 5th century B.C., there was a high ancient civilization, historically known as the "Ancient Shangshung Civilization."

Mt. Kailash is like a cross-shaped diamond pestle located in the center of the world. Its peak reaches directly to the divine realm, and its foot extends to the lower bound. It is a divine mountain that runs through the three realms of the universe.

There are two opinions about the birthplace of Bonismo founder, Sinwan Mivo. The first opinion is the Persian (now Iran) theory; the other opinion is the Shangshung theory,  which states that he was born at the foot of Mt. Kailash and preached around.

Mt. Kailash is first and foremost a Bon religion holy mountain, like the heart of the Shangshung culture. There are 360 gods of the Bon religion that are gathered on the mountain. Many of the Bon religion masters live and penance in seclusion on the mountain.

With the expansion of the Shangshung culture, the Bon religion belief spread to neighboring regions, such as West Asia, South Asia and Tubo, affecting other religions and ethnic groups.

Bon religion is a primitive religion that originated in Tibet. It believes that all things are spiritual, mountains have mountain gods, and lakes have lake gods, which evolved into the worship of sacred lakes and sacred mountains. According to this religion, the universe is divided into three boundaries: the upper bound is the divine (heavenly), the middle bound is the age (human), and the lower bound is the Lu (underwater).

In the view of believers of different religions, there are different gods and religious rituals in the same mountain. Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism make the pilgrimage journey clockwise, but the Bon religion does it counterclockwise. You don't have to worry that the two sides will bump into each other. Within hundreds of kilometers near Mt. Kailash, there is only one Buddhist monastery, the Ancient Rujiang Monastery. You rarely encounter Bon religion pilgrims during the pilgrimage journey.

Mt. Kailash in Buddhism

Mt. Kailash is known as Mt. Meru in Buddhist texts. It is central to its cosmology, and a major pilgrimage site for some Buddhist traditions.

Vajrayana Buddhists believe that Mt. Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok, who represents supreme bliss.

As an Indian religion, Buddhism was deeply influenced by Vedic culture and Jainism, in which Mt. Kailash has long been remembered as the holy mountain of the legendary Sumeru Mountain, the holy land of Shengle Buddha.

When Buddhism was introduced to Tibet later, it competed directly with the Bon Religion for Mt. Kailash. The most puzzling thing is that standing on the Indian plain, you can't see the Gangdise Mountains. How did the ancient Indians know about Mt. Kailash? The only reasonable explanation is the river.

The Tibetan rivers all originate from the snowy mountains while the four rivers, Maquan River, Kongque River, Xiangquan River and Shiquan River, are derived within the vicinity of Mt. Kailash. 

Maquan River is the source of Yarlung Zangbo River; the Kongque River is the source of Ganges River; the Xiangquan River and Shiquan River are the sources of the Indus River. One snowy mountain, which is the source of the three great rivers in South Asia, doesn’t make any sense if it’s not the center of the world.

Imagine that in the past, when the belief of the Bon religion surpassed the Himalayas and spread downstream along the Peacock Valley through Puran, it inspired different Hindu denominations to trace the origin of the river and compete for this sacred resource.

Mt. Kailash in Hinduism

Mt. Kailash has a very close relationship with India. According to Hinduism, Shiva resided at the summit of a mountain named Kailāsh, where he sat in a state of meditation along with his wife, Pārvatī.

God Shiva
God Shiva

Legend has it that the Supreme God of Liberty, from the ancient Vedic culture of India, lived in the Mt. Kailash area. At the beginning of the chaos, in order to save the world, the God of Liberty swallowed a poisonous bottle, and the pain was unbearable. He had to live in the cool snow mountain of Mt. Kailash, so the God of Liberty had a name of "the person who lives in the Gangdise Mountain." His wife Uma, the disciple King Lengga, a monkey named Hanumanta and even Sarasvati all took Mt. Kailash as their residence. The God of Liberty was Shiva, whose name is known far and wide later.

For Hindus, Mt. Kailash is the home of the wild mountain god Shiva and a symbol of his penis.

According to the description of the Vishnu Purana, the four faces of the mountain are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. It is a pillar of the world and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges, symbolizing a lotus.

Mt. Kailash in Jainism

India also has another religion called Jainism, which is known for its penance and is also closely related to Mt. Kailash. Legend has it that he was enlightened at the Buddhist seat (Fozuoyan) of Mt. Kailash and founded a sect here.

His eldest son, Bajeda, also led 19 brothers to become monks and practiced at Mt. Kailash. The 20th Jainist bishop, Munisogenata, led more than 10,000 believers to implement Buddhist Dharma and finally enlightened through painstaking efforts at Mt. Kailash. That’s why it can be said that Jainism originated in Mt. Kailash. Hence for Jains, Mt. Kailash is where their first leader was enlightened.

According to Jain scriptures, Ashtapada, the mountain next to Mt. Kailash, is the site of where the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva, attained liberation.

Rishabhadeva attained nirvana near Mt. Kailash
Rishabhadeva Attained Nirvana Near Mt. Kailash

In the Jain tradition, it is believed that after Rishabhdeva attained nirvana near Mt. Kailash. His son Emperor Bharata Chakravartin, had constructed 3 stupas and 24 shrines of the 24 Tirthankaras over there with their idols studded with precious stones, and HE named it Sinhnishdha.

In the Jain tradition, the 24th and last Tirthankara, Vardhamana Mahavira was taken to the summit of Kailash by Indra shortly after his birth. This was after he put his mother, Queen Trishala, into deep slumber. There he was bathed and anointed with precious unctions. 

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Accommodations for Lhasa and Mt. Kailash Tour There are many hotel choices in Lhasa. But you’ll only find simple guesthouses at Everest Base Camp and along the trekking tour around Mt. Kailash.
Mt. Kailash Tour Packing List Traveling to Mt. Kailash and doing the circuit trekking need to be well prepared in advance. Here below is a packing list for a Mt. Kailash tour.

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