Sunday, 11 December 2011

Mount Kailash (Gang-Rinpoche)

Picture of Mt. Kailash, Western Tibet © Ray Kreisel

Mount Kailash (Tibetan: Gang-Tise or Gang-Rinpoche) is a 22,028 feet (6,714m) high peak in one of the highest and most inhospitable parts of the Himalayan mountains of western Tibet. Situated at 31.070704° N latitude and 81.314664° E longitude, it is one of the most significant mountain-geographically and spiritually.

This great mass of black rock has a distinct diamond-like shape with four sheer facades matching the cardinal points of the compass and isolated location with no other mountains in the vicinity to obscure its grandeur.

It is the source of some of the prominent rivers in Asia including Yarlung-Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), Langchen-Khabab (Sutlej), Sengey-Khabab (Indus) and Macha-Khabab (Karnali, a major tributary of Ganges) which begin in the area surrounding Kailash. 

The landscape around the mountain is rugged and dry, and on its south side are two freshwater lakes-Mansarowar and Rakshastal. Lake Mansarowar (Tib: Tso-Mapham) situated at an altitude of 14,950 feet is the highest body of fresh water in the world.

Mt. Kailash is certainly one of the world's most venerated holy places and regarded as the earthly manifestation of mythic Mount Meru (or Sumeru), the Axis Mundi, the spiritual center of the universe in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cosmology. Tibetans call the mountain Gang-Rinpoche meaning 'Precious One of Glacial Snow' and regard it to be the abode of the tantric meditational deity Demchog and his consort, Dorjee Phagmo. The three hills near Gang-Rinpoche are believed to be the homes of the Bodhisattvas Manjushri, Vajrapani and Avalokiteshrava.

Hindus revere it as the throne of the great Lord Shiva, one of the three prominent deities. To Jains, Kailash is the site at which Rishaba, first of the twenty-four Tirthankaras, received enlightenment. Additionally, Bon, Tibet's pre-Buddhist religion believe it to be the seat of the Sky Goddess Sipaimen and a site of spiritual battle that established Budhism as the primary religion of Tibet.

A few thousand pilgrims make a difficult and sometimes treacherous journey to this place every year to complete a 52 km ritual circumambulation around Mt. Kailash. It usually takes three days of walk or months of full-body circumambulation to complete a holy 'kora' or circuit of the mountain.

Preservationists argue that to protect Mt. Kailash from commercialization and destruction, it should be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Recently, campaigns were launched to gather support in this pursuit, but Chinese government has so far not requested nomination of Mount Kailash to UNESCO.

On 'International Mountain Day'*, we call upon the Chinese government and the UNESCO  to nominate and recognize Mount Kailash for World Heritage Listing in order to protect this important, sacred and beautiful place.
Mount Kailash, close Up from The Kangnyi Chorten Tarboche area on Mount Kailash Outer Kora. Source:

*The United Nations General Assembly has designated 11 December, from 2003 onwards, as “International Mountain Day”. Since then the day has been celebrated as a way to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnership that will bring positive change to the world's mountains and highlands. This year's International Mountain Day theme focuses on 'Mountains and Forests'.

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