The journey to Shiva’s Abode – Kailash begins with the Sankalp and desire to walk the spiritual journey and continues even after the physical journey ends. It is said that only one out of every five people on earth yearns to go to Kailash (if we put just Hindus and Buddhists together). The season for the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra is from May to September and hundreds of pilgrims would have already booked their place or are thinking of booking a place on the several available tours. But this is not a journey to be taken lightly. Though it is said that you can go only if you get the ‘call’, the potential pilgrim still has to do much to prepare for this journey of a lifetime (or several lifetimes, as your belief system might be).
The journey to Kailash is as mystical as Lord Shiva, who is believed to reside there. Hence, the preparation for the pilgrimage itself is a journey in itself. While many tour operators give an indication of the things to buy and carry during the pilgrimage, only a few help with non-materialistic preparations.
Preparation of the mind and other important guidelines
Go without expectations
Often pilgrims make the mistake to expect miracles or to ‘see’ certain visions or experience certain things that they may have heard or read from others who have been to Kailash. Each yatri experiences the mystical journey in his / her personal way. One may experience a major shift in life as this journey is not only physical but also yatra within. Go without any expectations. Just go with the flow and experience the things that happen to you.
Pure veg Satvik food is served during the yatra. one must abstain from eating animal meat and products. Opt for fruits and vegetables that have been exposed to the sun. Get into the routine of eating before sunset, or around the time. Alcohol, smoking, and drugs are also to be avoided.
A New You
It’s said that a Kailash pilgrim comes back a new person, so before you take on the pilgrimage, One may experience moments of Catharsis and emotionally soul-nourishing. This is a type of cleansing yourself of the ego and making yourself empty to receive the gifts of grace from Kailash.
It is also a good idea to indulge oneself in some spiritual practice for a period of 21-40 days before the journey. This can be meditation or chanting on your Aradhya deity or energy ( the one you believe in ) It is important that whatever you do, you need to connect with it and not do it mechanically.
I have seen during my multiple pilgrimages to Kailash, the fittest of the pilgrims fall ill due to the high altitude and frail aged pilgrims finish their parikrama (circumambulation) around Kailash without any difficulty. However, it is always better to do some form of exercise (walk/jog/yoga/gym) at least two-three months prior to the pilgrimage to prepare the body.
Now that we have covered at least the basics of one’s spiritual preparations for the Kailash Yatra, it’s also important to know, understand, acknowledge, prepare for and embrace for some practicalities of the journey as well.
Breaking urban comfort zones
When I went to Kailash for the first time in 2014. At every step, my comfort zones, and pre-conceived notions were broken. Listed below are some of the things one needs to keep in mind.
In most of the places on the way, there are no toilets or even if there are, these are just holes in the ground (which often becomes unusable). Depending on the tour operator and the money you pay, the pilgrims are kept in either hotels or Tibetan mud houses. Hotels usually have toilets (the infrastructure has improved massively over the years). During the Kailash parikrama, you won’t find any built toilets, so be mentally prepared. Remember to pack toilet rolls (at least six) with hand sanitizers and soap papers.
Altitude sickness can hit anyone, even professional trekkers, so first-time pilgrims should take this extremely seriously. It can even be fatal. So, listen to the tour guide’s advice and follows instructions. Walk slowly and remain calm (not speak in agitated or excited manner), especially after crossing 10,000ft. The trick is not to lie down immediately once a higher destination is reached. But instead, walk around slowly in the hotel or around, to acclimatize oneself of the increased altitude. A dull headache is a common symptom and could be indicative of altitude sickness. Alert your tour guide and drink lots of water.
Having covered the basics, though, when your pilgrimage is done, you will realize that no amount of preparation can prepare you for the absolutely life-changing phenomenon called Mount Kailash. But one can always try and make sure the memories are all pleasant