From the Jacket
Since times immemorial, Indian renunciates have been going on pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. But after the take over of Tibet by China, this pilgrimage stopped in 1959. However, as a result of the Sino-Indian treaty signed in 1981 and a limited form of religious liberalization in Tibet, the Chinese government agreed to let in a small number of Indian passport holders every year to enter Tibet directly from India via the Lipu Lekh crossing and go to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar for the purposes of worship and circumambulation. Large chunk of the Indian territory through which the Indian pilgrims trek is out of bounds to foreigners. This trek is considered one of the most difficult pilgrimage treks in the world. The author undertook this pilgrimage twice. The first one took place in 2002, the year of the Water Horse, which in the Sino-Tibetan duodenary cycle is considered a particularly auspicious time to make a pilgrimage to a holy place. Merit thus accumulated by undertaking pilgrimage during the year of the Water Horse is considered a particularly auspicious time to make a pilgrimage to a holy place. Merit thus accumulated by undertaking pilgrimage during the year of the Water Horse is considered to be multiplied manifold. The second visit was made during the summer of 2004. Another trip was undertaken in 2006 up to Adi Kailash.
In the pre-1959 period, the pilgrimage to Kailash and Manasarovar used to mainly attract sadhus from India. The general public mostly avoided this pilgrimage due to the harsh climate, touch terrain, and lawlessness in the region. However, pilgrimage in present times is largely undertaken by lay people. Not only the governments of India and China but also various local organizations on both sides of the border take interest in this exercise. As a result of this, many changes of far reaching consequences are taking place in the Himalayas.
The author has made an attempt in this book to examine the history of the Indian tradition of pilgrimage to Kailash and Manasarovar; the perils and difficulties involved in this pilgrimage; the social , religious, geo-political, and economic factors on both sides of the Sino-Indian border that have affected, and have been affected in turn by this pilgrimage.
About the Author
Professor K.T.S. Sarao teaches Buddhism at the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi. He holds doctorates from the universities of Delhi and Cambridge. He has worked as a visiting professor/fellow at various universities including Singapore, Fagu-Shan, Toronto, Sorbonne, Cambridge, and Dongguk. Dr. Sarao has nine books and over 40 research papers written on ancient Indian history and Buddhism. He takes keen interest in trekking, modern numismatics, animal rights, and organic farming.
The Lipu Lekh crossing was reopened in 1981 for Indian pilgrims after a gap of over two decades. Though I was lucky to be chosen by the Indian Government to visit Kailash and Manasarovar in 1981 but due to financial constraints I could not make it. Finally, an opportunity came my way when my friend Sudhir Pratap Singh was chosen as the Liaison Officer of the thirteenth batch in the Kumbh year of 2002. By now my financial situation had also somewhat improved. Then in 2004 my friend Malay Kumar Sinha helped me to successfully visit the Kailash region by untangling the various bureaucratic skeins for me. It would have been impossible for me to perform these two journeys without the help of Suddhir and Malay. Thus, I visit the Kailash region a couple of time more. In the year 2005, I went there with my friends Anita Sharma and Surinder Kumar and their son Manik. This trip was via the Kodari-Niyalam-Saga-Prayang-Hore Qu route. Then in 2006 I had the opportunity to go with ten of my students and colleagues to Adi-Kailash and Om Parvat. During the summer of 2008, I was appointed the Liaison Officer of the first batch by the Ministry of External Affairs (Govt. of India) to lead the pilgrims to Kailash. However, the Chinese Government refused to allow this and the following two batches to enter China.
This book has been prepared keeping in mind both the general reader and the specialist. As a result, attention has been paid to all those minor details which a general pilgrims should know. Useful information on the various spots which fall on the pilgrimage route, flora and fauna, and socio-religious life of the people, has also been included. Popular versions of the modern names have been used and as far as possible, diacritical marks etc. have been kept to the bare minimum. Thus, instead of ‘Kailasa/Kailasa’ and ‘Manasarovara’, I have used the popular spellings such as ‘Kailash’ and ‘Manasarovar’. Dr. Kalsang Wangmo helped with the correct spellings of Tibetan terms.
Apart from the above stated persons, Sunita, Jarnail, Anu, Neha, Nidhi, Kanika, and Kanishk have contributed in various ways towards the completion of this book. Last but not the least, I am grateful to Shri Vikas Arya of Aryan Books International for taking keen interest in the publication of this book.
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