Mount Kailas – Tibet, China
Sacred Circuit Around the Mystical Home of the Gods
Though at 22,028 feet it’s not among the highest peaks of the Himalayas, Kailas is one of the most beautiful. More important, though, it’s the most sacred mountain in Asia, revered in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Bon faiths (the latter, Tibet’s ancient indigenous religion).
The devout believe that Kailas is the home of the gods and the center of the cosmos. For more than 1,000 years, they have come here on pilgrims’ paths from all over Tibet and beyond to perform a kora, a 32-mile clockwise circumambulation around the mountain to pay homage to the deities. Some even prostrate their way around the peak. One circuit is said to erase the sins of a lifetime, and 108 assures Nirvana, the ultimate spiritual enlightenment.
Intrepid trekkers and travelers have picked up the custom, circling the mountain in the company of avid pilgrims and experiencing the austere beauty and silence of the landscape, visiting far-flung monasteries overlooked by the Chinese authorities, and encountering the occasional nomad family or yak herder.
There is no mistaking the holiness of Mount Kailas, whence originates the sacred Ganges River. The mountain itself is off-limits to people; it has never been climbed, because that would disturb the gods.