Mount Kailash: Sacred Routes Making Ways for Sustainability
Invoking visions of splendour and spiritual liberation,one of the ancient scriptures in Sanskrit, the‘Skanda Purana’glorifies Himalaya as, “There are no other mountains like Himachal for there are found Mount Kailas and Lake Manasarovar. As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of humankind by the sight of Himachal.”
Located ina spectacular proximity to each other, Mount Kailash (6,714 m) and Lake Manasarovar (4,550 m) are nestled in a remote, high-altitude, windswept landscape where the Tibetan Plateau meets the western Himalayas, standing out among other numerous sacred sites in the region.Their importance spans several faiths, the adherents of which are traditionally spread over all of South and Central Asia, and today can be found around the world. Exquisitely contour ofMount Kailash and turquoise blue Lake Manasarovar have, for centuries, been among the most difficult, yet highly venerated, pilgrimage sites for several religions. Bons, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain faiths revere Mount Kailash as the mystical centre of the universe. Sanctified by the spiritual practice of great sages, these sacred natural sites are celebrated as the abode of Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati, the Tibetan Buddhist deity Chakrasamvara, and the Bon Buddha Tonpa Shenrab. Tibetan Buddhist yogi Milarepa, Bon mystic Naro Bonchung, and Jain TirthankaraRishabh. Besides being a critical center of religious faith, the expansive landscape surrounding Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar also form the backdrop of numerous legends and epics both in local Tibetan traditions and among groups like the Shauka and Humli tribes in neighbouring India and Nepal.
The unique geographic positioning of these two sacred sites, near the juncture of India, Nepal, and the Tibet Autonomous Region in China, has historically fostered a great trans-boundary fluidity of movement, linkages of trade, pastoralism, politics, culture, and religion among communities living in the landscape.
Economy of the region was traditionally based on the trans boundary salt trade, symbiotically dependent on the agro-pastoral practices of communities residing both to the north and the south of the Himalayas. Several ancient trade routes, including a Silk Road Corridor crisscross the landscape, connecting the main trade highways of ancient India to those of Central Asia through western Nepal. Numerous historic, trans-boundary trading marts, where traditional grains, oil, sugar, and finished wool products from the Indian and Nepali plains were bartered for Tibetan salt, borax, raw wool, livestock, and gold can also be found across the sacred landscape Within a north-south transect including the portion of the Tibetan Plateau surroundingMount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar and the mountains immediately to the south in India and Nepal is an unusually rich diversity of natural resources, ecosystems, and biodiversity.
From aerial view, Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar appear to be the pivot of a great water wheel, with four great Asian rivers; Indus to the north, Sutlej to the west, Karnali to the south, and Brahmaputra to the east emerging as its spokes from the region’s glaciers. These water sources are the basis of life for hundreds of millions of people living downstream in China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
In a stretch of just one hundred kilometres, the natural landscape transitions from the vast grasslands and tundra ofhe Tibetan Plateau dominated by Juniperus sp.and Caragana sp., to the temperate coniferous forests with expanses of blue pines and yews,to the variety of oaks in broadleaf forests of the Himalayan midhills at the southern edges of the landscapeexibits a startling degree of transitions in the natural landscape and ecosystems.