Abode of the gods
Mountains are also held sacred due to their association with deities, mythology and legends.
It is believed that there are, in total, seven Kailash mountains. The well-known Mansarovar Kailash in Tibet, Adi Kailash in the Pithoragarh district of Uttrakhand, Amarnath Kailash in J&K, Kinner Kailash in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, Mani Mahesh Kailash in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, Shrikhand Kailash in the Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh. The seventh one is believed to be Boorha Kailash and is yet to be located.
Climb to the top
The yatra season had began and the very thought of proceeding to Shrikhand Kailash was a call from within. The peak is situated at 18,500 feet above sea level. After a quick dip at the hot springs at Jeori, we reached a small hamlet called Jaon, the starting point of this trek. From here Shrikhand Mahadev is a three-day trek. After passing through another small hamlet Sinhgad and trekking through dense pine forests for six hours, we reached our first camp Tharchu at 11,500 feet. Next day, the trek resumed towards Kalidhar, which is at a distance of about three km from this point.
After a steep descent and crossing hills and glaciers, we reached Khunsa Bhimdwar (according to the locals, Bheem had killed a demon Bakasur here; the blood of Bakasur has made the spot permanently red). People usually stay at Bheemdwar to charge up for next day’s difficult trek. After an early start on the next day, we reached Nain Sarovar, which is believed to be made up of the tears of Goddess Parvati. I was mesmerised by the beauty of this place surrounded by glaciers.
An additional two hours of arduous climb over the steep ice slopes led us to Bheem Bahi, where I found rocks with some work. It is believed that these sculptures have the writings of Bheem himself. The whole region was covered in mist and, I could see the outline of the monolithic rock of Shrikhand Mahadev. As per legends, demon Bhasamasur performed a difficult penance for Shiva here.
In return, Bhasamasur is said to have got the bhasam kangan as a boon from Shiva, who had said that the person on whom this bhasam is used, would be destroyed. Bhasamasur then tried to use the same bhasam kangan on Shiva, who disappeared into a cave and appeared on a hill. Because of this, the hill is worshipped as a lingam and is known as Shrikhand Mahadev.
Our next stop was the Kinner Kailash, a monolithic spire situated in the Kinner Kailash range. Next day, after crossing Sutlej River at Shongtong, we reached Thangling village, the starting point of the trek. From here, Shiv lingam spire is a three-day trek.
The initial climb was through apple, apricot and plum orchards. After crossing a stream and a steep uphill climb through a pine forest, we reached a cave along the steep ridge, which served as shelter for the night.
After crossing numerous broken glaciers the next day, we came across a small glacial lake amidst rocks called Gaurikund. After paying respects to the goddess here, we resumed our journey. This was more arduous and even dangerous. The rocks seemed to have fallen down here and there and accumulated after breaking up from the nearby mountains. This portion of the journey is more adventurous, with spectacular views.
After jumping from one rock to another,and a steep uphill climb, I reached the pinnacle and was in front of the monolithic spire, about 70 feet high, rising as the enormous Shiva lingam at an altitude of 18,000 ft.
It seemed as the unbreakable symbol of faith for the residents of Kinnaur — standing erect at such a height is this lingam: a miracle of nature and an emblem of devotion. It is said that the spire changes its colour with sunlight. It almost seemed I was taking a walk above the clouds and took back a good measure of satisfaction in my heart!