A hard walk to a holy mountain and lake

Arts, Views

imageWith his last family member dead and Colin Thubron now in his early 70s decides to go on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailas in Tibet even though he is a non-believer.

It is a journey holy to a fifth of mankind,to Hindus and Buddhists.So remote and isolated and high in the Himalayas, it may remind you of heaven.

Describing lake Mansarover at the edge of Kailas he says, “The lake became a nursery of gods.Sometimes Shiva floats here as a golden swan—–By the sixth century, in classic Puranas, Mansarover has become a full-blown paradise.”

“It was in these pure waters that the Buddha’s mother bathed before receiving him into her womb—when the Buddha and his 500 flying disciples surfed in on their way to Kailas, the serpent disposed them on golden thrones over the lake where hindu swans were already singing.”

The four big rivers of India start here. While the Sutlej flows from the ‘Elephant’s mouth’.The lion-mouth river Indus rises from the scattered sources on the north flank. And the horse-mouth Bramaputra in an obscure glacier to the east.The Karnaili, the highest source of the Ganges finds its birth near Rakshas Tal or the lake of demons. The Tibetans call the Ganges here,’the river that flows from the Peacock’s mouth’.

In their course they crash through the Himalaya in fearful gorges-the Brahmaputra falls through the deepest canyon on earth.The origin of these rivers baffled explorers for centuries.

This is Thubron’s most personal book as he tells us about how his parents met and lived in India’s hill station of Naini Tal.The big game hunting of the Raj days and animal trophies carried to England.

The death of his sister at 21 in the Swiss Alps and the eventual death of his mother recently the last sole surviving family member which leaves him lost and he decides to go on this arduous pilgrimage to Mount Kailas.

“To A Mountain in Tibet” by Colin Thubron is a magical book from one of the greatest travellers of our times.