A Complete Guide to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar are some of the grandest spots of the Himalayan. Located 865km from Delhi, the two spectacular features are also well known for their religious relevance to the devotees of a Hindu god known as Shriva. This has led to the organization of a special Kailash Mansarovar Yatra festival by the Ministry of External Affairs each year from the month of June to September.


To complete the pious Yatra, there are a solid 22 days of which 14 are held on the Indian Territory while the remaining eight are at the Chinese Territory of Tibet. The total distance covered during the Yatra is 647km on the Indian side while on the Chinese side it is 243km.

Recommended Information: Kailash Mansarovar  Tour Operator 

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is popular for its cultural significance, religious importance and arduous nature. The long Yatra trek winds its way through high altitudes in freezing weather that involves hard labor. To the feint hearted, it is like courting danger. Yet the Yatra Pilgrimage with its arduous tasks has been in existence since time immemorial and holds religious importance not only to the Hindus but to Buddhists and Jains too.


Trekking at high altitudes of over 19,000 feet above the sea level in rugged terrain and severe cold can be a tough nut to crack for individuals who are not medically fit. Because of the strains involved in this exercise, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation has recognized KMY as a trekking expedition with significance owing to the risks to self and property. This means before undertaking the great step, a pilgrim has to follow some safety guidelines that the following write up may address.


Religious Significance;

Mt Kailash is regarded by Hindus as a mortal manifestation of Mt. Meru, a spiritual universal center according to Hindu mythology. They believe that Svarga or heaven is based here and one gets cleaned of sins once they visit the place. Part of the pilgrimage during the tour is visiting Mansarovar Lake and taking a bath. This is an assurance of reaching Lord Brahma’s Paradise and drinking the holy waters said to cleanse the sins of several lifetimes. Part of the pilgrimage involves going round the holy mountain as well as the Mansoravar Lake.

The Yatris Selection Process;

The nature of this journey is only applicable to very fit individuals who do not have cases of asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. The selection process is done through a computerized system and the chosen candidates informed 3 or 4 weeks before departure. The candidates are required to be in New Delhi 3-4 days before Yatra commences. Two medical tests are performed to determine individual fitness and one more to ensure the candidate is able to trek in high altitudes. The last test is performed at Gunji after a candidate has scaled around 3,500 meters. Anyone found to be unfit is not allowed to go further.

Indemnity Bond and Declaration;

Other than the above mentioned, there are some more formalities required. Selected Yatris are supposed to sign and indemnity bond, acknowledging that they are going for the Yatra at their own risk. At the same time, they are required to sign that in case of disaster they can be evacuated using a helicopter. The last part of the form is a consent authorizing cremation of remains on the Chinese side in case of death. Then again, the pilgrims must ensure their passports are valid for six months from the commencement of travel date.

Short tips for the Trip;

  • As much as Indian and Chinese authorities provide medical help, a pilgrim is advised to carry along essential medication and a First Aid kit.
  • Clothes need to be carried according to given guidelines.
  • While mountain climbing, one should to take plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Light food rich in carbohydrates is ideal.
  • When feeling tired, there is no need to push one’s self beyond limits. Instead, it is imperative to take short breaks in between the journey.
  • Do not take alcohol and avoid smoking during travel to limit dehydration.
  • It is better to climb slowly to avoid altitude sickness or any other arduous activity.



Trip to Amarnath Yatra

This is one of the holy Hindu pilgrimages dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located at an elevation of 3,888m above the sea level in the Northernmost state of Kashmir and Jammu, the Amarnath Cave is known as Lord Shiva’s home and he is enshrined in the form of ice lingam which forms and wanes naturally.

The cave is located in a glacial valley and is 45km from Pahalgam and 145km from Srinagar. It stands at about 150ft high and 90ft long. Inside the cave, there are some ice formations that look like figures of different gods. Of the four figures, the biggest is regarded as Amarnath or Shiva. On the left side of the cave is Ganesh; another ice formation. The right side houses Bhairava and Parvati.

Recommended Information: Amarnath Yatra Tour Package

Amarnath cave receives many visitors; mostly devotees of Lord Shiva who are eager to pay homage to him. Located in a narrow gorge towards the end of the Lidder Valley, the cave has been instrumental in bringing many tourists to the region.

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During the months of September and June, the area is covered by snow. The cave is opened in July and August when there is plenty of rainfall. All the same, many pilgrims; over 25,000 in all, brave the rains each year to be there. A visitor can hire a dandy or a pony for the trip to attend the annual Sravana Festival, though it is often crowded. The yearly pilgrimage starts from Srinagar and is led by the holy scepter known as Chhari Mubark.

The place has many stories and myths like most other locations of pilgrimages in India. Legend has it that the cave is more than 5,000 years old and is where Lord Shiva revealed secrets of his immortality to Parvati, his wife. That explains why it is named Amreshwar or Amarnath.

Trekking to Amarnath Cave

From Pahalgam;

The original pilgrimage had the journey beginning from Srinagar before winding its way through Yatra. The most common way however, has the journey beginning from Chandanwari before covering the distance to Amarnath and back within a record five days. From Srinagar, Pahalgam is 96km and trekking from Chandanwari to the cave is on an ancient route, though it is unfamiliar. On the first night, pilgrims camp at Pahalgam or Chandanwari.

From Chandanwari, pilgrims trek through a 12km route on the first day. It winds through a primitive yet magnificent countryside with the center of attraction being Sheshnag. This is a mountain that derived its name from seven peaks that look like the head of a legendary snake. Another site to behold is a stream gushing out water to the wild scenery that has remained unaffected by modern civilization. On the second night, people camp at Wavjan where they face the blue waters of Lake Sheshnag as they listen to tales of revenge and love associated with Sheshnag.

On the second day, pilgrims continue with the trek that steadily gains height as it winds across Mahagunas Pass at 4600m before a sharp descent to the meadows of Panchtarni which is the last camp to Amarnath Cave.

An early morning start is recommended from Panchtarni to Amaranth which is a distance of 6km. This is necessary to avoid long queues as many people are usually eager to get to the cave. Devotees can then return to Panchtarni for lunch before proceeding to Sheshnag for the night.

From Baltal;

Another way to approach Amarnath is from Sornamag through Baltal which stands at 300mts. Sornamag is located along Srinagar-Leh road on the northeast. Baltal lies 15km ahead and is a pretty little valley that lies on the foothills of Zojila Pass. To get to the cave, caution has to be observed because the slope is rather steep and the trek is a day’s journey. At the top are Brarimarg and Sangam which are tea stalls. There are a number of snow bridges across fast flowing streams that get very slippery during the rainy seasons. At the top of Sangam, the road meets Pahalgam route. At Baltal, porters and ponies are available at fair government approved rates.

The Amarnath Legend;

As earlier written, there are myths describing the Amarnath Cave. A famous Rigvedic verse says “Ekam Sat” meaning “Only one being exists and is known by many names”. God who is also known as Parmeshwar, has three deities that carry on the world and is referred to as The Holy Trinity. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the perpetuator of life and Shiva, the purifier and perpetuator of good yet destroyer of evil. In the Rig Veda, Shiva is also referred to as Rudra in the below verse;

“We worship Tryambaka (Rudra), who spreads fragrance and increases nourishment. May he release me like a cucumber from its stem, from mortal life but not immortality”.

According to the Yajurveda, Shiva is an ascetic worrier whose robe is made of deer skin and carries Tishul. The verse says life has three facets of; Truth(Satyam), Good, (Shivam) and Beautiful, (Sundaram). Sacred and ancient Indian books narrate the existence of Shiva in the hymns. The rig veda confirms his presence and further says he has three places of residence. One is at Kailash Parvat, second; Lohit Girl and Muzwan Parvat is the third.