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Saka Dawa Festival

SAKA DAWA FESTIVAL TREK TO MT. KAILASH AND LAKE MANSAROVAR, TIBET.

In the hundred ages of the gods I could not tell the glories of (the Himalaya) .....there is no mountain like (the Himalaya) for in it are Kailash and Manasarovar.

From the Hindu epic RAMAYANA

The most important festival for Tibetan Buddhism, the 'Saka Dawa Festival' commemorates Shakyamuni's Buddhahood and the death of his mortal body. At every monastery sutras are recited and 'Cham' dances are performed.

It is said that good deeds in the month of this festival deserve 300 fold in return and this leads many people to donate large sums to the religious orders, monasteries and to the beggars that gather at this time of year.

During Saka Dawa, the karmic results of virtuous and non-virtuous actions are magnified and it is believed that the merit earned on this day is multiplied. As a result, the tradition in the Tibetan community is to make offerings to their temple, Lama, and their community. One important offering that is made is to poor people. Tibetans in Tibet, India, Nepal etc., give beggars money during this time. Some Tibetans also give money to save the lives of animals. For instance, giving a butcher money to save the life of a sheep. Then this sheep is taken to a herdsman who is paid regularly by the "sponsor" to take care of the animal. The karmic merit thought to accumulate from these actions, if the motivation is correct, can be enormous.

MT. KAILASH (6741 m) is perhaps the most sacred of Holy Mountains in Tibet. Together with the two lakes of Manasarovar & Rakas, the region is one of the few truly nature wonders of the world., Three of the orient's greatest rivers; the Brahmaputra, the Sutlej, and the Indus, all take their sources within a hundred kilometers of this snow capped jewel which attracted Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Bon-po's from the four corners of Asia for centuries. Mt. Kailash - also known as Tise or Khang Rimpoche (Jewel of the snow), has since the time immemorial been celebrated in many eastern cosmologies as Mt Meru, the axis mundi (the center of the physical and metaphysical universe). For the Hindus, it represents the abode of Lord Shiva and for the Buddhists, a terrestrial projection of the cosmic Mandala of the Five Dhyani Buddhas & The Wheel of life.

People believe that a single Kora or Parikrama washes away the sins of a lifetime and Buddhists believe that 108 circuits secure Nirvana in this life. On the trek, one may encounter Bon Pilgrims circling the route counter clockwise or the very devoted continually prostrate themselves along the whole 32.5 miles loop. There is also the 'inner Kora' that passes two lakes to the south of Mt. Kailash. Tradition dictates that only those who have made 13 circumambulation of Kailash may follow this inner route. The mouth of the four great rivers are within 100 Km of the mountain-the Indus, The Brahamaputra, The Sutlej and the Karnali, all major tributaries of The Ganges. The Mt. Kailash circuit is 32.5 miles of strenuous trails which crosses the Dolma La. This pass is the route highest point at 18525 ft. At a large boulder is a collection of offerings where pilgrims traditionally deposit one item and take another.

Although the journey entails long rides by Land cruisers over Tibet's great western plateau through a region inhabited by few wild animals, holy lakes and the occasional nomad, this existing tour involving a four day trek with yaks in the remotest part around Mt Kailash and offers the most fascinating experience on the Roof of the World.

NOTE: Chinese Visa for entry into Tibet is only available on certain days of the week. We have deliberately kept three nights in Kathmandu at the beginning of the trip so that we get enough time to process the visa.

Day 1: Arrival at Kathmandu International Airport. Pick up and transfer to Hotel. Briefing session

Day 2: After breakfast start the Heritage tour of Kathmandu Valley. Visit the Holy temple of Pashupatinath, Changunarayan and the historic and cultural city of Bhaktapur. Overnight at Bhaktapur.

Day 3: After breakfast, continue on the Heritage tour visiting Patan Durbar Square, the stupas of Boudha and Soyambhu and end it with a visit to the Kathmandu Durbar Square. Overnight at Hotel

Day 4: Drive Kathmandu to Kodari 153 Km. Cross into Tibet (Zhangmu) and drive for another 2 hours to Nyalam.(3750) 53km. Check into the lodge. Overnight at the Nyalam Guest House.

Day 5: Rest day at Nyalam for acclimatization

Day 6: Drive from Nyalam to Saga (4300m) 291km via Lalunala Pass, lake Paigu Tso and Brahmaputra River.

Day 7: Drive from Saga via New Zongba,(4360m) 160 km to Paryang.

Day 8: Drive from Paryang to Lake Manasarovar (5410m) via Mayum La (5151 m) At 14459 ft. Lake Manasarovar is the highest body of fresh water in the world. Holy to Buddhists alike, it was once surrounded by 8 monasteries. Buddhist believes in Queen Maya, Buddha's mother was carried here by the gods and some of Mahatma Gandhi's ash was carried here from India and scattered in the Lake.

Day 9: Rest and explore Manasarovar Lake

Day 10: Drive from Manasarovar to Darchen (4560m) 1 ½ - 2 Hrs. to commence the circumambulation around Mt. Kailash.

Day 11: Trek from Chhuku Gompa to Drira Phuk – 4 Hrs. AM: Participate in the Saka Dawa festival.

Day 12: Trek Shabje Drakthok Start trek from Drira Phuk and immediately cross the Lha Chu on a wooden bridge. If one continues to trek up the Lha Chu, they would eventually reach the true source of the Indus. The snow covered pass to the right, the Khado Sanglam is protected by a lion faced Dakini goddess. Pilgrims may cross this difficult pass only on their auspicious 13th circuit of the mountain.

Day 13: Trek to Darchen and drive to Hor Qu. Trek from Shabje Drathok along the river, even though the trail is better and less marshy on the other side, it is better to keep to the west side of the river which is actually the main route as it becomes too large below to cross back. When crossing the stream of the Khado – sanglam, arrive at another Chaksal Gang, the third prostration point and from which point is the last view of the east face of Mt. Kailash during the circumambulation

Day 14: Drive from Hor Qu to Paryang – 9 Hrs.

Day 15: Drive from Paryang to Saga– 8 Hrs.

Day 16: Drive from Saga to Nyalum. - 7 Hrs

Day 17: After breakfast drive to Zhagmu 2 hrs and complete the Chinese border formalities and drive for 8 kms. to the Nepal border. Cross the friendship bridge and enter into Nepal at Kodari. Complete immigration formalities and board the waiting vehicles for the 5 hour drive to Kathmandu. Sumptuous farewell dinner at Rum Doodle in the evening.

Day 18: The day is free until transfer to airport for onward journey

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