All Roads lead to Kailash Manasarovar

All Roads lead to Kailash Manasarovar
July 04
09:03 2016

By Li Bijian

Braving the light raining and heavy fog, our 4 WD jeeps were roaming up to Lipulekh Pass (elevation of 5334m or 17500ft), rolling over the zigzag narrow cobbled road, carved out through the steep slopes. Heading a working team from the China Embassy in India to Kailash Manasarovar, I held my breath to begin a lifetime impressive journey. “With the support by the provincial government of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of the People’s Republic of China, Ali (Nagri) Prefecture has invested 40million RMB (about 6million USD) to build the relevant infrastructures including upgrading of this road to meet the needs of foreign pilgrims. After nearly one year’s arduous work, 80% of this road has been completed. We have much better facilities to accommodate the pilgrims across the world including Yatris from India, compared with that of last year.” Mr. Zhang Huiming, Deputy Commissioner of the Ali (Nagri) Prefecture of TAR said. “After 2 days, the first of the 18 batches (each batch consists of 60 pilgrims) of Indian Yatris organized by the Indian Government will arrive at the Pass and enter into China on June 20, 2016, starting their pilgrimage program. The Chinese local government has completed all the preparation work to receive and welcome them.” Zhang Huiming continued.

The shortest way for Yatris to make their pilgrimage is from Lipulekh Pass, which is less than 100km from Kailash Manasarovar. However, this is also the most challenging, painful and dangerous route due to high altitude, landslides, deep slopes and long distance trekking etc. Yatris take a few days to reach to the Pass from the Indian side. When they arrive at the border, they will be received by the local Tibetan officials, then walk down the mountain to the bottom of the valley and take buses to the nearby old trading town of Purang (Taklakot), go through the custom formalities and officially enter into China, checking in at one of the local hotels. Usually it may take at least one or two days for them to stay at Purang to adapt to the new climate and environment. On the second or the third day, they will begin their pilgrimages with two days at Kailash, either by walk or ride on yarks or horses around the holy mountain for nearly 53km. There are two camp sites on the way. Some Yatris make the journey within one day but that will be very challenging and dangerous. Therefore, the local Tibentan Government encourages the Yatris to make it for at least two days. Another two days will be at Manasarovar. Yatris normally stay at the old Temple camp for one night, which is only 10 meters away from the holy lake. “Compared with a few years ago or even last year, the facilities have been much improved. Hotel rooms are newly furnished and roads and highways have been upgraded. Two most complained issues of hot water and toilet have been solved. Due to the hotel capacity limitations, right now 2 to 4 Yatris share one room. Separate toilets have been constructed and 24 hour hot water system has been installed. All these hotel facilities are temporary. The local government is planning to construct permanent facilities to accommodate the increasing number of Yatris. Right now, the plots have been allocated and most of the fund (totally 7million USD) is ready, thanks to the valuable assistance by the TAR Government.” Mr. Awang Chering, Director, Foreign Affairs Office of the Ali (Nagri) Prefecture of TAR told the working team.

The easiest way for Yatris to make their pilgrimage is from Nathu La Pass, which is nearly 2000km away from Kailas Manasarovar. Last June, the new route of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra through Nathu La Pass was opened to Indian Yatris. 5 batches of 240 Indian yatris used the new route to the holy places. Since then there are two Passes which are specifically designed for Yatris organized by the Indian Government. According to the new arrangement reached by two governments of China and India, 7 batches of 350 yatris will enter into China through Nathu La Pass this year. The distance is relatively long but the highways are great and the landscapes amazingly beautiful. Yatris will stay for two nights and have 3 breaks for lunch and rest on the way to the final destination—Kailash Manasarovar. Then they will have almost the same program as other Yatris do during their stay in the holy places.

The working team of the Chinese Embassy inspected every hotel, lunch and rest site on the way and was very much satisfied with the conditions, services and facilities. “Last year when the new route was opened to Indian Yatris, due to time constraints, everything was prepared in a manner of short notice and done in a hurry. And of course there were some loopholes. The Central and TAR Governments of China attach great importance to Indian Yatris and have invested huge to improve the road and accommodations. We are confident that Yatris will be satisfied and feel at home when they reach the holy places this year.” Mr. Wang Lunmin, Director General, Foreign Affairs Office of Rigaze City told the working team.

Compared with the number of the government-sponsored Yatris, the number of the self-sponsored Yatris is much higher. And they are heading to the holy places mainly through the following pathes. The first path is through Lhasa, the capital city of TAR. Yatris pay their pilgrimage as tourists and their yatra to Kailash Manasarovar is arranged by the relevant authorized local travel agencies. The second path is via Nepal through Zhangmu or Jeelong Border Port. Unfortunately this route has been cut off after the earthquake in Nepal in 2015 and the Chinese side has been trying hard to reopen them soon. The third path, also the newest route for Yatris is also via Nepal but very near to Lipulekh Pass—Xieerwa Border Port, Purang County, Ali (Nagri) Prefecture. In order to meet the needs of self-sponsored Yatris, the TAR Government has made special arrangements for Yatris including those from Inida to enter through this path. Yatris have to go to Nepal first and take long distance buses to the nearby town at the Nepal side, then take helicopters to the other side of Xieerwa, and enter into China through the suspending bridge. Xieerwa, with good highways and only 25km away from Purang, now becomes the shortest entry point to the holy places. By the estimate of the local Custom Office, as of June 10, 2016, more than 4000 Yatris entered China through Xieerwa and the number is increasing every day. “The local government has invested millions of US Dollars to construct the custom buildings, hotels as well as shopping malls and exhibition centres, and all these facilities will go into operation in the next one or two years. Governments of China and Nepal have reached an agreement recently to construct a bridge through Mabja Zangbo (Ghaghara River), connecting our two countries. When the bridge is completed, Yatris’ trip will become more comfortable and easy.” Mr. Zhang Huiming, Deputy Commissioner of Ali Prefecture said.

The working team of the Chinese Embassy had many interactions and exchanges of views with some of those self-sponsored Yatris from India throughout the visit. They were more than satisfied with the hotel rooms, facilities and services, and especially food. “This is my third visit to Kailash Manasanovar. I witnessed the great changes through the years. I am very much grateful of the Chinese central and local governments for all the efforts they put into the receiving and looking after Yatris like me.” One of Yatris from Andhra Pradesh, India, who is leaving China for Nepal after 6 days of Yatra told the working team at the Chinese side near the suspending bridge.

On that occasion, another helicopter with Yatris flew into the valley and made a U-turn at the mountain top, screamed to land at the Nepal side. The officials and travel agency staff at the side of China were ready to receive the new batch of Yatris and bring them safely to their long cherished dreaming holy places—Kailash Manasanovar.

(The author is Minister Counsellor of Embassy of China in India)

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