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Author: Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)
An illustration of the significance of Mount Kailash, depicting the holy family of Shiva, consisting of Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Kartikeya

Kailash (कैलाश) is a peak in the Kailash Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which forms part of the Transhimalaya in Tibet Autonomous Region, China. Kailash is considered to be the home of Shiva in Hindu Mythology. [1]


It lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus River, the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus River), the Brahmaputra River, and the Ghaghara (Karnali River, a tributary of the River Ganga). The mountain lies near Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal in Tibet Autonomous Region, China.

Variants of name

Origin of Name

The mountain is known as Kailāśa (कैलास) in Sanskrit.[2][3] The word may be derived from the word Kēlāsa (केलास) which means "crystal".[4] In his Tibetan-English dictionary, Chandra (1902: p. 32) identifies the entry for 'kai la sha' (Wylie: kai la sha) which is a loan word from Sanskrit 'kailāśa' (Devanagari: कैलाश).[5]

The Tibetan name for the mountain is Gangs Rin-po-che. Gangs or Kang is the Tibetan word for snow peak analogous to alp or himal; rinpoche is an honorific meaning "precious one" so the combined term can be translated "precious jewel of snows".

"Tibetan Buddhists call it Kangri Rinpoche; 'Precious Snow Mountain'. Bon texts have many names: Water's Flower, Mountain of Sea Water, Nine Stacked Swastika Mountain. For Hindus, it is the home of the mountain god Shiva and a symbol of his power symbol om; for Jains it is where their first leader was enlightened; for Buddhists, the navel of the universe; and for adherents of Bon, the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen."[6]

Another local name for the mountain is Tisé mountain, which derives from ti tse in the Zhang-Zhung language, meaning "water peak" or "river peak", connoting the mountain's status as the source of the mythical Lion, Horse, Peacock and Elephant Rivers, and in fact the Indus, Yarlung Tsangpo/Dihang/Brahmaputra, Karnali and Sutlej all begin in the Kailash-Lake Manasarovar region.[7]


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[8] ने लेख किया है ...मंदराचल (AS, p.688): 'श्वेतं गिरिं प्रवेक्ष्यामो मंदरं चैव पर्वतं, यत्र मणिवरौ यक्ष: कुबेरश्चैव यक्षराट्'-- महाभारत 139,5. इस उद्धरण में मंदराचल का पांडवों की उत्तराखंड की यात्रा के संबंध में उल्लेख है जिससे यह पर्वत हिमालय में बद्रीनाथ या कैलाश के निकट कोई गिरि-श्रंग जान पड़ता है. विष्णु पुराण 2.2.16 के अनुसार मंदर पर्वत इलावृत के पूर्व में है-- 'पूर्वेण मंदरोनाम दक्षिणे गंधमादन:' मंदराचल का पुराणों में क्षीरसागर-मंथन की कथा में भी वर्णन है. इस आख्यायिका के अनुसार सागर-मंथन के समय देवताओं और दानवों ने मंदराचल को मथनी बनाया था.


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[9] ने लेख किया है ... अष्टापद (AS, p.51) जैन-साहित्य के सबसे प्राचीन आगमग्रन्थ एकादशअंगादि में उल्लिखित तीर्थ जिसको हिमालय में स्थित बताया गया है। संभवत: कैलास को ही जैन-साहित्य में अष्टापद कहा गया है। इस स्थान पर प्रथम जैन तीर्थंकर ऋषभदेव का निर्वाण हुआ था।


Mahavansa/Chapter 29 tells.... From various (foreign) countries also did many bhikkhus come hither; what need to speak of the coming of the brotherhood living here upon the island (Lanka)? ....The great thera Suriyagutta came from the great Kelasa-vihara with ninety-six thousand bhikkhus.

Mahavansa/Chapter 32 tells....The thera Khuddatissa of wondrous power, who dwelt in Mangana, divided it among sixty thousand (bhikkbus) in the Kelasa (vihara) and then ate of it himself.

Religious significance

It is considered a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.

In Hinduism: According to Hinduism, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, resides at the summit of a legendary mountain named Kailāśa, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his wife Pārvatī. He is at once the Lord of Yoga and therefore the ultimate renunciate ascetic, yet he is also the divine master of Tantra.[10]

This Kailas was far away beyond the white Himalayas, and there Shiva dwelt in royal state, worshipped by gods and rishis ; but more often he spent his time wandering about the hill like a beggar, his body smeared with ashes, and with Sati wearing ragged robes ; sometimes also he was seen in the cremation grounds, surrounded by dancing imps and taking part in horrid rites. [11]

According to Charles Allen, one description in the Vishnu Purana of the mountain states that its four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli.[12] It is a pillar of the world and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus.[13]

In Jainism: In Jainism, Kailash is also known as Meru Parvat or Sumeru. Ashtapada, the mountain next to Mt. Kailash, is the site where the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva, attained Nirvana/moksa (liberation).[14]

In Buddhism: Tantric Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok (also known as Demchog or Chakrasamvara),[15] who represents supreme bliss.

There are numerous sites in the region associated with Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), whose tantric practices in holy sites around Tibet are credited with finally establishing Buddhism as the main religion of the country in the 7th–8th century AD.[16]

It is said that Milarepa (c. 1052-c. 1135 AD), champion of Tantric Buddhism, arrived in Tibet to challenge Naro Bön-chung, champion of the Bön religion of Tibet. The two magicians engaged in a terrifying sorcerers' battle, but neither was able to gain a decisive advantage. Finally, it was agreed that whoever could reach the summit of Kailash most rapidly would be the victor. While Naro Bön-chung sat on a magic drum and soared up the slope, Milarepa's followers were dumbfounded to see him sitting still and meditating. Yet when Naro Bön-chung was nearly at the top, Milarepa suddenly moved into action and overtook him by riding on the rays of the sun, thus winning the contest. He did, however, fling a handful of snow on to the top of a nearby mountain, since known as Bönri, bequeathing it to the Bönpo and thereby ensuring continued Bönpo connections with the region.[17][18][19]

In Bön: The Bön, a religion native to Tibet, maintain that the entire mystical region and the nine-story Swastika Mountain are the seat of all spiritual power.


  1. Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists/CHAPTER VI, by Sister Nivedita and Anand K. Coomaraswamy, p.288
  2. Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary, page 311 column 3
  3. Entry for कैलासः in Apte Sanskrit-English Dictionary
  4. Entry for केलासः in Apte Sanskrit-English Dictionary
  5. Sarat Chandra Das (1902). Tibetan-English Dictionary with Sanskrit Synonyms. Calcutta, India: Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, page 32.
  6. Albinia (2008), p. 288. abc
  7. Camaria, Pradeep (1996), Kailash Manasarovar on the Rugged Road to Revelation, New Delhi: Abhinav, retrieved 11 June 2010
  8. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.688
  9. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.51
  10. "Mt. Kailash"
  11. Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists/CHAPTER VI, by Sister Nivedita and Anand K. Coomaraswamy, p.288
  12. Allen, Charles. (1982). A Mountain in Tibet, pp. 21–22. André Deutsch. Reprint: 1991. Futura Publications, London. ISBN 0-7088-2411-0.
  13. Allen, Charles. (1982). A Mountain in Tibet, pp. 21–22. André Deutsch. Reprint: 1991. Futura Publications, London. ISBN 0-7088-2411-0.
  14. "To heaven and back – Times Of India". Articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com. 2012-01-11.
  15. "Heruka Chakrasamvara". Khandro.net.
  16. The Sacred Mountain, pp. 39, 33, 35, 225, 280, 353, 362–363, 377–378
  17. The Sacred Mountain, pp. 31, 33, 35
  18. The World's Most Mysterious Places Published by Reader's Digest ISBN 0-276-42217-1 pg.85
  19. The Sacred Mountain, pp. 25–26