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The north side of the Kailash

The north side of the Kailash

height 6638  m
location Tibet ( PR China )
Mountains Gangdisê ( Transhimalaya )
Coordinates 31 ° 4 ′ 0 ″  N , 81 ° 18 ′ 45 ″  E Coordinates: 31 ° 4 ′ 0 ″  N , 81 ° 18 ′ 45 ″  E
Kailash (Tibet)
Type Felsberg
particularities Unclimbed to this day;
holiest mountain for Buddhists and Hindus
View of the south side of the Kailash

View of the south side of the Kailash

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Tibetan name
Tibetan script :
གངས་ རིན་ པོ་ ཆེ
Wylie transliteration :
gangs rin po che
Official transcription of the PRCh :
THDL transcription :
Gangrin epoch
Other spellings:
Kang Rinpoche
Chinese name
Traditional :
岡仁波齊 峰
Simplified :
冈仁波齐 峰
Pinyin :
Gāngrénbōqí Fēng

The Kailash , Kailas or Gang Rinpoche ( Tibetan གངས་ རིན་ པོ་ ཆེ ZWPY Kangrinboqê , Wylie gangs rin po che ; German: "Precious Snow Jewel") is a mountain in the Gangdisê Mountains , the western part of the mountain ranges of the Transhimalaya in the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China .

Its tip has an exceptionally symmetrical shape and resembles a crystal or a pyramid that is covered with snow all year round. The Tibetans consider it a sacred mountain . Its height is often given as 6714  m , according to more recent sources the height is 6638 m.

Sacred mountain of Tibet

The Kailash lies in the center of an area that is of central importance for the entire watercourse of the Tibetan highlands . The four great rivers of the South Asian region have their source in its area: in the north the Indus , in the east the Yarlung Tsangpo ( Brahmaputra ), in the west the Satluj , a tributary of the Indus, and in the south the Karnali , a tributary of the Ganges . These rivers have a significant share in the water supply of the entire Indian subcontinent. The religious meaning is closely related to this fact.

Until a few years ago, the Ngari region in western Tibet, where the Gangdisê Mountains are located, was considered to be one of the most inaccessible areas in the world. The landscape is at an average altitude of over 4500 m. The Himalayas here separate India , Nepal and China both geographically and politically. The Kailash is closer to India than to the metropolitan area of ​​Lhasa. The distance from Delhi to Kailash is 980 km while Lhasa is 1280 km away. Until recently, Kailash could only be reached with great expenditure of time. In the meantime, the journey through the Ngari-Günsa airport, which is just under 200 km away, and the continuously asphalted national road G219 have become easy. The ascent is still not allowed.


The mountain has not yet been climbed out of consideration for its religious significance . “No place is more wonderful than this”, said the yogi Milarepa (1052–1135), who according to tradition is considered to be the only previous climber of the mountain, at the foot of which he lived in complete isolation for a long time. The first permit for the ascent was granted in 1985 to Reinhold Messner , who applied for a permit for the surrounding area. However, this waived the execution. Since then, no further permission has been given, not even in 2001 when the Spanish mountaineer Jesús Martinez Novas declared his planned expedition as a “political demonstration against environmental destruction and for greater global awareness”. However, this led to worldwide protests by various religious groups who, supported by famous mountaineers, refuse to climb Kailash.

Religious meaning

Due to the special shape and location that identify the Kailash as Mount Meru , it is one of the most important spiritual places in Tibetan Buddhism , Hinduism , Jainism and Bon - thus for a large number of people - and is considered the most sacred mountain . A circumnavigation of the mountain (Tibetan Kora or Sanskrit : Parikrama ) on a 53 km long path that leads to an altitude of 5700 m over the Drölma La (Tib. "Pass of the (Goddess) Tara ") is the most important pilgrimage for Followers of these religions. The direction of the circling depends on the religious affiliation of the pilgrim ( Buddhists , Hindus and Jainas clockwise, followers of Bon counterclockwise). After the 13th circumnavigation of the Kailash, the pilgrim gets access to the inner kora. The alleged goal of every Buddhist is to circle the Kailash 108 times. According to Buddhist teaching, whoever manages this will achieve immediate enlightenment. The Tibetan calendar also stipulates that circumnavigations have a different status at certain times, for example in the year of the horse each lap counts six times .


The mountain, also known as the “Great Snow Jewel” (gangs rin po che) due to its special shape in Tibetan Buddhism, is sometimes seen as the center of a world mandala . He symbolizes the mythical world mountain Meru , which according to Hindu and Buddhist cosmogony forms the center of the universe. It should be noted that the spread of Buddhism in Tibet originated in India. Several centuries lie between the Indian epics, which first mention the Meru, and the spread of Buddhism in Tibet from India. The mythological sovereignty over Mount Meru is therefore to be sought in Hinduism.


Shiva with his family Parvati and Ganesha as well as Kartikeya , surrounded by the devas

The religious significance of Kailash is mentioned for the first time in the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata , which go back to antiquity. Ramayana and Mahabharata describe Meru as the king of the mountains, who connects heaven and earth. He is the center of the universe and seat of the gods. From here, Lord Shiva commands the weal and evil of humanity. Meru is not made of rock and stone, but formed from precious stones that point in the four cardinal directions. Crystal in the east, sapphire in the south, ruby ​​in the west and gold in the north. Meru is the navel of the world, the source of life. Four rivers spring from it, which will bring fertility and life to abundance wherever they flow. It is these words of poetry that identify Kailash with Mount Meru. The scriptures themselves do not give a description that goes beyond the general indication of the place "Himalaya". It is therefore its geographical location in the actual headwaters of the Karnali, Indus, Sutlej and Brahmaputra rivers that gives the Kailash its mythological importance. The myth of the sacred Mount Meru is known throughout Asia. Architectural images can be found from Angkor Wat in Cambodia to Borobudur in Indonesia.


The Jainas call the mountain Astapada (German: "Achtfüßler", "Spider"). All places where important religious prophets ( tirthankaras ) of the Jainas were born or left are revered as tirthas , holy places, and are considered places of pilgrimage. Since two of their most important religious founders achieved their salvation on the mountain, the Astapada is an important place of pilgrimage for the Jainas. The first Tirthankara Rishabha attained enlightenment at the end of his life on the mountain after fasting for six and a half days. One of his sons, Bharata, also received salvation on the mountain. Pilgrims receive great spiritual rewards by ascetic circling the mountain.


In the Bön religion, the mountain called Yundrung Gutseg stands for the spiritual center of the old Bön kingdom of Zhang-Zhung.

Mountain legend

According to legend, around 1100 AD there was a competition between Milarepa and his Bon opponent Naro Bönchung on the Kailash . The outcome of the race to the summit was decided in Milarepa's favor. Buddhism thus triumphed over the Bon.

According to legend, Milarepa overtook his adversary while sitting on a sunbeam and was the first to reach the summit of Kailash. Naro Bönchung, riding on his drum, was so frightened that he dropped the drum. When it fell, the drum struck a deep vertical notch in the mountain. This significant fissure can still be seen today on the south side of the mountain. Naro Bönchung was assigned to the Gurla Mandhata for consolation .

There is also a legend about the transverse scars on the north face of the mountain. These welts were caused by ropes that evil demons used to carry the Kailash to Sri Lanka . Buddha personally prevented this from happening. Therefore, according to legend, there are still a lot of Buddha's footprints on the pilgrimage.


Chörten below the Kailash

In addition to the traditional pilgrimages, especially by Tibetans, to the holy mountain Kailash, after the opening of China to tourism, trekking tourism from international tour operators is increasing. This prompted the Chinese government in 2003 to plan a slope around the mountain along the 53 km long pilgrimage route and to begin preliminary work. Due to the international protests the project was stopped in 2004. For a long time there were only slopes in the south and southwest of the mountain range that made it easier for pilgrims to travel to and from the mountain. The paved national road 219 and the Ngari-Günsa Airport, which went into operation in 2010, have now made pilgrimage and tourism trips considerably easier.

The increasing number of tourists is now also having a negative impact on the environment - especially in the village of Darchen , which functions as the start and finish point of the Parikrama . In 2002, a preliminary climax was reached with 200,000 pilgrims. In addition, 9000 tourists were registered in the accommodation facilities in Darchen. For the Parikrama, the tourists are supposed to pay an environmental fee of 50  yuan (currently 6.11 EUR) in the “Holy Mountain Ticket Office” in Barga .



  • Reinhold Messner, Michael Albus: Dwellings of the Gods - A Journey to the Holy Mountain Kailash . Film from 1997 (ZDF / Phoenix)
  • For pilgrims in the Himalayas - A Bavarian pastor on the Kailash. Film by Peter-Hugo Scholz (2006)
  • Kailash - To the holiest mountain in Tibet. 2001 film
  • With the motorcycle to Mount Kailash. 2002 movie
  • With pilgrims to the holy mountain Kailash. 2005 film
  • Shangri La. 2006 film

Web links

Commons : Kailash  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. This height goes back to measurements of the Survey of India in 1872, which were carried out from British-Indian territory over great distances ( Clements R. Markham: A Memoir on the Indian Surveys . (PDF; 60.6 MB) 2. Ed. WH Allen & Co., London 1878, p. 133. Digitized at archive.org).
  2. ^ Maps of the Chinese Academy of Sciences ; see. Erwin Heine, Robert Kostka, Roland Grillmayer: Mapping Mt. Kailash - An interdisciplinary project on cultural landscape documentation ( Memento from December 30, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (Paper presented at the Space and Time - GIS and Remote Sensing Conference, Sopron, Hungary , September 6-8, 2001; PDF; 1.9 MB) and Jonathan de Ferranti: Some frequently misquoted elevations
  3. Harry Staymann: Padmehum Reisen . In: Kailash: Myth and Facts
  4. Reinhold Messner, Michael Albus: Apartments of the Gods - A journey to the holy mountain Kailash . 1997 film
  5. http://www.kayestler.de/Nepal_Tibet/kailash_ii.html
  6. Harry Staymann: Padmehum Reisen . In: Kailash: Myth and Facts
  7. Gurla Mandhata. ( Memento from August 24, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) emmet.de (English; archive version)
  8. http://www.eva-sundin.de/pdf/Kang_Rinpoche.pdf
  9. See above: Religious meaning of the "year of the horse"
  10. See Katrin Burri, p. 7 ff
  11. See Katrin Burri, p. 10