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Gurus Guru Nanak In Tibet

Dalvinder Singh Grewal

Jan 3, 2010
Tibet autonomous region (TAR) as shown in the map is a sp{censored}ly populated mountainous region in Asia on the northern side of the Himalayas, situated on the vast elevated plain of the Tibetan plateau, north of Bhutan and Nepal. Tibet occupies an area of 1,228,400 km² and has a population of 3.1 million. It is almost twice the size of Texas. Two-thirds of the population of Tibet’s capital is now Han people. Its capital Lhasa is famous for the Potala Palace, the former residence of the Dalai Lama and the center of Tibetan Buddhism. Spoken languages are Tibetan and Chinese. It has international borders with Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Myanmar (Burma). [1]

Tibet was ruled by a Karmapa-Nyingmapa (yellow hat) king when Guru Nanak visited Kailash Mansarovar area. The king was present during the Guru Nanak discussions with the Siddhs. Having impressed he became Guru Nanak’s follower. The second time when he entered Tibet the Red hat sect had over thrown the Yellow Hat king and persecuted Karmapa-Nyingmapas who started migrating in large numbers to areas in India close to Tibet border. Third time he visited Lhasa to meet the new king and through discussions to impress upon him that there is only One God of all, everyone belongs to Him equally. Hence religion does not teach anyone to be persecuted without any rhyme and reason.

Tibet, the land of Lamas, is situated in the Trans-Himalayan Region bordered by India, Nepal, and Bhutan in the south and west and China in the north and east. I watched Tibet for long periods of time, sitting at Tibet borders and discussing about it with the people who had either been earlier to Tibet or visited it as agents of various agencies in 1971-1972 and later from 1985 to 1992. 'It is spread over an area of 4, 70, 000 sq. miles of mountainous plateau. Frequently under Chinese rule and known as Tibet Autonomous Region, it had been a sovereign state till the occupation by Chinese in 1951. The average elevation above sea level is about 13,000 feet; it is practically surrounded by huge mountain ranges'. [2]

Although these physical features kept it isolated from its neighbours, the Tibetans developed contacts and established cultural ties with the northern pastoral population of Mongolia and China and also with India. 'In fact, Tibet got maximum impact from India. Tibetan script is obtained from India (originally Brahmi Script), Tibetan religion is from India (Buddhism) and the Tibetan calendar too, is originated from Indian Book (Kalchakar). The first ruler of Tibet is said to an Indian from Magadha'.[3]

Before Buddhism, people followed Bonism where animal sacrifice and magic played a great role. Buddhism entered Tibet in the fifth century, but for the first two hundred years, its impact was not strong. In the seventh century, king Song-Tsen-Gampo gave a firmer footing to Buddhism. He founded Lhasa in 693 A.D. and created 1830 Buddhist temples in Tibet and invited scholars from Nepal and India and arranged for translations of Buddhist Scriptures'.[4]

Gradually, over a period of six hundred years, Tibetan religion got various forms and the sects formed were (1) rNying-ma-pa (2) bKngyud-pa (3) Sa-sKya-pa and (4) dGe-lugs-pa; pronounced as (1) Nying-ma-pa (2) Kag-yud-pa (3) Sakya-pa and (4) Galug-pa. The Sakya monastery was established in 1073 A.D. by a noble family known as Khon. bKa-n Gyud-pa built a monastery in Tshel, rNying-ma-pa also built their monasteries at several places out of which Samya Monastry was the main. Later an Indian, Dipankar Srijnana, known as Atish, founded bKa-gDam-pa order.

'After the rise of these religious orders; few chieftains who were ruling in various parts of Tibet tried to patronize different sects in order to gain their support'.[5] The Sa-sKya-pa had an abbot who was assisted by a civil and a military governor. Teh bKa-NGyud-pa, too, modelled their administration on a similar pattern.'[6]

In 1247, the hereditary abbot of the Sa-sKya-pa was recognized by the Mangols as the highest authority in Tibet. Sa-skay were overthrown by King Chaenchub Gyaltsen (dByang-Chub-nGyaltsen)[7] who was a bKa-gDam-pa, an offshoot of rNying-ma-pa sect.

In the latter part of the fourteenth century, an eminent religious leader, Tsong-Kha-pa, established a new sect known as 'dGe-Lugs-Pa' or the 'Yellow Hats'. In 'dGe-Lugs-Pa' sect, practice of reincarnation started after the death of successor of Tsong-Kha-pa. The third successor and reincarnation, Sonam Gyatso (Sonam-nGyatso) spread the new faith in Mongolia and received the title Dalai Lama Vajraadhara from the Mongol ruler Altan Khan'.[8]

The dGe-Lugd-Pa had built three large monasteries, the Sera, the Farden and the Drepung. Some dGel-Lung-pa monasteries were built at Chamdo in Kham and Tashilhunpo in Tsang, in spite of Karma-pa predominance in these areas. Very often, there were battles between these camps. 'Monastries were not only the centers of the meditation or learning but also of administration and power. These chief monasteries became the centers of power struggle until the rise of temporal power of dGe-Lugs-pa by the beginning of 16th century, [9] the time of visit of Guru Nanak to Tibet.

Kailash Mountain is also known as “Gang-Ren-Bo-Qi,” which is translated as “Precious Jewel of Snows” in Tibetan. It is located in Western Tibet, about 30 kilometers south of the mountain where two lakes, Raksas Tal and Lake Manasarovar are located. It has been sacred to many practitioners of various religions. With an altitude of 6,714 meters its distinctive appearance has long awed people. For a long time, Kailash Mountain was said to be the source of four great rivers on earth including, the Indus, the Karnali, the Sutlej, and the Yarlung Tsanpo, which is named the Brahmaputra in India. The mountain is not only sacred to Tibetan Buddhists, but also to Hindus and Jains from India. Kailas Kora is the scared pilgrimage around the mountain. While Tibetans make this trip in one day, it is not recommended for visitors to attempt the trip in one day; rather they should take three days. The Kora trek is about 53 kilometers long, beginnings at Darchen, or Tarpoche, where one Flagpole is erected, and it is the ground where the Saga Dawa Festival is held. The highest pass of this trek is Droma La pass, 5,700 meters. The two recommended sites for spending the night are Dri Ra phuk monastery and Zutrul phuk monastery is a local guesthouse available at both sites.
Mount kailash also known as Sumer in India and the lake Mansarovar adjoining it lie in the south western part of Tibet. The two are the most sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Bons and Sikhs. Guru Nanak visited Tibet three times: first time while visiting Kailash-Mansarovar, second time after Nepal visiting Sakya Monastery and third time from Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) when he visited Lhasa.

Guru Nanak's faith spread wide in Red Hat Sects of which the Kar-ma-pa sect was the strongest. Guru Nanak's advent on the scene of this struggle when the Red Hats were being persecuted was of great importance. They found in Guru Nanak, a saviour, a helper in times of need; hence, their faith in Guru Nanak deepened further. Kar-ma-pa (rNying-ma-pa) follow Mahansandhi, a book which contains same or nearly the same cantos (Pauris) in Tibetan, as that of Japuji, However, Dalai Lama and dGe-Lugs-pa sect remained away from the influence of Guru Nanak. If Red hats would have been the rulers, there was no doubt that Guru Nanak's place would have been in the state religion in Tibet. The influence was restricted due to dGe-Lugs-Pa predominance of central and northern regions. However, Guru Nanak is worshipped by multitudes of Red Hats in western and southern Tibet as well as amongst Red Hats settled in Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh.
Guru Nanak came in contact with the Lamas at Rawalsar, in the beginning of Sumer Udasi. His impact on these Lamas was instant. When Guru Nanak subdued Siddhs at Sumer, Lamas accepted Guru's leadership. Subjugation of these Siddhs, who were a great religious force in western Tibet, was a great event of 16th century. This had a direct impact on the pilgrims who had come to Sumer from different parts of Tibet.

Guru Nanak is said to have crossed over to Tibet six times i.e., from four different areas during his Udasi to the North East. 'First time, he crossed to Tibet while visiting Sumer (Kailash)' [10] 'Second time, he crossed from Nepal and after visiting Sakya-pa Monastery entered Sikkim. Third time, he entered Chumbi valley of Tibet while crossing into Bhutan. The fourth time, he went to Lhasa and Samya Monastery from Twang (Arunanchal) and fifth time, he went from Menchukha (Arunachal Pradesh) to Tuting-Gelling valleys through Tibet and got a tribe (Memba) settled in Menchukha as well as Tuting-Gelling valleys'. [11] His sixth crossing is during his return from China through Tibet where from he went to Ladakh-Kashmir.

His visit to Kailash is well described in Janam Sakhis and also by Bhai Gurdas, Gyani Gyan Singh, Gyani Lal Singh and Dr. S.S. Kohli. However the other visits are not well described, References are available in 'Panth Parkash' of Gyani Gyan Singh and in Dr. Trilochan Singh's book 'Jeevan Charit Guru Nanak Dev' and Dr. Surinder Singh Kohl’s book: 'Travels of Guru Nanak'.

During his travels to the Himalayan states and in discussions with Lamas and Tibetans settled in India the author has been able to reconstruct the details about the routes adopted by Guru Nanak to Tibet; the same details are given in succeeding paragraphs.

Visit to Kailash Mansarovar
Mount Kailash (6714m) stands as a solitary peak on a high plain bereft of trees or associated peaks. A singularly symmetrical mountain, its icy cap sits some 2001 meters above the surrounding plain. Located in the far reaches of western Tibet, just north of Nepal and India, is one of the most sacred mountains in the world: Mt. Kailash. For the last two thousand years, people have made pilgrimages from all over the Asian continent to see this mountain. Besides the people of Tibet, people from all parts of India, the Himalayan kingdom’s of Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Kashmir, and Ladakh, and from Central Asia and from even further have devotedly made the journey to Kailash. Though many people come to see and walk around Mt. Kailash, no one has ever climbed the mountain, excepting significant figures of legend. To climb the mountain now would be considered a terrible form of sacrilege. Mt. Kailash is a sacred mountain of much spiritual significance to followers of four of the great religions of Asia: the Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and the Bönpo.

Mount Kailash is known to Tibetans as Kang Rimpoche, ‘Precious Jewel of the Snow’. Like Hindus, Tibetan Buddhists recognize Mount Kailash as the manifestation of Mount Meru, the ‘navel of the world’, rising ‘like the handle of a mill-stone’ into the heavens. Mount Kailash is located in the autonomous region of Tibet— north of the Himalayas, east of the Indian region of Ladakh, and west of China’s primary river systems. The peak rises in the western region of Tibet, in Ngari, and it is situated nine hundred kilometers west of Lhasa, more than 1000 kilometers southeast of Kashgar, in the Xinjiang province. Ali, known as Senge Tsangpo in Tibetan and Shiquanhe in Chinese, is the largest settlement near Mount Kailash. The plateau from which Mount Kailash rises consists of rugged mountain ranges, interlaced with rolling plains and various lakes. Although the sacred mountain does not form part of the primary Himalayan range, it is located in the range north of the Himalayan arc, in the Kangitse range.

An imposing 21,778-foot tall, the magnificent and majestic Mount Kailash is more than just a mountain. It’s a legend; a revelation; an epiphany; a journey, that is both outwards and inwards located in the Himalayan mountain ranges of the remote Southwestern corner of Tibet, Kailash is not just one of the highest parts of the world and the source of four mighty rivers of Asia — the Brahmaputra, the Sutlej, Ganges and the Indus — but it’s also one of the most significant spiritual spots in the world, revered by millions of people from different religions across the world. But more than anything, the journey to Kailash Mansarovar is a life-changing experience for the few thousands of pilgrims who undertake it every year, teaching them a sense of self like nothing else can. For a pilgrimage to this isolated, timeless

Kailash Sacred Walks, a program by Isha Sacred Walks, offers you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of embarking on this journey to Kailash Manasarovar. All our fellow travelers will unanimously agree that they all returned from this trip completely transformed. The magical and mystical spot has been drawing people to its divine presence for various reasons Just 20 kilometers away from Mount Kailash, the sacred blue and emerald green Manasarovar lake that lies at a height of 15,015 ft, is known to be an epitome of purity, containing healing properties and the power to wash off all mortal sin In Jainism, Kailash, referred to as Mount Ashtapada, is the place where the creator of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained freedom from the cycle of life and rebirth

Even before the Himalayas rose into existence, Mount Kailash towered above them. The Kailash Range is 30 million years old and its supreme peak, the 6,675 meter high Mount Kailash was formed of shining granite with its white glacial crest, was already a huge, structure even when the Himalayas were just beginning to protrude out of the Tethys Sea. Hindus and Tibetans seem to have been aware of the uniqueness of this mountain from the most ancient times. To Hindus it is the earthy embodiment of the dominant mountain of heaven, Meru, and the residence of Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati. To Tibetans it is Sumeru, the cosmic centre of the universe. Consequently Mount Kailash has held a great charm for pilgrims for centuries.

As might have been expected, most of the Himalayan passes in Kumaun and Garhwal provide access to this sacred mountain. Today, however, pilgrims from India are allowed to journey to Mount Kailash only through the Lipulekh pass in Kaumaun. Moreover, the pilgrimage to Kailash, and to the sacred Mansarover lake that lies 30 Km to its south, is run exclusively by a government organization, the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN). The organization works in collaboration with the Government of India's Ministry of External Affairs, and the Government of China. Kailash - Mansarovar lies in Chinese-occupied Tibet. Kailash Mansarovar is generally cool during nights and warm during days. Summers (May to August) are very pleasant with moderate climate, with average around 15°C. Summers are ideal for all outdoor activities, temple visit, and dip in holy waters and also for visiting nearby attractions. Monsoons (September to November) are accompanied with little rain falls and also temperature drops down to 10°C. Winters (December to April) are chilly days with average minimum touching near 5°C. Minimum can touch sub zero levels to -15°C. Snow falls often during winters. The best season to visit Kailash Mansarovar is from May to November. May to November offers cool and pleasant climate and the right period to spend meditation and also good for visiting temples in and around. December to April is snow bound and chilly. Tourists typically keep off chilly snow bound days in winters. [12]




It is said that from the slopes of Mount Meru a stream flows into Lake Manasarovar and that from this lake four mythical rivers flow in the four cardinal directions, toward the four quarters of the world. These rivers are now associated with the four major rivers originating near here: the Indus River, the Tsangpo River, the Karnali and the Sutlej Rivers. The Indus heads south and west to nourish Pakistan before entering the Arabian sea; the Sutlej penetrates the Himalaya more directly, to drain much of the Indian Himalaya before merging with the Indus; the Tsang Po (Bhramaputra) progresses east for almost two thousand kilometers, girding the northern flank of the Himalaya, before curving back on itself at the extreme limit of the ‘Abode of Snows’ to reach the ocean at Bangladesh; and the Karnali, one of the sources of the holy Ganges, drains into the Bay of Bengal. Sutlej originates from Raksh Tal and passing through old Punjab (Himachal, Indian and Pakistani Punjab joins in Sindh River. All these rivers originate within a few kilometers of Mount Kailash and it is through these rivers that the religious and cultural relations between Tibet and India evolved. This is especially apparent in the case of the Indus River and Tsangpo River, which, like two gigantic arms, embrace the entirety of the Himalayas and the whole Indian sub-continent as they flow to the Arabian Sea in the west and the Bay of Bengal in the east.

Tibetan Buddhist mythology asserts that the four rivers of the Indian sub-continent flow from the mouths of various animals. The Indus River, in the north, derives from a lion’s mouth, and carries the Tibetan name of Senge Khambab. The Tsangpo River (Tamchok Khambab in Tibetan), in the east, merges into the Brahmaputra in India; it flows from the horse’s mouth. The Karnali River (Mapchu Khambab), in the south, runs from the pea{censored}’s mouth, and eventually joins the Ganges River. The Sutlej River (Langchan Khambab) of the Punjab emerges from the mouth of an elephant and runs to the west. Buddhists consider these rivers, together with Mount Kailash, to comprise a gigantic mandala, “a geometric vision that represents a perfect state of peace” [13]


To the Buddhists, Kailash is associated with a tantric meditational deity called Demchog and his consort Dorje Phamo. These two deities aren't necessarily gods per se, but are rather seen as personifications of certain wrathful or passionate aspects of human nature. Demchog is an awesome, colorful figure with a lot of energy. Images represent him as having four three-eyed faces of different color, blue elephant-like skin, twelve arms and twelve hands holding significant objects, and he wears a crown of human skulls and a tiger skin cloth around his waist. His consort Dorje Phamo has red skin and carries a curved knife and a skull cup. She is associated with a small peak next to Kailash called Tijung. It is also said that Buddha once inhabited the mountain with five hundred other bodhisattvas (beings who have realized Nirvana, but chose to stay back to help others reach salvation). Though this is not believed by all Buddhists, what is generally accepted in modern times is the association of the mountain with the Buddhist guru-poet Milarepa. Milarepa lived in the late eleventh, early twelfth centuries of the common era and he belonged to the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Legends hold that he was involved in a powerful competition for possession of Mt. Kailash with a priest of the Bönpo faith named Naro Bön-chung. These two are the only ones that are said to have reached the summit of the mountain, when they competed in their final contest in a race to the top.

While proceeding downwards from Dolma - La (Dolma Pass), a steep descent to Gouri Kund at 5608 m, also called the Lake of compassion as referred to in the Shiva Purana this is the setting for the legend of Parvati and how Ganesh acquired his elephant head bathing in the emerald waters of the kund, Parvati fashioned an image of Ganesh from the soap suds on her body, breathed life into it and placed it at the entrance of her home to prevent anyone entering. Lord Shiva happened to return at this point of time and was stopped by Ganesha. Indignant at this affront, Shiva cut off the boy's head. Pravati was inconsolable and insisted that the boy be brought back to life Shiva took the head of a wandering elephant and placed it on the body. Life was restored and Parvati had her son back.

This is one of the most important pilgrim centers for the Buddhists. They worship Demchok (Buddha in fierceful form) seated on the summit of Kailasa. It is also called Dharmapala - one version quotes the deity as a form of Shiva’s manifestation. The descriptions of the deity are more or less like Shiva. Devi is also given a similar form like Parvati. They adore Kailash as Kang Rinpoche and Manasarovar as Tso Mapham. Guru Rinpoche (the great Indian Master Padmasambhava who introduced Buddhism) and Saint Milerapa are greatly revered here by pilgrims. Since Tantrism runs through the main core of Buddhism here, their customs and practices would be found running close and parallel to Hindu traditions. Like the Indians, they also consider Dolma (Devi) and Gauri Kund (Thuki Zingbu) as holiest spots. Buddhists strongly believe that pilgrimage to this place liberates them to Nirvana. Many of their legends when interpreted rationally would find commonality with Indian approach.

Mount Kailash is regarded as the holy place of Hindu deities Shiva-the lord of power and destruction- and Parvati- the divine beloved of the Lord Shiva. Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake as in Hindus holy book Skand Puran are known as the Meru, Sumeru, Shushumna, Hemadri etc. They lie to the western part of Tibet. It is said that at the sight of Mount Kailash and the lake Mansarovar, a man will be released from his sins committed knowingly or unknowingly. The kora or the circular path is attempted through Dolma la (pass) at an altitude of 5630 meter high.

In the Hindu religion, Mt. Kailash is seen as the throne of Mahadeva, the great god Shiva. On Kailash, Shiva sits in perpetual meditation with his consort Parvati. Due to the apparent phallic appearance of the incredibly symmetric mountain, the Hindus identify the mountain with the lingam, which is a phallic symbol of Shaivism. Another Hindu belief maintains that Kuvera, the god of wealth, ruled from a remarkably rich and exotic city of pleasure called Alaka, which was situated on or near Kailash, along with eight neighboring lesser peaks used as treasure houses for the god. In another Hindu myth, Mt. Kailash was overturned and used as a churning stick by the deva gods and asura demons to churn the cosmic oceans in order to make Amrita, the Elixir of Immortality.

The Jains acknowledge Kailash as Ashtapada and Padma Hrada. It is believed that Adinati Vrishabdeva, the first Tirthankara attained Nirvana here. A few claim that Guru Nanak meditated here. Across the river Chu, there on the Nyanri range stands an impressive temple. Inside this monastery there is a marble statue radiating peace and compassion. This statute is claimed to be that of Guru Nanak. A few call it Guru Rinpoche. Interpretations vary. The entire area echoes with spiritual vibrations. Even the agnostics shall discover new Balance amidst that fathomless serenity. One has to experience it. The common belief is that those who are ordained only could be there.

The Jain religion, which arose in India around the sixth century B.C., also sees Kailash as a spiritually significant peak. It has many goals, but one of the major ones is the attainment of liberation from the pains of burdens of a worldly existence. In the Jain religion, Kailash is called Astapada, and is known as the place where a man named Rishabha, the first Tirthankara, attained Liberation, called Moksha.

The Bön religion originated possibly somewhere near modern Soviet Central Asia before the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century. Its main religious functions like Tantrics, were concerned with control of powerful spirits, exorcism, divination, death and burial, and a few other related matters. It was not a very formalized religion for a long time, but it did have an important cult center called Zhang Zhung. Zhang Zhung was an ancient kingdom that covered a lot of western Tibet, but also some of the north and northeastern parts of the Tibetan plateau as well. The capitol was located just west of Kailash at the "Silver Castle" of Khunglung. Eventually, with the introduction of Buddhism into the area, there was more of a push to develop and organize the Bön religion onto a firmer doctrinal basis. While doing so, Bön adapted some principles of Buddhism and vice versa. In the ancient Bön cults, mountains were seen as important power points that linked heaven and earth, and in so doing were endowed with powerful cosmogonic and genealogical associations. This made them considered to be the "souls" of certain areas. In Mt. Kailash's case, it was seen as the Soul Mountain of Zhang Zhung.

Sikhs consider it sacred because Guru Nanak held discussions with Siddhas at the place and defeated them. To Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, Mt. Kailash is seen as a cosmic axis, about which the entire universe revolves.

Kailash Yatra or Kailas Kora

Going around Kailash is known as Kailash Kora. While Tibetans make this trip in one day, it is not recommended for visitors to attempt the trip in one day; rather they should take three days. The cora trek is about 53 kilometers long, beginnings at Darchen, or Tarpoche, where one Flagpole is erected, and it is the ground where the Saga Dawa Festival is held. The highest pass of this trek is Droma La pass, 5,700 meters. The two recommended sites for spending the night are Dri Ra phuk monastery and Zutrul phuk monastery is a local guesthouse available at both sites.


Map 4: Kailash Region of Western Tibet (Source: The Sacred Mountain by John Snelling, 1990)

Map 3: Regional map of Central Asia, Kailash Kora outlined in red (Source: The Mount Kailash Trek by Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons, 2007)

Map 5: Kailash Kora (Source: The Sacred Mountain by John Snelling, 1990) Note: Maps 6-10 detail each stage.


Map 11: Lake Manasarovar Kora (Source: The Mount Kailash Trek by Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons, 2007) [14]

Kailash Mountain is also known as “Gang-Ren-Bo-Qi,” which is translated as “Precious Jewel of Snows” in Tibetan. It is located in Western Tibet, about 30 kilometers south of the mountain where two lakes, Raksas Tal and Lake Manasarovar are located. It has been sacred to many practitioners of various religions. With an altitude of 6,714 meters its distinctive appearance has long awed people. For a long time, Kailash Mountain was said to be the source of four great rivers on earth including, the Indus, the Karnali, the Sutlej, and the Yarlung Tsanpo, which is named the Brahmaputra in India. The mountain is not only sacred to Tibetan Buddhists, but also to Hindus and Jains from India.

Every object in this area is sanctified and each one is related to gripping legends. As one ascends through parikrama one encounters holy peak of Ravana Parvat, Hanuman Parvat, Padmasambhava, Manjusri, Vajradhara, Avalokiteswara, Jambeyang, Shavari, Norseng etc. the learned address five of them as Panchabudhas. The track takes one through Dhira Puk, to Dolma (The highest point). This pass belongs to Devi - Parvati and is an important point of worship. This point is considered as the point of spiritual renaissance. One can have the best view of Mansarovar and Raksh Tal from the south west point of Kailash during Parikrama.

The grand view of Gulra Mandhata, Mansarovar and Raksh Lake hypnotizes the onlooker into subliminal aura. Ravana is claimed to have prayed at this lake (Ravana Tal / Rakshas Tal) and had the audience with Shiva. Mansarovar was created by Brahma at the request; of the great Rishis. This mind born lake contains the essence of all the Vedas. This is the place for the holy ceremonial bath: oblations to the ancestors are offered here. Both the lakes are full of swans. The scriptures reiterate that whosoever takes the holy dip at Manasarovar and carries out the Parikrama around Kailash is absolved of his sins through generations and is absorbed into the Supreme Finality. To him, there is no rebirth, sorrows or joys: he is one with the ultimate - He is one with Shiva.
View of Kailash Parbat the mystic image of Meru, the great mountain at the center of the universe, has come to rest from Mansarovar. Piercing through to the highest heaven, Mount Meru is at the heart of Asian religious cosmography. For pilgrims it is the central pivot around which the whole of creation revolves, the world Pillar and the first of Mountains. As an arch type of the divine centre, Meru rises in the realm invisible to mortal eyes. Man's urge to fix his ideals in solid form drew Meru to Earth, imposing its divinity on the snow peak of Kailash. To the pilgrims who walk the thirty-two mile path about it, Kailash is Meru embodied in ice and stone, and a single circuit erases the sins of a life time. Their faith proclaims that not just the mountain's ice capped summit but the entire region is the abode of the gods: a holy land made doubly sacrosanct by the presence of nearby Lake Mansarover, fifteen mile wide circle of deepest blue which is among man's most ancient holy sites.

Manasarovar, the Mother of the Holy Lakes, close to Kailash is one of the most sacred lakes for Hindus, Jains, Bons, Buddhists and Sikhs. Manasarovar means ‘invincible jasper’ in Tibetan. The elevation of Manasarovar is about 4,500 meters, and its depth is 77 meters. The perimeter of the lake is about 90 kilometers. In the eyes of the Tibetan, Ngari (in the west of Tibet) is the horizon of the sky. It is more than 2,000 kilometers from Lhasa, and is almost impossible to get to. Therefore Ngari is called the “ridge of the roof of the world”. This is the amazing place where Manasarovar lies. According to the Tibetan holy book Tripitaka, after nine mountains to the north of India there is a large snow mountain. Under the snow mountain is the origin of the four Asian rivers. The big snow mountain in the Buddhist scripture is the holy Mt. Kailash and Manasarovar is the origin of the four Asian rivers. There is the Yarlung Zangbo River in the east, Kongqi River in the south, Sutlej River, and Sengge Zangbo (Lion River) in the north. Buddhists think that Manasarovar the holiest lake is a gift that Shengledazun (the god who created the Buddhist doctrine), gave to the world. Its holy water can wash off the sorrow and evilness at the bottom of the heart. It is also the oldest and holiest holy land of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Bonpo. Manasarovar is considered the perfect lake of the spirit, the real heaven of the universe, and the Shangri-La of the gods.

Raksas Tal — the Devil Lake, lies by the holy lake Manasarovar, on its west. The blue Devil Lake has an outline like a crescent moon. Manasarovar, however, is shaped like the sun. When Tibetans pay respects to the holy lakes they also worship Devil Lake because of their tolerant understanding and cheerful kindness. The devil lake and holy lake are not far away from each other, and between them there is a waterway making them interlinked. However, the two lakes have absolutely different water quality: the water of the holy lake is clear and sweet, and that of Devil Lake is bitter and astringent. Such polar opposites are plentiful in Buddhist symbolism, like the devil and Buddha mother hugging each other, which tells us the whole universe is of harmonious and unified spirit. The holy lake and the devil lake ripple mildly in the breeze without any complaint or sorrow. Only eternal waiting is what they have in common.[15]

Lake Manasarovar is frequented by pilgrims almost as often as Mt. Kailash and it is associated with many myths and religions. The limpid blue to emerald green colors of the lake in contrast to the arid landscape immediately around it; and the silver mountains beyond, make the lake a highly praised destination for pilgrims. These lakes exist immediately to the south of the mountain, between Kailash and the main Himalayan region. The largest of these lakes, Lake Manasarovar, is regarded as the highest body of fresh water in the world. The fact that many regard the remote and beautiful mountain and lake, both the source of the great rivers of the Indus, as sacred sites, is unremarkable; Lake Manasarovar like Mount Kailash has been the site of pilgrimage for thousands of years. Thousands of pilgrims from diverse regions of India, from the Himalayan kingdoms of Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh and Kashmir, from every quarter of Tibet, and from the hinterlands of Central Asia have made the arduous trek.[16]
In former times, eight Buddhist gompas surrounded the margins of the lake. These were Trugo, Gotsuk (Gossul), Chiu, Cherkip, Langpona, Bönri, Seralung, and Yerngo. To Buddhists, Lake Manasarovar was seen to represent the Wheel of Life, with the hub at the center of the lake and the eight gompas representing the places where the spokes of the wheel connected with the rim. Thus, one full kora pilgrimage around the lake represented a single turning of the wheel, with all of the benefits that apply. The pilgrimage route, while hitting all eight gompas along the way, is about 64 miles long and takes two to four days to complete. If one just circumambulates around the shores of the lake, it is about 54 miles. Some Buddhists believed that the lake was identical to the legendary Anotatta Lake, where the Buddha's mother dreamt she had bathed and saw a vision of the Buddha appearing from the direction Kailash on a white elephant before he was born. There are several other Buddhist legends of the lake as well.
Manasarovar is also worshipped by the Hindus, who believe that the lake was created by the god Brahma, the Creator. According to the Hindu belief, Brahma's seven sons went to Mt. Kailash to visit and pay homage to Shiva and Parvati. Because they lacked a convenient source to perform ablutions, however, they asked their father if he could help them. So, Brahma obliged and created the lake with a mental effort. As Brahma's sons rejoiced at the creation, they saw a huge lingam (phallus) arise from the lake and worshipped it. The lake is also seen by the Hindus to be the home of the serpent Naga King and his subjects, living in the lake and feeding on the fruit of a giant jambu tree that grows in the middle of the lake. Sometimes, the tree drops its fruits and they fall to the bottom of the lake and turn into gold. In fact, gold has been found in the north-west corner of the lake near Chiu Gompa, where it was mined for a while. However, the mining stopped due to an outbreak of smallpox, which was considered by some to be the wrath of the Naga deity. Another connection to Hinduism is that the waterfowl that frequent the lake is believed to be Shiva's swan. A final connection to Hinduism and more relevant to recent times is that when Mahatma Gandhi died, some of his ashes were taken and scattered on Lake Mansarovar in 1948.

Guru Nanak entered Kailash-Mansarovar area of Tibet from Uttar Pradesh's Garhwal region (Uttrakhand). From Rishikesh, he went through Devprayag, Srinagar (Garhwal), Rudarprayag, Daras and Uttarkashi and reached Gangotri. From Gangotri, he went to Gaumukh and visited Tapovan. From Tapovan, he went through Manna Pass and reached Kailash region where Siddh's established. The present route of the yatra on the Indian side includes Dharchula, Tavaghat, Mangti, Gala, Budhi, Gunji, Kalapani and Navidhang.[17] [18]
At Kailash
After reaching Sumeru, peak of Kailash, "Guru Nanak met the 84 Sidhas, the disciples of Gorakh Nath". [19] These men of miracles were on their seats forming an assembly. As the Guru approached them they said to him ("Sidh sabha kar asan baithe" S.G.G.S. p. 938), "make thou salutation to this assembly of Saints":-

Guru Nanak answered, "My salutation is to Him alone, Him, who is True, Infinite and extremely exquisite. I cut off my head and lay it before him and surrender my body and soul to Him. By His blessings only, we attain the true glory".[20]

The miracle men were astonished at Guru Nanak's behavior. They requested Guru Nanak to disclose his name, sect, and object of life, seat and whom he followed. Guru Nanak replied, "My name is Nanak, I have come from God. In Him is my seat and in Him is my abode. My sect is to remain according to His will. My way is to reside in the imperishable Lord's contemplative mood and the attainment of such a transcendental contemplation is my life's objective".

"Where do you come from and where do you go?" asked the Siddhs "I have emerged from God and will go where He directs me to. I wish to be one with Him by knowing and recognizing Him and myself; by Guru's Grace", answered Guru Nanak, Siddhs became curious. "How can you cross this, impassable world ocean like this?" they enquired.

"As a lotus remains unaffected in water and duck swims against the stream's current without getting wet, I remain untouched from worldly feelings, with the kind guidance of my teachers and by uttering Lord's name as guided", spoke Guru Nanak, "World's beginning is a great wonder. The great Lord lives everywhere in everyone's heart and within-self too."

Yogis proceeded with questions, "How can death stroke be fended off and how can one enter the home of fearlessness? How can the adversaries of evil be slain?"

Guru Nanak explained, "If one realized His Name; the one who created the universe, the death, instead of striking him, becomes his slave. If a man knows the God, the seat of true bliss and contentment and through Guru's word, effaces his ego, sin and evil, then he abides in his own home of fearlessness. The one who works for the Lord and serves no one else, he finds his way to slay his evils, the adversaries.
Impressed by Guru's answer, Siddhs found him capable of clearing their doubts. They asked him the way of attainment of the God. "How can we reach the great God's gates?" Guru Nanak replied, "By uttering His name, one reaches His gates, enters His seat and Unites with Him".

Loharipa a disciple of Gorakh stated Siddh method of attainment of enlightenment, "We live in jungles, fully detached from the world and survive on fruits shoots and roots. We keep ourselves clean by having a bath in sacred rivers and have no filth on our body. By keeping ourselves clean we do yoga to be one with Him".

Guru Nanak did not approve of this and said, "Yoga is not cleaning of the body and sitting in yoga posture to create the problem for the body by keeping awake and hungry. Yoga is to keep one's mind and heart clean. It is true yoga if you renounce all egos and worldly attachment and discard lust, wrath and self-conceit and connect your mind to the One. When the teacher's instructions guide you to Him you shall see that God is everywhere and by pleasing Him you shall be able to attain the venerable position of being with Him".

Siddhs were still under the mist of their worldly knowledge and were unable to grasp the truth. They still questioned. "Who is the un-manifest who emancipates? What is that which goes from us and what comes in? Who is prevailing upon all the three worlds?"

Guru Nanak answered coolly, "He who permeates all the heats is un-manifest. The follower of the True Master is emancipated and is united with God's name both from within and without. The egos are bound to come and go but it is the True Lord, who always prevents one from all the three worlds".

Yogis had doubts about 'maya'. They asked, "How is one bound and subdued by God of Mammon? How does a man get lost with it and how to gain from it? How can we be pure and become enlightened?"

Guru Nanak explained, "The God of mammon subdues due to human folly of attachment to worldly things. The apostate loses from the world but the pious person gains from the world as he follows the true teachers and dispels the attraction of the worldly affairs. He kills the ego and becomes pure, gets enlightened and merges with the One".

Yogis doubted Guru's basics of becoming a Yogi and questioned about his dress manners etc. Guru Nanak dispelled their doubts by stating, "I became a hermit in search of true saints and have worn the special dress to cause curiosity even for the God. I have to trade true merchandise and by Guru's grace I shall be able to ferry my sect across".

Yogis were astonished at Guru's ways of life and were eager to know with whom he had united his soul. They also wanted to know how he got the true light from within as it is just like eating iron without teeth.

Guru Nanak answered, "By dwelling in true Guru's own mind, my life's course is changed and my mind wanders no more, as it is attached to the celestial string. 'With the help of the God's Name, I have burnt my desire and hope and by Guru's grace I have found the light within me. I have been able to eat even iron of difficulty by effacing the three i.e. desire, hope and ego."

"How did the world come into existence? Where does the creator reside and who is actually, everywhere and in each heart?" The yogis asked further, to which Guru Nanak replied.

"As for the beginning of the world is concerned; one can only think and talk in terms of wonder. The profound Lord then did dwell within His self. The True Lord, the life of all, abides within all the hearts."

Yogis questioned further, "Where from has the man come? Where does he go and wherein remains he merged?"

Guru Nanak explained, "The man originates from Lord's command. He goes back to where is His will and he remains merged in His will."

Guru Nanak first explained the meaning of Guru as "the one who understands the meaning of his divine discourse." Thereafter Guru answered the other questions. "By means of Guru's words; man easily obtains and merges in the pure formless reality by practicing truth and realizing Lord's Dignity and worth; he is blessed with the Lord's love by the perfect Guru. He alone knows His command and truly understands the way of life of the beings."

The Siddhas then asked about the moral standards of the world Guru Nanak explained the standard of these values through a hymn:

(Sati pap kar sat kamaveh:SGGS 951:13). [21]

'The men in charity, give in charity the wealth amassed by committing sins. Their Guru goes to their home to impart instructions. The woman loves the man for his money otherwise she cares not where from he comes and where to he goes. Nobody obeys the Shashtras and the Vedas. Everyone worships but himself. A 'Qazi ' is a judge who tells the rosary, muttering God's Name, but takes bribe and does injustice openly. If someone asks him, he quotes and reads out some aphorize. The Muslim creed permeates the ears and hearts of Hindus. They plunder people and indulge in backbiting. Hindus plaster their cooking square to become pure. This is the state of Hindus."

Siddhs wanted to know about the prevalent condition in the world. Guru Nanak explained this through a hymn

"Such kaal kood vartia.SGGS 468:16" [22]

"There is a famine of truth. Falsehood prevails and the Dark Age has made demons. Those who had sown the seed of the Name, departed with honor, but the seed is left broken which cannot sprout again. If the seed be wholesome and there be the proper reason; then only the seed will germinate. Nanak says, without a mordant, the brand new cloth cannot be dyed. If the mordant of modesty be applied to the sins, they can be washed away with Lord's fear making the body and heart clean. Nanak further says, "If the man is imbued with the Lord's meditation, his reputation is not at all false."

Guru Nanak explained further (Lab pap doe raja mehtakood hoya sikdar, SGGS 468:19).[23] "The avarice and sin are the King and Minister and falsehood is the master of the mint. Lust is the assistant official who is the chief consultant. They all sit together and chalk out evil plans. The blind public is without wisdom that satisfies the official's fire of greed with pride. The learned play music and dance to their tune and show off falsehood! They shout aloud and sing of epic poems and hero's tales. The fools call themselves scholars and amass wealth through cunning. The virtuous disguise their meritorious acts by asking for the door of salvation and leave their home and hearth for meditation the method of which is not known to them. Every one considers himself perfect. None calls himself wanting. If the weight of honour is put into the hind scale, then alone, O Nanak, the man appears properly weighed."

Guruji then said (Kal kaati raje kasai, SGGS, 145:10). [24] "The dark age is the scalpel, the kings are the butchers and righteousness has attained wings and flown. In this dark night of falsehood, the moon of truth is not seen to rise anywhere. In search of God, hearts have become bewildered in darkness. I find no path by taking pride; mortals bewail in pain'.

Siddhs found Guru Nanak highly knowledgeable about the Lord. They thought, 'Our religion can find great advancement through him; hence let us make him accept our fellowship'. However they were eager to test his virtues further. They asked him to bring water from the lake. As Guru Nanak put the earthen pot into the lake, he found it appearing like jewels. This was due to the magic spell by yogis. Guru Nanak broke the small earthen pot and joined broken pieces again there by breaking the magic spell. He was able to fill the water into the newly joined pot, which he took to the Sidhs. They were surprised at Guru's fete. Astonishingly the water from the small earthen pot turned out to be sufficient to quench the thirst of all the Siddhs around! The Siddhs were highly impressed at Guru's achievement'. They then asked him, "Are you a house holder or renunciate?" The Guru explained to them as to, "who is a true householder, who is truly detached and what a true renunciation is." He also explained them as to "who is a disguiser and desire less." Then he told them, "Outer appearances are deceptive. It is one's inner self which must be clean and tuned to the God even when one is a house holder". Guru explained this thus, "He alone is the householder who checks his passion and does meditation with hard toil. He gives charity and alms from what he earns through his personal efforts. He is a pure householder as is the water of the Ganges. The Lord is the embodiment of the truth. He, who has no form or shape, is the supreme reality."

Guru Nanak then explained the characteristics of a detached person (Udasi); "He alone is detached who burns conceit himself. He begs the food of self realization and ask for alms to remain in true abode, the abode of the Lord, where then he ultimately resides. Lord is the embodiment of the truth. There is no sign, form or shape of the supreme reality." About renunciator, Guru said, "He alone is the renunciator who embraces renunciation. He realizes the Lord Immaculate residing in all the regions. He ties knot to both heat of the sun and coolness of the moon. The one who is both cool and hot in one, his body will never fail. Nanak says to Gopi Chand, 'The Lord is the embodiment of the truth. The Supreme Reality has no sign, shape or form."

Then Guru Nanak described a disguiser (Pakhandi). He said, "He alone is a disguiser who washes off filth from his soul. He burns his internal and external fires by God's Name. Even in dream, he controls his outlet. Such a disguiser neither ages nor dies."

He explained the qualities of a desire less person. "He alone is desire less who turns towards the Lord. He uses the key of God's Name to open his tenth gate (Dasam Dwar). He remains absorbed in meditation day and night, such a desire less person is like the rue Lord".

'He explained the path of true yoga and salvation'. [25] (Guru ka sabad, mane mah mundra, S.G.G.S. p.359). 'Let Guru's word be the earrings in thy mind and wear the patched coat of forbearance. Whatever the Lord does, consider that supreme. Thus shall you easily obtain the treasure of yoga. The soul thus united is a yogi all the ages through. It is absorbed in the supreme quintessence. He who has obtained the ambrosial name of the Immaculate Lord; his body enjoys the pleasure of Divine knowledge. He forsakes desires and disputes and sits in contemplative mood in the Lord's abode. From the heat-horn's sound, and everlasting and beautiful melody abode is produced which day and night fills him with Divine music. Reflection is cup and Divine knowledge is his sectarian staff. To abide in Lord's presence is his end. God's praise is his vocation and the exalted Guru's way his pure religion. His chief desire is to see Lord's light amongst all. Lord has numerous colours. Nanak finds Him everywhere. Hence he professes love only for the Supreme Lord."

At the time of meals, the Yogis offered wine to Guru Nanak and spoke in praise of the wine. Guru Nanak did not approve of this and said (Gud kar gian, dhian kar dhavai). [26]

"Make gnosis your molasses and meditation your flowers of basic latifolia. In them, put good deeds as your fermenting bark. Make faith, your furnace and love your plaster. In this way the sweet nectar is distilled. 'O Yogi' by quaffing the Name nectar, the mind becomes intoxicated and easily remains absorbed in Lord's love. By fixing attention on God's affection and hearing celestial songs day and night, life becomes fruitful. The Perfect One, naturally, gives this cup of truth to drink to him on whom He castes His merciful glance. Why should he, who is the dealer of nectar, embrace love for paltry wine. The Guru's word is nectar speech. By quaffing it, man becomes acceptable to Him. What should he, who is in love of Lord's vision, do with salvation and paradise? He who is imbued with God's praise, is ever renouncer, who never loses in gamble'.

Yogis were impressed by Guru's reply. They said, "We are pleased with you. Ask whatever boon you wish". Guru Nanak said, "I have got the boon of God who is Supreme. What else do I want"? He further said, "(Thapia na jai, kita na hoe)"27

‘(God) can neither be installed nor created, since He is self-existent, self-sufficient and beyond material facts. Whosoever, serves Him, is honoured. One must sing about the God, the Treasure of Goodness. One must sing about Him, listen about Him and love Him from one’s heart. This way one can defeat the pains and take home the pleasures. The God is in all sounds; The God is in all knowledge material; The God is in everything of the universe. The God alone is Ishwar; the God alone is Gorakh and the God alone is mother Parvati. If I come to know of Him; it will be beyond my descriptive power to describe Him; I cannot state everything of Him. My guru has made me to understand one thing; all the beings have only One God and this I should never forget’. (SGGS,P.2)

Chief Siddhs still wanted Guru Nanak to ask for something material. Guru Nanak replied again (Je jug chare aarja). [28]

‘If the human life is extended to the four ages (Satyug, Treta, Dwapar and Kalyug) and even doubled than that; if one is known in all the nine regions of the world and everything moves behind him; if one has a good name and is praised all over the world: if God’s Grace is not on him, no one will bother about him. God creates worms amongst vermin’s; and labels sins on the sinners. Nanak says: He bestows virtue to the virtue less; gives goodness to the ethically superb. It does not occur to me ever if anyone has the capability to bestow moral virtues to the God Himself’. (SGGS.P.2)

Guru Nanak's discourses with Siddhs were prolonged over a number of days. The Siddhs accepted the superiority of Guru's teaching and in turn the local people in large numbers became Guru's followers. 'There are four Lama-temples at the four corners of Mansarover Lake. All of them have Guru Nanak's idols which are worshipped by them. Footprints of Guru Nanak are still preserved in Shap-ji and the monasteries from The hill resorts of Hippa, Kanan Puha etc, up to Gartok, the route is covered after brief intervals and the picture of Guru Nanak appears on the ceiling of such coverings'. [29]

It is probable that Guru Nanak's victory over Siddhs was the cause of perpetuating Guru's memory in these parts. The Guru also visited Tavchin, Gaurikund, Jandalphu, Derphu, and Sandiphu, from Mansarovar.

After visiting Gurlapass, Baldhak, Khotan Nath, Mansarover, Kailash and the neighboring areas, the Guru returned through Taklakot, Lipulekh, Sangchum, Kalapani, Garbyang, Buddimallappa, Nirpain, Galaghar, Tithila, Khela, Darchula, Balbakot, Askot, Pithoragarh and Almora districts. (This was a main route to Mansarover in those days).


Guru Nanak's second entry to Tibet was from Nepal, He is said to have gone to Sakya on invitation from Lamas of Sakya. Nepal-Lhase Road passed through Nanak La Pass from Nepal to Tibet in Himalayan region, crosses over to Tinggri Dzong and passes further through Lhatse and Shingtse on to Lhasa. Sakya, a place of great religious worship is situated in between Lhatse and Shigtse, the two largest towns of Tibet after Lhasa. It is in the richest area of Tibet i.e. the outer plateau. To reach Sakya from Shigtse one has to turn from the main highway to Lhasa, from Sakya River Bridge 15 Kms from the top of the Tuso la Pass, a rough road leads down a long, dry valley from 26 km to Sakya village. Total distance to Sakya from Shigtse is 128 Kms.

The forbidding, fortress like monastery, can be seen from a distance looking like single grey and red block with one horizontal white strip. The important old monastry, whose name means 'Tawny Soul' governed the whole Tibet in the 13th century, after the downfall of the kings. Originally, the monastery stood in two parts built at different times on either side of the river. The first was founded in 1071 by a powerful noble family of Tsang. Its buildings, incorporating a cave, were piled against the mountain side of east of the river in typical Tibetan style. Much scholarship was carried on, as Sakya owned a large treasure of Buddhists texts all that were left after Indian libraries were burned down by Muslim invaders. A separate type of Tibetan Buddhism took from here, named sa-Sky-Pa. Nothing remains of the first monastery today. It fell into disrepair by the 15th century and was demolished recently. High foundations built into the mountain side can only be seen now.

Three buildings of the 13th century monastery remain, protected by massive windowless fortress walls with corner towers. The monastery is entered from the west side. It includes the main hall, an East Hall and a Dormitory building with a five facade for Sakya's 30 Monks.

Guru Nanak visited this monastery in the ninth month of Tibetan Calendar in 1516 AD. There is an interesting legend connected with Guru Nanak's visit to the place. The local people were much troubled by witches. The witches used to roast the flesh of human beings and disturbed during the functions at Sakya Monastery. On the request of local Lamas, Guru Nanak is stated to have cast a spell on these witches and tied them turning them into masks. The local people were much pleased by this control of witches and started yearly celebrations on the day. On the day of the yearly celebrations th,ese witch-masks are said to be shedding tears as they dance with chained body. The king of the area is stated to have presented Guru Nanak with costly robes. The blue and red robe is at present preserved at Lachin Monastery in North Sikkim.

Guru Nanak proceeded toward Sikkim from Sakya through Shigtse, Lawa Gompha and Chorten Nyimala.

Guru's third entry into Tibet was just brief. After his travel to Sikkim, he entered Tibets' Chumbi valley from Ghora La and crossed Pharidzong on way to Bhutan.

He entered Tibet for the fourth time from Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), after crossing Nagu La and Tsangpo (Brahmaputra). His route to Arunachal Pradesh was through Lumla, Tawang, Zimithang and Lumpa wherefrom he again went to Lhasa.


The City of Lhasa lies in the Valley of Lhasa River, at an altitude of 3607m (11830ft). It is the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region and has been the seat of religious authority of Tibet since 7th century AD. The Jorkhang is the spiritual centre of Tibet, its most holy place, the destination of over a million of Tibetan pilgrims. The oldest part of the Jorkhang dates from 7th century AD. It was one of the two temples built by King Songtsen Gampo to house the idols of Buddha that his two foreign wives brought to Tibet from China and Nepal.

Legend says that Songtsen Gampo threw his ring into the air, promising to build a temple wherever it landed. The ring fell into a lake and struck a rock where a white stupa miraculously appeared-an auspicious sign. Workmen filled in the lake with white stones and the Jorkhang was built over it by craftsmen from Tibet, China, Nepal and Kashmir. Even today, a pool exists under the Jorkhang's courtyard.



The Jorkhang temple was enlarged eight times between 7th century and 1660. It consists of an elaborate porch leading to a frescoed cloister around an open courtyard. Outside runs a long gallery of prayer wheels. A passage leads into a main hall with numerous small chapels around it. The sacred shrine holding the ancient Buddha idol is centered at the rear of the main hall. Above another floor are the historically valuable murals.

The main hall is entered through a corridor graded by guardian statues-fierce on the left, benign on the right. Here a delightful set of murals depicts Wen Chang's procession coming to Tibet with the statue enthroned in a horse-drawn carriage, and then the building of the Jorkhang. In the middle of the hall sit two huge images of Padmasambhva (left) and Sakyamuni (right). Between them a delicate eleven headed Chenrezi expresses infinite compassion.

Above, beams carved as human faced lions show Persian influence brought in via Kashmir. Guru Nanak visited Jorkhang monastery where he was offered refreshments, made comfortable and approached with a request for answer to certain questions. Guru answered these questions with great magnanimity.


Lamas asked, "There are many creeds prevalent in India and learned expound many philosophies about the God. What do you say about the creation of the world and the creator32.

Guru said, "From the Soundless Absolute proceeds everything

From the Soundless emanates sound.

From Him flows forth air, water, fire, light and sound.

He, the Absolute remains unaffected and yet maintains everything for ever.

He, the Lord of creation rejoices in His own creation,

The Absolute produces Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva,

And also time and the four great ages.

He who knows the Absolute as all Pervading, is a perfect man;

In his company all delusion is destroyed".

The Lama heaved a deep sigh, "I have heard the theory of Absolute and your definition has cleared it a good deal. Tell me more about it." Guru replied, "(Hukmi hovan aakaar; (Japuji Sahib)33.

By Him are all forms created,

By Him beings are infused with life and blessed,

By Him some achieve to excellence,

While others are born lowly and depressed,

By His writ some have pleasures, some others have pain;

By His grace, some are saved,

Other are doomed to die, relive and die again.

He encompasses all, there is none beyond Him.

O Nanak, He who knows Him, has no ego and no pride.

"How can we reach the Absolute?" asked the Lama. The Guru Replied, "As a beggar goes begging, bowl in one hand, staff in other, rings in his ears, smothered in ashes, so you go forth in life with ear-rings made of contentment, with modesty your begging bowl, dedication the fabric of your garment, knowledge of death your cowl. Let your mind be chaste virginal clean, faith the staff on which to lean. You shall humiliate your fancy with mind subdued in the world subjugate"34 (Japuji Sahib). The Lamas were very much satisfied and pleased.

At Lhasa, Guru Nanak was told about another famous monastery in south east Tibet. The monastery was known as Samye Monastery. The famous religious centre and the centre of teaching of Nying-Ma-Pa (Kar-ma-pa) sect, the sect which became the followers of Guru Nanak, The Guru proceeded towards Samye Monastery; en-route he halted near Cherisarma. There a cap shaped peak is worshipped by the local people. They go around this hill as if doing circumbulation of Sri Harimandar Sahib. The cap shaped peak is believed to be the Seli Topi (cap) of Guru Nanak which the Guru left to protect the hill people from demons.

From Cherisarma Guru Nanak proceeded towards Samye Monastery.


Samye monastery is Tibet's first monastery which is located north of the Yarlong Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) river about 30 Km from Tsedang in south-eastern Tibet as the crow flies. To reach Samye, one has to stop at a ferry 36 km west of Tsedang. The river is crossed in an open, flat bottomed boat propelled by a converted tractor engine. The crossing may take an hour or more depending on the height of the water and position of sandbanks. The ferry lands several kilometers upstream from Samye. The remainder journey can be covered in a tractor drawn wagon over a rough desert track.

The monastery surrounded by a village, is in a green valley among barren mountains Setgting from the Jarlong Tsangpo. Haibur, its small holy mountain stands just to the east. Five ancient Stupas perched on crags overlook an early part of the trail from the ferry to Samye.

Samye Monastery was founded in 770 A.D. by Trisong Detsen, Tibet's second religious King, after he invited prominent Buddhists to Tibet from India, the most famous of whom was Padmasambhava, the magician saint born in the house hold of King Indrabhuti of Swat (now Pakistan) and Santarakshit, his personal tutor. The two teachers helped him found Samye as a school to train Tibetan monks, modeling it on the pattern of a monastery in Bihar. Legends say; 'Padmasambhav magically compelled Tibetan demons to haul stones and wood from river and forests each night so men could build the monastery by day, and forced the Nagas the water-serpent deities, to give up their gold to finance their operation. (It may be that the Nagas are the people, who ruled this area before and later settled in Nagaland.)

The first Tibetan monk, who had attended a Buddhist university in India was ordained and installed as first abbot. In 791 AD, King Trisong Detsen proclaimed Buddhism the official religion in place of Bon faith. A clash occurred in which Chinese intervened and installed their own abbot. Chinese Chan Buddhism was being forced in, in place of Lamaism.

A great debate took place in the king's presence from 792 to 793 AD, Two learned monks one from China and the other from India, led the discussion. The Indian view triumphed and was adopted as the future course of Tibetan Buddhism to follow.

It took over a decade, 775-787 AD, to build Samye, at the site of a temple founded by Trisong Detsan's father. At the centre was a large three storied hall surmounted by gold roofs, enclosed inside a protective cloister with elaborate gates at the cardinal points; in the opposite corners stood four big Stupas.

Built by individuals in different pagoda styles, coloured red, white, green and black, many surrounding buildings and temples completed the monastery. The whole monastery was originally enclosed by a zigzag wall that was destroyed by fire. It was replaced in the tenth century by a great circular wall 12 ft. (3-1/2m) high and 21/2 km (11/2) mile in circumference.

The architecture of Great Hall combined style that expressed the borrowing and merging typical of Tibetan Buddhism. The lower part was constructed in the Tibetan manner with two roofs, by builders from Khotan. The middle part was made in Chinese style, with three roofs, by Chinese carpenters. The upper part, also with three roofs, was built in Indian style by Indian craftsmen. ll that remains today is the Great Hall without its third storey and roofs, and the surrounding cloister which houses 34 monks. The Great Hall faces east. The square cloister compound is entered by the east portal with its two stone-elephants and giant bronze bell, just inside in a huge prayer wheel under a canopy.

A major pilgrim path runs from Lhasa to Samye a hard walking trip of four days and three nights, passing through maximum altitude of 4850m (16,000ft). The path starts from Dagze Dzong, 27 km east of Lhasa.

Guru Nanak visited this monastery in the year 1516 A.D. and the followers of the Guru projected their doubts which Guru Nanak cleared.

From Samye monastery the Guru proceeded southwards towards India. Crossing through La-Khanya, he reached Menchukha a place where Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity is said to have meditated. Guru Nanak was enchanted by the place and stayed for sometime at Menchukha and meditated earlier. He went back to Tibet and brought his followers of Memba sect from Dakbo-Kongba area and got them settled in Menchukha valley. Now a Gurdwara in Menchukha valley commemorates Guru Nanak’s visit. There from, through Tibet he proceeded towards Gelling-Tuting valley in March 1516 AD.

Guru Nanak's next visit to Tibet was after his return from East Asia. Jaanamsakhi Bhai Bala states that after visiting Silmila Dweep and Suwarnpur Guru Nanak went to Sumer again35.

Dr. Surinder Singh Kohli wrote that it was about 1517 A.D When Guru Nanak entered Kashmir from Sinkiang province of China. In China he is said to have gone as far as Nanking and was on his return journey36.

Guru Nanak entered Tibet (Fifth Time) again from Negula and reached Lhasa. At Lhasa, Guru Nanak visited the famous Potala, the seat of Dalai Lama. At the time, the power was transferred from Kar-ma-pa sect to Ge-lug-pa sect. The Ge-lug-pa sect had started a reign of terror against the Kar-ma-pa sect, the sect which had become the follower of Guru Nanak.

Guru Nanak is stated to have held discussion with the Second Lama at Potala and requested him to stop blood-shed. During the stay at Lhasa, he visited the famous monasteries there. In one of the monasteries, where Guru Nanak was offered refreshment, made comfortable and approached with a request for answer for certain questions. He answered these questions with great magnanimity.

From Lhasa, Guru Nanak came to Samye monastery. At Samye monastery, Guru Nanak held discussions with the Lamas. From Samye Guru Nanak came to La Khanya and entered India (Arunachal Pradesh) along Yargapchu River into Pemoshubu. It is a thick natural forest area, where beautiful flowers are found spread over miles and miles together.

Near Pemoshubu, there is a hill at Segong-Dorgilling on the top of which there is one Gompha (Lama Temple). Along with Lord Buddha's idol it has a life-sized idol of Guru Nanak, which the Membas (a local tribe) worship. A regular fair is held in the month of January at this place. A Lama told the author, "the monastery had a book of Guru's Shabdas in their language which was destroyed in a fire about fifty years ago". The Head Lama of this monastery had been visiting Gaya as well as Amritsar. Guru Nanak is said to have visited Shekhar-Bhumja and Dojeeling in Menchukha valley as well. Regular fairs are held in February at these places. Fairs coincide with the dates of Guru Nanak's visit to these places. Calculation of the days and dates is as per Tibetan Calendar.

Close to Menchukha, there is a snow-white cave. Guru Nanak is said to have meditated in this cave also. It is said that Guru Nanak stayed in this area for about 3 months.

According to the local Membas, Guru Nanak brought them from Southern Tibet and got them settled in the valley and became far better off from their previous place. In their songs they give out the legend, of their settlements.

From Menchukha, Guru Nanak proceeded towards Gelling and Tuting via South-Eastern Tibet along Tsangpo River. Guru Nanak is worshipped in the Gompha of Gelling-Tuting Valley too.

From Gelling-Tuting valley, Guru Nanak proceeded along Tsangpo (Siang River) and then crossed over to Sadiya. Near Sadiya, there is place known as Bhishmaknagar, where Lord Krishna was married to Rukhmini. Rukmani was the daughter of king Bhikhmak, whose marriage was planned to another king while she wanted to marry Lord Krishna only. Lord Krishna adducted her and married her in the presence of Lord Shiva and Parvati at Malinithan, a place near Likabali. Old temples are reminiscent of the event. From Sadya Guru Nanak went to Tezu and reached Brahmkund on Kartika Purnima. Here he attended the fair, held in honour of Parasuram the killer of Brahmans who is said to have carved out Brahamputra from the Brahamkund.

From Brahamkund, Guru Nanak visited Walong at the eastern edge of Arunachal Pradesh. He is said to have visited Rima in China from here. In China Guru Nanak is said to have visited Nanking. In a recent interview Dr Anokh Singh Bathinda who visited China in nineteen-eighties mentions that he saw Guru Nanak’s idol in Nanking next to idol of Buddha where an inscription on stone in Chinese when translated with the help of local Chinese mentions, “Nanak Rimpoche mentioned this place during his visit to China.’ Dr Surinder Singh Kohli mentions, “It has been said that in their address of welcome to Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1951-52, the Chinese claimed that because of the great reverence shown by the people of China to the great India saint Guru Nanak, they had named one of their prominent cities (i.e., Nanking) after his name. There is another city in China of a similar name i.e., Nankiang. It may have the same source. After visiting the major portions of China, the Guru returned to India via Sinkiang State. [37]

Kokonor Lake

An interview with Chhimed Ringdzin Rimpoche by this researcher reveals that Guru Nanak came from China through North Tibet visiting the famous Kokonor Lake. The legend of Kokonor Lake is also attributed to Guru Nanak.



Koko Nor is a lake in Tibet, 100° E. and 37° N. It lies 9,975 feet above the level of the sea. It’s very salt waters, exquisitely blue in color, cover 66 miles by 40. [38] It is sandwiched between Hainan and Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in northeastern Qinghai. Recently the name of the lake is changed to Qinghai. Kokonor in Mongolian and Tso Ngon Po in Tibetan literally mean Blue lake, and it gives Tso Ngon (Qinghai) as the name of the province. It is the largest saline lake in China and the wide-open shores of this saline lake provided rich pastures for both Tibetan and Mongol nomads. The lake is located at a height of 3190m and at a distance of 100km from Xining, the capital of Qinghai province in a depression of Qilain Mountains in the Tibetan Plateau. [39] The Koko nor Lake has a surface area of 4,317 square km; an average depth of 21m, and a maximum depth of 25.5m as measured in 2008. [40] Twenty-three rivers and streams empty into Qinghai Lake, most of them seasonal. Five permanent streams provide 80% of total influx.[41] It contains five islands, one with a Buddhist monastery. In the west it receives the waters of the river Buhaingol. In the south it is bordered by the southern part of the Kokonor Mountains (10,000 feet). It is very rich in fish, in spite of the fact that its surface is frequently frozen for two to three months.[38] The lake is located at the crossroads of several bird migration routes across Asia.

There is an island in the western part of the lake with a temple and a few hermitages called "Mahādeva, the Heart of the Lake" (mTsho snying Ma hā de wa) which historically was home to a Buddhist monastery.[41] No boat was used during summer, only when the lake froze over in winter could monks reach the mainland or pilgrims visit the temple - many of whom used to come from Tibetan areas and Mongolia. [42] It is also known as the place where Gushri Khan and other Khoshut Mongols migrated to during the 1620s. [43] The lake is circumambulated by pilgrims mainly Tibetan Buddhist followers, especially every Horse Year of the twelve cycle years turn out to the great pilgrimage to the Tibetans. Przhevalsky estimated it would take about 8 days by horse or 15 walking to circumambulate the lake, but pilgrims report it takes about 18 days on horseback, and one took 23 days walking to complete the circuit. [44]

Originally famous for being a highly sacred lake, in 1960s it became a famous military research base for the first atomic bomb in China - now it is famous for being one of the most attractive destinations for Chinese tourism. The Lake is regarded as holy by Tibetans and Mongolians and this is also the sea offering site for Penchen Lama. You can see sea offering site at the south shore of the lake. There are few small monasteries around the lake. Tsonyang is an island in the center of the Lake; Tsonyang meaning “Heart of the lake”; is a Tibetan Buddhism retreat hill. Only a handful monks and nuns live on this hill as most monks retreat. Caves around this lake have been used by many famous Tibet Yogis and religious practitioners. Tsonyang Island can be accessible only in the winter time after the lake freezes.


The best time to travel to the Lake is from July to September.[45] To reach this lake, Qinghai is a railway station on China-Tibet rail line. It can also be reached from Xning in Qinghai province.



As per the statement by Chhimed Rigdzin Rimpoche, a Buddhist Lama of Karma pa Sect, considered as the only lineage holder and reincarnation of Nunden Dorje (Undeposed Powerful Thunderbolt), the foremost disciple of Buddha Sakyamuni who has been in charge of the 12 Gomphas (monasteries) in the Eastern Tibet: “Guru Nanak visited the Koko Nor lake” during his journey to the Tibet and China [46]. As KokoNor has a Mahadev temple and Boddhi gomphas, Hindus as well as Buddhists from India too would have been travelling to the place. It is with these travelers, that Guru Nanak too would have gone. Most probably, the period of Guru’s Visit is 1517 AD and the route is while returning from Nanking to Leh-Ladakh. Since the statement has come from a renowned religious luminary of the area, a detailed research on Guru Nanak’s visit to Kokonor is needed to establish the authenticity of the statement.

After visiting North Eastern Tibet, Guru Nanak, visited Lhasa and Mansarovar again and through Gartok (Garu), Pudok and Panjong lake area entered Ladakh via Chushul. [47].


1. Binoy Roy Burman: Religion and Politics in Tibet, Vikas Publishing House New Delhi, P-344.

2. Col.Dr. D.S.Grewal: Tibet and India-Ancient Links, Sainik Samachar, July 1978.

3. S.C. Dass: Contribution on the Religion and History of Tibet, New Delhi, 1970, p-35.

4. Shakabpa W.B.: Tibet : A Political History, London, 1976, p.60.

5. Bell Charles: Tibet: Past and Present: Oxford, 1924, P.32.

6. Ibid

7. Ibid

8. Mac-Donald, David: The Land of the Lama, London, 1929.

9. Puratan Janam Sakhi (ed. Shamsher Singh Ashok), p-96.

10. Dalvinder Singh Grewal (Colonel) : Guru Nanak's travels to Himalayan Region., Sikh Review, Calcutta

11. 19.Varan Bhai Gurdas: SPGC Amritsar, 1964, p.14.

12. 20. Sri Guru Granth Sahib: p. 938-946.

13. Puratan janamsakhi, p.97.

14. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.981

15. Ibid

16. Puratan Janamsakhi, p.97

17. Ibid

18. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 468

19. Puratan Janamsakhi, p. 145

20. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 97

21. Bhai Gurdas: Varan : (1/3) p. 16

22. Puratan Janamsakhi, p. 98

23. Ibid.

24. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 359.

25. Puratan Janamsakhi p.101

26. Sri Guru Granth Sahib p.360

27. Puratan Janamsakhi p.103

28. Varma Sharad Chander: Guru Nanak, p.217

29. Ibid

30. Janamsakhi Bhai Bala ed. by Kirpal Singh p.280

31. Surinder Singh Kohli (Dr), p.128.

32. Kirpal Singh 'Atlas of the Travels of Guru Nanak, p.63.

33. Japuji Sahib

34. Ibid

35. Janam Sakhi Prampra ed. Dr. Kirpal Singh

36. Dr. Surinder Singh Kohli, Travels of Guru Nanak, p. 128

37. ibid

38 Buffetrille, Katia. "The Blue Lake of Amdo and Its Island: Legends and Pilgrimage Guide." In: The Tibet Journal Vol. XIX, No. 4, Winter, 1994.p.2

39 Andreas Gruschke: "The realm of sacred lake Kokonor", in: The Cultural Monuments of Tibet’s Outer Provinces: Amdo vol. 1. The Qinghai Part of Amdo, White Lotus Press, Bangkok 2001; pp. 90ff, 93ff. ISBN 974-7534-59-2

40 “Water level variation of Lake Qinghai from satellite"Water level variation of Lake Qinghai from satellite and in situ measurements under climatechange” PDF). Journal of Applied Remote Seeing (Utsa.edu).

41 Rhode, David; Ma Haizhou; David B. Madsen; P. Jeffrey Brantingham; Steven L. Forman; John W. Olsen (2009). "Paleo-environmental and archaeological investigations at Qinghai Lake, western China: Geomorphic and chronometric evidence of lake level history" (PDF). Quaternary International: 3. Retrieved 2010-03-18.

42 Gruschke 2001, pp. 93 ff.

43 Buffetrille 1994, pp. 2–3.

44 Shakabpa, Tsepon W.D. Tibet: a Political History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962.

45 Buffetrille 1994, p. 2.

46 Qinghai Lake & Kokonor Lake SnowLion Tours

47 Dalvinder Singh Grewal, 2000, Amazing Travels of Guru Nanak, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sri Amritsar, p.256.