NGARI HIGHLANDS & MT. KAILASH & GUGE KINGDOM

   
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HOLY MOUNTAINS HIDDEN KINGDOMS
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 NGARI MT KAILASH & LAKE MANASAROVAR
The transcendent beauty of this place is hard to beat. This is the highest point on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the pinnacle of the "roof of the world". Further west out of Shigatse and beyond the Yarlung Tsangbo River near Gyantse, the land contour is elevated, sloping gradually. Turning north at No.22 Road Maintenance Station and driving past Dagyatso Lake, you will find your way to the Ngari highlands.
Once there, the expansive stretches of highland pasture, precipitous, sometimes treacherous, mountains, placid lakes and foamy swift rivers against a backdrop of azure skies and floating clouds exhilarate even the tired traveler.

The majority of the most magnificent scenery actually is found on the mountain peaks themselves. Of course, not everyone is cut out for the hardships of this journey. The majesty of these ranges takes your breath away. The Himalayas, of course, but also the Gangdise and Kunlun which together span the Ngari region, covering an unbelievable mass of 340,000 square kilometers (131,274 square miles), around a quarter of the entire Tibetan land mass. Mountains, sparkling rivers, gentle inviting streams among the valleys tend to amaze the gazer. There are four main rivers that wind through this area and are considered to be the beginning of the Indus River, the Yarlung Tsangpo River, the Ganges River and the Sutlej River.

This area is just south of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, and just east of Kashmir. The altitude, take a guess! Yep, 4500 meters or 14,764 feet on average. There are only about 7000 people living in this area in 2008. Its seven counties are namely, Gar, Purang, Rutog, Zanda, Gegye, Gertse and Tsochen. In this place of undisturbed beauty, the landscape is unique, inspiring, and stunning. WILD WILD WILD as it is with its 80 rivers and 60 lakes (see why we can't list all the rivers and lakes in Tibet!), With 19 million hectares (44 million acres! - Holy Cow! - no, no holy cows, that's India), it is seriously abundant in mineral and geothermal resources. The flora and fauna here includes some of the rarest on earth.

The Bangongtso Lake in northern Ngari has a surface elevation of 4,241 meters and a depth of 41.3 meters. This oblong lake extends 150 kilometers and is 50 meters at its narrowest. The lake water turns salty in the western end. The lake is ringed by verdant green pastures and has a few small islands of migratory birds including spotted wild geese, which often number in tens of thousands in the summer time. The monastery and cliff drawings found near Rutong and the uninhabited land in northern Tibet hold special appeal to explorers.

In this area you will find the mysterious and famous Mt. Kailash and the Guge Kingdom ruins. This area used to be almost inaccessible to visitors, but now it can be reached by several intersecting highways from Lhasa, Nepal and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The main town, Shiquanhe is the largest city in  western Tibet. The road to Shiquanhe begins at Lhasa, if coming that way, and passes through Nakchu. Traveling in the highland region, one will see changing sights of spectacular scenery and rich wild life including beavers, rabbits and foxes not far from roadside. Even wild ducks, black-necked cranes and a variety of birds are seen by the lake-side. Antelopes, wild donkeys are found on hills or in the valleys at dusk time. North of Gertse is the uninhabited zone of Lugu which is the domain of wild yaks and bears. Yes, this is WILD Tibet!

Awe inspiring "Sacred" Mt. Kailash and "Holy Lake" Lake Manasarovar are venerated places for many faiths, including Tibetan Buddhists, Buddhists, Bon, Jains, and to those with other esoteric beliefs. They come to walk the kora around the mountain, around the "center of the world". Not only is this trek a life-long goal for pilgrims, but many visitors find the attraction irresistible.

Ancient Sanskrit documents tell us the Gangdise Range had become a holy mountain 2,000 years before Christ. A Hindu myth explains how a palace for the god of gods was build on Mt. Kailash. With 6656 meters, this is an extremely important mountain in Asian and Tibetan history. Tibetan Buddhists have a belief that the mountain is in a shape of an olive. The legendary palace is thought to have been build right on the peak. Centuries ago a visiting Bangladesh monk heard bells chiming from the palace, along with drums beating and mysterious sounds. Even pilgrims today claim to hear things during their kora around this mount.

Kailash crowns the Himalayan Mountains with its innumerable myths and legends. By far, it remains the focus of the religions that believe in the magnetic draw of the mountain. It takes from 24-36 hours to make the full circle (kora) around the mountain. Some people caravan with their yaks, camp and do the kora in two days time. This form of worshipping is common to Tibetan Buddhists who do koras around all important religious sites. The more koras done, the better your life now and the next time will be. This deep rooted notion of circling holy mountains and places started in ancient times with pagan rituals.

LAKE MANASAROVAR
Lake Manasarovar one of the highest fresh water lakes of the world, is located over 20 kilometers to the southeast of Mount Kailash. It has a total surface area of 400 square kilometers. It lies at 4,556 m (14947.5 ft) above mean sea level. It is one of the highest fresh-water lakes in the entire world. Lake Manasarovar is somewhat round in shape. The circumference of Manasarovar is 88 kilometers (55 mi), depth is 90 m (300 ft) and it occupies a total area of 320 square kilometers (120 sq mi). The lake freezes in winter and melts only in the spring. It is connected to Lake Rakshastal by the natural Ganga Chhu channel

This placid lake is a enormous expanse of unsullied water. It is absolutely stunning. The legend has it that Goddess Woman bathed in the lake. Because of its translucent beauty and enchanting myths and legends, the lake was mentioned as a celestial lake of the west in an ancient book. The lake named Macuitso by Tibetans about nine centuries ago. It was believed that in the "palace of the dragon king" on the bottom of the lake were boundless treasures. After the rise of Buddhism in Tibet during the 11th century, the lake was given the Buddhist name of "Manasarova", meaning "perpetually invincible". Since then, the lake has been regarded as a gift from Buddha with cleansing and redeeming power that will bring spiritual and physical well-being. The holy lake seems to possess a primordial force which, together with the Holy Mountain Kailash attracts infinite numbers of pilgrims to the area of Ngari. Even if it takes years to save money or months to get here, they still come to test their faith, to gain blessings, to manifest their discipline and desire for a better life. They bath at four holy bathing holes situated around the lake to wash clean their sins and start anew. The mysterious powers of these two holy places cannot be denied, whether it is the power of the mind or more, we may only know after we leave this realm and arrive in the Bardo, the middle place. None the less, those of faith keep coming, dressed in their native garb with prayers pursed on their lips. To visitors, there is no where else in Tibet to match the spirituality of witnessing this mystery of the ages. 

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 THE GUGE KINGDOM  
The Guge Kingdom is no more. Left in ruins, it gives us an insight into the opulent and fantastic life once enjoyed by its rulers. The Guge kings were ardent advocates of Tibetan Buddhism. They sent envoys to India to invite Buddhist masters to Tibet and sponsored  translation of scriptures. The religious revival began in Ngari and extended to the entire Tibetan region. The kingdom also kept Tibet from repeated invasions by enemies from the west. Mysteriously this place fell to ruin after 700 years of history. Historians offer a few guesses as to the demise of this kingdom built on the side of a mountain; war, jealousy, treachery. According to historical annals, King Tsampo Lhangdama died and with it the last Tubo kingdom. Two of his sons, Yundan and Osang were engaged in a bloody war for the throne which continued for two generations. He also had a brother, a monk who didn't take too kindly to his persecution of Buddhism and embracement of Christianity, knowing it wasn't about religion, but power. It is thought perhaps his brother sided with others to overthrow the kingdom that stands on a hill of about 300 meters. A complex of palaces, temples, fortifications, pagodas and military tunnels and paths form the ruins of this lost kingdom. The construction beginning in the 10th century was expanded by the next 16 successive kings clear up to the 16th century. Building on these treacherously steep slopes have tunnels running every which way as secret escape routes, some of which are filled with severed heads. A brutal battle in the 16th century brought the kingdom to an abrupt end. No writings can be found today about its fate there after and the ruins are the only evidence of the once majestic palaces and crushed glory.

Check out the ruins as you climb the steep slope to the top. You'll find block house, superb temples, royal palaces and signs of its past glory everywhere. PLEASE DON'T TAKE ANY CHARDS. The few remains of painted walls, sculptures and frescoes stand testimony to a unique art tradition. Even in this dead place, you can feel the living, see them running about it your minds eyes, hear their voices echoing off the walls. The view from the top is revealing. Guge was isolated as it gets. It took twenty years for them to divert water to the city, now long dry, but you can still see the riverbeds. How grand this life must have been for the nobles, while the commoners may have only been slaves. It's difficult to say. While in Tibet stop in a video store and by the video "The Lost Kingdom of Guge", well worth the price!

   
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
       

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