The highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, has a height of 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level and has yet been climbed by over 4,000 people. Mount Kailash, on the other hand, stands 6638 metres (21778 ft) tall and its summit is still unclimbed by any human so far. Why?
Many believe that the legendary mountain is where Lord Shiva resides, sitting in a state of perpetual meditation along with his wife Parvati, and it is Him who makes the mountain unclimbable for mortals!
But is it really so?
In 1926, Hugh Ruttledge, an English civil servant and mountaineer, along with Colonel R. C. Wilson had made an attempt to climb the legendary mountain. Accompanying them was a Sherpa called Satan and the three spent sizeable time around the mountain. Ruttledge considered the north face of Kailash to be 6,000 ft high and called it ‘utterly unclimbable’. Colonel Wilson claimed that “just when I discovered an easy walk to the summit of the mountain, heavy snow began to fall, making the ascent impossible.”
Another mountaineer, a Russian climber, Sergei Cistiakov, said, “When we approached the foot of the mountain, my heart was pounding. I was in front of the sacred mountain, Mount (sic) which cannot be beaten. I felt extremely emaciated and suddenly I became captivated by the thought that I do not belong on this mountain, it must necessarily come back! As soon as we started the descent, I felt liberated.”
So there must be some religious significance of the mountain, no?
In Hinduism, it is believed that Lord Shiva resides on the peak of the mountain with his wife, Goddess Parvati. Mythologies claim that the Destroyer sits there in a state of perpetual meditation and Vishnu Puran states that the four faces of the mountain are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli.
In Jainism, the mountain is considered to be holy as it is the site where the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva, had attained Nirvana (liberation).
Similarly, while in Bön, people maintain that the mountain and place around it is the seat of all spiritual power, Tantric Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok who represents supreme bliss.
The mountain is also a place of pilgrimage for people following different religions and the popular belief is that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot brings good fortune.
History states while there have been many attempts to conquer the mountain, no one has been successful in the endeavour. There has always been one or the other reason why the mountain couldn’t be scaled. While the story of Lord Shiva residing at the peak of it excites many, the same is what people believe is the reason why no one has ever climbed to the top of it.
The last recorded attempt at climbing Mt Kailash was when the Chinese government had given permission to a Spanish team to climb the peak in 2001. However, it was followed by an instant outrage among people across the world whose faiths believe that Kailash is the holiest.