One of the most arduous treks, the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra or KMY is a trip exclusive for Indians popular for its religious significance. Devotees of Lord Shiva visit the snow-clad peaks in the Himalayas to pay him a visit and seek his blessings. This yatra that takes place only during a few months of the year is not for everyone. Freezing temperatures, rugged terrain, dangerous trekking trails and high altitudes are part of this religious tour which is only for physically fit people. The annual pilgrimage is not just revered for Hindus, but also Jains and Buddhists.
Every year, the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra is conducted in batches via different routes for a select number of people. After careful medical examination and getting yourself acclimatized to the extreme conditions are people picked for this trek of a lifetime. The online registrations for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra 2016 are currently. If you are planning to apply for this tour, here are a few things you need to know about KMY.
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It involves trekking at high altitudes of up to 19,500 feet, under inhospitable conditions, including extreme cold and rugged terrain. Hindus regard Mt Kailash as the earthly manifestation of Mt Meru, the spiritual centre of the universe. On Mt Meru is situated Svarga or heaven, according to Hindu mythology. Whoever visits the place is cleansed of his sins. Visiting the Manasarovar Lake is also a part of the pilgrimage. Mansarovar Lake, located at an altitude of 14,950 ft (4,558m) is said to be the highest freshwater lake in the world.
Pilgrims (yatris) taking a ritual bath in the lake are assured of reaching Lord Brahma’s paradise and a drink of its holy water freeing them from the sins of a hundred lifetimes. A pilgrimage to Mt Kailash involves circumambulating the holy mountain and also the Manasarovar Lake. Hindus travel clockwise around the mountain to cover the 52 km circuit. Likewise, circumambulating Manasarovar Lake is also an important ritual. The circuit is a little over 100 km and takes 4-5 days to complete.
Kailash Manasarovar Yatra 2016
KMY is organized by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) annually. This year, the yatra will take place from June to September. There are two routes that the MEA offers for pilgrims. The Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand will have 18 batches and the trip will be of 25 days costing about Rs 1.6 lakh per person. The second route is Nathu La in Sikkim which is of 23 days and cost about Rs 2 lakh per person. But this route has only seven batches. The last date to register online for 2016 batches is April 15.
If in case, you plan to embark on the pilgrimage with your spouse, do mention that in your application. Spouses will be automatically selected (provided he/she has also submitted an application for the Yatra) subject to clearing the medical test.
There are certain criteria for someone to be selected for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. One needs to be an Indian citizen with a valid Indian passport of at least months. One also needs to be physically fit without any major health ailments and a BMI of 25 or less. People below the age of 18 and above 70 cannot apply for the yatra.
Once you submit your application, the MEA selects people via a computerized process. But given the nature of the yatra, only those who are physically fit should apply. Your initial selection does not promise you a confirmed place for the yatra. An applicant suffering from medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, epilepsy, etc. will most likely get rejected as they aren’t deemed fit to undertake the trek.
The people who are selected are informed three to four weekns prior to the scheduled departure. Selected yatris are required to assemble in New Delhi 3-4 days before the commencement of the yatra. Here they will undergo medical tests to make sure they are fit enough to go on the high-altitude trek. Once their results are approved by a doctor can they qualify for the trip.
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Tibet is a dry and cold country. Add to that the weather conditions can change rapidly and it is advisable yatris remain prepared for the worst. During June, July, August till September, days are pleasant and quite warm with temperature hovering between 15 and 20 degree celsius. Afternoons can get windy. Mornings and evenings will be chilly and the temperature fluctuates between -2 to 0 degree celsius.
Almost all tourists who travel to Tibet experience altitude sickness. Its effect varies from person to person. The effects of altitude sickness are less on those who are physically fit. There is a lot of walking in this yatra and one has to climb mountains at certain places. Some people may experience shortness of breath during the climb.
How to prepare
If you plan to embark on the pilgrimage to Mt Kailash and Manasarovar, start preparing for the yatra months in advance. A good 30-minute walk, jogging daily, stretching and regular exercise should be practised. Though porters will carry bulk of the equipment, yatris will have to perform the pilgrimage carrying a backpack stuffed with essentials like water, additional clothing and medicines. High altitude trekking requires cardiovascular endurance, strength endurance and hiking-specific training.
Cardiovascular conditioning: Running, walking on an inclined treadmill, etc should be practised. Biking, rowing and swimming are cardiovascular options but emphasis should be given to spinal-loading cardiovascular exercises like running, walking on an inclined treadmill, walking up and down hill.
Strength conditioning: Training with free weights, bands, a backpack, bodyweight exercises, or gym machines will help build overall strength. Developing strength in upper back and shoulders will help carry backpack and using trekking poles effectively.
Mountaineering conditioning: Hike-steep outdoor trails, gradually increase backpack weight. Practise carrying water bottles in backpack.
Yatris will have to remain prepared to deal with both extremes of climate during the pilgrimage. They will have to bear hot sun when trekking through lower foothills to freezing temperatures at night while camping in high valleys. Yatris often wear multiple sweaters, T-shirt and pant besides thermal jacket, scarf, several pairs of socks while performing the parikrama. Rain coat, hat and monkey cap are also required for the yatra.
Discomfort, uneasiness, breathlessness, poor sleeping patterns or limited capacity for physical exertion are some of the main symptoms of altitude sickness. It is caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude and commonly occurs above 2,400 metres (8,000 feet).
Tips to prevent mountain sickness:
• Drinking plenty of water is a must as it will prevent dehydration.
• Eat light food rich in carbohydrates.
• When tired, do not push yourself to climb further and take breaks in between.
• Avoid alcohol and smoking during travel to avoid dehydration.
• Ascending slowly is the best way to avoid altitude sickness and avoid strenuous activity.
While there are travel agents who conduct Kailash Manasarovar Yatra tours of shorter durations too, they are on a different route than the once conducted by the Ministry of External Affairs. There are also helicopter tours offered by travel agents that aren’t as enduring as the others and are shorter too.
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