Mt Kailash in the far west of Tibet is the holy of holies for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Bonpos. Thousands of pilgrims from all of these religions (plus an ever-growing number of trekkers) circumambulate the mountain every year. Hindus and Buddhists walk in a clockwise direction whilst Jains and Bonpos do so in an anti-clockwise direction. It is believed that walking around the mountain just once will bring good fortune and wash away a lifetime of sins (it didn’t work for me!) but for many pilgrims, the more you do it, the better your situation gets – both in this life and the next. It’s a karma cleansing thing! For example, Buddhists believe that if you circumambulate the mountain 108 times you will secure your place in Nirvana whereas Tibetans believe that the more times you walk around Mt Kailash, the more good karma you will earn in this life.
There are other things you can do to improve the odds – performing body-length prostrations the entire length of the circuit is one and walking the 52km in one long day is another. We took 2½ days to complete our single kora (circumambulation) which is about average but we came across many pilgrims who were putting in much more effort than us including this young boy who was resting in Darchen (the closest village to Mt Kailash), having just completed his 15th kora. His father, who was on a kora at the time was on at least his 30th circumambulation and he was completing each one in one long 15 hour day.
Young pilgrim in Darchen, the jumping-off point for the kora/trek around Mt Kailash