Pilgrimage in Tibet, The Tirthapuri Kora

Pilgrimage in Tibet not only includes many historically significant religious monuments but also some great sites where you can rejuvenate your tired body, aside from giving time for deep reflection to your mind. One of such pilgrimage tours is the Tirthapuri kora that gives you the opportunity for an invigorating dip in a couple of hot springs. Tirthapuri is on the banks of the great Sutlej River, just a couple of hours northwest from the town of Darchen (4560 m), and close to Mt. Kailash. In fact, if Mt. Kailash is in your itinerary on your pilgrimage in Tibet, you could as well make it to Tirthapuri and benefit from a dip or two at one of its hot springs. And, really, might as well, since you’ll have already gone so far from Lhasa, a long 1200 km, to reach Darchen for your Mt. Kailash tour.

So, do it, travel a few more hours to Tirthapuri, and after your spa, you might be refreshed enough to attempt the one-hour circumambulation (kora) around the Tirthapuri Monastery, also known as the Guru Rinpoche Monastery. The starting point of the kora is from the hot springs itself. You walk uphill along a trail which goes steadily upwards to arrive at a place with many rocks covered with plenty of worn out rags and old clothing. This is a cremation point. Now, from here you have the option of either continuing on a longer kora by climbing to the ridge top and then again making it to the regular trail near a long mani wall, or you can forgo that and continue on the regular trail without going to the top. Anyway, the trail goes onwards to reach a hole that has some significance: this is where pilgrims usually go on a ‘sour’ digging spree to avail of supposed medicinal benefits. There’s another hole up ahead that’s supposed to be the ‘sweet’ earth hole. Like said before, this is one pilgrimage in Tibet where you get to do a bit of natural self healing.

By and by, you arrive at a pass that’s similar to Drolma-la (5630 m) of Mt. Kailash, but on a much smaller scale, where you’ll see many mani stones and yak horns and skulls scattered around. Below this, the gorge is festooned with numerous prayer flags, and pilgrims regard the rocky pinnacles as naturally self-evolved chortens (rangjung). You continue walking and soon pass the Tirthapuri Monastery. Up ahead, as the trail goes back towards the monastery again, you’ll come across a rock with a hole in it. It’s beneath the single prayer wheel there. Now, this is where you get to test your karma. Put your hand inside the hole and grab two stones. Pull them out. If both your stones are whitish, you can rest assured that your karma is going great guns, nothing to worry about. If one is black and one is white, then, still, everything’s fine, still no need to worry, your karma’s okay. But, if both the stones are black, then you either say that you don’t believe all this stuff, and carry on as before, or, you think there may be something to it, and it’s time you did something about your lousy karma. Pray harder, more sincerely, do a couple more koras.

However, on the bright side, you are in the right place to set your karma right, after all you are on a pilgrimage in Tibet, and there are plenty of gods around to send some fervent prayers to! You can begin to do so at the monastery’s dukhang (assembly hall), where you’ll come to know that there are stone footprints of the Guru Rinpoche and his consort, Yeshe Tsogyel, near the altar, a right holy site. Also, outside the monastery itself, you’ll see a number of mani stones placed in a circle. This is where the gods were supposed to have descended from the heavens to dance and celebrate the enshrinement of Guru Rinpoche in the monastery. You’ll also see a 200-meter long mani wall next to the circle: the result of the Guru transforming an arrow fired at him by a demon. Good spot for some reflection what? That’s what you got to do when visiting sacred destinations, especially on pilgrimage tours in Tibet. Eventually, you decide to carry on and walk back down towards the river. Along the way, there are plenty of other mani walls as well. So, walk on, keep praying; you have plenty of opportunities to set your karma right on this pilgrimage in Tibet.

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