Saturday, September 20, 2014

To the Centre of the World, via Sikkim!

The Memorandum of Understanding signed on Thursday between the Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China on opening a new route for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Nathula comes as welcome news for the tourism stakeholders of the State as well as pilgrims across the country who now have another, shorter, safer and easier alternative. The agreement was among the 12 MoUs inked after delegation-level talks between India and China on Thursday.
The MoU provides for conducting the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Nathula in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand. “The route through Nathula will augment the capacity and reduce the hardship and journey time enabling many more pilgrims in particular aged pilgrims to undertake the Yatra,” the MoU states.
Although a significant announcement, the MoU appears to have excited the rest of India more than Sikkim, where responses needed to be invited and were not spontaneous as one would have expected on a development which has been on a demand list for several years now. Expectedly, the Sikkim Democratic Front was the first off the block and welcomed the signing, pointing out that this has been a consistent demand of the SDF with the Central Government.
Although it is still early days, and the details of the new development are still sketchy at best, the stakeholders, when contacted, were exuberant.
JN Road Drivers cum Owners Association president, Phurba Sherpa, through whose beat the new traffic will ply when it does, expressed that the association welcomes this MoU which will be especially beneficial for the areas along JN Road [to Nathula].
“This decision was the most important for our area especially for the tourism stakeholders and this route will help for the progress and development of these areas and its people,” he added. The Association has also conveyed its gratitude towards the Central Government and the Prime Minister and to the State Government and the Chief Minister for their respective roles in the development.
“We, the people of these areas welcome this agreement and we are ready to extend our full help and support for the success of the decision of the government,” Mr Sherpa expressed. He added that the decision was in the favour of the economic development of the state and its people.
Similarly, the Travel Agents Association of Sikkim president, Satish Bardewa, mentioned that the opening of this route was a long-cherished dream of the tourism stakeholders of the state. He added that TAAS and other stakeholders had also presented memorandums seeking the same to the Parliamentary Committees when they had visited Sikkim.
“This is a historic event for the state of Sikkim as this will project Sikkim in a still better way in the international map apart from the economic benefits to the state and neighbouring areas,” he added.
Mr. Bardewa stated that this development will also help promote Sikkim as a tourist destination in the international level and would help in the economic development of the state and the neighbouring area.
He expressed that the tourism stakeholders of the state were very much thankful and happy and excited at the same time with this MoU. On behalf of the TAAS and stakeholders, TAAS president expressed his gratitude to the vision of the Prime Minister and the Chinese President. He also thanked the State Government for its part in the historic event.
He also urged the State government that it ensure local participation in this route.
Sacred to Hindus, Jains and Buddhists across the world, the journey to Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake located in the Himalayan mountain ranges of the remote Southwestern corner of the Tibetan Autonomous Region is usually undertaken from Uttarakhand via Lipulekh Pass or overland from Nepal.
While Delhi-Kathmandu route by air takes 10 days and the ardous trekking route via Uttarakhand takes 27 days, the newer route via Nathula will take only 8 days to complete the yatra, according to sources. Nathula route was closed by China in 1962. After a decade of talks, Nathula was opened for trade on 06 July 2006.
The opening of the new route via Nathula could also mean that the yatra can now be undertaken from the country from March till November. The Lipulekh route is only open for four months in a year from June to September. Also, there is a limit on the number of pilgrims allowed to take the Lipulekh route every year. Normally there are 16 batches of 35 pilgrims every year. This year, 18 batches, each with a maximum 60 Yatris, are planned to be sent for the Yatra between 08 June and 09 September.
The Nathula route will make it possible to complete the Kailash Mansarovar yatra in around Rs. 60,000 cost. At present, the same yatra costs around Rs. 1 lakh. Nathula Pass was a major corridor of passage between India and Tibet before it was closed in 1962. Located around 56 kms from Gangtok at an altitude of 14450 ft, the road to Nathula passes through the Tsomgo lake. Nathula is presently open for trade on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays just on Indian side of the border. Foreign nationals are not allowed to visit Nathula.
Nathula route will pass through the city of Shigatse, which is part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The path that the Chinese have made after the Nathula Pass (a mountain pass between the north eastern province of Sikkim and Tibet) is a motorable road where pilgrims will be able to take a car.
The Kailash Parvat or Mount Kailash along with the holy Manasarovar lake is deeply integral to the heart of spiritual Asia, capturing the imagination of human beings since time immemorial.
According to Hindu legend, the lake was first created in the mind of the Lord Brahma. Hence, in Sanskrit it is called Manasarovar, which is a combination of the words ‘Manas’ (mind) and ‘Sarovar’ (lake).
Hindus also believe Mt. Kailash to be the abode of Lord Shiva, the holy centre of the earth and the manifestation of heaven itself.
Tibetan Buddhists profess that Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok who symbolizes supreme harmony.
The Tibetan religion of ‘Bon’ believes Mount Kailash as their spiritual seat of power.
In Jainism, Kailash, referred to as Mount Ashtapada, is the place where the creator of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained freedom from the cycle of life and rebirth.
Just 20 kilometers away from Mount Kailash, the sacred blue and emerald green Manasarovar lake that lies at a height of 15,015 ft, is known to be an epitome of purity, containing healing properties and the power to wash off all mortal sins.

fotoCaption: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessing the historic signing of an MoU between the Ministry of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China Wang Yi on opening a new route for pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibet Autonomous Region through Sikkim.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the info however can you also share how and what permits are required to take our own vehicle to mansarovar via this new route


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