(TibetanReview.net, Jun23, 2018) – The first group of government organized Indian pilgrimage to western Tibet’s Kailash-Mansarovar sites entering through the recently opened border pass in Sikkim of Nathu-la had crossed into Tibet on Jun 20. The 38 pilgrims will travel to Mansarovar Lake and Mount Kailash in Ngari prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region in the following 12 days, reported China’s official China Daily newspaper Jun 22.
The Mansarovar Lake and Mount Kailash are sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Tibetan Bon practitioners.
This year, the pass is expected to see about 500 such pilgrims from India making the 2,874-kilometre pilgrimage, the report cited Yang Zhigang, deputy director of the office of foreign affairs and overseas Chinese affairs in Xigaze (Shigatse), the region’s second-biggest city, as saying.
The report said hotel rooms had been booked for the pilgrims, who pay for themselves, in the region’s counties of Kangmar, Lhaze and Drongba.
China began allowing Indians to make pilgrimages to Tibet in 1981 after fully annexing Tibet in 1959 and its border aggression on India in later 1962. However, the pilgrims had to take the arduous route from the Lipulekh border pass in Uttarakhand state, with the journey lasting 24 days on foot.
The recently opened Nathu La route cuts travel time for pilgrims from more than 20 days to about eight to 12 days, the report said.
The Nathu-la pass was opened in 2015, but China shut it last year after a tense border standoff between troops of the two countries at Doklam which lasted 73 days.