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Indian pilgrims complain of being prevented from taking holy dip in Tibet’s Mansarovar lake, but New Delhi refutes it

(Photo courtesy: thekailashmansarovar.com)
(Photo courtesy: thekailashmansarovar.com)

(TibetanReview.net, May29, 2018) – Indian pilgrims at the Mansarovar Lake in western Tibet’s Ngari (Chinese: Ali) Prefecture have complained that they have been prevented from taking a holy dip, prompting some to refuse to leave until this vital aspect of their ritual was allowed to be completed. However, India’s External Affairs Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj has refuted this claim, saying there was a designated place for taking the dip and suggesting the complainants were prevented from doing this elsewhere.

Several devotees had on May 28 claimed that they were not allowed to take a holy dip in the lake by Chinese officials and have refused to return until they were allowed to perform this ritual, reported financialexpress.com May 29. A video tweet shared by Sanjeev Thakur, who was leading a delegation of Indian devotees, was stated to ask why they were given visa if they couldn’t take a holy dip in the lake.

He was reported to have said that China had issued an order not to allow devotees from taking a dip in the lake. “There are around 50-80 devotees accompanying me. Over 3,000 people from across the world are undertaking this pilgrimage. But, according to an order by China, we are not being allowed to take a holy dip in the Mansarovar Lake,” he was quoted as saying.

However, Sushma Swaraj, who has said she had received a tweet from devotees alleging they were not allowed to take the dip, has rejected this claim. Citing JSEA, the Indian government body responsible for organizing the pilgrimage, she has said, “There is always a designated place where you can take a bath. No one can take a dip just anywhere in the lake. We have conveyed the same to the people who contacted us.”

However, such a complaint is not known to have arisen before.  Sanjeev Thakur has gone to the extent of saying, “If we are not being allowed, why were we issued visas and permits? We won’t leave this place if we aren’t allowed to perform the ritual.”

Earlier, on May 8, Ms Sushma Swaraj had announced that the Nathu La pass had been reopened for the annual Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage after India took up the issue with Chinese authorities. China had shut down this route in Sikkim and denied entry to the Kailash-Mansoravar pilgrims last year due to the 73-day border standoff at Doklam between troops of India and China.

The pilgrimage is organised by India’s Ministry of External Affairs each year between June and September in cooperation with the government of People’s Republic of China through two different routes – the arduous Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand state lasting 24 days on foot and the recently opened easier but longer Nathu La Pass in Sikkim state lasting 20 days on vehicular road.

Indians reportedly did not require visa to undertake pilgrimage to the Kailash-Mansarovar sites before China fully annexed Tibet in 1959.

Mount Kailash is holy to Hindus as the abode of Lord Shiva. It is also holy to Jains and Buddhists.

The Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage is one of the toughest in the world. An easy historical route exists for Indian pilgrims through Demchok in Ladakh, but China does not allow it.

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