(TibetanReview.net, Dec07’23) – The Chinese government in Tibet Autonomous Region blocked entry to nearly 50,000 pilgrims from India this year while letting in visitors from all other countries, compelling many to visit Nepal instead, reported the kathmandupost.com Dec 6.
May and June are the months for the Mt Kailash-Lake Mansarovar Yatra (pilgrimage) in western Tibet for visitors from India.
And “there were massive bookings, nearly 50,000, from Indian travellers for the yatra this year, but Chinese authorities denied access to them,” Basu Adhikari, managing director of Touch Kailash Travel and Treks, has said.
“All foreigners were allowed to visit one of the most sacred journeys for devotees, except Indians.”
Beijing slapped so many restrictions making travel difficult, particularly for Indian travellers, tour operators in Nepal were cited a saying.
This left the prospective Indian pilgrims with no choice but to visit Nepal instead.
“Many Indians had booked the packages, and for most of them, there was no refund option, particularly the air tickets. So they decided to visit Nepal’s holy places,” Adhikari has said. “This could be one of the key reasons behind the surge in Indian travellers” to Nepal.
They were forced to visit Nepal’s holy places like Muktinath and Lumbini on the same package, the report cited at least three tour operators in Nepal dealing with the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra package as saying. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha Shakyamuni, considered holy by Hindus as an avatar of Vishnu.
Muktinath is located in the ethnically Tibetan region of Mustang in Nepal, bordering Tibet.
Muktinath was already popular among visitors from China. And it became popular for visitors from India as well after May 12, 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi prayed at the iconic temple, the report said. The temple is regarded as sacred by both Hindus and Buddhists.
The Nepal Tourism Board data shows that the peak influx of Indian visitors was recorded in June when 38,845 Indians visited Nepal. In May, the number was 36,575, the report said.
It is not clear yet whether Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage will be easier for visitors from India next year.
“We are not sure about the new policy Beijing will introduce for Indian travellers in the next year. It will be known in January,” Adhikari has said.
There are five routes to Mt Kailash and Lake Mansarovar for pilgrims from India. The Dharchula Pass in Uttarakhand and Nathula in Sikkim, both from India; and Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi border points and the Nepalgunj gateway, from Nepal.
The report said the Nepalgunj-Simikot-Hilsa-Mansarovar route is the shortest, and the itinerary is affordable and easy. Travellers usually fly from Nepalgunj to Simikot by fixed-wing aircraft and then take a helicopter to Hilsa on the border with Tibet, it added.