Mt. Kailash (6714 meters), known in Tibet as Kang Rimpoche (Jewel of Snows) is the home of the Hindu God Shiva and his consort Devi, for Tibetans, it is the home of the God Demchog and his consort Dorje Phangmo. It is here, according to legend that Milareppa, a great Tibetan Yogi and master of Tantric Buddhism, vied with Naro-Bonchung, a grand master of Bon to prove the superiority of Buddhism. Many contests took place but the final one was to see who could first reach the summit of Mt. Kailash at the crack of dawn. Riding his damaru (ritual drum) Naro - Bonchung flew towards the peak of Mt. Kailash only to be overtaken at the last second by Milarepa. Naro-Bonchung was so astonished that he let go his drum which crashed down the mountain leaving a vertical scar - a distinctive feature of the south face.
Two lakes, Manasarovar (Mapam Tso) and Rakas Tal lie at the southern foot of Mt. Kailash. Takas Tal is associated with the forces of darkness whereas Lake Manasarovar is represents the forces of light. Also, the vicinity of Mt. Kailash is the source of four great Rivers (the Indus, The Sutlej, the Bramhaputra and the Karnali) which water the four quarters of the earth. Tibetan scriptures also speak of the four rivers issuing from the world mountain.
Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar remained unknown to the Western World until the eighteenth century, hidden behind some of the greatest natural barriers on earth. The First European to travel through the region was an Italian Jesuit missionary, Father Ippolito Desideri. In the winter of 1715 he crossed Western Tibet, a vast, sterile and terrible desert, following the course of Tsangpo river all the way to Lhasa. On the way, he passed Lake Manasarovar and a cloud-hidden mountain (Mount Kailash) that he reported was sacred to the powerful Tantrik wizard 'Urghien' or Padmasambhava.