Tirthapuri: Day 10 (Elevation 4330M / 14206FT)
July 23, 2010, 6:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

After the Saka Dawa celebrations we left Kailash for a few days to further explore the surroundings.  We head northwest to the sacred hot springs and meditation caves of Tirthapuri and set up camp in a little meadow on the bank of the Sutlej river.  Tirthapuri is the third holiest place in Ngari and traditionally the next destination after completing the Kailash kora; pilgrims stop here to soak their muscles in the purifying, medicinal hot spring pools after the walk. 

But being wild and crazy as we are, we mixed it up a bit for fun.  Actually, quite a number of us were still ailing from the altitude and/or stomach issues so a few more days to gather strength before the big walk around Kailash was the best choice.  And little did I know, stomach issues for me were just getting started.  I was carrying around a baby bug that was rapidly growing into a full-grown monster.  But for now I walked around blissfully ignorant to it, falling in love with Tirthapuri’s striking red, white and yellow landscape. 

We first head to the temple that enshrines the meditation cave of Guru Rinpoche and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal, and their footprints embedded in stone.  People of great realization are able to place body parts (usually feet, hands, or the crown of their heads) on rock and leave impressions behind.  Most sacred sites in Tibet have one or two of these from famous saints, or even their horses who have left hoof prints.  Pilgrims leave offerings to these stones or touch their heads to them for blessing.  Anyway, a nice example of this is housed in the temple below (unfortunately, not photographed):  

The earth at Tirthapuri is valued as having great medicinal properties.  Below, Chloe is having a little taste of a place said to be rich in a substance that heals stomach ailments.   I should have done more taste-testing in this particular spot in retrospect…

The temple’s mortar & pestle where medicine is ground:

Next we visited the karma-testing hole.  You are supposed to reach into the narrow hole and grab a stone: if the stone you choose is white, it means you have an accumulation of mainly good karma; if black, not so good.  I think you are actually meant to pull out two stones at a time: two white stones indicates good karma, one black and one white means there is still some work to be done, and two black stones indicate bad karma.  I guess we went straight for the definitive decision by only grabbing one at a time.  Below, Bernie is giving it a shot:

Black! Sorry, Bern:

Daniel and I then head off to explore a portion of Tirthapuri’s kora:

The hillsides are riddled with meditation dwellings.  I’m peeking out of one that had been well lived in but was currently vacant:

Back at camp, Chloe and I then spent the afternoon playing with this raucous little sheepherdess:

Then we walked over to the hot springs, of which I shamefully don’t have a single photo!  I am obsessed with hot springs.  I have fantasies of being a Himalayan hot spring developer/preservationist, keeping the hot springs of the Plateau as natural, trash free, ethereal, and accessible to pilgrims as possible.  Our experience of these hot springs were a let down.  The surroundings are gorgeous but the naturally formed pools weren’t really big enough to put our bodies in at the time.  I’ve recently read that the hot springs at Tirthapuri are “losing strength” and that seemed to be the case.  They were so small that people were only stopping to wash clothes in them. 

A development has been constructed below the springs that funnels the flow into tubs and a big, kind of disgusting, tiled swimming pool.  The water wasn’t warm or plentiful enough to fill the big pool for our intended group soak session so Chloe and I opted to try the individual wooden tubs.  We waited there, feeling filthy and full of anticipation, as they filled.  But as we stripped off and got into our tubs, we found them to be luke warm.  And despite the promises of the caretaker, they didn’t appear to be getting any hotter.  Nevertheless, Chloe and I jumped in and washed ourselves, shreeking and splashing the whole way.  It was a purifying experience, possibly; but not a relaxing one. 

All I have is this photo of the caretaker and his daughter taken outside of the horrid bathing complex (a construction that would have never been built had I followed my ultimate calling in life):


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Look Britt, as your friend, I’m not going to sugar coat this for you… you’re getting some great *&$%#*& pictures on this trip!

The composition of your pictures is really pleasing.

And the image qualites: I have heard that in Tibet they say god has 9 billion names*. Is it possible that the Buddah got reincarnated as your digital camera!? It must have at least as many pixels!

* I read it once in a sci-fi short story (great little story! (http://bestsciencefictionstories.com/2008/03/18/the-nine-billion-names-of-god-by-arthur-c-clarke/)

Keep snapping : )

Comment by Jeje

Jeeeez J, you are too kind (I’m pleased to see my mom’s checks are still coming).

I’m gonna curl up with that sci-fi story before bed tonight. 9 billion names for god… like the Eskimos have a 1,000 words for love or snow or whatever? Tibet’s packed full of gods so there are most definitely a whole lotta names. 9 billion may be pushing it though…

Comment by wayuphigh

Can I pop a few of them up on my facebook acct?

Comment by Jeje

I don’t really know what that means, but of course you can!

Comment by wayuphigh

Yeah, post them and say “hey, check out these pictures my friend in Tibet took”. Cool!

Comment by Jeje

OK, cool, but only if you replace “my friend” with “B$$”

Comment by wayuphigh

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