Last Updated on April 10, 2022 by asoulwindow
Information about Yam Dwar
Yam Dwar is one of the several unsolved secrets and mysteries that surround Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. There are many stories and legends which are associated with Yam Dwar. It was not until I visited Yam Dwar that I realised it is not an ordinary place. There is a mystical aura to Yam Dwar that is hard to explain.
Including Yam Dwar while planning a trip to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar in inevitable. Thousands of Hindu devotees travel to Yam Dwar every year during the high season. This detailed travel guide will give you deep insights on Yam Dwar. It is the most exhaustive and most comprehensive travel guide on Yam Dwar ever. Here is all you wanted to know about Yam Dwar.
What is Yam Dwar?
Yam Dwar was the highlight of my Tibet trip. This place is off the touristy trail. Yam Dwar is the gateway to parikrama or kora or circumambulation around the holy Kailash Parbat, also known as Gang Rinpoche, Kangrinboqê or Gang Ren Bo Qi Feng in Tibetan and Mandarin languages.
Yam Dwar, which is located in Darchen has a small door through which devotees pass and start the parikrama. The entire region around Kailash Parbat and Mansarovar Lake is highly sacred, whether it is the river or stones or other mountains. This is why immense respect is shown by the devotees to everything they see on parikrama. This is the place where you can feel the divine presence in its truest and rawest form.
There are several do’s and don’ts that one must bear in mind while crossing Yam Dwar. You must read this detailed travel guide on the famous Yam Dwar before starting Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. This is the most information packed guide on Yam Dwar. I have explained all its aspects in detail in this travelogue. You will not find such information in mainstream media and guide books.
Why is Yam Dwar Famous?
What is special about Yam Dwar? Spiritual relevance of Yam Dwar is immense. Yam Dwar is popular because it is the starting point of the parikramara or kora or circumambulation of the holy Kailash Parvat, the abode of Shiva Bhagwan, the very source of creation.
This is why Yam Dwar, located in Tarboche is a very significant and important place in Hindu culture. Yam Dwar is a very important place because every devotee needs to pass Yam Dwar when they start the 3 days long parikrama around Mount Kailash Parvat.
There is no way a devotee can escape or skip Yam Dwar. If you want to reach the abode of Shiva Bhagwan, you have to cross Yam Dwar. Yam Dwar is an inevitable part of Kailash tour.
I was told that once I crossed Yam Dwar, I should leave everything to Shiv Bhagwan. This is the sole reason why Yam Dwar is one of the most important and significant stops during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. There are also many tourist places near Yam Dwar. You can reach these points of attractions in a car.
Nomenclature/Etymology of Yam Dwar
Yam Dwar is a Sanskrit and Hindi word. Yam stands for Yamraj, who is called as the ‘God of death’ in Sanatan Dharm or Hinduism. On the other hand, Dwar means Door. Therefore, Yam Dwar means the ‘door or gateway of Yamraj-the God of death!’. Yam Dwar is also known as the ‘The Gate of Salvation’ and Yam Gate.
The local Tibetan people call Yam Dwar as Chorten Kang Nagyi, which means ‘two-legged stupa’. It can also be known as the ‘Entrance gate of Yamraj’s house’. There is also a Yam Dwar at Naina Devi temple.
Where is Yam Dwar located?
Yam Dwar is located in Tarboche area near Darchen in the Ngari Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Darchen can also be called as the ‘Kailash Base Camp’ because the parikrama begins from here.
This region is located in West Tibet near the tri junction border of India, Nepal and Tibet. Yam Dwar lies on the path to the Kailash Parbat. There are many places of interest and tourist attractions near Yam Dwar.
Altitude of Yam Dwar
Yam Dwar is located on a height of 15,500 feet or 4,724 meters. This is a high-altitude area in Tibet. This region of Tibet has highest altitudes. Nyingchi in southeast part of Tibet has the lowest altitude at approximately 9,842 feet or 3,000 meters.
History of Yam Dwar
The door which the ‘bhaktas of Bholey’ pass through, seemed like a modern construction to me. That said, it has a historical significance. Historical significance of Yam Dwar dates back to several centuries. The unexplored place that Yam Dwar is, it is located away from the crowds.
Architecture of Yam Dwar
Though it has a Hindu name and has several Hindu stories associated with it, I was curious to see that the structure which is known as Yam Dwar or Yam Gate looks typically Buddhist in its architecture. Yam Dwar is built like a Buddhist chorten, many of which I have seen in Buddhist destinations such as Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal etc.
As I walked inside the Yam Dwar, I noticed several horns of Yak, old clothes, coins and prayer beads etc. These seems more of Buddhist symbols than Hindu symbols.
My experience at Yam Dwar
It was very windy, cloudy and very cold at Yam Dwar when I visited. I was surprised because, Darchen, which was just 5 kilometres away from Yam Dwar was calm, slightly warmer and sunny. This massive contrast of weather conditions between too places next to each other made me take notice.
It was a dramatic entry I had at Yam Dwar. We were barely able to stand still, it was that windy at Yam Gate. I hurried kept my huge backpack on ground and rummaged through the contents to find my gloves. After a bit of struggle, I was able to find my struggle. As I kept it on a rock nearby and got back to locking my backpack, the gloves started to fly due to fast wind.
I clicked few pictures before entering Yam Dwar because I was not supposed to look back at it once I had crossed the Yam Dwar. Once crossing Yam Dwar, I noticed a few unique local birds and playful marmots playing hide and seek with me from their underground burrow. I also noticed a Tibetan burial site where they cremate their dead loved ones.
But what was again intriguing that once we moved away from Yam Dwar, the weather suddenly became calm. The wind gave way to a calm atmosphere. It started to drizzle a little as I had my first glimpse of Kailash Parvat. In that moment, I knew I was doing something special!
Mysteries of Yam Dwar
I have documented several legends and stories associated with the Hindu history of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. However, the stories associated with Yam Dwar always intrigued me and made me curious to dig deeper.
After returning from Tibet, I studied Yam Dwar and its mysteries in detail. While doing my research, I realised that many mysteries and secrets of Yam Dwar have remained unsolved. The scientists, historians, devotees and atheists have failed to come to a unanimous conclusion.
It is times like this when I feel that some things must be left the way they are. Human existence is more insignificant that we think.
Below are some of the unsolved mysteries and secrets of Yam Dwar and Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.
Who guards Mount Kailash?
Every home needs a main gate from which visitors can enter. Since Kailash Parbat is the home of Lord Shiva (as the white people call Him), Yam Dwar serves at its main gate from which all the devotees enter the parikrama route around Mount Kailash. Yam Dwar, which deals with heaven and souls is a must-visit place in Darchen.
It is the Yamraj which guards the entire parikrama around Kailash Parvat at Yam Dwar. While no one knows where Yamraj stays, but we can visit places associated with Yamraj at this mysterious door around Kailash Parvat. As per some sources, Yama stays in Kalichi, which is located beneath the Earth.
But why does Yamraj guards Kailash Parbat personally? Let me delve deeper in this topic and try to find the truth!
Who is Yamraj
As Hindus, we have all grown up listening to the stories associated with Yam Raj or Yama who is also the brother of Saturn. Yam Raj is a male God who rides a buffalo. Being the god of Death in Hinduism, he’s the most feared of all Gods in the Hindu pantheon.
Yamraj smoothly takes the soul to the dimensions unknown to us. When a human is about to breathe his last, it is Yamraj who visits him. Yamraj was the first ever mortal human who had died. He went to heaven, after which he became the God of death.
The duty of Yamraj is to take the soul of the person with him and transport it to heaven from Earth. As per ancient Hindu scriptures, Yamraj then evaluates the sins and good deeds committed by the individual in his lifetime.
After the evaluation, the quality of the next birth of the deceased person is decided. Then he releases the person for the ultimate onward cosmic journey.
Thus, the main duty of Yamraj is to bring mortal souls to his Yamlok and pass judgments on the deceased person’s merits and sins. This is why in Hinduism, it is encouraged to perform good Karma.
Yamraj is the son of Sun God Surya Devta and Sanjna and the daughter of Vishwakarma. The mention of Yama has also been found in Hindu epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and the ancient scripture Puranas.
Yama in fact is mentioned as a cheerful king in the Vedas and not a death bringer who people need to be scared of. Yamraj is the ruler of the departed souls. Yamraj is also known as Dharam Raja (King of Justice), Mrytu, Kala, Antaka or Preta Raja (King of Ghost).
Soul Window Facts
Hindus strongly believe that after death, Hindus take new birth, the quality of which depends on the karmas built in past life. We all build our Karmic account, which decides the fate of our next birth.
Often the punishment or fruit of Karmas are also given in the same birth as well. Isn’t it a beautiful concept?
The ancient Sanatan Dharm never fails to amaze me. Hinduism after all is the oldest religion of the world. I personally believe Hinduism is a way of life, which only the wisest people understand!
Why Yam Raj guards the gateway to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?
Yamraj, the ‘Hindu God of death’ had made a promise to Shiv Bhagwan that no person will be allowed to proceed towards the holy Kailash Mountain with negative energy. To ensure the same, Yamraj has been personally guarding Yam Dwar since times immemorial.
Soul Window Thoughts
Personally, I felt the same as I started the parikrama from Yam Dwar. I felt devoid of all worldly worries, competition at work and any negative emotions as I arrived at Yam Dwar and took the first few steps towards Kailash Parbat. This place has an amazing energy which heals.
And you can feel that positive energy only when you perform the epic Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, the greatest of all Hindu pilgrimages.
Devils are prohibited
Yam Dwar is an entrance which a devil power is unable to pass through. If a person has bad intent or malicious thoughts, he will not be able to pass through Yam Dwar. This is why, we keep hearing of stories of people who fell sick and returned before performing Kailash Yatra.
It is widely known that when a person enters through Yam Dwar, he will be allowed to do so only when he has detached the soul from the mortal world.
The Story of Yamraj and Shiv ji
There is an interesting story behind Yam Dwar. This story throws light on the origin of Yam Dwar. Once upon a time, in the pre historical era, Yamraj visited a man to take his soul to heaven with him. The man begged to spare his life and pleaded for mercy. He didn’t want to die yet. Desperate, he towards a temple devoted to Shiva Bhagwan and started chanting the ancient Maha Mritiunjaya mantra.
This chant is associated with Shiva ji. Soon, Shiv ji appeared and interfered. He gave him strict orders to spare the life of this man. However, since Yamraj was bound by his duty, he refused to accept he orders of the supreme God. This enraged Shambhunath (Shiv ji) and he killed Yamraj.
It was a major event. It created furore in Dev Lok. Soon, other Gods requested Shiv ji to have mercy on Yamraj. Thanks to the intervention of Gods, Yam Raj was given another lease of life by Lord Shiva (as the west calls Him). Humbled, Yamraj made a promise to Shiv ji which he is fulfilling even today.
The promise which Yamraj made to Shiv ji was:
“Anyone who visits the home of Shiv ji in and around Kailash Parvat with complete faith shall be free of all the sins which he committed.”
Ever since, Yam Raj has been personally watching over the human movement in the abode of Lord Shiva (as the west calls Him). Yamraj has always showed his devotion to Shiva Bhagwan by providing protection to his devotees. This historical story explains how Yam Dwar came into existence.
Soul Window Facts
Maha Mritiunjaya Mantra is a healing mantra which Hindus chant even when they are not in distress. I play Maha Mritiunjaya mantra very often in the mornings as it helps me calm down, clear my clouded thoughts and get rid of any negative and depressing thoughts.
Benefits of crossing Yam Dwar
Every Hindu devotee must pass through Yam Dwar because it is said that once a devotee crosses this gate, he is bereft of any negative energy that surrounds him. The act of crossing Yam Dwar also liberates a true devotee from all the sins that he committed in the past. Yam Dwar is best place to visit with family.
Who built Yam Dwar?
Who constructed Yam Dwar? This is a commonly asked question. But it has remained an unsolved secret of Yam Dwar. No one knows who had constructed Yam Dwar.
When was Yam Dwar constructed?
This frequently asked questions have no clear answers even with all modern facilities and scientific progress by mankind. Several researches have been underway but none have been successful in determining the approximate date when Yam Dwar was built. Neither does anyone know how old are the nearby stones.
Several scientific researches were done on the stones that surround Yam Dwar. But nothing could be concluded despite all the studies.
Parikrama of Yam Dwar
Before I passed through the Yam Dwar, I was instructed to perform 3 parikrama or kora around the Yam Dwar. I was asked to perform these short circles around Yam Dwar in clock wise direction. By revolving around Yama Gate, it leads one to heaven. Passing through this door is akin to a purification process before the devotee commences the once-in-a lifetime Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.
Is doing Parikrama of Yam Dwar same as Kailash Yatra?
According to the Hindu history, if a true bhakt of bholey completes the parikrama of Yam Dwar with true intentions, then it is considered as good as completing the Kailash Yaatra.
We know from the ancient Hindu scriptures that once a devotee performs kora around the Yam Dwar, he gets a place in heaven. Yam after all is responsible for judging the deeds of humans after they breathe their last on Earth.
So, if a pilgrim enters through Yam Dwar, then Chitragupta absolves all your sins and evil deeds from the book of judgment. This is how devotees get a place in heaven. Chitragupta, as we know is the accountant of Yamraj. It is he, who keeps accounts of all the bad and good deeds done by each and every person.
Leave Yam Dwar soon
The devotees must not stay for long in Yam Dwar. It is said that no person can stay in this unique door for a long time or else they will not be able to survive. The local Tibetan people have also claimed the same. However, no scientific reason has been able to explain this theory. People have still not been able to solve this mystery.
Well, you can test it. But why take the risk! I would suggest that listen to the local people and do not stay at Yam Dwar for a long time. This is not a picnic spot and one must respect the sentiments attached to the faith of people.
Do not Stay overnight at Yam Dwar
It is commonly known that any person who spends the night inside the Yama Gate doesn’t remain alive. In the past, several such incidents have taken place here. That said, no one knows the reason behind this mystery of Yam Dwar. Some say, ghosts live at Yam Dwar who kill the people who sleep here overnight.
Don’t Look Back at Yam Dwar
Next, I was told that once I cross the Yam Dwar, I must not turn my back and look at Yam Dwar. Therefore, one must only look straight on the trekking path and surrounding landscape till Yam Dwar is out of sight.
How to figure that out?
Just keep walking and don’t look back till you feel that you have taken a turn and Yam Dwar is out of sight. It is said that it brings bad luck if a person turns back and looks at Yam Dwar after crossing it.
Mystery of Tibetan Flags at Yam Dwar
Tarboche is a very sacred place for Tibetan Buddhists. Buddhists and Bon people also start and finish their Parikrama or kora from Yam Dwar. This place has beautiful arrays of flags all around the Yam Dwar.
I was curious to see why the architecture of Yam Dwar looks so Tibetan and Buddhist. Also, I wondered why so many Tibetan Prayer Flags surround the Yam Dwar which is a Hindu place? I dug deeper and came back with startling facts.
Here is what I discovered. The local people of Tibet firmly hold the belief that Mount Kailash (as the west calls it) is the home of ‘Demchok’ who is their deity. This is why, every once in a year, the local Tibetans establish a new prayer flag-pole in Tarboche.
The old flagpole is replaced with the new one. Tibetans take special care to erect the flagpole upright. It is said that failing to do so brings bad luck to Tibetans. This is why this ceremony is taken very seriously by Tibetans.
A grand ceremony takes place on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month to replace the old flagpole with a new one. Many Tibetans congregate in Tarboche to celebrate the Saga Dawa festivities. The Tibetans do kora around the flagpole in a typical clockwise direction.
As they move in circles around the flagpole, the sounds of drums, horns and conches add to the atmosphere. It is a festival of joy and a visual delight! Traditional Tibetan folk and spiritual music and dance are also performed.
The meaning of Tibetan Flags at Yam Dwar
Apart from looking pretty, there is a deep meaning behind the multi coloured Tibetan flags that surround Yam Gate. There is a certain pattern which the Tibetans follow. For example, the local Tibetans arrange the colourful Buddhist flags in a specific colour scheme which is “blue, white, red, green, yellow”.
These multi-hued prayer flags are arranged from left to right. Much like the panchtatva (5 elements) of Hinduism, the different vibrant colours of flags represent various elements as well.
While the white colour represents air, yellow colour is of earth. The blue coloured flag represents sky, the red colour is a symbol of fire and lastly, the green colour is associated with water. When combined, these flags together represent the balance which establishes and supports life on earth.
Mystery of Tibetan Ritual
Did you know that the local people of Tibet pull hair from their body and offer it to Yama Dwar? It is an unusual thing to do in yam Dwar.
This symbolic Tibetan ritual is seen as an act of self-sacrifice. Buddhist Lama or monks also visit Yam Dwar, seeking salvation. A devotee who crosses the Yam Gate is liberated from the unending shackles of life and death.
Much like how old people who seek moksha stay in Mukti Dham in Varanasi, in the hope of breathing their last in this holy city in Uttar Pradesh in North India, a similar custom is followed in Yam Dwar.
Sick and ageing Buddhist Lamas visit Yam Dwar, in order to die here so that they can achieve salvation. These are some lesser-known facts.
Since most of Buddhist teachings are borrowed from Hinduism, therefore we find a similarity in the customs followed in Tibet and far away land in Varanasi.
Top things to do in Yam Dwar
What is there to do in Yam Dwar? Below are the best things to do at Yam Dwar
- Offer prayers.
- Do parikrama of Yam Dwar.
- Respect and do not do picnic here.
- Take pictures and videos before crossing Yam Dwar.
- Do not turn back and look at Yam Dwar once you have crossed it.
Excursions from Yam Dwar
While I was doing Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in Tibet, I also keenly observed the Tibetan way of life. I observed the daily lifestyle of local Tibetan people living in the remote village of Darchen. I was amazed with what I saw. Several water streams, tall mountains, irregularly shaped boulders and valleys fell on our route as we approached Darchen.
Even if you are not Hindu, you can visit several major attractions and picnic spots near Yam Dwar. I saw many Chinese tourists enjoying must-see sightseeing places near Yam Dwar.
Most of these scenic places are off the beaten track. You must hire a local guide who can show you these lesser visited places and hidden gems of Tibet.
There are many lesser-known places in West Tibet. The best sightseeing attractions near Yam Dwar are listed as below
You can read more on these places on A Soul Window, run by Abhinav Siingh – Best Travel influencers in India. You can also share the blog with friends and family.
Festival of Yam Dwar
Mahashivratri is the main festival in this region. The Tibetan festival Saga Dawa is also celebrated on a grand scale here.
Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Yam Dwar
There are no restaurants in Yam Dwar or Tarboche. Nearest restaurant is at Darchen. You should take packed lunch with you, like I did.
Is it safe to visit Yam Dwar?
It is a commonly asked question. Yes, Yam Dwar is very safe to visit if you take all the precautions.
Souvenirs Shopping Guide to Yam Dwar
There are no souvenir shops in Yam Dwar or Tarboche. You can do shopping in Darchen.
Photography Tips for Yam Dwar
It is allowed to take pictures at Yam Dwar. You must do all the photography and video making before you cross Yam Dwar. This is so because after crossing Yam Dwar you must not look back at it. Yam Dwar is a picturesque place and worth many shots.
Hire local tourist guide in Yam Dwar
You will always have a local guide because it is mandatory.
Languages spoken in Yam Dwar
Tibetan, mandarin, Hindi and English are commonly spoken here.
Books recommendation on Yam Dwar
You must read books on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra before you begin the journey.
Toilet facility near Yam Dwar
There are no public toilets near Yam Dwar. Some toilets are located at makeshift tea stalls if you walk a little ahead.
Entry fee at Yam Dwar
There is no entry fee at Yam Dwar. It is a free place to visit.
Backpacking Budget Travel Tips for Yam Dwar
It is not possible to do backpacking in much of Tibet due to several rules. It is not an inexpensive and pocket friendly destination.
Solo Trip Tips for Yam Dwar
You will mostly be in a big group even if you are travelling solo.
Luxury travel Tips for Yam Dwar
Do not expect much luxury facilities due to poor infrastructure in this remote location.
Where to stay around Yam Dwar
There are no hotels at Yam Dwar. I had stayed at a hotel in Darchen. It seemed like the most ‘luxurious’ hotel in Darchen. However, the quality of the hotel was bad.
The village of Darchen offers very few accommodation options, so we didn’t really have a choice. There are just a few couple of guesthouses and hotels with basic facilities in Darchen. For those who love a bit of adventure, they can try camping in and around the beautiful landscape of Darchen. There is no dearth of camping ground in Darchen.
What to wear in Yam Dwar
It was very windy when I visited Yam Dwar. You must wear and carry woolen clothes before you leave Darchen. Do read my packing guide for Parikrama.
Timings of Yam Dwar
There is no fixed timing to cross Yam Dwar. Since we arrived late from Mansarovar Lake to Darchen, we started parikrama late as well. I do not recommend this because we reached Deraphuk after dark. I would suggest that you start early morning from Darchen so that you have enough margin on the first day of parikrama.
Best Time to visit Yam Dwar?
December, January, February, March and April are the coldest months in and around Yam Dwar and much of Tibet. The temperature dips a lot in winter months.
May to August is the best time to perform Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.
It doesn’t rain much in this area. This is why devotees also do Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in monsoon. During my Tibet tour which spanned 15 days in last half of August, it had drizzled only once, on the first day of parikrama from Yam Dwar and Darchen to Deraphuk.
Duration of Visit in Yam Dwar?
I would suggest that you should spend not more than 15-30 minutes at Yam Dwar.
Local Transport for sightseeing in Yam Dwar
I saw most of the ponies at Deraphuk.
How to reach Yam Dwar in Tarboche, Darchen
There are several ways to arrive at Yam Dwar in Tarboche, Darchen
There are no railway stations in Yam Dwar, Tarboche or Darchen.
The closest airport from Yam Dwar at Tarboche and Darchen is located in Ngari Gunsa.
One needs to arrive at the town of Shiquanhe, also known as Ali. From Shiquanhe, bus to reach Darchen are available. You can also hire a private taxi service to reach Darchen. Many taxi service are available at Shiquanhe. We had travelled across West Tibet in a private car, so that made things a lot easier and allowed us to make several stops at our whims and fancies.
Distances from Yam Dwar
Yam Dwar is located just 5 kilometers away from Darchen, the main base town in Tibet for Kailash Yatra. It took me just a few minutes to reach Yam Dwar from Darchen in a car.
First day of parikrama between Yam Dwar and Deraphuk or Camp 1 spans 9 kilometers. It is mostly a flat walk.
Yam Dwar is also located in close proximity with other nearby spiritual places such as Deraphuk (North face of Kailash Parvat), the Dirapuk monastery, Dolma La Pass, Gauri Kund and Zuthulphuk.
These places are covered on foot or pony only. I arrived from Mansarovar lake, Rakshas Tal and Taklakot aka Purang or Burang via car as these places are a little far away from Yam Dwar in Darchen.
Conclusion: Is Yam Dwar worth visiting?
Why visit Yam Dwar? It is a frequently asked question. Here are my final thoughts. In Hindu history, there are several stories associated with the sacred Yam Dwar. In a nutshell, there is no doubt about how much auspicious and powerful Yam Dwar is. This is why, every true devotee of Shiva Bhagwan must visit Yam Dwar at least once in life.
To summarize, Yam Dwar being the starting point of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, is one of the most important stops of this epic Hindu pilgrimage.
The view from my Soul Window is mystical!
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