“If you are born in India, you hear so much about Mount Kailash that you feel a sense of connectivity to that place, thinking, Lord Shiva lives there,” says actor Lakshmi Manchu. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation with her about her journey and more. By Kumar Shree

The first time I went to Mount Kailash, it was four months after my daughter was born and it just so happened that He [Lord Shiva] called me to visit him. The first time I went there, it was very difficult for me. When there, your survival instinct becomes your primal instinct as you go up in altitude; the food and the place changes. It’s not like you are going to a five-star hotel anywhere in the world where you have a little discussion here and there, you go to the concierge and they take care of what you don’t have.

Here, the concierge is you, you are dependent on where you are going and you have to really take care of your health, your attitude, sickness, the food, the water intake because the first nine to 10 days forms the journey of just getting to Lake Manasarovar or Kailash, and then it’s only three days there. Once you finish the three-day trek, it takes one day to come back home because you fly or drive as you wish. I’ve always taken the quicker route back because it just makes things so much easier. The first time I went, I was like–thank you, Lord Shiva, I love you so much, thank you for this opportunity, I’ll see you in my next life, I cannot do this again.

Two years later, some of my friends wanted to go, and they were like Lakshmi you have to go, and I gave in saying, okay, let’s go, and once I booked my ticket, everybody dropped out and then I had no reason to drop out, so I felt really guilty and I went alone this time.

Again, two years later, I took eight people with me–all first-timers, and they all finished the parikrama together.

What attracts me to that place, I don’t know. It’s something–you cannot express it, you just have to experience it. It’s one of those places in the Himalayan ranges that you see differently. You see the rest of the Himalayan range in one way, and then you see Mount Kailash–so magnificent, so vibrant–there is no denying the energy you feel when you go there. It doesn’t matter if you are a Jain, Hindu, Buddhist. I mean for all these three religions, it’s called the central and the focal point of the universe and there is a lot of energy emulating from that mountain. If your mythology has something to do with it, great, but it doesn’t even, I see it as a must-see place–so pure and pristine. 

The history that it has and the stories that we’ve heard and the Puranas, how far they go, it’s humbling just so that you can breathe so high up. Up there you don’t have time for bullshit. You are just there in that quiet, in that stillness, and amidst that, the magnificent rock signifies strength for me. Something about that made me go back, and now even three times over, I don’t think I’m done yet, I don’t know what is the calling, but I know I’ll go back.

People also say, why are you going? You are not so old, why do you need it. I feel as long as you have that grace, you are young and you can receive that energy, you can lead your life that much longer with his grace. I’ve not been to Kedarnath and people go like “oh my god, you have not been there.” It’s not about temples for me but about the whole journey of getting to a place. Also, what I like about Mount Kailash is that there are no pujas, no temples – you just walk around this mountain to receive this energy.

How To Get There?

There is a route from India and Tibet as well, but I would recommend the route from Tibet, which is now China. So you take Nepal-Kathmandu, Kathmandu to Tibet (they removed one of the books from our bags because it said Tibet, they want that race to give up and they just want the Chinese to be there.) I see a difference from when I went four years ago to my third visit now and it’s improved – the roads, the hotels, the stay – there is a lot of governance that is happening.

About The Locals

I loved talking to the locals. You know for me another thing–it could be anywhere but with a few of my acting skills and a few of the English words, I can manage, but with Tibetans, they are such mountain people, I cannot show them what water is because for them it’s a different gesture from what water is for me. No amount of English or acting can help you communicate with them, but the real thing that communicates between two people is love. They can see how you are coming, your intention, your attitude and it pushes you to be a better human being because they don’t know who I am there. It brings in a lot of perspective for me being a superstar’s daughter, sister, and being an actor myself.

Travel Contributes to Your Work?

When I travel in my capacity, I love to learn and explore about the place, its people, culture, food, and the community because I think every time I do a trip like that, I improve myself as an actor. For me, you can say that I live in a suitcase and I’ve learned that every experience feeds you as an artist. As I told you earlier, it’s very easy to get carried away when you’re living in a city and work there and only going on work-related holidays. I don’t want that, I like to completely remove myself from my profession as an actor and I go to find myself on these trips.

Your Favourite Cuisines

Italian, Japanese, my mom’s home-cooked food.

Bucket List Destinations

I want to travel the world with my daughter, I want to do a full-year tour where we don’t touch any cities but see villages and towns.

Recommendations for Taking the Kailash Mansarovar Trip

The group that you travel with is very important; you must pick your sherpas very carefully; do your research as it’s not something you tick off on your bucket list, it’s a journey to the self and if you’re looking to that, then there is no coming back.

Related: Face To Face With The Mystical Eiger Mountain In Switzerland