China delays pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar

New Delhi, May 20:

China is delaying an annual Hindu pilgrimage to a mountainside shrine in Tibet by three weeks, India’s foreign ministry said today.

China gave no specific reasons for the delay, saying only that “on account of domestic reasons, they would not be in a position to receive pilgrims before June 21,” the ministry, which organises the trips, said in a statement.

But Beijing has clamped down on travel to Tibet since March protests against its rule in the region. The protests, which turned violent, also touched off pro-Tibetan demonstrations in neighbouring provinces and around the world.

Each year, about 1,000 Indians trek across the Himalayas and into Tibet - crossing passes up to 5,940 meters high - to visit the revered Hindu shrine of Kailash Mansarovar. Mount Kailash is believed to be the home of Hindu god Shiva.

This year’s pilgrimage, originally scheduled to begin in late May, will now begin in mid June, the foreign ministry said. There was no immediate comment from Beijing.

Apart from Hindus, Mount Kailash is also considered holy to Tibetan Buddhists, Indian Jains and the Bon, who follow a religion that predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet.