Great Tibet Tour Logo GREAT TIBET TOUR ®

Faith and Blessings of the Saga Dawa Festival at Kailash

  • by Emily
  • Last Updated: 2024-06-03

On May 23, 2024, the Saga Dawa Festival was celebrated, which falls on the 15th day of the fourth month in the Tibetan calendar. It is the most important festival in Tibetan Buddhism and a day of profound faith in Tibet. On this day, the Mt.Kailash Kora reaches its peak, attracting numerous devotees. They come to perform the kora and participate in activities at the Sarshung Prayer Flag Square. It is a grand religious and cultural event.

Mount Kailash is revered by four major religions: Tibetan Buddhism, Bon, Hinduism, and Jainism. Each of these religions has a tradition of circumambulating the mountain, drawing countless pilgrims every year. Kora, the act of walking around a sacred mountain, is the most devout way of worshiping the holy mountain. Tibetans believe that those who endure hardships during the kora can cleanse their sins and purify their body and soul. Pilgrims must abandon their selfish desires and pray for others. According to Tibetan Buddhism, one kora around the holy mountain can cleanse a lifetime of sins; ten koras can free from suffering in hell for 500 lifetimes; and 108 koras can lead to Buddhahood in this life. Followers of Buddhism and Bon from the Tibetan region come for the pilgrimage, as well as groups of international pilgrims. For Hindus, visiting Kailash, the abode of Shiva, and bathing in Lake Mansarovar, where his wife Parvati is believed to bathe, is a sacred journey.

Saga Dawa celebration at Kailash
Jowo Shakyamuni statue, enshrined in Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet

Prayer Flag Pole Changing Ceremony

At the Sarshung Prayer Flag Square in Darchen, a solemn and grand ceremony—the Prayer Flag Pole Changing Ceremony was held. On this day, believers and local residents gathered here to pray for the blessings of the divine, casting their Longda and spreading their blessings.

As the sun rose, the Prayer Flag Pole Changing Ceremony commenced with cheers. Monks and devotees form four long lines, chanting "one, two, one, two" in Tibetan. The thick ropes slowly released, causing the towering 24-meter prayer flag pole to fall to the ground. People rush towards the fallen prayer flag pole, eagerly stripping it of its prayer flags, Khata scarves, and incense. It is believed that the flags hung on the pole for a year can ward off disasters, while those on the top of the pole possess the most potent blessings.

Pilgrims offered new prayer flags, Khata scarves, and incense to Mount Kailash, which were then fixed onto the prayer flag pole. The pole was raised halfway, awaiting the first light of dawn the next day, symbolizing the commencement of the annual kora ritual. As the mantras resonated, monks and thousands of pilgrims formed a long procession around the freshly erected pole. Reciting scriptures softly, the elderly spun prayer wheels. The younger ones counted their prayer beads, offering Tsampa with one hand high towards the sky, creating a misty haze in the wind.

Present Khata
Present Khata to the newly erected prayer flag pole.

With the completion of the ceremony, amidst the cheers, the prayer flag pole was slowly raised by the combined effort of vehicles and people. In this moment, the thunderous cheers deafen the ears. The Prayer Flag Pole Changing Ceremony concluded, and people began their Mount Kailash Kora.

Mt. Kailash Kora During Saga Dawa Festival

The kora around Mount Kailash, monasteries, and stupas is an unchanging tradition in Tibetan culture. For many Tibetans, completing a Mt. Kailash Kora is a lifelong dream. The fourth month of the Tibetan calendar is called "Saga Dawa," and the festival lasts throughout this month. April 15th, in Tibetan religious history, is the most sacred day (the birth, parinirvana, and enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha). Buddha said that doing a good deed this month is equivalent to doing ten thousand good deeds. Therefore, during this month, many believers engage in fasting, reciting prayers, and performing the kora. The Mt. Kailash Kora at the Saga Dawa Festival draws tens of thousands of Tibetan locals and tourists who gather at the foot of Mount Kailash in the town of Darchen.

The kora is about 53 kilometers, usually starting and ending at Darchen. If you prefer not to do the kora, you can drive directly to the Sarshung Prayer Flag Square and use it as a base for trekking or photographing Mount Kailash. The entire journey can be arranged over 4-5 days and the kora itself takes 2-3 days, allowing for a leisurely pace to appreciate the different views of Mount Kailash.

Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus perform the kora clockwise, while Bon followers do it counterclockwise. A 2-3 day kora plan could be as follows:

- Day 1: Trek from Darchen to Drirapuk Monastery, 20 km, ascending 238 meters, approximately 7 hours.
- Day 2: Trek from Drirapuk Monastery to Zutulpuk Monastery, 24 km, the most challenging day, ascending 645 meters to the highest point at Dolma La Pass (5630 meters) and then descending 893 meters, taking about 9 hours.
- Day 3: Trek from Zutulpuk Monastery to Darchen, 9 km, descending 150 meters, taking about 3 hours.

Holy Mount Kailash during Saga Dawa of 2024

It is said that Mount Kailash shows different aspects and scenery to pilgrims based on their accumulated merits. Even the colors of the stones seen during the kora may vary accordingly. From Drirapuk Monastery to Zutrul Phuk, you will see a rock believed to be where Milarepa and Naro Bonchung competed in miracles. Near the top of Dolma La Pass, there is a narrow crevice, and the more merits accumulated, the easier it is to pass through. The sacred lake at its base is believed to be the bathing lake of the Hindu goddess Uma Devi. Along the Kora route, you will also pass by several ancient Kagyu monasteries, which you can visit for further spiritual experiences.


During the Saga Dawa Festival, Mount Kailash exudes an extraordinary solemnity. Its foothills, especially the Sarshung Prayer Flag Square, become a gathering place for believers and tourists from both near and far. Together, they take part in this spiritual baptism, where every prayer flag carries forth beautiful wishes for the world and an infinite reverence for life.

Related Articles

Recommended Tour Packages

Mt.Everest & Mt.Kailash Kora Pilgrimage Group Tour
Lhasa – Shigatse - EBC - Kailash - Shigatse - Lhasa

15 Days Mt.Everest & Mt.Kailash Kora Pilgrimage Group Tour

View more
Lhasa Mt Everest & Mt Kailash Kathmandu Group Tour
Lhasa – Gyantse – Shigatse - EBC - Kailash Trek - Lake Manasarovar – Zhongba - Gyriong

12 Days Lhasa Mt Everest & Mt Kailash Kathmandu Group Tour

View more
Leisurely Kailash Tour Without Trekking
Lhasa – Shigatse - EBC - Leisurely Kailash Hike - Lake Manasarovar – Saga - Shigatse - Lhasa

13 Days Leisurely Kailash Tour Without Trekking

View more
Ask a Quick Question Below?
or Email Us