Date of Post: Vijaya Dashami – Oct 14, 2013
Let us begin our meandering in Maanasa with a short video clip….Pardon the shake, for there is plenty of it! But have a dekho in any case, hear the wind, fly with the birds… Have a glimpse of blue waters and the mountain landscape…
So! Happy Dussehra, Navaratri, Vijaya Dasami folks! And what place more appropriate than Manasarovar, to celebrate the great festival of Mother Goddess Shakti? And why is that, you ask?
Let us begin with a story, which most folks in India will be familiar with…The story of Sati.
Sati was the daughter of Daksha, the celestial patriarch, and was therefore also known as Daakshaayani.. Now Sati decided to marry Lord Shiva, and that did not please her father at all, for Daksha thought very poorly of Shiva. Sati, firm in her resolve, did tremendous penance to attain Shiva. Shiva bowed to her penance and acceded to her love, and they were married. Needless to say, Daksha was very cut up about it and the marriage took place without his blessings. One day, Daksha decided to perform a major Yagya. All the celestial deities were invited. But he did not invite Sati and Shiva. When Sati came to know of this great Yagya, she told Shiva that she would like to attend this function. Shiva tried to dissuade her saying that they had not been invited, and Daksha was sure to heap more insult if they actually attended without being invited. Sati however quoted the words of Shastra that a daughter needed no invitation to go to her father’s house, and that she would attend the function, and Shiva need not come. Shiva had to relent. Sati went on her own to the function. When Daksha saw her, he treated her with disrespect. Moreover, Sati noticed that no place or offerings of Yajna had been kept for Shiva, who is the One at the heart of all Yajna. When questioned by Sati, Daksha hurled insults at Shiva. Sati, in anger, decided that the body that was born of Daksha should not exist any more. So she sat in Yoga, merged her mind in Samadhi, roused her Kundalini fire, and cosigned her body to the fire of Yoga.
Shiva came to know of her demise, and his Gana-s came and wrecked the Yajna. Shiva himself came and picked up the body of Sati. In anger he performed the Tandava dance. Shiva was carried the body and danced over the whole of the world. The whole of Creation was at peril with Shiva doing the Tandava.
Seeing that the whole world was in danger, Lord Vishnu pursued Shiva, and with his Sudarshana Chakra, he started cutting off parts of Sati’s body that Shiva was carrying… Different parts of Her body fell in different parts of the world. The places where they fell are worshipped as Shakti Peetha-s. There are fifty one shakti peetha-s. These correspond to the fifty one akshara-s (letters of sanskrit alphabet). Each of the shakti-peetha is associated with one aspect of Shakti (for eg Kali, Kamakshi, Kamakhya, Tara Tarini etc)
Manasarovar is one of the 51 shakti Peetha-s. It is the place where Sati’s right hand fell.
Here is a painting of Shiva carrying Sati on his trident, as he carried her across the world.. (Click here for source)
Does it not suggest to our eye that the hills in the background are the Kailasa range, and the lake at the foot is Manasarovar?
Be that as it may.
Manasarovar is the place where the right hand of Sati fell.
Now, let us dwell a bit on the practice of Sati in India. Banned now by law, the practice of Sati, where a widow voluntarily performs self immolation on her husband’s funeral pyre, has been known to exist in India since the time of Alexander’s invasion. Instances of Sati have been marked by erection of memorial stones, known as Sati stones. These are found in many parts of India. Below is a picture of a Sati stone from Jodhpur, marking the Sati of the wives of Maharaja-s of Jodhpur.
Here are a few more photos of Sati stones I got from the Net.
Click on the first one, and use arrow keys to browse. Have a look at each photo.
What do you notice?
Each sati stone highlights the right hand. The Jodhpur stone above has the facsimile of palm prints of the right hand of the Queens. The other stones in the gallery above, show either the Sati lady with her right hand raised, or just the impression of the right hand.
Now Maanasarovar is associated with the place where Goddess Sati’s right hand fell.
What is the other thing that you notice in the pictures? In most of the photographs, you find the symbols of sun and moon. Moon above the lady’s head, or one side of the hand. The Sun on the other side. Also, in the Hampi and Kedareshwar pictures, there is a Shiva Linga in between the sun and the moon. In Anantapur picture there is a Shiva Linga and Nandi above the hand.
Now, let us see a sketch of Manasarovar from a Thang-ka (Tibetan scroll painting) taken from the page 278 of the book “The Way of the White Clouds” by Lama Govinda (a must read book).
Notice Manasarovar (oval lake) on the right, and Rakshas Tal on the left. Notice the Sun on top of Manas. And the moon on top of Rakshas Tal. Notice the Shiva Linga (Kailasa) between the Sun and the moon.
Take a breath. Take a dip in Manas. Dive into the cool depths of the mind.
Yes, there is some symbolic connect of Sati and Manasarovar. For one, it is the place where Goddess Sati’s right hand fell. Two, the symbolism of right hand in Sati stones in India. Three, the sun and moon depiction in both depictions. Four, the Shiva Linga in the top. Maanasa-sanchara-rey ….
And there is one more data point. Each of the fifty one Shakti peetha-s is associated with one name (aspect) of Shakti. For eg, Chandi, Kamakshi, Vajreshwari, Bhavani etc. The Shakti associated with Manasarovar is Dakshayani. Yes, the very person of Sati… Dakshayani…
And we saw in the story of Dakshayani how she immolated herself by the fire of Kundalini yoga.
This entire symbolism of sun, moon, fire, and shiva linga, is but a depiction of this Yoga of Kundalini. In Tibetan Buddhism the practice of raising the internal fire is known as Tummo. When the Kundalini rises to the crown, there is the ultimate union of Siva and Shakti… That is the Sandhya – the meeting point of Sun and Moon… It is the balance of ida and pingala, that the lakes Manasarovar and Rakshas Tal represent. Kailasa is the Meru. Like the spinal column with the sushumna nadi is called the Meru Danda in the microcosm of the human body, Mount Kailash is the Meru, the axis of the macrocosm. And the great reality is the union of shiva-shakti, which is depicted as the Shiva-Linga, manifest on earth as Mt Kailasa.
Let us look for some knowledge on this from the wonderful book “The Way of the White Clouds” by Lama Govinda.
“The solar and lunar symbolism of the sacred lakes is illustrated in Tibetan pictures (like the one on page 278) by showing the sun-disk in the sky above the circular shape of Manasarovar, and the waning moon above the crescent-shaped Rakastal.
These sun and moon symbols are used in every Tibetan scroll-painting (thang-ka) in which Buddhas, deities, or saints are depicted. Sun and moon signify the two streams or currents of psychic energy, which move upwards to the right and to the left of the central channel or ‘median nerve’ of the spinal column. In Yogic meditation these two currents are integrated in the central channel and rise through it from one psychic centre or level of consciousness to the other, until the integrated stream reach es the highest multi-dimensional level of an enlightened consciousness. As Mount Kailas corresponds to the spinal column, it represents the axis of the spiritual universe, rising through innumerable world-planes (indicated by the actual horizontal stratification of the mountain , which is as regular and distinct as that of an Indian temple), from the human to the highest divine level, while the two lakes are looked upon as the reservoirs of the two streams of psychic energy.”
… “The interrelationship of these forces-solar and lunar energy, conscious and subconscious forces, the principles of light and darkness, male and female energies, action and contemplation, emptiness and form – is the great discovery of Tantric philosophy. He who realises its truth is fit to worship the awe-inspiring Master of Kailas, whether he sees him in the form of Shiva, the destroyer of this world of illusion, or in the form of Demchog, who like Shiva tears asunder the elephant-hide of ignorance…”
**End of quote**
Yes, Manasarovar-RakshasTal-Kailasa region surely is the hub of Shakti. It is here that Shankara Bhagavatpada (Adi Shankara) received the Soundarya Lahari, the Supreme Treatise on Shakti upasana.
It is here that the right hand of Shakti fell – the Abhaya hasta – the hand that gives you freedom from fear, the hand that bestows blessings!
Oh the great sport of Shiva!
Let us conclude this post with a verse from Soundarya Lahari of Adi Shankara..
विरिञ्चिः पञ्चत्वं व्रजति हरिराप्नोति विरतिं
विनाशं कीनाशो भजति धनदो याति निधनम् |
वितन्द्री माहेन्द्री विततिरपि संमीलितदृशा
महासंहारेऽस्मिन् विहरति सति त्वत्पतिरसौ ||२६||
Virinchi, Brahma, attains dissolution
Hari attains a pause
The Destroyer Yama obtains destruction
And Kubera , the Lord of wealth, dies!
The succession of Indra-s remain asleep, eyes closed!
But, Sati (my chaste mother)
Even at that time of the great Dissolution
Your consort (Shiva) sports!
Glory to Sati Devi Manasarovar! Happy Navaratri to all!
*** To be continued ***