Welcome to the holy waters of Maanas. Welcome to the region of the world where Siva narrated the story of Rama to Girija, daughter of Himavan. Goswami Tulasidasa saw it all in his mind’s eye, and named that great story of Rama as Maanas – Ramacaritamaanas…
Speaking of the epic, Tulasi says:
रामचरितमानस एहि नामा। सुनत श्रवन पाइअ बिश्रामा।।
One derives solace by hearing its very name, Ramacaritamaanasa (the Maanasa lake of Sri Rama’s exploits)
रामचरितमानस मुनि भावन। बिरचेउ संभु सुहावन पावन।।
त्रिबिध दोष दुख दारिद दावन। कलि कुचालि कुलि कलुष नसावन।।
रचि महेस निज मानस राखा। पाइ सुसमउ सिवा सन भाषा।।
The holy and beautiful Ramacaritamaanas is the delight of sages; it was conceived by Shambhu (Lord Shiva). It puts down the three kinds of error sorrow and indigence and uproots all evil practices and impurities of the Kali age. Having conceived it, the great Lord Shiva treasured it in his Maanas till, when a favourable opportunity presented itself, He communicated it to His consort Shivaa (Parvati)…
सुठि सुंदर संबाद बर बिरचे बुद्धि बिचारि।
तेइ एहि पावन सुभग सर घाट मनोहर चारि।।36।।
The four most beautiful and excellent dialogues (viz., those between (i) Bhushundi and Garuda, (ii) Shiva and Parvati, (iii) Yajnavalkya and Bharadvaja and (iv) between Tulasidasa and other saints) that have been cleverly woven into this narrative are the four lovely ghaats of this holy and charming lake.
जे गावहिं यह चरित सँभारे। तेइ एहि ताल चतुर रखवारे।।
सदा सुनहिं सादर नर नारी। तेइ सुरबर मानस अधिकारी।।
Those who carefully recite this poem, they alone are the vigilant guardians of this lake. And those men and women who reverently hear it everyday are the great gods exercising jurisdiction over this Maanasorovara lake.
जे श्रद्धा संबल रहित नहि संतन्ह कर साथ।
तिन्ह कहुँ मानस अगम अति जिन्हहि न प्रिय रघुनाथ।।38।।
The Maanasa is most inaccessible to those who lack provisions for the journey in the shape of piety, who do not enjoy the company of saints, and who have no love for the Lord of Raghus (Sri Rama).
ते नर यह सर तजहिं न काऊ। जिन्ह के राम चरन भल भाऊ।।
जो नहाइ चह एहिं सर भाई। सो सतसंग करउ मन लाई।।
अस मानस मानस चख चाही। भइ कबि बुद्धि बिमल अवगाही।।
भयउ हृदयँ आनंद उछाहू। उमगेउ प्रेम प्रमोद प्रबाहू।।
The men who cherish ideal devotion to the feet of Sri Rama never quit this lake. Let him who would bathe in this lake, brother, diligently practice Satsangha (association with saints). Having seen Maanasa lake with the mind’s eye and taken a dip in it, the poet’s intellect got purged of all its dross. The heart was flooded with joy and alacrity and a torrent of love and rapture welled from it….
(Note: The verses and translations above have been taken from Gita Press, Gorakhpur edition of Ramacaritamaanas)…
So, welcome one again to Maanas. Yes, the Maanas is the story of Rama. It is vast, deep, unfathomable. It is majestic. It is extremely ascetic. If angered, it can roar like the sea. It is absolutely still in the centre. It is a turquoise gem. It is purity itself. It is all cleansing. It is extremely remote and tough to reach. It is ice cold. Yet, it is always there, as a sea of compassion. It is the heart beat of Shiva. It is indeed, the glory of Rama, that we see as the lake Maanasarovara…
And right next to which is the lake Raakshas Taal, originally known as Raavan-Hrad – the lake of Ravana.
One is at Maaanas. And there is deep silence all around. By that we mean the absence of noises of man. There is of course the vibrance of nature, the noise of the winds, the silent-noises of ducks paddling in the waters, the silence of a few wild dogs running on the shores… This is the living cosmos at its most beautiful.
One can hardly resist from breaking into verse when one is in the presence of such greatness….
Swami Tapovanam writes in his book ‘Kailas Yatra’: “I looked again and again at the glorious beauty of the divine lake without being satiated and was immersed in a great ocean of bliss. In the forenoon, due to the paucity of winds, the water mass of the lake looked beautiful like a blue saphire – in its proud splendour. There was no more the play of the roaring waves and hence it was peaceful and motionless. The blue waters reflected the rising Sun and appeared red and yellow; changing color of the lake water was a captivating and wonderful sight“.
We are in the north-west shore of the holy lake. Near a monastery called Chiu Gompa… Right on the banks of Maanas…
Maanas, as we saw it when we came out of the transit hotel… Isn’t it absolutely divine! Go ahead, click on the picture, and see for yourself…
We are at Maanas, and the time is around 4 pm… It is biting cold outside… But our Nepali guide tells us that this is a good time to have a bath in Maanas, as the day time would have warmed up the waters a bit. So off we go… The three namesakes of Shiva… viz, Shankar, Siva and yours truly… Will we be able to bathe in the holy waters?? We are at 15000 feet above sea level… Its cold, its cold… Flashback to 1925 AD… Swami Tapovanji Maharaj standing at the same shores…. He writes: “I, who had come to perform the holy act of bathing in Manasa, which is rare even for the Gods, went alone to the bank of the lake with great devotion…”
We walk to the waters… Shed our baggage of clothes… Step into the holy lake… The gradient is gradual… We keep walking in, till the water is around knee dip… Shankar has walked in more….
And he is the first to dunk his whole body in…. He sees me hesitating… And he bellows.. He bullies. He blesses, He drags me in… He reminds me of a story told about the great Yogi, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya…. Krishnamacharya, to whom the world owes so much for the knowledge of Yoga… Who spent almost eight years, from around 1915 to end of 1922, in a cave near Manasarovar, learning Yoga from his Guru, Shri Rama Mohana Brahmachari… And then he brought that knowledge back to India and the world… Once, one of his disciples, a well known industrialist visited Manasarovar, Upon his return, Krishnamacharya asked him if he had bathed in the lake. The industrialist replied that it was very cold and that he had done prokshanam (sprinkled water on himself). Krishnamacharya is said to have remarked that having gone all the way to Maanas, how is it that one misses having a bath in the holy waters…. Shankar reminds me of the story…..And I too dunk myself into the waters… So does Shiva… Here is a short video clip of Shiva, walking out after a bath in the Maanas waters… Listen to the winds howl….
We come back to the room…
Soota quickly puts on layers of warmth and dives under a quilt… Shankar is cool… Unperturbed… Mrs Siva tells Soota – “Remember…Shankar is far more fit than you… You are able to do it with the mind… Your strength is of that… Not of the body….” … Soota agrees…
It is Kathaa time… Soota continues his daily narration of Mahabharata, the story of Shakuntala….
Someone comes and says that Kailasa is visible. Mt Kailas is now visible! We all rush out…..
That in the next post….
Signing off this post with one more picture of Manasarovar…
Brahmani ducks…. And a nest in the waters…
*** To be continued ***