Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 23

As one prepares to leave the shores the twin lakes – Manasarovar and Rakshas Tal – Soota hangs back a bit… To dwell some more, on the birds of Maanas…

Indeed, when we say the word Maanasarovar, what comes to mind? It is the vision of the swans… The Hamsa-s… The wild geese that sport in the waters in summer, and fly south in winter over the high Himalaya, to the warm climes of their home in India…

When one reads  the travelogues of those who trod the region of Western Tibet in general, and Manasarovar, in particular, one comes across repeated  observations about a peculiar phenomenon -> the strange fearlessness of birds in this region…

Let us start with the report of the renowned Ornithologist – Salim Ali, who traveled here in 1945. He came to Tibet from Uttarakhnad, by crossing the Lipu Lekh pass…

Of the crossing and thereafter, Salim Ali writes – “On 8 June the Lipu Lekh Pass was still under fresh and fairly deep snow. It had to be crossed in the unearthly hours of the morning while the surface was still hard and passable for the baggage ponies which had replaced the porters at Garbyang. After groping our way uncomfortably over boulders in pitch darkess with the dubious help of 2 miserable electric torches, the summit of the pass was reached at 6.15 hours just as the sun peeped out from over the barrier of mountains to the east. Here, among the cairns or piles of Mani stones, contributed laboriously one by one by grateful pilgrims and wayfarers (such as mark the head of every mountain pass in Tibet) was my first meeting of the trip with the Robin Accentor (Prunella rubeculoides). The birds –– two or three –– were delightfully tame; they hopped unconcernedly on the snow within 4 feet of our cavalcade, picking up food. This was also my first introduction to the amazing confidence and complete lack of fear that was henceforth to be experienced from almost every species of bird in Tibet. Such behaviour came strangest of all from the Bar-headed Geese and Brahminy Duck which, as every shikari knows, are amongst the wariest and most wide-awake of our waterfowl in their winter quarters in India.”  (emphasis mine)

Indeed, this fearlessness displayed by birds is something that every sensitive visitor has remarked upon.

Lama Govinda, in his book “The Way of the White Clouds” writing about the experience of a pilgrim arriving to the shores of Manasarovar from South, crossing the Gurla Mandhata mountain, says –

Within a few hours after leaving the Gurla Pass the pilgrim reaches the shores of Manasarovar and experiences the glories of his first sunset over the sacred waters. The blue of the lake changes into Veronese green near the beach and appears deep ultramarine in its centre. The light, evening clouds are aflame with all the colours of fire. They are low and are swiftly moving and changing. Sometimes they seem to burst like fireworks, cascading in fiery streams into the now purple waters of the lake, or shooting up like rockets and dissolving into a rain of fire.

And while the pilgrim, spellbound and overawed, watches this divine spectacle, the animals come out of their dwelling-places to watch the stranger. Birds come fearlessly to his feet , little creatures come out of their holes to greet the pilgrim, hares sit up with cocked long ears, scrutinising him with astonishment, and even kyangs (a kind of wild horse, resembling a zebra in stature, but of plain brown colour with a white belly) graze peacefully and undisturbed in his vicinity.

It is the unwritten law that nobody is allowed to kill or to hurt the animals inhabiting this region, and, as if the animals were conscious of their divine protection, they behave as they were supposed to behave in a long-forgotten paradise. And the pilgrim, who since the beginning of this day has moved as if in a dream, from wonder to wonder, begins to realise that if there is a paradise anywhere in this world it is here.

Lama Govinda came here sometime around 1948-49…

Let us go back a bit to 1907… And to the Swedish explorer, Sven Hedin…

About a particular confluence where a brook debouches in Maanas, he writes  – “Fish are plentiful in the brook, but here also the Tibetans asked us not to catch them, and we respected their wishes—only stupid and uncouth men wound the religious feelings of others.

And writing about a scene in the region around Maanas, he says “Wild asses were on the meadows ; they are nearly tame, for no one puts an end to life on the shores of the holy lake….

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Let us return to Salim Ali, and his trip of 1945.

He says  – “I was advised by those who administered our External Affairs not to carry a gun to shoot birds with. Presumably it offends the religious scruples of the Tibetans to see birds killed by other people. None of these scruples were detected in the case of animals killed by themselves, and in a manner that would make shooting seem a kindness.

Indeed, it is true that the Tibetans are compulsive meat eaters… And yet they do not hunt the birds for food…

Explaining this, Sven Hedin writes of an episode during his visit, when his attendant shot and killed a wild goose…   Sven describes the reaction of a local Tibetan to this shooting…

He writes : “Oang Gye came to complain to me. He was quite overcome at this brutal murder, and could not conceive how my servant could be so heartless and cruel.

“You are right,” I answered ; ” I am myself sorry for the wild-geese. But you must remember that we are travellers, and dependent for our livelihood on what the country yields. Often the chase and fishing are our only resources.”

” In this district you have plenty of sheep.” – (says the Tibetan)

” Is it not just as wrong: to kill sheep and eat their flesh ?” (asks Hedin)

” No !” he exclaimed, with passionate decision ; “That is quite another matter. You surely will not compare sheep to wild-geese. There is as much difference between them as between sheep and human beings. For, like human beings, the wild-geese marry and have families. And if you sever such a union by a thoughtless shot, you cause sorrow and misery. The goose which has just been bereaved of her mate will seek him fruitlessly by day and night, and will never leave the place where he has been murdered. Her life will be empty and forlorn, and she will never enter upon a new union, but will remain a widow, and will soon die of grief. A woman cannot mourn more deeply than she will, and the man who has caused such sorrow draws down a punishment on himself.”

Sven Hedin concludes – “It was moving to witness Oang Gye’s tenderness and great sympathy for the wild-geese, and I felt the deepest respect for him. Many a noble and sensitive heart beats in the cold and desolate valleys of Tibet.

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It may be mentioned here, that the Mahabharata says the swans in Manasarovar are Rshi-s who sojourn there…

And so how was it when we went in 2013… One cannot say that the birds we saw on the shores were unafraid… When we went anywhere near them, they did scamper away…

The reader may like to go back to an earlier post (Post 18 ) where there is a short picture story of a crested Grebe getting scared and leaving its perch in the waters when we went nearby… Here it is, reproduced below…

Click on the first picture, and use arrow keys to browse the gallery… Hit ‘Esc’ to return…

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About our trip to Maanas, I should hasten to say that the birds were not over-afraid. But they were certainly wary of us humans… They did not display the kind of co-consciousness  that Sven Hedin talks about when he mentions of the time he took his boat into Maanas and – “The wildgeese swam with their young ones out into the lake, while other swimming birds took themselves off some 100 yards inland, perhaps taking the boat for a curious water-bird of unusual size.”

Has a change of behavior occurred in recent times?

All the travelogues that we have seen here are of people who went there before 1950… Before the Chinese cultural revolution arrived here, and all the monasteries around the lake were destroyed…. The scale of destruction in Tibet is hard to imagine… Wikipedia page on “History of Tibet (1950–present)”  says – “The destruction of most of Tibet’s more than 6,000 monasteries happened between 1959 and 1961. Of the 6,259 monasteries in Tibet before the Chinese occupation, only eight remained in 1976.”

Has the violence of that period left a deep impress of fear in the consciousness of the birds? Who knows…

But times are changing… There is far more tolerance now… China encourages Maanas-Kailas Yatra… The Manasarovar lake itself is maintained in its pristine and beautiful state by the authorities…. On the shores of Maanas, some of the Gompas are back.. The hum of “Om Mani Padme Hum” is back in the region… There is now a deeper understanding all-around, of the cultural connect of the consciousness of peoples of India, Tibet, China, and the Maanas-Kailas region is once again thronging with Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Bon pilgrims…

Surely, one of these days, the birds will shed their recent armors, those extra feathers of fear… And the world shall begin to re-realize (to use the words of Lama Govinda) – “… that if there is a paradise anywhere in this world it is here.

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2 Responses to “Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 23”

  1. krishni457 Says:

    simply thank u. krishnaswamy in Sri Ramana Bhagavan.

  2. Kailash Manasarovar Yatra Says:

    Kailash yatra is very famous in the whole world and specially in India because many religious people wait for this holy yatra and they are book their ticket and doing registration also for this holy yatra. You are providing such a nice information regarding this holy yatra.

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