Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 24


Don’t these twin lakes look like one mass that has split into two? Indeed, geographers think so… But the sisters (if one may) Maanas and Rakshas Tal are not to be separated totally. There is a channel that connects the two, and during periods of high rains, water flows from Manasarovar into Rakshas Tal via this channel. The name of the channel is “Ganga Chu”. Chu is the Tibetan term for ‘running water’ – stream or river… So, the stream that connects Maanas and Rakshas Tal is Ganga… How wonderful!

Ganga Chu is a meandering steam that is mostly dry. Water’s flow down this stream only during periods of heavy rains… The stream is around six miles in length, and varies from 40 to 100 feet in width, and is about two or three feet in depth. Long ago, the two lakes were one. They split into two due to geological movements leading to land upheaval, whereby surfaced a range of hills separating the two lakes. And Ganga is the stream that connects the two….

Which brings us to the Tibetan belief that Rakshas Tal is no longer inauspicious. While it was originally an abode of demons, with the flowing of Ganga from Maanas, the Rakshas Tal is now cleansed. There is a local myth about it. There were two golden fishes in Manasarovar that fought with each other. And then one left Maanas creating the Ganga-Chu channel to Rakshas Tal, and the other followed it in pursuit. Water from Maanas flowed to Rakshas Tal… With the flow of holy waters from Maanas, Rakshas Tal was sanctified. And now, about Rakshas Tal, Lama Govinda says, “Though it is held in fear, it is as sacred as its sister-lake, because even those powers which appear to us terrifying and destructive, or hidden in the darkness of the depth, are as divine as those which we worship as embodiments of light and goodness.”

It is interesting to note that Manasarovar does not receive any water directly from Kailas. It is Rakshas Tal that does.

William Moorcroft, an Englishman straight out of a John Le Carre book, came to Manasarovar in 1812. He refers to Rakshas Tal as Rawan Hrad (Lake of Ravana), and gives the names of the principal streams that come from Kailas and disembogue in Rawan Hrad as – Shiva Ganga, Gauri Ganga, Darchen Gadrah and Kaatyaayani. One is not sure if the rivers are distinct now or join one another… Nor does one know if the brooks still bear these names… Several rivers issue out of Kailas… Some join each other, and finally two rivers, Lha Chu and Dam Chu, discharge their waters into Rakshas Tal… Perhaps Shiva Ganga is the current Lha Chu. But it is interesting to know that the rivers have had Sanskrit names that were remembered during those times, and surely Ganga has been very much in the consciousness of this region to this day… Incidentally, from a mythological perspective, Soota is not surprised that Kailas reserves its gifts of water for Ravana Hrad. After all Kailas is also the home of Kubera, and he is step brother of Ravana (as per Ramayana)… And Ravana defeated him in battle too, and so has the right to receive the tribute of waters, one way or the other…

Be that as it may…

One comes across information floating in the Net that Rakshas Tal has neither fishes nor aquatic birds… That is erroneous. Travelers have certainly documented fishes in the Tal. And, Lachato, one of the islands in Rakshas Tal is a nesting ground for wild geese … The birds come here in the protection of summer waters and lay thousands of eggs. But come winter, egg gatherers cross over the frozen lake to harvest what eggs they can…

There are four islands in Rakshas Tal. They are Topserma, Dola , Lachato and Dosharba. One can walk across to the islands when Rakshas Tal freezes in winter, enabling the islands to be used as grazing grounds for yaks. But then again, one should be wary, because stories are recorded of ice breaking in the lake and yaks falling though… And stories of people marooned in the island when ice broke, and then having to spend months on end till next winter, waiting for the water to freeze…  The vagaries of weather and the rough waters of Rakshas Tal are a challenge for folks wanting to negotiate….Yes, Rakshas Tal is indeed a tough customer…The dark mystery of the lake lingers… And people give it a wide berth and prefer the bright cheerfulness of Maanas…

But this aloneness is perhaps why an intrepid monk, many years ago, chose one of the islands, Topserma, as his place of penance. Swami Pranavananda, during his visit to the island in 1937, has recorded seeing the ruins of the place where the monk lived some years earlier . Apparently the monk stayed in the island for seven years. He would come out of the island to the shores in winter, after the lake froze, so as to get provisions…

The only monastery near Rakshas Tal was a few miles north west. Swamiji writes of the time in 1941, when the inmates of this monastery fought off an attack by a band of Kazakhi warrior nomads. They belonged to a group of a few thousand Kazakhi nomads, who came and sacked Western Tibet from one end to another. They looted every monastery near Manasarovar, destroyed scriptures, and it was only the fight put up by these inmates at Tsepgye that diverted the attention of these Kazakhs from further decimation of the Purang valley. They came upto Ladakh, gathering a massive amount of loot, where they were apparently given an honorable entry into India by the British authorities, and settled somewhere in north west frontier… So much for international politics…

Now the Tsepgye monastery is no more. Here is a picture from recent times of the ruins, that I got from  a fascinating Kailash resource on the Net… (Click here for source )



Ok… It is now time for us to take one last look at the twin lakes and bid adieu.

While Soota had spent just a few days in the presence of the holy lakes, the blog journey has made him spend months here… What is time in any case… Swami Pranavananda took a fossil from near Tsepgye monastery of Rakshas Tal, and the Geological Survey of India, dated it to be of pleistocene age – approx a million years old….

And now, as he leaves the lakes in this blog journey, Soota relives the words of the Swede, Sven Hedin, who, when  he left the shores of Maanas (Tso-mavang) , had this to say:

I threw a farewell glance at Tso-mavang , and experienced a feeling of bereavement at the thought that I must now leave its shores, and in all probability for ever. For I had known this gem of lakes in the light of the morning red and in the purple of sunset, in storms, in howling hurricanes when the waves rose mountain high, in fresh southerly breezes when the waves sparkled like emeralds, in full sunshine when the lake was smooth as a mirror, in the silver beams of the moon when the mountains stood out like white spectres after the dull yellow light of evening was extinguished, and in peaceful nights when the stars twinkled as clearly on the smooth surface of the lake as above in the vault of heaven. I had passed a memorable month of my life on this lake, and had made friends with the waves and become intimately acquainted with its depths. To this day I can hear the melodious splash of the raging surf, and still Tso-mavang lingers in my memory like a fairy tale, a legend, a song.

Speaking of the fascinating changes in weather at Maanas, Swami Pranavananda quotes an ancient Indian saying – मानसरोवर  कौन परसे।  बिन बादल हिम बरसे ।। –

Meaning – ” Who can approach Manasarovar where snow falls without clouds ?

Swamiji writes: “Such phenomena form sufficient material for the ecstatic outbursts of a poet…Thus the Kailas-Manas Region engages the attention of any person of any calling or profession-whether he be a poet or a painter, a physicist or a chemist, a botanist or a zoologist, a geologist or a climatologist, a geographer or a historian, a hunter or a sportsman, a skater or a skier, a physiologist or a psychologist; an ethnologist or a sociologist, a pilgrim or a tourist, a hermit, a householder, a clergyman or a tradesman, a treasure-hunter or a spirit-hunter, a theist or an atheist, a scholar or a politician, young or old, man or woman.


This blog date is Jan 15th, 2014.

The Uttarayana punya kalam has commenced – winter solstice is over – the Sun has now started it’s journey North…

Let us now take leave of the lakes and follow the Sun, as we proceed to that Northernmost of places… Mt Meru, also known as Kailasa, for which all world, spiritually, is south – मेरोः दक्षिणे पार्श्वे …

The date of the Yatra is 1-July-2013…

With a silent prayer, we start for the most holy of holies, the abode of auspiciousness, Mount Kailash – the Presence of Shiva!

ॐ गं गणपतये नमः

Om Nama Sivaya!

** To be continued **


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3 Responses to “Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 24”

  1. Nithya Rajan Says:

    Kamesh, Thanks for this blog. I Learnt a lot about the twin lakes. So many myths and so many stories!


  2. Thiru Says:

    Nice flow like the Ganges as always GK. The picture of twin lake is great.

  3. Nirmala Says:

    Interesting read. Very interesting and informative

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