In the last post, we had a glimpse of the great General Zoravar Singh… Zoravar Singh captured over 700 kms of Tibet in three months, in 1841… But the triumph was not for long. In deep winter, December of that year, Tibetan forces surprised him by coming across a route that he had not anticipated… He was killed in a fierce battle on December 12th, 1941. So heroic was this victory for the Tibetan forces, that they took his head as trophy and displayed it in Lhasa. (Click here to read an interesting blog post about Zorawar Singh )
Here are a couple of pictures. (Click and use arrow key to browse.) The first one is of Indian army soldiers saluting a statue of the General. The second one is his place of burial, in Toyo, near Takklakot, in Tibet. Recognizing his great valor, the Tibetans built this chorten – samadhi… ( Click here for source of these photos )
So deep was the impression that Zorawar Singh made on the people of Tibet, that his relics are stored with pride in various places…. We come to know from Swami Pranavananda’s book “Kailas-Manasarovar”, that some armors, helmets and swords of Zorawar Singh are stored in Chuku Gompa, the monastery of Nyenri mountain, on the Lha Chu valley, west of Mt Kailasa.
Shall we come back to the yatra of the valley.
On walking half an hour or so from Yamadvar, you come to the vicinity of Chuku Gompa… In the picture below (click here for source), on the mountain on the left, the spot marked in red is approximately where this Gompa is located…The Chuku Gompa is perched like a ‘swallows nest’ on the high fort-like mountain of Nyenri, in the Lha Chu valley….
Click on the picture to get a nice view of the valley..
To get to the Gompa, you cross the Lha Chu river, and climb. After a strenuous climb of half an hour or so, you would reach this monastery. From Swami Pranavananda’s account and other Net sources, we come to know that the chief image here is of Chuku Rimpochhe (Amitabha), made of white marble, brought from India hundreds of years ago. On either side of the image are two huge elephant tusks, associated with Padmasambhava. There is an image of Bhutanese Lama Nangyal who was here some three hundred fifty years ago. His face, beard, and head-dress is such that the image looks rather like Guru Nanak (indeed there are accounts that Guru Nanak too came to Maanas-Kailasa and that his image is in a Gompa in this region).
Here are some great pictures of the Gompa, sourced in the Net ( Click here for the source of these photographs )
In the chengkhang (puja hall) on the top of the monastery, there are images of Mahakali, Mahakala, and Khangri-Lhabchen (or Kangri Lhatsen), the guardian deity of Kailasa… Equivalent of Bhairava… He is fierce looking, as you would expect. Here’s a picture from the Net ( Click here for source )
From the top of the monastery, one gets a fine view of Kailasa peak.
Here’s a picture ( Click here for source of this and many other beautiful photographs of Kailasa kora )
With a silent prayer to the guardian deity of Kailasa, let us continue our blog-yatra of Mt Kailasa….
Yatra Date is 2/July/2013…
Soota is walking all by himself down the Lha Chu valley… He has no knowledge of Chuku Gompa, and walks right past…. Even if he had known about the Gompa, he would hardly have braved the climb. The low-oxygen and his general physical fitness are both against such diversions. But serious pilgrims do visit this gompa. As did Swami Tapovan Maharaj during his parikrama in 1929 AD. If you have time and stamina, and have good guides who can speak the local language, then it would surely be worth taking this diversion and visit the Gompa…
Some two hours after walking, he hears bells and turns around to see his horseman Kedhor. He has finally caught up.
Soota gets on to the horse…. Now let no one think that riding a horse is a walk in the park… Soota found it quite uncomfortable… Being unaccustomed to it, the cramped seat, the high stirrup and the general jerk of horse-walk, all makes for muscle strains in many parts of the anatomy… But at least, you can take a break from the walk… And God bless the horse for that…
They go past another food-stop where a few tents have been put up. selling eatables. But the stop holds no promise for Soota, for he is a vegetarian, and you can get little or no vegetarian fare in any Tibetan eatery… The tour organizers have given a small lunch pack, consisting (if memory serves right) of some biscuits and some fruit, and a small juice-pack…Somehow, somewhere along the way, Soota manages to chew some of the stuff from his lunch-pack….
Soota and his horseman carry on past the tent…. Weather is steadily getting worse… It is very cold… And suddenly the skies open up and it starts raining real hard… Soota’s backpack, which is being carried by the horseman, is now a disaster. He has kept a few things packed in plastic bags inside… But the bag itself, while it should be water-proof, is no match for this rain… It has also got torn near the top, being roughed up by the carriage on the kora…
But that is the lesser worry… The real worry is the rain… Soota is protected by his poncho, the Nepali raincoat… But rain finds its way to his skin… And the whole situation is quite miserable! After being battered for a while, Soota decides to call for divine help… He starts chanting “Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva” from Aksharamanamalai, the composition of Ramana Maharshi… And his prayer is answered… The rain withdraws.. The Sun comes out… The weather changes so much in minutes (as is characteristic in Maanasa-Kailasa region) it is incredible… What can one say… For Soota, this is a realization of the Oneness of Kailasa and Arunachala… The Presence of Siva…
While, on that day, one could not get a decent sighting of Kailasa due to the overcast conditions, on a good day, one should be able to get a nice view every now and then – between the gaps or above the surrounding mountains…
Here is a picture from the Net, of the view of Kailasa from the West… ( Click here for source )
Things are not going too well with his co-yatri-s either.. On the way, Soota spots Usha walking all by herself… Her horseman is nowhere to be seen…. Meanwhile, Siva has been having a hard time… Shankar catches up with him, and coaxes him forward… They halt at the food-tent and Shankar orders for some hot noodles…. Siva and Shankar manage to eat that… And that revives Siva quite a bit… And even as they sit in the shelter of the food-tent, the sky opens up.. By the grace of Lord Siva, they are in the protection of the tent… And by the time they finish lunch, the rains stop…. Om Nama Sivaya!
But all the troubles that we face are trivial (nothing at all) compared to the strain undertaken by the average Tibetan pilgrim.. When you see them doing prostration-parikrama, every step of the way, words fail… And they also do not carry any food… They live on what they get as bhiksha… Saktu floor and such fare… And in every breath they chant the sacred mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”! Prostrations to these pilgrims!
Lord Siva sure is Vishwanatha, the Lord of the Universe.. So it is that he touches pilgrims who come here from every part of the world… Soota-s coyatri Shankar is an American citizen. Siva is an Australian… Lord Shiva Himself, being a resident of Kailasa, is domiciled in China, in the autonomous region of Tibet! Vasudhaiva kutumbakam – “The world is one family” – says the ancient text of Veda. The proclamation comes in the Mahopanishad, which says –
”अयं बन्धुरयं नेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् | उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् || ”
ayaṁ bandhurayaṁ nēti gaṇanā laghucētasām | udāracaritānām tu vasudhaiva kuṭumbakam ||
(Differentiating among people) Saying ‘this one is my kin; that one is not’, is for the narrow minded. For those of broad-heart, the entire world is but one family.’
What a grand tradition is that of India, which could voice such a proclamation thousands of years ago!
Shankar’s son Dasharath is living this truth during the kora. He is all of fifteen years of age, and stands six feet tall. He is American. He has recently returned from a practice trek to Roopkund and Pindari glacier in the Indian Himalaya. Low oxygen makes no difference to him. He is as energetic as a sherpa. Running back and forth, he has made friends with many other co-yatri-s. He is almost family now with a group of people from the middle-east. He loves company when he is trekking and he makes most of the ‘world is one family’ aphorism. He could probably jog his way around the kora if only someone agreed to run along with him. He is not weighed down by any religious concerns. He believes he is here because his parents wanted (forced?) him to. It is a different matter that when he was much younger, and in America, a senior Tibetan Lama who they visited, saw in the boy the aura of an advanced soul. He told Shankar that his son was an ‘ancient soul’, who needed but a little ‘training’ to progress in the higher realm of the spiritual path … And so it must be… For here he is, a teenager doing kora of Kailasa…. Who can come here without the call of Siva-Parvati, the non-two, who take one forward, life after life, lavishing care, as only parents can…
Signing off this Kailasa post with the timeless lines of Kalidasa,
‘जगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वती परमेश्वरौ’।
I bow to the parents of the universe, Parvati and Parameshwara (Siva)!
Today (blog date) is 14-Apr-2014. The day of the Tamil New Year… Also, the date on which Ramana Maharshi attained Mahanirvana… When the great comet was seen, at the exact time he shed his body…A comet seen all over India by his devotees… Which went and merged in the summit of Arunachala!
Greetings to all!
Om Nama Sivaya!
** To be continued **