The second day of Kora… continued…
Up from Dirapuk, we passed Shivasthal and Ganesh Kund… Swami Bikash Giri tells us that on a clear day, the reflection of Kailasa can be seen in the Ganesh Kund…
Riding on a horse, we made our way up the steep, rocky slopes of Dolma mountain to reach the highest point of the kora…
So here we are, at the top of Dolma pass.
The mountain of Dolma – also known as the mountain of Tara. The abode of Devi Tara. She is the Devi who is synonymous with Kali. In form, she is so similar to Kali that you can take one for the other. The Wikipedia entry of Tara Devi says: ‘Kali and Tara are similar in appearance. They both are described as standing upon a supine Shiva in an inert or corpse-like form. However, while Kali is described as black, Tara is described as blue. Both wear minimal clothing, however Tara wears a tiger-skin skirt, while Kali wears only a girdle of severed human arms. Both wear a necklace of severed human heads and the previously mentioned girdle of arms. Both have a lolling tongue, and blood oozes from their mouths. Their appearances are so strikingly similar that it is easy to mistake one for the other. Indeed, they are often said to be manifestations of each other; for example, in their thousand-name hymns they share many epithets as well as having each other’s names. Tara, for example, is called Kalika, Ugra-kali, Mahakali, and Bhadra-kali. Tara is said to be more approachable to the devotee (Bhakta) or Tantrika because of her maternal instincts; however a large population of Bengali Hindus approach Kali herself as “Ma” or “mother”.’
She it is who cured Siva when he drank the halahala (kaalakoota) poison that emerged when the ocean was churned. She is the form of Mother, and Siva assumes infant form in front of her. She feeds him her milk, enabling Him to cross over from death to deathlessness. The Rudram of Veda says – शिवा रुद्रस्य भेषजी – Sivaa (Tara) is the medicine of Rudra (Siva)…
Swami Bikash Giri, the sadhu who has done a hundred and more Kora of Kailasha, says that this place, the Dolma Devi rock is a Shakti peetha of Tara Devi… And he points us out to the other Shakti peetha of Tara Devi in Tarapeeth in West Bengal as having a connection with this place. Tarapeeth in West Bengal is connected with Sage Vasishta. A website on Maa Tara Devi (Click here to read ) says: “We first come to know of Tarapith from Brahmrishi Vashistdev. Brahmrishi Vashistdev wished to receive Siddhi from Tara Maa, for this he had to do Sadhana, but after years of Sadhana he could not earn Siddhi. Then one day he heard a devya vani from the skies. It asked him to visit Buddharupi Janardhan in Mahachin. On meeting Buddharupi Janardhan, Vashistdev was asked to meditate on the banks of river Dwarka in Birbhum district of what is now called West Bengal. On doing so Vashistdev received Siddhi from Tara Maa.”
Mahachin refers to Tibet… For the Wikipedia entry on Tarapith (Click here to read ) tells us that Vasishta came to Tibet to meet Buddha, the avatara or Vishnu. Buddha instructed Vasishtha to meditate on Devi Tara, and asked him to go to Tarapith in Birbhum region. Vasishta did Japa of Tara Devi mantra and attained Siddhi of that Devi. She then appeared in front of him in the form of Mother Tara Devi feeding infant Siva, and assumed that form of idol, which is worshiped in the temple at Tarapith.
That temple of Tarapith is associated in 19th century with the renowned Tantric Sage, Bamakhepa, a contemporary of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The Wikipedia entry on him (Click here to read ) says – “Bamakhepa (1837–1911),popularly known as the “mad saint,” was a Hindu saint, held in great reverence in Tarapith and whose shrine is also located in the vicinity of the Tara temple. He was born in the midnight of Shivaratri (the holy night dedicated to Shiva) in the village named Atla of Birbhum district”…. “He was named Bamacharan (one who is dedicated to the lotus feet of Bama – the devi with the left foot forward on the chest of Shiva, i.e., Goddess Tara)”… “At a young age, he left his house and came under the tutelage of a saint named Kailsahpathi Baba, who lived in Tarapith. He perfected yoga and Tantric sadhana (worship), which resulted in his becoming the spiritual head of Tarapith.”
Yes, Bamakhepa’s Guru carried the name Kailashpati!
And here we are… At Tara Devi’s peetha in Kailasa – at the Dolma La Pass , in front of the Dolma Devi rock, which Buddhist pilgrims have completely covered with prayer flags and festoons, and offerings of hair, teeth and butter… Here Buddha, Siva, Vasishta, Tara, Dolma, all meet in one terrifying confluence of snow and blizzard, on the north eastern (Ishana) direction of Mt Kailasa. This here is the rock under which the Buddhists believe that Dolma Devi disappeared in the form of twenty one wolves. One of the names of Durga or Kali is Kokamukhi or the wolf-faced one. The word ‘Shivaa’, which stands for Shiva’s consort, also means ‘fox’. She is Tara, the Goddess of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain beliefs. Tara, is a name found in almost all parts of the world. Is not Tara the Goddess of Ancient Pagan Ireland? In Ireland, on the hill of Tara, stands till this day a stone obelisk called Tara Stone, the stone of destiny, worshipped by the ancient Celts…
We are at the stone of Tara at Kailasa.
With prostrations to Tara Devi, let us now move forward… Down, from the Dolma La pass. On the down trail, you are on your own. No horseback ride. You walk.
And walking with Soota, is Sanjiv and the retired school teacher from Bengal. The Bengali Babu is perhaps in his 60s. He has crossed the Dolma La pass, dressed in his traditional clothing. His upper body is protected by proper winter wear. But his lower body dress is the dhoti – worn in the traditional pancakacham manner. No protection from the cold of Kailas. His shoes too are not the sturdy variety worn by all of us. But he is in better shape than almost all of us. In one of the earlier blog posts in this series (click here to read ) we had seen the different methods that Soota’s co-yatri-s employed to generate internal body heat. The Tibetan Lamas, as you may know, have Yoga technique of Tummo to generate internal heat… Now it is time to reveal the method used by our Bengali Babu.
It is the constant Japa of Mahamantra – “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare! Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare!” That’s it!
He has been muttering this Mantra under his breath, non-stop. This simple Indian from the heart of India, who speaks little or no English or Hindi, who has come all alone on this Kailasa Yatra, who could communicate with others only by sign language and some universal English-Hindi phrases… He wears a dhoti throughout Maanas-Kailasa Yatra… And he comes armed with a powerful armor that protects him against all obstacles…The Mahamantra… As we walk down the Dolma mountain, he is more my caretaker, than I of he. We communicate with each other in some broken English, and he tells me that the students in his school would tell him that he was in better physical shape than them. And he attributed all his fitness – physical, mental and spiritual – to the Japa of the Mahamantra.. “Kailaspati Shiva also is also chanting this very Mantra constantly!” he tells me, happily, with absolute faith. My prostrations to the Bengali Babu! Hail mother Tara! Hare Krishna! Om Nama Sivaya!
We have crossed the Dolma La pass. We have gone through the symbolic cycle of death.
Of this stage of passage in the Kora, Swami Lama Govinda, writes – “After he has thus made peace with the past and has gone through the gates of death he crosses the threshold of his new life on the snow covered pass of the all-merciful mother Dolma. And Lo, at his feet there is a lake of the purest emerald colour (which is the colour of Dolma or Tara) in the midst of rocks and snows. In Tibetan it is called the Lake of Mercy while Hindus call it Gaurikund. In it the pilgrim receives his first baptism as a new-born being.”
Yes, as we walk down, on the right, we see the most enchanting lake – Gauri Kund…
Soota gazes at it in wonder. But he is in such a daze, it does not register in his mind that he is seeing Gauri Kund. Sanjiv, Bengali Babu and he do halt and take a few photographs…
Click the photo and browse..
While Soota and his two companions are hurried along by the porter-guides, some others are more fortunate. Some go down to the lake. Some request their porters to go down and bring some water. The descent is treacherous. It is half a kilometer of steep descent and the way is filled with boulders that you have to negotiate carefully. Rocks tumble down too… Swami Bikash Giri writes that the sound of rocks tumbling down the mountain onto Gauri Kund is quite terrifying.
Swami Pranavananda, the great Sanyasi-Scientist-Explorer, writing about Gauri Kund, says – “Situated on the eastern side of the Kailas Peak is GOURI-KUND, called Thuki-Zingboo by Tibetans. It is a small beautiful oval-shaped lake about 3/4 mile long and 1/2 mile broad, covered with sheets of ice almost all the year round. The descent of avalanches into the lake from the southern heights is rather a frequent occurrence. Pilgrims usually take bath in this lake, for doing which very often, they shall have to break the ice on its surface ; sometimes the ice is so thick that one desperately hurls numbers of stones on it and yet do not reach the water. No Tibetan has ever seen or heard this lake to have been completely free from ice. But in 1946 and 1947 it completely melted away and the autbor had the unique opportunity of launching his rubber boat ‘Janma Bhoomi ‘ on it on August 28, 1946. He sank his lead in it for the first time and kook 61 soundings and the maximum depth recorded was 84 feet. This is the highest lake (18,400 feet above sea-level) ever sounded so far by any explorer or survey party.”
Swami Pranavananda also shares – “In 1908 Sri Hansa Swami of Bombay went to Kailas by Lipu Lekh pass. He stayed for twelve days on the shores of the Manas and later wrote a book on Kailas in Marathi, which was rendered into English by his disciple Purohit Swami under the name ‘Holy Mountain’. He narrates many interesting things in it-that he saw Dattatreya in physical form on Gouri-kund, that by his grace he could negotiate a distance in fifteen minutes on his return journey which he did in 16 hours on the onward journey, and so on.”
Soota has to walk the way of mortals… Many hours of walk ahead of him, before he can complete the second day of Kora…
Have one more look at Gauri Kund. A magnificent picture, taken from the Net ( Click here for source )
Signing off this post with the Mantra-s at the heart of Rudram, which is at the heart of Krishna Yajur Veda . It hails Tara, who is the same as Siva…
नमस्ताराय नमः शंभवे च मयोभवे च
नमः शंकराय च मयस्कराय च
नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च
Up ahead… Or Down ahead… The most difficult part of the second day Kora….
** To be continued **