“There is no finer ring on earth than that which bears the names of Manasarowar, Kailas, and Gurla Mandatta ; it is a turquoise set between two diamonds.“ – Sven Hedin (Swedish Explorer who came to Manasarovar in 1907)
In this blog yatra, we have seen the the upper diamond (Kailasa) and the turquoise ( Maanasa). And now, let us turn to the other diamond in the ring – the great mountain of Gurla Mandhata…. marked GM in the satellite picture below…
Standing at 25,240 feet, Gurla Mandhata is 34th highest peak in the world. Situated roughly 100 kms south of Mt Kailasa, the mountain is a part of the mystic quartet of Kailasa, Maanasa, Raakshasa, and Mandhata. To the Sahasrara chakra of Kailasa, and the ida-pingala of Rakshasa-Maanasa, Gurla Mandhata is perhaps Manipura – the chakra that has Agni as the element corresponding to it.
As far as mountains go, the Gurla Mandhata has its uniqueness. In his book ‘The Way of the White Clouds’, Lama Govinda writes – “Very different from the rugged peaks of the Himalaya in the south, the Mandhata Range forms one plastically moulded massif which if it could be seen from the air would appear in the form of an immense swastika .”
He calls it the Svastika mountain. Agni (celestial power that is fire) is svastika of seven arms. Giving below, side by side, a picture of 7 armed svastika from the Net (an interesting optical illusion picture) and a Google earth top view of Gurla Mandhata. Notice the spokes (svastika arms) coming out of the core of the mountain…
Incidentally, the Agni Sahasranama that Shankar has been chanting throughout the Kailasa Yatra, gives a thousands names of Agni from across the Veda-s, and Mandhata is one of them…
Let’s come to the mountain…
Pilgrims from India, coming via the Lipu Lekh pass into Tibet, would come to Takklakot, and then go up and across a pass in the Gurla Mandhata mountain, and then come suddenly upon the spectacular view of heaven spreading before their eyes…. The twin lakes, Manasarovar and Rakshas Tal down below, and the great Mt Kailasa, the abode of Siva, in the far horizon…
Ready for a darshan?
I first tried to experience what this view might be like, by simulating it in Google Earth. And here’s what I saw.
And then when I was surfing the Net, I came across an actual photograph…
Beautiful beyond words… The Rakshas Tal on the left, Maanas on the right, and Mt Kailasa peak seen in the far distance, at approx 11 O Clock position… Click on the picture to enlarge….
“M” in his book ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master – A Yogi’s Autobiography’ speaks of a vision that he had when he came to Manasarovar. He had visions of his own past life, as a loin-cloth clad yogi meditating in a cave in Gurla Mandhata mountain, overlooking the Maanas…
So how did the mountain get the name ‘Mandhata’?
Swami Tapovan Maharaj, the great hermit of the Himalaya, took the route via Gurla Mandhata when he walked to Maanas-Kailas in 1925. About this mountain, he writes – “King Mandhata, who was a jewel of Krita Yuga had done tapas in the caves of this mountain for a long time. It is because of this that this mountain came to be known as Mandhatru mountain“.
Let us come back to the great King in a moment… First let us return the complement of the picture above, by seeing a reverse. That of the Mandhata mountain, as seen from the eastern valley of Mt Kailasa.. The snow clad Mandhata rising behind the Rakshas Tal…
Who was King Mandhata, and how is it that his name has not just endured for all these years, but has stamped itself in the most holy region of Maanas-Kailas!
Swami Tapovan Maharaj has described King Mandhata as a jewel of Krita yuga… He is described prominently in the oldest epic of India, the Ramayana of Valmiki, as also in the Mahabharata. Needless to say, he features in other Purana-s as well.
Mandhata was one of the early rulers in the lineage of Ikshvaku Kings, and was one of the forefathers of Lord Rama. King Ikshvaku, after whom the lineage of Rama is named, was the son of Manu. The lineage from Manu to Mandhata is thus… Manu -> Ikshvaku -> Kukshi -> Vikukshi -> Baana -> Anaranya -> Prithu -> Trishanku -> Dundumara -> Yuvanashava -> Mandhata… And twenty fifth generation from Mandhata was born Sri Rama. Is it the great penance of Mandhata that has made Maanasa synonymous with the katha of Rama?
Let us have a glimpse of the great King, as described in the epics. King Yuvanashva, was a great ruler. He ruled for many years, but fortune did not favor him with a child. He finally gave his Kingdom in trust to a council of ministers and went off to the forest to perform Tapasya. When he was there, unknown to him, Rshi Chyavana of Bhrigu lineage, was performing an Ishti Yagya, for the King to beget a son. He had invoked the Veda Mantra shakti and had imbued a vessel of water with the power of seeding an offspring for the King. Now the King was not aware of this. As it happened, that night when the Ishti Yagya had been done, King Yuvanashva was in the vicinity in the forest, and was suffering from acute thirst. Seeking water, he entered this ashrama and tried to wake up the people to get water. As destiny would have it, no one heeded his call. Then he happened to spot this vessel of water, and he drank it off. When Rshi Chyavana woke up, he saw that the vessel was empty. On enquiry, the King confessed that it was he who had drunk the water. Now, the Rshi had kept the water for the Queens of Yuvanashva to drink, so that they may become pregnant. Now, the King had drunk off the water. Destiny cannot be averted. He became pregnant. Rshi Chyavana however blessed him that he would have a fine son, and he would also not have the pains of labor and delivery.. Now, when the time came for delivery, Ashvini twins, the Doctors of the Gods, came and did a surgery on Yuvanashva and a son was born. Now , the question arose as to who would nurse the baby with milk? Indra, the Lord of Celestials, announced “maam dhaasyati” – “The child will drink milk from me”. He then produced Amruta milk from his finger, which the baby suckled. Because of this, the child got the name Maam-dhaataa or Mandhata. By the power of Indra, the child grew up double quick, and all knowledge of Veda, Shastra, and Weaponry revealed themselves to him. He became the greatest of Kings and conquered all seven continents of the earth. Such was his power that one when there was continuous drought for twelve years, he brought rains to the earth by the power of his own penance, without the intercession of Indra. After establishing Dharma in all corners of the earth, he left for the mountains for penance, and after many years of supreme penance, the day came for him to leave his mortal form and ascend to heaven and an aerial car from heaven came to take him there. As he was flying, attended to by celestials, the great Ravana happened to notice. Ravana, the ten headed Rakshasa, was fresh from his assault on Kailasa, where he had defeated Kubera. He had subsequently gone around challenging all other celestials … And then he had even battled Yama… And now, he saw a King going in all grandeur to heaven. He enquired and came to know that it was the great King Mandhata. He challenged Mandhata for a fight. Then ensued a terrific battle, and at end, Mandhata picked up the great Brahmastra which he had got from Siva. Seeing the Brahmastra about to be used, the great Rshi Pulastya, who was Ravana’s grandfather, interceded and requested Mandhata to desist from using the weapon. Mandhata withdrew the weapon, and Ravana went his way after agreeing to a friendly truce. Thus it was that Mandhata was so great, that not even Ravana could defeat him. This, in brief is the story of Mandhata as seen in the epics.
Now, a picture break….
Here’s a photo of Gurla Mandhata mountain, taken from the banks of Manasarovar…
Beautiful.. Do click on the picture and gaze…..
Now, we saw that Mandhata had pleased Siva with his penance and had got the Brahmastra from him. Mandhata’s name is inextricably linked with Lord Siva. And for some reason, he is also associated with hills and mountains. There is another Mandhata mountain region in Madhya Pradesh (the region of Vindhyas),the region of river Narmada, where the stones of the river are collected and revered as sacred BaaNa-linga-s, the holy stones of Siva. The holy Siva kshetra of Omkareshwar is situated here. This is the abidance of Siva as Omkareshwar/Amaleshwar. This place is known as Omkar Mandhata, and is associated with King Mandhata. Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya, writes in his ‘dvAdasha jyotirlinga stotram’ :
कावेरिकानर्मदयोः पवित्रे समागमे सज्जनतारणाय |
सदैवमान्धातृपुरे वसन्तमोङ्कारमीशं शिवमेकमीडे ||
In the holy confluence of Kaveri and Narmada, in the puri (city) of Mandhata, Siva resides eternally, for the sake of salvation of all good people. To that Lord Omkara, the One, Siva, I offer worship.
Now… All these stories are Soota territory….
But where is the katha that connects Mandhata with Kailasa? This was a mystery.
It was a mystery to this Soota, until by the Grace of Siva, an unexpected mail popped up in his in-box, from a blog reader in Canada,
The mail went like this:
You are not going to believe this. I was reading your last post a few days ago…
Then I had this powerful experience this morning after meditation that Dolma la Devi is my kulam devata —- along with Puthur Shiva.
Dolma la came to Kerala and is residing as Thirumandham Kunnu Bhagavati Temple in Angadipuram. Read the story on their website if it is there. Otherwise, the temple manager gave me a booklet that has it. I can share with you…
So I googled and went to the website of this temple ( Click here for the link )
And guess what I found? The Mandhata Kailasa connection!
The story, in brief, goes like this. King Mandhata performed terrific penance in Kailasa. Pleased with his penance, Lord Siva offered him any boon that he may desire. Mandhata asked for a Siva Lingam that he may worship. Siva gave him the a most holy Siva Linga, which was in fact used by his consort Parvati, for her personal worship. As reader may guess, he did this in Parvati’s absence. Mandhata took this idol and carrying it reverentially on his head, he headed South. Coming to the southern part of the country, to the region now known as Kerala. There, he reached a certain hill. When he came there, he felt the siva linga too heavy to carry and had to place it down. And the Siva Linga got established there.
Meanwhile, in Kailasa, Parvati returned to find her idol of Siva missing. Coming to know from Lord Siva that the idol had been given to King Mandhata, she dispatched her own Shakthi, of Bhadrakali, to go get the idol back. Kali, along with Siva bhoota gana-s, rushed to where the hill where Mandhata had placed the Siva Linga. There they tried to get the idol by force but were unsuccessful. The Siva Linga was so dazzling that the attacking Kali could not go near it. She tried to attack from a distance, but was thwarted by defense put by ascetics who were with King Mandhata. Then Kali took a fierce form. So fierce was she that the ascetics were frozen in fright. She then marched into the temple. King Mandhata, completely helpless, sought protection, by holding on to the Linga in a tight embrace. Kali tried to snatch the Linga by force. So fierce was the force and so tight was his embrace that the Linga split into two. And from that manifested Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and Parvati, along with baby Ganesha. Parvati was pleased with the devotion of Mandhata, and granted his prayer that the Linga remain there. She herself merged with Siva in the idol. By her command, due honor was given to Bhadrakali who had come there before her. So, we have here this great temple now, with a split Siva Linga in the moola sthana, and a separate shrine for Bhagavati Bhadrakali, who graces the world here, in the form a six foot idol made of Daru wood. She is revered by the popular name of Thirumandhamkunnilamma – the mother (who abides) in the Holy hill of Maandhaa.
The temple is known as Tiru-Maandaam-kunnu, or the Holy Hill of Maandhaa. This ancient and holy kshetra houses the great Atma Linga that King Mandhata brought from Kailasa. Bhadrakali is synonymous with Dolma Devi – the Goddess after whom the mountain and the pass on the eastern side of Kailasa is named, and to whom Kora pilgrims offer worship…
The blog reader who led me to this information has written a more detailed description of the kshetra and the connection to Kailasa. (Click here to read that post.)
Is it not wonderful that the land of Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Tapovanam has the holy Siva Linga that Mandhata brought from Kailasa!
The temple history in the website states that the King did penance here for many years. For continued worship, he prepared a grantham treatise that contained details of procedures to be followed, and handed the temple over to two Brahmana-s. whose descendents serve as tantri of the temple to this day. The King himself retired to a forest nearby known as Kukshipparakkad (any connection with Kukshi, the son of Ikshvaku?), where he gave up his body by means of Yoga. In 1959, a devaprashnam (a divine oracle) directed the temple authorities to install an idol of King Mandhata as well. That was done and worship is being offered.
The ancient heritage of Bharatavarsha has seen many great Kings who are remembered to this day… These include Bharata, Dileepa, Yayati, Mandhata, Shibi, Sagara, Bhageeratha and others. Even among them, Mandhata stands tall as a mountain.
A mountain that bears his name and stands south of Maanasa, as a counter pole to Kailasa. Another hill that is the abidance of the Jyotirlinga of Omkareshwara/Amaleshwara in the banks of Narmada, whose every stone is worshiped as Siva. And a third hill, in the holy kshetra of Thirumandhamkunnu, which houses the most holy Atma Linga of Kailasa,
Glory to Mandhata!
Signing off this post with a photograph of Gurla Mandhata mountain, taken from Manasarovar… The evening sky was surreal blue. Young Dash was the ace photographer who caught this magic on camera.
नमो नीलग्रीवाय च शितिकण्ठाय च ।
Salutations to He of Blue Throat, and He of White throat!
Om Nama Siva!
** To be concluded **
Tags: Adi Shankara, Angadipuram, Atma Linga, Dolma Devi, Gurla Mandhata, Ikshvaku dynasty, Jyotirlinga, King Mandhata, Omkareshwar, Swami Tapovanam, Tapovanji Maharaj, Thirumandham Bhagavaty temple, Thirumandhamkunnilamma, Thirumandhamkunnu