Posts Tagged ‘Tapovanji Maharaj’

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 42

July 13, 2014

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…

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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…

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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.

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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….

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“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…

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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…..

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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:

Namaste Kamesh

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…

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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.

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नमो नीलग्रीवाय च शितिकण्ठाय च ।

Salutations to He of Blue Throat, and He of White throat!

Om Nama Siva!

** To be concluded **

 

 

 

 

 

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Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 17

November 4, 2013

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30-June-2013…

We are at Maanas. North Western shore. Place marked as CG (pointed by arrow) in the picture above.,.

In the pilgrim season of July-Aug, the skies here are usually cloudy, and Kailasa plays hide and seek with the pilgrims… This day, that we have arrived at Maanas, is no different. We arrived with a drizzle on… Then the drizzle stopped…Later, in the early part of the evening, we had a bath in this holiest of waters – Manasarovar… Afterwards, back in the room, as we settle under the quilt seeking some relief from the cold, we hear one of our Nepali Sherpa guides say that “Kailash Nathji is seen”… We run out…. On our left, towards the north, we have our fist glimpse of this “Throne of Gods” – Mount Kailas…

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Oh yes, it is somewhat hidden by white clouds… But there it is…. Holiest of Mountains! Mount Kailas!

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Can you see the stairway to heaven running right up the middle of the mountain?

In the book, “The Throne of Gods”, the authors Heim and Gassner write : “The fundamental idea of Asiatic religions is embodied in one of the most significant temples I had ever seen, a sun-lit rock and ice! Its remarkable structure and peculiar harmony of its shape, justify in my speaking of Kailas as the most sacred mountain in the world…..the holiest mountain in the world and the Sublime Throne of the Gods.

From a different angle….

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And some more….

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That is Mount Kailasa … Known in Tibetan as “Khang Rimpoche” – ‘The Jewel of the Snows”….

Writing about his experience of Maanasa bath and sighting of Kailasa, Swami Tapovanam writes in his book “Kailas Yatra” : “By the holy bath in the Manasa, my mind attained a rare joy and fulfillment. I praised my own good fortune for being able to bathe in the divine lake where Mahadeva and Paravathi as well as Indra and Indrani bathe. All my stupendous efforts and my recklessness had been rewarded. Thinking thus my mind became totally quiet and peaceful. I felt that the Lord of Kailas had saved my body often from the jaws of death only because I was destined to enjoy this bliss. Ah! Ah! I am blessed! I am blessed!”…. “There on the North Western side of the lake Mt. Kailas can be seen. When we reached Tugalo Gumma itself I had seen Kailas and recognized it from the descriptions made by the lamas. With tears of joy flowing from my eyes I had prostrated again and again to it. Seeing it clearly in front of me the next day also, I was wonderstruck.”

That was in 1925… Now, some eighty eight years later, this Soota, a nondescript pilgrim, stands on the same shore… Feeling so very blessed! And wonderstruck at  the first sighting of Kailasa! Is this for real! Am I actually at Maanasa and seeing Kailasa? Could this be happening to me? Ah! Ah! I am blessed! Yes, I am blessed!

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Coming down to earthly plane, let us once more see the road that leads  from our transit hotel to the lake

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Now, if you do a ‘right-about-turn’ and look backwards, this is what you will see.

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You see this conical hill, standing there, all by itself…. There on that hill is a holy cave. Built around that holy cave, stands a sacred monastery… The Chiu Gompa….

Lake Manasarovar is ever so sacred to Buddhists. It is the place where Queen Maya is said to have conceived Buddha. The lake is known in Buddhist parlance as Anavatapta – “Free of Heat” or “Free of strife” (Pali name Anotatta)…  Lama Govinda writes in “The Way of the White Clouds –  “… according to the oldest Buddhist tradition the descent of the Bodhisattva into his last life-in the fulfilment of his vow to attain final enlightenment, or Buddhahood-is connected with Manasarovar. According to this tradition, Queen Maya dreamt that the couch on which she rested was borne by the guardian gods to the Anotatta Lake (the Pali name for Manasarovar) and was bathed in its sacred waters, whereupon all human impurities were removed from her, so that the future Buddha could enter her womb. He descended from the direction of Mount Kailas, appearing like a white elephant in a cloud. This shows that even from the very beginnings of Buddhism, Kailas and Manasarovar were held in the highest esteem and that the Buddhists fully shared in a tradition which goes back to Vedic times, if not to the very beginnings of human civilisation.”

The holy lake was considered as the wheel of Dharma, and there were eight monasteries built in the eight directions. All these monasteries are said to have been destroyed during the Chinese cultural revolution. It is understood that many have since been rebuilt in some measure. Of these, the one where we are now, is the one in the north west, the  Chiu Gompa, marked as CG in the satellite picture in the start of this post….

What a beautiful setting! Built right into the hill…. Chiu Gompa (Sparrow Monastery)….Here is a close up…

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You can see the monastery on the hill-face. Inside is a cave where Padmasambhava, the great sage who introduced Buddhism to Tibet, is said to have attained Nirvana. Guru Padmasambhava (8th Century AD), known as second Buddha, was a Brahmana born in Oddiyana in classical north west India (which is identified with the beautiful region of Swat valley in Pakistan). He and his consort were adepts in Tantra, which forms the basis of Tibetan Buddhism. There is a statue of Padmasambhava in the Chiu Gompa. His hand and foot imprints are said to be there in the cave in the Gompa.

We knew nothing of this when we visited the Maanas. Neither did our guides tell us. So we missed the chance of visiting the monastery and seeing the cave.  One was also boxed in for time… I guess a dream visit would need one to spend months here. All we had was a day. A few more days at Manasarovar is certainly called for. One should visit the Gossul Gompa, which is in the western shore of Maanas. Set on a hill, the gompa offers a breathtaking view of Maanas. There are caves here as well. Regarding Gossul Gompa, Swami Tapovanam writes : “Before dusk I reached a monastery called Goosal. The monastery was almost in the middle of the western bank. Ah! Ah! How can I describe the divine beauty of the lake when viewed from that monastery…

Coming back to our Maanas evening…. It is late evening and twilight is setting in…. And there is Maanas magic in the air…. Shankar, peering out of the window of our room suddenly notices the sky… And grabbing his camera he runs out…. And he captures this painting of God… Chiu Gompa – blush of mother nature…

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What words can describe this? And this is what pilgrim after pilgrim who visits Maanas sees. The moods of Maanas…. Nature at her best, as she adorns herself in brilliant hues….

Maanas prepares for the night…

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And night at Maanas…

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314 Moonlight on Manas

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The night photo is from an earlier trip by a friend of mine, Narayan Iyer… Shall share some more of his photos in the next post…

Signing off this post with a picture of Kailas as seen from Chiu Gompa, taken at sunrise… This picture is from the Net… (Credit: Nilesh Korgaokar, from this link )

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Chu Gompa on the banks of the Mansarovar Lake with Mt Kailash in the background

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Om Mani Padme Hum!

** To be continued **

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 16

October 22, 2013


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Welcome to the holy waters of Maanas. Welcome to the region of the world where Siva narrated the story of Rama to Girija, daughter of Himavan.  Goswami Tulasidasa saw it all in his mind’s eye, and named that great story of Rama as Maanas – Ramacaritamaanas…

Speaking of the epic, Tulasi says:

रामचरितमानस एहि नामा। सुनत श्रवन पाइअ बिश्रामा।।

One derives solace by hearing its very name, Ramacaritamaanasa (the Maanasa lake of Sri Rama’s exploits)

रामचरितमानस मुनि भावन। बिरचेउ संभु सुहावन पावन।।
त्रिबिध दोष दुख दारिद दावन। कलि कुचालि कुलि कलुष नसावन।।
रचि महेस निज मानस राखा। पाइ सुसमउ सिवा सन भाषा।।

The holy and beautiful Ramacaritamaanas is the delight of sages; it was conceived by Shambhu (Lord Shiva). It puts down the three kinds of error sorrow and indigence and uproots all evil practices and impurities of the Kali age. Having conceived it, the great Lord Shiva treasured it in his Maanas till, when a favourable opportunity presented  itself, He communicated it to His consort Shivaa (Parvati)…

सुठि सुंदर संबाद बर बिरचे बुद्धि बिचारि।
तेइ एहि पावन सुभग सर घाट मनोहर चारि।।36।।

The four most beautiful and excellent dialogues (viz., those between (i) Bhushundi and Garuda, (ii) Shiva and Parvati, (iii) Yajnavalkya and Bharadvaja and (iv) between Tulasidasa and other saints) that have been cleverly woven into this narrative are the four lovely ghaats of this holy and charming lake.

जे गावहिं यह चरित सँभारे। तेइ एहि ताल चतुर रखवारे।।
सदा सुनहिं सादर नर नारी। तेइ सुरबर मानस अधिकारी।।

Those who carefully recite this poem, they alone are the vigilant guardians of this lake. And those men and women who reverently hear it everyday are the great gods exercising jurisdiction over this Maanasorovara lake.

जे श्रद्धा संबल रहित नहि संतन्ह कर साथ।
तिन्ह कहुँ मानस अगम अति जिन्हहि न प्रिय रघुनाथ।।38।।

The Maanasa is most inaccessible to those who lack provisions for the journey in the shape of piety, who do not enjoy the company of saints, and who have no love for the Lord of Raghus (Sri Rama).

ते नर यह सर तजहिं न काऊ। जिन्ह के राम चरन भल भाऊ।।
जो नहाइ चह एहिं सर भाई। सो सतसंग करउ मन लाई।।
अस मानस मानस चख चाही। भइ कबि बुद्धि बिमल अवगाही।।
भयउ हृदयँ आनंद उछाहू। उमगेउ प्रेम प्रमोद प्रबाहू।।

The men who cherish ideal devotion to the feet of Sri Rama never quit this lake. Let him who would bathe in this lake, brother, diligently practice Satsangha (association with saints). Having seen Maanasa lake with the mind’s eye and taken a dip in it, the poet’s intellect got purged of all its dross. The heart was flooded with joy and alacrity and a torrent of love and rapture welled from it….

(Note: The verses and translations above have been taken from Gita Press, Gorakhpur edition of Ramacaritamaanas)…

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So, welcome one again to Maanas.  Yes, the Maanas is the story of Rama. It is vast, deep, unfathomable. It is majestic. It is extremely ascetic. If angered, it can roar like the sea.  It is absolutely still in the centre. It is a turquoise gem. It is purity itself. It is all cleansing. It is extremely remote and tough to reach. It is ice cold. Yet, it is always there, as a sea of compassion. It is the heart beat of Shiva. It is indeed, the glory of Rama, that we see as the lake Maanasarovara…

And right next to which is the lake Raakshas Taal, originally known as Raavan-Hrad – the lake of Ravana.

One is at Maaanas. And there is deep silence all around. By that we mean the absence of noises of man. There is of course the vibrance of nature, the noise of the winds, the silent-noises of ducks paddling in the waters, the silence of a few wild dogs running on the shores… This is the living cosmos at its most beautiful.

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One can hardly resist from breaking into verse when one is in the presence of such greatness….

Swami Tapovanam writes in his book ‘Kailas Yatra’: “I looked again and again at the glorious beauty of the divine lake without being satiated and was immersed in a great ocean of bliss. In the forenoon, due to the paucity of winds, the water mass of the lake looked beautiful like a blue saphire – in its proud splendour. There was no more the play of the roaring waves and hence it was peaceful and motionless. The blue waters reflected the rising Sun and appeared red and yellow; changing color of the lake water was a captivating and wonderful sight“.

We are in the north-west shore of the holy lake. Near a monastery called Chiu Gompa… Right on the banks of Maanas…

Maanas, as we saw it when we came out of the transit hotel… Isn’t it absolutely divine! Go ahead, click on the picture, and see for yourself…

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We are at Maanas, and the time is around 4 pm… It is biting cold outside… But our Nepali guide tells us that this is a good time to have a bath in Maanas, as the day time would have warmed up the waters a bit. So off we go… The three namesakes of Shiva… viz, Shankar, Siva and yours truly… Will we be able to bathe in the holy waters?? We are at 15000 feet above sea level… Its cold, its cold…  Flashback to 1925 AD… Swami Tapovanji Maharaj standing at the same shores…. He writes: “I, who had come to perform the holy act of bathing in Manasa, which is rare even for the Gods, went alone to the bank of the lake with great devotion…

We walk to the waters… Shed our baggage of clothes… Step into the holy lake… The gradient is gradual… We keep walking in, till the water is around knee dip… Shankar has walked in more….

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And he is the first to dunk his whole body in…. He sees me hesitating… And he bellows.. He bullies. He blesses, He drags me in… He reminds me of a story told about the great Yogi, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya…. Krishnamacharya, to whom the world owes so much for the knowledge of Yoga… Who spent almost eight years, from around 1915 to end of 1922, in a cave near Manasarovar, learning Yoga from his Guru, Shri Rama Mohana Brahmachari… And then he brought that knowledge back to India and the world… Once, one of his disciples, a well known industrialist visited Manasarovar, Upon his return, Krishnamacharya asked him if he had bathed in the lake. The industrialist replied that it was very cold and that he had done prokshanam (sprinkled water on himself). Krishnamacharya is said to have remarked that having gone all the way to Maanas, how is it that one misses having a bath in the holy waters…. Shankar reminds me of the story…..And I too dunk myself into the waters… So does Shiva… Here is a short video clip of Shiva, walking out after a bath in the Maanas waters… Listen to the winds howl….

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We come back to the room…

Soota quickly puts on layers of warmth and dives under a quilt… Shankar is cool… Unperturbed… Mrs Siva tells Soota – “Remember…Shankar is far more fit than you… You are able to do it with the mind… Your strength is of that… Not of the body….” … Soota agrees…

It is Kathaa time… Soota continues his daily narration of Mahabharata, the story of Shakuntala….

Someone comes and says that Kailasa is visible. Mt Kailas is now visible! We all rush out…..

That in the next post….

Signing off this post with one more picture of Manasarovar…

Brahmani ducks…. And a nest in the waters…

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*** To be continued ***

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 3

July 25, 2013

As I write this series about Kailasa Yatra, quite a few people have got in touch with questions… “How was it? How tough is it? How does one prepare? What about the effect of low oxygen?” etc etc… Net-net, from many, the message seemed to be, “I would love to do it.. But not sure… Perhaps, had I been younger… But still….”. Recognize the tune?

Well, as a response, let me share a mail that came to me a few days ago… From a gentleman named KS Ramakrishnan, and this was our first communication…

He wrote:

Dear Kameshwar,

My son in law forwarded your Kailash yatra blog to me.  Very interesting to read the same.  I did the yatra in 2011.  I was 81 years old then.  It was tough especially the parikrama.  We had combined this with a tour of Tibet commencing from Lhasa.  The wilderness of Tibet is breath taking and one can but think of Kailasanath only all the time.  I had also written a travelogue after this trip.  If you are interested, I shall send it to you.  God bless you and yr efforts to propagate our culture and heritage.

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Ab bolo!

Eighty one years old!

I got back in touch with him pronto. I gratefully accepting his offer of the travelogue of his trip to Mt Kailasa, which I read with much interest…  A humbling, inspiring, educating account…And with his permission, I am sharing it here.

Here’s the link… Kailash Yatra 2011 – Mr KS Ramakrishnan

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Continuing now, from my previous post…

Let’s look at a couple of other ancient routes to Manasarovar, from Garhwal region of Uttarakhand…

The first one we check out is the one from Badrinath – via Mana Pass.

Swami Tapovanam, who took this route in 1929, tells us – “The Puranas say that Lord Krishna and the Pandavas, as well as several great Rshis, used this pass… There are innumerable traditions and statements in the Puranas suggesting that it was a  common custom for the great Rshis of ancient India to visit Kailas along this route…

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the route, shown in red.

Badri-1

As you can see in the map, one needs to proceed north from Badrinath along Saraswathi river, cross Mana Pass, reach Tholingamutt in Tibet, and then turn eastwards, to proceed to Mount Kailasa. This was one of the traditional trade routes between India and Tibet. The path was closed down by the Chinese in 1951, but reopened for native pilgrims and traders in 1954.  Guess it is impossible to cross except for a few months in the year… And even during that period, no guarantees.

A slightly more detailed map is given below.

The route marked in Red is the one via Mana Pass, taken by Swami Tapovanam in July 1929….

Badri-2

The journey described by Swami Tapovanam is like this…Mana village is near Badrinath… Near Mana village is the sacred Vyasa Gufa (Click here, for an earlier blog post about Mana and Vyasa Gufa)… River Saraswati is nearby.

Swamiji and a group of around seventeen Sadhu-s went from Badrinath to Keshav Prayag, the confluence of Saraswati and Alakananda, which is not far from Vyasa Gufa. They then proceeded northward along the route of Saraswati river. There is no marked road or path… They made their way across “boulders of rock and heaps of snow, with only Saraswati river for  a guide”…Crossed streams/tributaries that come in the way (not easy). The progress was very difficult, labored… At times one could hardly cross a mile in one hour.. Neela Parvat, the deep blue mountain, came into view. This beautiful mountain is the mythological abode of Kakabhusunda.

Swamiji’s group took seven days to go from Badrinath (which is close to 10,000 feet) to somewhere near the Mana Pass (which is around 18,000 feet). Altitude sickness struck most people… Some horses perished on the way.. One man too… A few kms short of the top of the pass, they reached Devasaras (also known as Deotal), a beautiful lake, that was frozen blue . Swamiji writes – “At a height of 18,000 feet on the shore of a celestial lake, I entered into deep Samadhi induced by Nature, forgetting Kailas, forgetting the pilgrimage, forgetting the world and the body”.

They were forced to spend the night there, entrusting themselves to the care of the deity of the Pass. A storm,  and chances of survival would have been bleak. Next morning, they ascended again… After a couple of miles, they came to a pile of stones that represented the deity of the pass. In gratitude, they made offerings to the deity and accepted them back as Prasada. Walking on, reaching the top, they crossed over into Tibet.  Descending the pass, they reached the plains by late afternoon that day.

Next day they walked ahead in the great Tibetan highland plains. On the way, they saw a place which, as per local belief, had the hoof-marks of the horses that Rama and Lakshmana had used when they came here. Walking on in the open country, they came across wild horses, deer, and even a tiger. Fourth day after crossing the pass, they reached Tholingamatam (Tholing), which lies in the region of the river Sutlej, as it flows from the vicinity of Manasarovar to the Indian sub-continent. Badrinath to Tholing, a distance of around 80 miles (130 kms or so), took them 13 days.

This same route is described by the Yogi “M” as well, in his book, “Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master – A Yogi’s biography”. He too had a significant spiritual experience at Deotal, on the way. “M” and his group took 21 days to make the same journey – from Badrinath to Thholingamutt. He describes the trek as very tough, and mentions that one faced terrible headaches and nausea due to the lack of oxygen…

More about Tholing Mutt later…

From Tholing, for Mt Kailas, one proceeds east, south of Sutlej river and north of the Himalaya… Swami Tapovanam walked twenty miles to Daba, and fifty plus miles more to Gyanima… Mt Kailas was another 40 miles north-east of Gyanima… The route from Tholing to Daba, and then on to Gyanima and  Kailas, was one frequented by highway robbers at that time… Through such perilous paths did the group of Swami-s tread in their holy pilgrimage…

The total distance from Tholing to Mt Kailasa would be around 180 or 190 Kms.

By this route, the pilgrim arrives first at Kailasa. By the other route from Almora (Kumaon), one arrives first at Manasarovar. However, this Mana route, a total of around 320 kms or so from Badrinath to Kailasa, is a longer and tougher route, which has been used since ancient times…

Swami Tapovanam talks of Mana Pass route in connection with the kayva (lyric poem) Meghaduta, composed by the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. In that poem, the lover, a Yakhsa who has been exiled from Kailasa to the middle of India, sends a message to his beloved who is in Kailasa. He entrusts that message to clouds that are going north, making them his messenger. Narrating the route that the cloud need to take to Kailasa, the Yaksha, speaking of the way ahead after reaching Himalaya, asks the cloud to rise in the Himalaya and cross by way of “Krouncha-Randhra (Krauncha Pass… A pass in the mountain Krauncha… Krauncha also means the bird Curlew… And the Crane – see footnote below )… Go by the way of the Swans (Hamsa-dvara), and soaring beyond, reach the mountain of Kailasa….” Hamsa, the word for swan, also denotes Ascetics…

Swami Tapovanam says : “Some scholars hold that the Crouncha Randhra described in ancient poems as the route used by Royal Swans of Lake Manasa, is the Mana Pass…”…

There are some others who say that the Meghaduta reference is to another Himalayan pass – another route to Manasarover – which we shall talk of in the next post…

Signing of this post with a short video from youtube, of cranes migrating to India in winter, crossing the Himalaya mountains… Meghaduta comes alive here, with the clouds rising in the Himalaya and confronting the flight of the birds, making them turn back… The cranes return the next day, rise above the world so high, and cross over to their beautiful winter sanctuary, India… A real nice video clip… A must see… Watch it on full screen…

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Footnote -> Update: My good friend and co-yatri, Shankar, was the one who pointed me to the youtube video of the cranes. After reading this post, he also sent me wikipedia info on Demoiselle crane which says: “The Demoiselle Crane is known as the Koonj (कूंज, کونج, ਕੂੰਜ) in the languages of North India and Pakistan…. The name koonj is derived from the Sanskrit word kraunch, which is a cognate Indo-European term for crane itself.”

Food for thought , regarding Krauncha-randhra….

** * To be continued ***

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra- 2

July 21, 2013

Let’s check out some of the routes to Kailash-Maanasarovar for pilgrims going from India.

nepal-tibet-route

As you can see in the picture above….

Route via Nepal: The route is marked in Dark-brown-arrows above…From Kathmandu, cross over to Tibet-China to Nyalam… Go via Saga and Parayang to Manasarovar. Kathmandu to Manasarovar is around 870 Kms…. And takes four days by road. We took this route… If Day-1 you arrive in Kathmandu, you will be back on Day 13…

Route via Lhasa: Route marked in Green till Saga.. From where route is same as above… Total tour will be around 18 days.

And then there is the India route….

India-route

This is the route taken by the Indian Government organized tour, via Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.

This year due to the floods in Uttarakhand, the route has been closed down recently… This is said to be a very picturesque route… But takes longer… The tour takes around 24 days from Delhi. And there is lot more trekking to do (Indian side)… But from India border to Kailasa, this is the shortest route… From Navidhang (near the beautiful Om Parvat) to Manasarovar is just little over 120 Kms or so…

It is this route that was taken by Swami Tapovanam (Swami Chinmayananda’s guru) during his return from Maanasa-Kailasa in 1925 (see his book Kailas Yatra)… Swamiji, a Keralite who became a hermit of the Himalaya, has described graphically his whole tour – starting from Kathmandu in April 1925  and reaching Maanasarover and Kailasa in July. Leaving Kailasa in end of July, and walking back to Takkalkot, crossing the Lipu Ghats (Lipulekh pass, which is at 17,500 feet) facing enormous difficulty.,..Reaching Kalapani, considered the starting point of Kali Ganga, tributary of Sarayu…Walking a hundred miles along the banks of Kali river… Reaching a village called Garvyang, where he stayed during Krishna Janmashtami… Then walking on and reaching Dharchula, which is a hundred miles from Almora… Walking on, going past Ram Ganga river…Finally reaching Almora… His walk from Takkalkot to Almora took almost a month… Whole of September he stayed on in Almora… And finally left for the plains and reached Hardwar-Rishikesh in end of October 1925… What an epic Yatra… From April to Oct 1925… A Sadhu with just a kamandulu and a stick, no money or provisions, with one younger Sadhu for company, walking for months, often on the edge of life and death, in total surrender to the care of Lord Siva, basking in the bliss of the beauty of the Himalaya that he had become “One” with…

Here is another map of that route.

India-road-route

As you can see in the map above, there are two routes from Almora to Dharchula. The way up (way to Kailash, marked in red) is via Baijnath… Baijnath one of the very sacred Kshetra-s of Siva. The other route (marked in blue) is via Pithoragarh and Jageshwar. Jageshwar is another ancient temple town which is also believed to be another Jyotirlinga kshetra (for a post on that click here).

Traditional Indian pilgrimage to Kailasa were via these routes. There is an interesting mythological account associated with the Siva temple of Baijnath (Vaidyanath). Ravana, the King of Lanka, a great devotee of Siva, had been to Kailasa. Readers would know of the tale of how Ravana, proud of his strength, tried to uproot Mount Kailasa… Siva pushed Kailasa back down with his toe, and crushing Ravana’s hands.. His pride humbled, Ravana atoned… He sang the praise of Siva, and played the Veena… He then performed severe penance at Kailasa. Pleased, Siva offered him a boon. Ravana asked for an Atma Linga from Siva to take it to Lanka for his personal worship. Lord Siva gave him one, and told him to take care not to keep it on the ground on the way, as the Linga would get fixed to the first spot where it was put down. When Ravana came to Baijnath, he was tricked by the Gods to put it down… And the Linga came to be here forever… So it is that the place has an ancient linkage to Kailasa! And the route too has been around since the most ancient of times!

[btw: there are famous Baijnath temples in Bihar and Himachal Pradesh as well… Both are said to be Jyotirlinga kshetra-s. The Ravana legend is associated with both… The same legend is also associated with this temple in Kumaon (Click this link ). Also, the same tale is associated with the sacred temple town of Gokarna in the western coast of India… Let us say that Ravana made repeated attempts to get the Atma Linga…]

Here is a picture of the Baijnath temple of Kumaon… (Click on picture to see a larger view)

baijnath

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Other than the Kumaon (Almora) route, there is a route from Garhwal region of Uttarakhand as well… From Badrinath… A much tougher route… Said to have been taken by Krishna, Pandavas, and Rama… And by Swami Tapovanam in his second Yatra to Kailasa in 1929…

More on that route, in the next post…

Signing off this post with a verse of the great Tamil Saiva sage, Appar (Thirunavukkarasar)… This is the final verse of his thirukkayilai pathigam in praise of the Lord of Kailasa… (Appar’s journey to Kailasa is a tale of supreme penance… Appar is also believed to be incarnation of Saint Vageesar, who was with Siva in Kailasa… It is he who interceded with Siva to spare Ravana when Siva’s toe pushed Kailasa and crushed Ravana…)…

உண்ணா துறங்கா திருந்தாய் போற்றி
ஓதாதே வேத முணர்ந்தாய் போற்றி
எண்ணா இலங்கைக்கோன் றன்னைப் போற்றி
இறைவிரலால் வைத்துகந்த ஈசா போற்றி
பண்ணா ரிசையின்சொற் கேட்டாய் போற்றி
பண்டேயென் சிந்தை புகுந்தாய் போற்றி
கண்ணா யுலகுக்கு நின்றாய் போற்றி
கயிலை மலையானே போற்றி போற்றி.

Praise be to you (O Siva), who exist without food or sleep;
Praise be to you, who know the Veda without learning them;
Praise be to you, who crushed the King of Lanka when he
with scant respect, attempted to uproot Kailasa;
Praise be to you, who then heard with joy the song of praise reverentially offered (by Ravana);
Praise be to you, who entered into my heart before itself;
Praise be to you, who (eternally) exist as the Protective Eye of the World;
To you, the dweller of Kailasa Mountain, Praise! Praise!

                                                    **** To be continued****