Things To Know Before You Visit Mansarovar

Mansarovar is a Himalayan freshwater lake. This amazing place is full of mysteries. The lake is so sacred to the devotees of different religions. Kailash Parvat or Mount Kailash, near Mansarovar is the center of worship for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. Let’s find things you should know before you visit Mansarovar.

Mansarovar and white snow-capped Kailash peak

Where is Mansarovar? 

Mansarovar is about 940 km southwest of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.  It is bounded on the north by Mount Kailash and on the west by Rakshastal Lake.  Its geographical position is 30 ° 40 ′ 25.8 ‘north, 81 ° 26 ′ 8.9’ east.  Its surface area is 410 square kilometers. The average depth is 90 m, and the surface elevation is 4,590 m above sea level. The lake is almost round.  Its circumference is about 88 km.

Although there is no ice on the hills on both sides, there is a lot of ice in Kailash.  Water flowing from the higher reaches of the Kailash mountains accumulates in  Mansarovar.  In winter, the water of Manas Sarovar freezes and turns into a huge iceberg. In the spring, when the ice melts, Mansarovar turns into a lake of clear blue water. This lake is called the cradle of many rivers.  From this lake, four sacred rivers have originated: Sampo or Brahmaputra, Indus, Shatadru and Barnali or Map Chu. The weather at Mansarovar is uncertain all the time.  Maybe at some point the scorching sun is rising, it can be seen at the next moment that hail and snow have started falling.

Why is Kailash Mansarovar famous?

Kailash Mansarovar is  famous mainly for its sacredness.  It is very sacred to Hindus,  Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.  Pilgrims from Tibet, Nepal, India visit this lake. They think that visiting this lake or bathing in it brings various spiritual fruits. On the shores of the lake there are vacation camps or monasteries for pilgrims, beautiful mountain caves and beautiful sights. The most notable of the monasteries is the ancient Chiu Gompa monastery.  The monastery, located on a hillside, looks as if it has been carved out of stone. 

According to Hindu mythology, Kailash-Mansarovar area is very sacred.  It is the city of Kubera.  Hindu religious scriptures believe that the Ganga descended from the locks of Shiva, and therefore, has a connection with Kailash Mansarovar. In Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Matsya Purana its majesty is praised. As per the scriptures,  Lord Shankara (Shiva) is present on Mount Kailash, above which is heaven and below which is dead earth. Followers of Hinduism believe that Mount Kailash is Mount Meru, the main abode of  Shankara (Shiva).  Here, the right hand of Goddess Sati fell. So, it’s considered as a Shaktipeeth.  A stone rock is worshipped here as the form of the goddess.

The Sanskrit word Mansarovar is derived from ‘man’ and ‘sarovar’ which literally means ‘lake of mind’. According to Hindu mythology, this lake originated from the mind of Brahma.  It is said that Mother Parvati used to bathe in  Mansarovar and she is believed to have bathed there even today.  Mansarovar is also described as Kshir Sagar (Sea of ​​Milk) in the Puranas . This is the temporary abode of Lord Vishnu. The southern part of Mount Kailash is considered sapphire, the eastern part is considered crystal, the western part is considered ruby ​​and the north is considered gold.

The Rig Veda, the oldest sacred scripture of the Hindus, does not mention Kailash or Mansarovar, but it mentions Mount Meru.  Many consider this mountain to be the abode of the Vedic god Rudra.  Rudra of Rigveda is synonymous with Shiva. In ancient times, the Arctic Mountains were considered to be the center of the earth.  In the mythological age, we get various descriptions of Kailash and Mansarovar.  In the Valmiki Ramayana, the origin of the river Saryu is mentioned. Brahma created a Sarovar (lake) from his Man (mind) on Mount Kailash, hence the name is Mansarovar. The river discharges or flows from the lake, hence its name is Saryu.

In the 39th chapter of the Brahma Purana, it is said that there is a gem-like peak called Jyotisthala in the Arctic mountain.  That peak is respected and worshipped by the innumerable people of Trilok (the three worlds-heaven, earth and hell). In ancient times Devadideva Shankara (Shiva) was sitting on that jeweled pass, Uma or Gauri (Parvati) was also sitting next to him. The gods, Vasus, Ashwini Kumaras and  Vaishravana (leader of the Yaksha race) worshipped them.

In the Mahabharata, during Yudhisthira’s Rajsuya Yajna, Arjuna conquered the Himalayas and Tibet region and brought many treasures from the kings of that place for the yajna. Lord Krishna took Arjuna on a journey to Kailash. It is also said that Vyasadeva went to Kailash.

The sacred place of Kailash Mansarovar has been given the metaphor of the heart of Indian philosophy, which reflects a glimpse of Indian civilization. Kalpabriksha is located in the silt of Kailash mountain.  According to the Buddhists, there is a tree at its center and the fruit of the tree has therapeutic properties capable of curing all kinds of physical and mental ailments.

The Tibetans believe that a pious poet  practiced austerities in a cave of Mount Kailash for many years.  According to the Tibetan Bonpas, Demchauk and Darje Fangamo live in the nine-storey swastika of Kailash.  Buddhists consider it to be the abode of Lord Buddha and Manipadma.  Demchauk, a supernatural form of the Buddha God in Kailash, is revered by Buddhists. This form of Buddha is also called  ‘Dharmapala’.  Buddhists believe that they attain Nirvana by coming to this place.  It is further said that Lord Buddha’s mother traveled here. The Jains believe that this is the abode of Adinatha and this place of Nirvana is ‘Ashtapada’.  Some people also believe that Guru Nanak also came, stopped, and meditated here for some days.  So, it is also a holy place for Sikhs.

What is special about Mansarovar? 

The beauty and mystery associated with Mansarovar are the specialities of the lake. Everybody knows that Kailash is mysterious. But there is no less mystery about Mansarovar and its surroundings. The unearthly beauty of the lake always attracts the tourists. The mystery of the play of light at dawn and night in Mansarovar is still unknown.  Many who have come here to spend the night have seen two bright lights flashing on Mount Kailash.  At first glance, one light follows the other. Then  Mansarovar is manifested under the influence of this light. It becomes difficult to take eyes off that boundless beauty.  The mytery of this light is still undiscovered today.  According to Hindu devotees,  Shiva and Parvati come to bathe in Mansarovar. The flames of the light are actually Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati.

Can we take a bath in Mansarovar?

Hindus believe that taking a bath or holy dip in Mansarovar and drinking its water cleanses all the sins. So a large number of Hindu devotees followed this ritual every year. But the Chinese authorities have banned taking a dip in Mansarovar now.  As travellers mostly from India come here and participate in the Kailash Parikrama and take ceremonial baths in the sacred water of Mansarovar, they have to fetch water from the lake with a bucket or something else and take a bath.

Why taking a dip in Mansarovar is banned?

The Chinese or Tibetian authorities have banned taking a dip in Mansarovar in recent years. The authorities have taken such a decision to prevent water pollution as well as to save environment.

Where is Lake Rakshastal?

Lake Rakshastal is also a Himalayan lake. It is located in Burang County, Ngari, Tibet. The distance between Rakshastal and Mansarovar is 23.1 km. Lake Rakshastal is known as the Demon Lake, because its water is salty, undrinkable for humans and animals, and there is almost no life present in this area. In the Tibetan language, Lake Rakshastal means ‘a poisonous dark lake’. It is also called the Ghost Lake.

Mansarovar and Rakshastal Lake

Why is Rakshastal salty?

Accoding to Hindu scriptures, the demon king,  Ravana wanted to obtain superpowers.
He selected the banks of a special island in the Lake Rakshastal that he would make daily offering with one of his ten heads as a sacrifice to please the Lord Shiva. Finally, on the tenth day, Lord Shiva was moved enough by his devotion and granted Ravana his wish to obtain superpowers. Hindus believe that Lake Rakshastal was created by Ravana. So it’s water is salty though scientists believe that the lake was created naturally.  Bathing in Rakshastal and Gouri Kund is prohibited. Lake Rakshastal is set as a contrast to the holy god-created freshwater Lake Mansarovar.

What are the scientists’ beliefs about Kailash Mansarovar?

According to scientists, this place is the center of the earth. The North Pole on one side of the Earth, the South Pole on the other.  The Himalayas are located in the middle of both.  The center of the Himalayas is Kailash and Kailash Mansarovar. Scientists believe that there was an ocean around the Indian subcontinent. The Himalayas were formed by the collision of the Indian pellet with the pellet part of Russia. The event occurred approximately 100 million years ago.

What is the best time to visit Mansarovar?

The temperature of the place seems to be stable between May and September and then
Kailash Mansarovar remains clearly visible. Thus, the best time to visit Mansarovar is between mid of May to mid of September. In these months temperature remains pleasant during the day and cold at the night. So, you can plan your Yatra in the months of June, July, or August.

Which route is the best for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

There are mainly two routes to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. One is via Sikkim and other is via Kathmundu, Nepal.
Whatever the route is, you have to enter southeastern Tibet. Hundreds of pilgrims enter southwestern Tibet through the Kumaon Himalayas every year under the auspices of the Indian government. Kailash and Mansarovar are located in western Tibet.  Kailash Mansarovar Yatra can be done in about half the time if you go through Nepal. It is also mentionable that Indian Govt. inaugurated a new route for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in 2020. The new route is the shortest, only one-fifth of the distance of road travel as compared to other routes.

By Krishna Das

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