LAKE MANASA SAROVAR - abode of Goddess Parvathi
Manasa Sarovar Rakshas Tal
manasa nirmitam param
Tenedam manasam sarh
Oh, Rama, the best among men! Brahmaji created in His mind this very beautiful lake in the Kailasa Mountain and hence it came to be known as 'Manasa Saras', - Shrimad Valmike Ramayanam
" Maan Sarovar Kwon parshe, vina badal hima varshe!
There is such an old and well-known saying in North India. Literally translated, it means, "who can find access to Manasa Sarovar? There it rains down snow without clouds." " To rain down snow without clouds" is as impossible as a child being born without a mother. The figurative statement only emphasizes the idea that there is constant snowfall in the area. - Sri Swami Tapovanam
"I drank in its loveliness with eager and insatiable desire. Feeling that the purpose of my birth had been accomplished. I congratulated myself on my good fortune" - Sri Swami Tapovanam in 'Wanderings in the Himalayas'.
"I could live and die on this heavenly lake without ever growing weary of the wonderful spectacle always presenting fresh surprises." - wrote the famous Swedish traveller, Swen Hedin, who travelled over the region in 1907, recording the boundless joy of his wonderful experience.
South of Mount Kailash across the great plain of Barga at the base of Mount Gurla Mandhata, are the two lakes Manasarovar and Rakshas Tal. They are among the highest bodies of fresh water in the world, with Manasarovar at 4,558m (14,954 ft) and Raksha Tal about 15m ( 50ft) lower. The two lakes are connected by a channel called Ganga Chu which, although it flows in various degrees of volume, occasionally becomes totally dry. Traditionally, it is believed that ample water flowing in this channel augurs well for the Tibetan people and the years of drought in the 1980s for the channel were taken as a bad sign for the country. More recently the channel has begun to flow again, but it is unclear whether there has been any corresponding shift in the fortunes of the Tibetan people.
Manasarovar is the large of the two lakes and is considered by both Buddhists and Hindus to be much holier than Raksha Tal. Hindus regard Manasarovar as the mental creation of the god Brahma, especially made so that pilgrims to Kailash would have a place to perform their ablutions. In 1948 some of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were carried here from India and scattered on the lake. Buddhists believe that Queen Maya, the Buddha’s mother was carried here by the gods and washed prior to conceiving the Buddha in her womb. The lake is considered to have pure healing waters and to represent the forces of sun, light and victory. The lake is traditionally circumambulated as part of the Kailash pilgrimage. There are eight Buddhist monasteries on the shores of the lake. In contrast to Manasarovar, the small lake Raksha Tal is usually ignored by pilgrims, who compare it to the moon and the forces of darkness. Others associate Rakshas Tal, “the demon lake”. Unlike the healing waters of Manasarovar, the waters of Rakshas Tal are said to be poisonous. The association of Manasarovar with the sun and the Rakshas Tal with moon is also linked to the respective shapes of the two lakes, with Manasarovar more closely resembling the full orb of the sun while Raksha Tal resembles a half moon.
Rakshasatal is a big lake which is about fifty miles in circumference and winding and crooked in shape. Ravana who is said to have danced holding the weight of Mount Kailash, had done great austerities on the banks of this lake and hence it is called Rakshastal. Though it is as big as the manasa, the inhabitants of Tibet and the Hindu travellers do not regard it holy or worshipful. Hence no one bathes in it nor gives charity along its banks.
Before you set out to circumambulate Manasarovar it is vitally necessary to have sufficient supplies. You must make sure to have food for 4 to 5days, since it is generally not possible to buy any along the way. In the summer make sure to bring a surgical mask as well as insect repellent to protect yourself against the swarms of flies and mosquitoes that can plague the trekker at various points. The walk itself is longer than that around Kailash, but it is completely flat.
The starting point for the circumambulation of Manasarovar is the village of Huore. To reach Huore, you leave Darchen and go to Barga, a small settlement of three compounds and a military post, to the junction of the road connecting Shiquanhe and Purang with the so-called southern route to Central Tibet. The old site of Barga is a few kilometers away from the present, Chinese-built town. From New Barga you continue east along the southern route for a further 28km (17miles), passing to your let the snow-capped mountain Bonri said to have been given by Milarepa to his vanquished Bon opponent in the magic contest that took place at Kailash. The only regular transport between Darchen and Huore is the Indian pilgrim bus, which leaves once every four days during the pilgrimage season. It is also possible to hitch a ride on a truck or jeep.
At Huore you can stay the night at a small guest house before starting off for the lake itself the following morning. From Huore you can also hire horses to ride or carry your baggage around the lake. The body of water you see to the south of Huore is not Manasarovar but a small independent lake. Make sure to keep it to your right as you cross the deserted landscape, heading southwest to Manasarovar. When you first reach the northeast shore of the lake, there is short stretch where peculiar egg-shaped balls of weed and Karmapa stone (small pieces of highly polished jet) can be found. Both objects are venerated by Tibetans as precious relics.
From here you head south for about three hours until you reach Seralung Monastery. The original Seralung Monastery which housed up to one hundred monks, was located a couple of kilometers up the valley was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In 1980 a modest temple was rebuilt at its present site on the lakeside. It has a single shrine room. If you feel like sleeping here, it may be possible to stay either in the kitchen or in tents nearby. At the lakeside by the monastery one can find layers of five-colored sand-black, red, gold, green and silver, which is also venerated by the Tibetans.
From Seralung it is a 7hours walk to Trugo Monastery on the southern shore of the lake. Trugo has also been rebuilt on the lakeside instead of its original site. All along the southern shore of the lake Kailash can be seen clearly to the north. Several kilometers of Ta-ge River are hot spring and geysers. There is a government-built pilgrim’s Guest House at Trugo, where you can spend the night for a small fee. Trugo is an excellent place to stay for a few days as it is isolated, peaceful and friendly and the views and sunsets are often spectacular. Trugo is also a trading pint for Tibetan nomads, who comedown from the northern plains to sell wool and slat to Nepalese traders. Many Nepalese Hindus from northwest Nepal also come here to bathe and perform ablution in the lake, but these pilgrims rarely continue to Kailash. Behind the monastery is the great mountain, Gurla Mandhata.
The next stretch of the circumambulation entails a full day’s walk from Trugo to Tseti Lake on the western shore. As you turn around the southwest corner of Manasarovar, you will notice that this is the nesting place for many wild geese that migrate to the region. Also near this corner is a cairn made up of several peculiarly shaped rocks, upon which Tibetans make offering of scarves, sweets and chang. A couple of hours further around the shore you will pass by some tall cliffs in which are several blackened caves. A small monastery Gosul Gompa, has been rebuilt on top of the cliffs. A climb up affords magnificent views of the entire lake.
The only building at Tsethi is a rest house, where it is possible to spend the night, although there are no cooking facilities. From here, it is possible to meet the pilgrim’s bus or you can try your luck hitchhiking on the road nearby either back to Purang or on to Darchen and Shiquanhe.
If you decide to continue on the pilgrimage, you walk another 2 hours or so to Chiu Monastery at the North West corner of the lake. This small monastery is a hill and marks the place where Padmasambhava spent the last seven days of his life on this earth. You can visit the cave where he is said to have meditated. Hot springs are found nearby a short distance down the channel. They are great for washing your hair.
Pilgrims must now make their way back to either Darchen via Barga or Purang. From Chiu Monastery you can walk to Barga in about four hours, or hitch a ride with a truck on the nearby road. From Barga it should be possible though not necessarily easy, to arrange transport back to Shiquanhe. You would probably have more success at Darchen. It is 104km (65miles) from Chiu to Purang, which has to be hitched unless you have prearranged transport. Remember that hitchin in Tibet means stopping a truck and negotiating with the driver how much you will pay for the journey. Because there is no public transport, all travelers, including Tibetans, pay for lifts. During the summer months the Indian pilgrims’ bus picks up groups of Indians here every few days and takes them to Darchen and then back to Purang. If seats are available, it may take other passengers for a charge.
From Srimad Bhagavata - One day, it seems, Apsara ladies were bathing naked in Lake manasa. At the time, Suka, followed by Vyasa, happened to pass along the shore of the lake. Suka, who preceded, was all nude; but the ladies did not feel embarassed on seeing him who looked like a picture. On the contrary, when their eyes fell on Vyasa, who was properly clothed, they hurriedly put on their dress. Struck by their strange conduct, Vyasa sought an explanation from them. They then told him, "O, Vyasa, your mind still remains in the idea of sex distinction. Your son, on the contrary, has not a trace of such distinction, because his mind is fixed solely on Brahman."
The Lord of Gouri with his consort and Devendra with Indrani and the celestial women are said to sport in this enchanting plain between Manasa Sarovar and Kailash.
"Infront of my eyes spreading wide in the form of dark blue waters was the most wonder lake - at the sight of Manasa my mind danced with wonder and ecstasy and forget itself". - Sri Swami Tapovanam