Arjun And The Adventure Of Ice Lotusl __TOP__
For millennia Hindus have revered the sanctity of Mt. Kailas and Manasarovar as a heaven on earth. They are a part of the Himalayas and are situated in northwest Tibet (or Gangdesh).The most beautiful and captivating of all the lakes in the world is Manasarovar. Formerly, in ancient India, it was known as Brahmasar. It is a fresh water lake perched at 15,000 ft. above sea level. Since Vedic times thousands of years ago, it has been revered as a holy pilgrim place and is believed to be the source of four subterranean rivers, namely, Shatdru (Sutlej), Sindhu, Brahmaputra and Saryu (Karnali).The Hindu scriptures called the Purans describe the death of Bhasmasur, a demon, at this place. Many nearby landmarks are also related to infamous and famous people of Indian culture. Ravan, the King of Lanka, performed austerities at Ravanhrud or Rakshas Tal. The noble King Mandhata renounced his regal comforts to perform severe austerities at Mt. Mandhata.The glory of Kailas1 and Manasarovar, where nature unleashes its fury and dons its beauty, are sung at length by the shastras of Sanatan Dharma. The Shrimad Bhagvad Gita describes Mt. Kailas as a divine form of God, "Meruhu shikharinãmaham," meaning, "I am Kailas (Meru) among all mountains."2Once Rishi Dattatrey travelled from Vindhyachal Mountains in the south to the Himalayas and then arrived at Manasarovar. After a holy dip in its waters and seeing the royal swans (rajhansas) he asked Shiv and Parvati residing in a cave in Mt. Kailas, "Which is the holiest of holy places in the world?" Shivji replied, "The holiest of holy places is the Himalaya in which lies Kailas and Manasarovar."The Valmiki Ramayan, in the Kishkindha Kand and Bal Kand,3 and the Bhishma Parva, Van Parva, Dron Parva and Anushashan Parva of the epic Mahabharat describe, through stories, the glory and beauty of Kailas-Manasarovar. According to the Uttar Puran, the first Tirthankar in Jain dharma, Rishabhdev, performed austerities and gave up his mortal existence at Mt. Kailas. The grandmaster of all Indian poets, Kalidas, pours his heart in penning the grandeur of Kailas and Manasarovar in his work called Meghdut.4European explorers, trekkers and nature lovers have also been fascinated by their visits. In 1906 the renowned Swedish explorer Dr. Sven Hedin writes, "There is no finer ring on earth than which bears the names of Manasarovar, Kailas and Gurla Mandhata; it is a turquoise set between two diamonds. The grand impressive silence which reigns around the inaccessible mountains, and the inexhaustible wealth of crystal-clear water which makes the lake the mother of the holy rivers... Whoever is of a pure and enlightened mind and bathes in the waves of Manasarovar attains thereby to a knowledge of the truth concealed from other mortals."5Dr. Sven Hedin describes his first sight of Manasarovar, "Even the first view from the hills on the shore caused us to burst into tears of joy at the wonderful, magnificent landscape and its surpassing beauty. The oval lake, somewhat narrower in the south than the north, and with a diameter of about 15.5 miles, lies like an enormous turquoise embedded between two of the finest and most famous mountain giants of the world, the Kailas in the north and Gurla Mandhata in the south, and between huge ranges, above which the two mountains uplift their crowns of bright white eternal snow. Yes, already I felt the strong fascination which held me fettered to the banks of Manasarovar, and I knew I would not willingly leave the lake before I had listened, until I was weary, to the song of its waves."6Research scholars of the 'Survey of India' and intrepid explorers, S.G. Burrard and H.H. Hayden write about Manasarovar in their book, "Manasarovar was the first lake known to geography. Lake Manasarovar is famous in Hindu mythology; it had in fact become famous many centuries before the lake of Geneva had aroused any feeling of admiration in civilised man. Before the dawn of history Manasarovar had become the sacred lake and such it has remained for four millennium."7In the history of humanity Manasarovar is an ancient lake. Geographically it has been lauded as the world's first lake.Since many eras the land of Manasarovar and Kailas has been a ground for spiritual endeavours. Thousands of yogis, sadhus, sannyasis and aspirants have retreated to this icy, desolate region for austerities and meditation to realise God. Even today a visitor can experience the vibrations of divinity of their austerities and spiritual sadhanas.Swami Pranavanandaji, who had pilgrimaged to and stayed at Manasarovar thirty-two times writes, "From the spiritual point of view, she has a most enrapturing vibration of the supreme order that can soothe and lull even the most wandering mind into sublime serenity and can transport it into involuntary ecstasies."8Edwin T. Atkinson, a renowned researcher who wrote the Himalayan Gazetteer, writes about Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and the land of Manasarovar in 1882. In his book Religion in the Himalayas Atkinson writes about Manasarovar, "Nature in her wildest and most rugged forms bears witness to the correctness of the belief that there is the home of 'the great god'... All the aids to worship in the shape of striking scenery, temples, mystic and gorgeous ceremonial and skilled celebrants are present, and he must indeed be dull who returns from his pilgrimage unsatisfied."9Through the corridors of time, among the thousands of ascetics, aspirants and explorers that trekked the most challenging land of Kailas and Manasarovar was a peerless pilgrim called Nilkanth Varni.More than two centuries ago, between 1792 and 1793, an eleven-year-old child yogi called Nilkanth (later known as Bhagwan Swaminarayan) pilgrimaged to Manasarovar alone. Details of his fascinating journey, in which he faced untold challenges and furies of nature may seem difficult for ordinary people to believe. But to arrive at some description of Nilkanth's trials and tribulations we can draw parallels from the written accounts and studies of pilgrims and explorers who had bravely trudged and trod on the trails and lands that Nilkanth had walked. This research will give an inkling into Nilkanth's divine persona.The first notable account on Manasarovar was in 1715 by a European traveller called Father Desideri.10 In 1792, when Nilkanth had embarked upon his pilgrimage to Manasarovar, a sadhu by the name of Purana Poori11 of Kashi described his experiences of his pilgrimage to Manasarovar to an English official called Jonathan Duncan. The latter's write up, 'An Account of Two Fakeers', was published in Asiatic Researches.12 The experiences of Purana Poori are fascinating. But the season in which Purana Poori and Father Desideri journeyed to Manasarovar from Kathmandu was less challenging and harsh than that of Nilkanth's.About that time, in August 1792, a sannyasi named Purna Swantantra Brahmachari Prakashanand also narrated his experiences of his pilgrimage to Manasarovar.13 In 1796 a sadhu named Swami Harivallabh had accomplished a pilgrimage to Manasarovar and later he had been the guide of the English adventurers Dr. William Moorcroft (a veterinary surgeon) and Captain Hearsay on their journey to Manasarovar via the Niti Pass in 1812.14In 1773 a renowned pundit, Purangir, employed as a translator by Lord Warren Hastings, the Governor of Calcutta, pilgrimaged to Kailas-Manasarovar. In 1808 Captain Wilford wrote a report of Purangir's visit to Kailas-Manasarovar in 'Essay on the Sacred Isles in the West'.15 Thereafter, at the beginning of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries many intrepid Indian and European explorers and pilgrims visited Manasarovar and published their accounts.We will try to understand Nilkanth's epic journey through documented descriptions and factsheets of many explorers and pilgrims.It would be pertinent to point out that Nilkanth's journey cannot be compared with the treks and efforts of other explorers and pilgrims who were partially or fully geared up for the harsh climate and terrain. The accounts of such journeys in the last 200 years are available in the archives in India. The accounts vividly portray how pilgrims and adventurers fared through the frigid temperatures, with clothes, food, guides, maps, medicines, tents, beasts of burden and porters.
Arjun And The Adventure Of Ice Lotusl