Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mt. kailas, abode of Shiva; Manasarovar, world's greatest water tower

Mt. kailas, abode of Shiva; Manasarovar, world's greatest water tower

Thanks to Tarun Vijay ji for this exquisite article. The abode of Shiva is Mt. Kailas. At the foothills of this stunner is Manasarovar glacier, which is the world's greater tower in the Himalayas yielding glacier melts which service 10 of the greatest perennial rivers of the world. This water tower, if managed well, can make every river in Bharatam a jeevanadi, and in the process help create a National Water Grid which will be a revolution for abhyudayam of Bharatam -- adding 9 crore acres of additional wet land with assured irrigation and over 60,000 kms. of national waterway, complementing the highway-railway networks. So, a form of Shiva is a S'ivalingam as the metaphor for the summit of Mt. Kailas, the water-giving divinity, devatatmaa himalaya; hence, the perpetual abhishekam in the jyotirlinga sthalams in Bharatam venerating the water-giving, life-giving Mahes'wara, paramaatman.

This is the cultural capital of Bharatam. Ask China to vacate Tibet.


Abode of the gods

June 20, 2008

As devotees prepare for the arduous annual trek to Kailas Manasarovar, Tarun Vijay reflects on that most sublime of spiritual experiences -- a pilgrimage to Shiva's home.

A group of atheists had accompanied us during an earlier pilgrimage to Kailas Manasarovar. I still recall them standing, frozen in place by their first glimpse of Mount Kailas; I saw tears of pure joy running down their faces -- and I was not surprised.

If there is one place on this planet where God can be touched and felt, it has to be the Kailas Manasarovar region -- it is indescribable, beyond the power of words to capture; it is perhaps the one experience that defines the state of being.

The trek is often called a pilgrimage, but it is so much more -- the fulfillment of a dream, a realisation of life's highest aspirations. People let themselves in for uncertainty, for incredible hardship, year after year because they know that what is in store for them is not simple anand, joy, but sachidanand, sublime joy.

It is for this experience that people wait a lifetime, offering up prayers to god to grant them an opportunity to go on this journey of self-realisation. That is one of the unique aspects of this trek -- unlike routine pilgrimages to even venerated sites, which you make when you want to, the trek to Kailas is not about your schedule. Trite though it seems to say this, the 'call' has to come; for some, it never does during their lifetimes; for others, who dream of this for years, suddenly it all falls into place and often in completely unexpected fashion, they find themselves readying for an experience they have dreamt about. I had the good fortune to get such a 'call', to go on a pilgrimage that brought me such bliss at the time, and that now feels like a dream.

Image: For pilgrims, this first frontal view of the legendary abode of Lord Shiva is the culmination of a lifetime's hopes and dreams.

The MEA has made this year's yatra possible

June 20, 2008

When news appeared earlier this year that China has cancelled this year's yatra, thus, it cast a pall of gloom not merely on those who had planned to make the trek this year, but on the community at large -- for even those who cannot go derive a measure of satisfaction from the knowledge that the experience is there, that others are savoring it, and that sooner or later, their turn will come.

Thanks largely to the efforts of our Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, the Chinese government has agreed to allow the yatra to proceed in batches, on a revised schedule -- irrespective of the nature of government in New Delhi, our external affairs ministry boasts dedicated officers like Menon, who leave no stone unturned to ensure that the yatra is always on schedule. It needs pointing out that though the Chinese have cancelled all batches originating in Kathmandu, for fear of Tibetan infiltration into the group, they have allowed Indian pilgrims to make the journey.

I guess we need to thank the Chinese for allowing us to continue with our most revered pilgrimage -- though Shiva is a Hindu god, Tibet falls in their territory. Then army chief in Kashmir General Zoravar Singh had tried in 1841 to bring Kailas back to India; he in fact won the first phase of the battle and annexed the Kailas Manasarovar region into Maharaja Ranjit Singh's territory - but then winter intervened, and the enemy got the better of him in the treacherous climate.

Such was his bravery, however, such the heroism he displayed before dying in battle, that the Tibetans were moved to build a monument for him at Toya village near the Kailas route, adjoining Taklakot. The flag that General Zoravar Singh's soldiers brought back from Tibet is called the flag of Mantalai (Manasarovar), and forms part of the glorious heritage of the Jammu Kashmir Rifles. A military fort near Leh has also been named after General Singh.

Image: Clouds that shround the north face of Mount Kailas shift, in answer to pilgrims' prayers, to afford a clear view.

The quest for salvation

June 20, 2008

It takes two days to complete the 54-kilometre long parikrama (circumambulation) of Kailas -- 24 hours of immersing yourself in the spirituality that envelops this abode of Shiva, God of Gods. To the south of Kailas is Lake Manasarovar, whose circumference of 90 kilometres can be circumambulated in two days. The Tibetans call the lake Tso Mapham or Tso Mawang.

To the south of Manas is the Gurla Mandhata mountain named after Mandhata, a great king of yore who reportedly did penance here. The region finds numerous mentions in Indian scriptures, in the Ramayan and Mahabharat. The great poet Kalidasa beautifully described Kailas and Manasarovar in his masterpiece Kumarsambhavam: 'In the northern part there is a mighty mountain by name Himalaya -- the abode of perpetual snow -- fittingly called the Lord of mountains, animated by Divinity as its soul and internal spirit; spanning the wide land from the eastern to the western sea, it stands, as it were, like the measuring rod of the earth. At the direction of King Prithu, the selfsame mountain was used as a calf by all other mountains, while Mount Meru (Kailas) stood as an expert milker of cows and milched from Mother Earth the milk of shining gems and medicinal herbs of wonderful virtue and supreme efficacy.'

Image: Pilgrims on yaks make the two-day parikrama of Mount Kailas.

None to equal that transcendent moment when you stand at the threshold of Shiva's abode

June 20, 2008

Of all the many memories pilgrims carry away, and nurse for a lifetime, there is none to equal that transcendent moment when you stand at the threshold of Shiva's abode. I remember my own experience as if it were yesterday: The sun shone bright and high in the clearest blue sky I had ever seen. The peak of the holy mountain, alone, was shrouded in clouds, like a white silken curtain.

We were a group of 30 pilgrims, who came out of our base camp rooms to offer obeisance to the mountain. With folded hands and prayers on our lips, we waited for the clouds to move away -- and in that icy cold silence, pierced only by the prayers of the pilgrims, magic happened. The clouds suddenly moved away, and Mount Kailas appeared in full majestic effulgence, even as our voices rose in the chant of the Mahamrityunjay, the supreme mantra of victory over death.

You felt the tears roll down your faces; you looked around, and realized that everyone was crying in sheer bliss. There were some who said they had waited through several lifetimes for this chance to stand, head bowed in veneration, before the 22,028 feet high Mount Kailas, abode of Lord Shiva and the 'Navel of the Earth'.

Tarun Vijay, director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, is the author of books on Kailas Manasarovar, available in English, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi.

Image: On the Chinese side of the pilgrimage, the signs of Indian culture are everywhere.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dalai Lama 'selling out' Chinese territory?

China: Dalai Lama accused of “selling out” Chinese territory with Intention to Sow Discord in Sino-Indian Relations


C3S Paper No.169 dated June 11, 2008

Reacting to Indian press reports (4 June 2008) about the statement made for the first time by the Dalai Lama that the “McMahon line”, fixed by the 1914 Simla Convention is legal and accordingly, “ Arunachal Pradesh” including Tawang, is a part of India, a report in the People’s Daily- affiliated Global Times (Chinese language, 10 June 2008), recalled that the Indian Government ‘forcibly occupied’ the Chinese territory south of “McMahon line” in 1951 and formed “Arunachal Pradesh” in 1987. According to the Chinese paper, the Indian despatches contrasted the present statement with the evasive reply given by the exiled leader on the subject earlier in 2003 during his visit to Tawang, saying merely that “Arunachal Pradesh” is a de facto part of Tibet, along with the remark that what the spiritual leader has said now, can certainly influence the Sino-Indian border talks.

Global Times quoted an authoritative India specialist associated with the Institute for Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Sun Shihai, as saying to the paper’s correspondent that the change in the attitude of “Dalai” on “Arunachal Pradesh” reflects the fact that the “ Tibet Independence” forces are facing bad days more and more, in the background of improving Sino-Indian relations. The change has more or less brought out the “worries” on the part of such forces, as China and India get closer. The Olympic torch could pass through India and New Delhi arrested the ‘head of the Tibet independence organisation’. No activity of “Tibet Independence” forces can influence the overall situation in Sino-Indian relations. The Chinese scholar asserted that on Sino-Indian border talks, the “Dalai” cannot represent anybody and that the change in his attitude, will not affect that talks.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has described the Tibet issue as a ‘sensitive’ one in Sino- Indian ties. Beijing reportedly took up the issue of the Dalai Lama’s ‘free use’ of the Indian media, when India’s Minister for External Affairs visited China recently. Now comes the Chinese allegation, perhaps for the first time in recent years, on the exiled leader’s ‘sowing discord’ in Beijing-New Delhi relations. Beijing’s motives are not difficult to see – it intends to apply more and more pressure on the Dalai Lama to accept Central Government’s conditions for dialogue as well as give a subtle warning to New Delhi about the risks for bilateral relations coming from any encouragement under the pretext of democracy, to what it feels, the ‘anti-China’ activities of the Dalai Lama and his followers in India. Secondly, Beijing seems to be trying to kill two birds with one stone- using the attack on the Dalai Lama to drive a wedge between him and the Indian Government as well as to reinforce its claim on Arunachal Pradesh.

Interestingly, the latter is being carried out through an unending publicity drive and it is happening at a time when New Delhi is taking care to use every occasion to satisfy China by declaring that the Tibet Autonomous Region is an integral part of China. Obviously, China, for its own reasons, does not feel any necessity to maintain restraint in reciprocation to such attitude of India.

The recent Tibet unrest is widely being seen outside China as a factor, which could contribute to erosion of China’s bargaining position in the border talks with India. Adding strength to such views, are the Dalai Lama’s latest observations on Arunachal, which may find acceptance of the Tibetan population inside China. Contrary to what China is telling, it should therefore be Beijing, which should “worry” about what the Dalai Lama has said.

(The writer, D.S.Rajan, is Director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai,India,