A Journey and a Pilgrimage to the Navel of the World.

‘As the dew is dried up from the morning sun so are the sins of men dried up by the sight of the Himalayas, where Shiva lived and where the Ganga falls from the foot of Vishnu like the slender thread of a lotus flower. There are no mountains like the Himalayas, for in them are Kailash and Manasarover.’ - from the Skandar Purana

Why Mount Kailash ?

Holy places never had any beginning. They have been holy from the time they have been discovered, strongly alive because of the invisible presence breathing through them. Man is amazed or fearful as he feels the vibrations of invisible power in the air, and religions, feebly falling behind like all human institutions, gradually assign various names and symbols to delineate the mystery



A Place of Pligrimage

For Hindus the mountain is the abode of Shiva, the God symbolising all the destructive forces in the universe and yet at the same time all regenerative power and energy. At the summit of Kailash, Shiva sits on his celestial throne. Almost significantly, the mountain is also perceived as the physical manifestation of the mythical Mount Meru. The Hindus have for centuries traversed the Himalayas to circumnavigate Kailash, believing that a circuit of the mountain will erase the sins of a lifetime and break the karmic cycle.

Hindus also believe that the waters of the sacred lake Manasarover were created from the mind or 'manas' of Brahma, the God who symbolizes the creative force in the universe. Hindus revere the whole Himalayan Range as a manifestation of the divine consciousness. The presence of the mountain and sacred lake is the ultimate endorsement of the sanctity of the whole range.

Buddhists, particularly the Mahayana Buddhists of Tibet and the surrounding region, call the mountain Kang Rinpoche, the 'precious snow mountain'. For them this is the cosmic mountain, a link between the physical world and the spiritual universe. For Buddhists and Jains the concept of Meru is also crucial, for it lies at the centre of their cosmology. Kailash is seen as the physical manifestation of Mount Meru.

The Jains, a small but important religious sect in India, know Kailash as Mount Ashtapade. It was on the mountain that the founder of the faith, Rishabanatha, attained spiritual liberation.

Prior to the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet, the prevailing faith was the Bonpo religion. To the adherents of Bonpo, Kailash was, and is still known as the nine-storied swastika mountain, the mystical soul of the Tibetan Plateau. The swastika is the holy image for all these religions and is symbolic of spiritual strength.


The Abode of the Gods

As mentioned above, the particular significance of Kailash for Hindus is that it is the mythical home of Shiva, who is as widely worshipped as any God in the pantheon. His home is shared with his consort Parvathi, a manifestation of Shakti, the Goddess and female force in the universe, and his two sons, Kartikeya his warrior son and Ganesh, the lovable and hugely popular elephant-headed God. Ganesh is the chief if the Ganas, Shiva's attendants. He is immensely auspicious and regarded as the remover of obstacles in any endeavor.

The mountain is the scene of Shiva's austerities and as such is a place to be revered by all involved in a yogic quest. It is from the mountains, flowing from the hair of Shiva, that the river Ganges mythically descends into the plains of India. Many Hindu legends are concerned with Shiva and are therefore naturally set around Kailash.

The great Vedic epic, the Mahabharata says of Kailash :
‘ It is the monarch of all mountains, an eternal refuge of asceticism and a never tiring worker for the common good. It is covered with the most beautiful forests; its rivers are sweet as ambrosia, and adorned with golden lotus. On its upper slopes is the assembly hall of Brahma, a hall rich with the fountains out of which is ever flowing the elixir of life’.

The Source of four great rivers

Kailash and Manasarover have also been dubbed the fountainhead of the world. Early pilgrims recognized Kailash and the nearby lake as the source from which stemmed the river systems of virtually the whole of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Indeed within a few miles of the holy peak can be traced the source of the rivers Indus, Brahmaputra, Sutlej, Karnali, and although somewhat further off, the holy river Ganges. That the rivers should be considered holy is no surprise, for they are the lifeblood of Northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and irrigate the land that still sustains a third of the subcontinent's population. That they their legendary source should be seen as an object of devotion and pilgrimage is easily explained. The rivers which find their source in this remote part of the Tibetan Plateau enter the plains thousands of miles apart, a unique and extraordinary phenomenon. In geographical chronology, The Tibetan Plateau was formed before the Himalayas themselves, and thus the river systems, which drain from the plateau predate, the mountains through which they flow.

Kailash itself is not part of the Himalayan Range, but a rock pyramid over twenty-two thousand feet high, located fifty miles north of the towering Himalayas. It dominates a subsidiary mountain range, which is the high point of the Tibetan Tableland. As Charles Allen points out, even in the strictest geographical terms Mount Kailash is unique. It is the world's highest deposit of tertiary conglomerate, a vast pile of cemented gravel laid down and then thrown up into the sky. The mountain has four clearly defined walls that correspond to the points of the compass. On the southern face a deep gully cutting through with horizontal bands has given the mountain the epithet of swastika and these are perceived by pilgrims as the steps to this Hindu Olympus.

The Fulcrum of the Universe

As the Aryan tribes moved from Central Asia Southwards onto the Indian subcontinent, so they developed a cosmology, which became the basic of Vedic faith. Central in this cosmological model was a mountain called Meru, 'Shining like the morning sun and like a fire without smoke, immeasurable and unapproachable by men of manifold sins'. On the summit of Mount Meru stood Indra's heavenly city Swarga and leading upto the mountain was the pathway to the stars, where the souls of the dead await rebirth.

Perhaps the most complete description of the cosmological pattern comes from the Vishnu Purana, which explains how the world is made up of seven continents, ringed by seven oceans. The central island has Meru as its core, bounded by three mountain ranges to the north and three to the south. Mount Meru is the central fulcrum of the universe, and the navel of the world, from which four mighty rivers take their source. This legend spread throughout Asia and found expression in the design of temples, stupas, pagodas and other places of religious worship. As the early Vedic beliefs became transformed into the religions we are aware of today, so Kailash has become the earthy avatar of Mount Meru.

The Source of all Tantric Energy

Through the concept of Mount Meru, Kailash symbolises the subtle channel of psychic energy that runs up the spinal column. As such it is a standard yogic exercise to imagine the body in the context of the mountain and thus to deepen an apprehension of the earth consciousness, and of the balance of opposing forces such as male and female, or ying and yang.

Meru is often depicted at the centre of mandalas, geometric projections of the universe used by tantric cults as meditative tools. The mountain is an inner image of a divine pattern that infuses and orders creation. The psychologist Carl Jung interpreted mandalas as diagrams of self's journey to completeness. In this interpretation Meru is the central axis of being.

Religious pilgrims approach Kailash in this way, as a spiritual centre. Rather than being the fulcrum of the material universe, Meru is symbolic of the essence of the self. Kailash is seen as a physical manifestation of this being.

'Man's response to Kailash and Manasarover is varied and fascinating, emotionally moving in itself. But underlying the different cultural and religious expressions is a more fundamental reality, a realm approached not only by a reason but by intuition and faith. Faith does move mountains. In the case of Kailash it has lifted an earthy peak into the realm of the divine, transforming it into a symbol of the single unifying centre lying at the heart of all creation.'

From "Kailash, on Pilgrimage to the Sacred Mountain of Tibet' by Russell Johnson and Kerry Moran.

This period of time is especially auspicious and conducive for the spiritual pursuits and in-depth studies in Yoga Philosophy and Sadhana.

Days of Shravana are full of special days for worship, festivals, celebrations, austerities, spiritual disciplines like fast, mauna (silence) and all occasions of religious and cultural significance in the Vedic tradition of India.

The month of Shravana is the fifth month of the Hindu calendar beginning from Chaitra, and is the most auspicious month of the Chaturmas. On Purnima or full moon day, or during the course of the month the star 'Shravana' rules the sky, hence the month is called Shravana. This month is spread out with innumerable religious festivals and ceremonies and almost all the days of this month are auspicious.


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