The Himalayas, the crown of the Indian peninsula has remained the cultural locus for its teeming millions. It is in the Himalayas, as the Skanda Purana records, where Lord Shiva lives, and there the mighty river Ganges fell from the foot of Lord Vishnu like “the slender thread of a lotus flower”.
The myths descend down from Mount Kailash to the shores of Lake Mansarovar. It is said that Maharaja Mandhata has discovered the Lake. The legend goes: Mandhata had done penance on the shores of Mansarovar at the foot of the magnificent mountains named after him. According to the legend, there was a big mansion down below on its bottom.
It is said to be the abode of the king of Nags – the serpent gods – and in the middle of the arc like surface of the lake once upon there stood a huge tree. Its fruits fell into the lake with the sound ‘Jam’; thus, the surrounding region came to be known as “Jambu-ling” or “Jambu-Dvipa” in the Hindu Puranas.
In some Pali and Sanskrit Buddhist works, Mansarovar is described as Anotatta or Anavatapta – the lake without heat and trouble. Buddhists believe that in its centre there is a tree, which bears fruits of celestial medicinal properties that may cure all known physical as well as mental ailments.
The human ideal of mount Meru rising from the descent of the seventh hell and rising to perforate through the loftiest of the heavens – the great mountain at the centre of the universe itself – comes to rest at Kailash. The Skanda Purana therefore acknowledges, “There are no mountains like the Himalayas, for in them are Kailash and Mansarovar”.
One myths goes that at the core of the Jambu, the landmass surrounding Lake Mansarovar, stood the glorious mountain of Meru with four colours and faces: white like a Brahmin, the priest, on its eastern surface; yellow like a Vaisya, the merchant, on the south; red like a Kshatriya, the warrior, on the north; black on its western side like a Shudra, the menial.
Today it stands as Mount Kailash: a rock pyramid 22,028 feet high. It embodies the age old concept of the ‘navel of the earth’, the ‘world pillar’, the ‘first of the mountains’, the ‘still point in the turning world’, ‘rooted in the seventh hell, piercing through to the highest heaven’. Consequently, the religious importance of Mount Kailash and its immediate hinterland of Lake Mansarovar is multifaceted. The region is
venerated by all religions and ages in diferent ways. All the myths and legends surrounding the region at least prove one thing: the essential unity of all the religions.
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