Complete details of Lake Mansarovar History & Significance
Lake Manasarovar with Mount Kailash in a distance.
|Location||Tibet Autonomous Region, China|
|Surface area||410 km2 (160 sq mi)|
|Max. depth||90 m (300 ft)|
|Surface elevation||4,590 m (15,060 ft)|
Lake Manasarovar (Tibetan: མ་ཕམ་གཡུ་མཚོ།, Wylie: ma pham g.yu mtsho; Chinese: 玛旁雍錯 (simplified), 瑪旁雍錯(traditional)), also called Mapam Yumtso, is a high altitude freshwater lake fed by the Kailash Glaciers near Mount Kailash in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The lake is revered a sacred place in four religions: Hinduism, Bön, Buddhism and Jainism.
The Sanskrit word “Manasarovar” (मानसरोवर) is a combination of two sanskrit words; “Mánas” (मानस) meaning “mind (in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers), intellect, intelligence, understanding, perception, sense, conscience“ while “sarovara” (सरोवर) means “a lake or large pond“
Lake Manasarovar lies at 4,590 m (15,060 ft) above mean sea level, a relatively high elevation for a large freshwater lake on the mostly saline lake-studded Tibetan Plateau.
Lake Manasarovar is relatively round in shape with the circumference of 88 km (54.7 mi). Its depth reaches a maximum depth of 90 m (300 ft)]and its surface area is 320 km2 (123.6 sq mi). It is connected to nearby Lake Rakshastal by the natural Ganga Chhu channel. Lake Manasarovar is near the source of the Sutlej, which is the easternmost large tributary of the Sindhu. Nearby are the sources of the Brahmaputra River, the Indus River, and the Ghaghara, an important tributary of the Ganges.
According to Hinduism, the lake was first created in the mind of the Lord Brahma after which it manifested on Earth. In Hinduism, Lake Manasarovar is a personification of purity, and one who drinks water from the lake will go to the abode of Shiva after death. He is believed to be cleansed of all his sins committed over even a hundred lifetimes.
Like Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar is a place of pilgrimage, attracting religious people from India, Nepal, Tibet and neighboring countries. Bathing in Manasarovar and drinking its water is believed by Hindus to cleanse all sins. Pilgrimage tours are organized regularly, especially from India, the most famous of which is the yearly “Kailash Manas Sarovar Yatra”. Pilgrims come to take ceremonial baths in the waters of the lake.
Lake Manasarovar has long been viewed by the pilgrims as being nearby to the sources of four great rivers of Asia, namely the Brahmaputra, Ghaghara, Sindhu and Sutlej, thus it is an axial point which has been thronged to by pilgrims for thousands of years. The region was closed to pilgrims from the outside following the Battle of Chamdo; no foreigners were allowed between 1951 and 1980. After the 1980s it has again become a part of the Indian pilgrim trail.
According to the Hinduism, the lake was first created in the mind of Brahma after which it manifested on Earth. Hence it is called “Manasa sarovaram”, which is a combination of the Sanskrit words for “mind” and “lake”. The lake is also supposed to be the summer abode of the hamsa. Considered to be sacred, the hamsa is an important element in the symbology of the subcontinent, representing wisdom and beauty.
According to Hindu theology, there are five sacred lakes; collectively called Panch-Sarovar; Mansarovar, Bindu Sarovar, Narayan Sarovar, Pampa Sarovarand Pushkar Sarovar. They are also mentioned in Shrimad Bhagavata Purana.
In the Bon religion
The Bon religion is also associated with the holy place of Zhang Zhung Meri sacred deity. When Tonpa Shenrab, the founder of the Bon religion, visited Tibet for the first time – from Tagzig Wolmo Lungring – he washed in the lake.
Buddhists associate the lake with the legendary lake Anavatapta (Sanskrit; Pali Anotatta) where Maya is believed to have conceived Buddha. The lake has a few monasteries on its shores, the most notable of which is the ancient Chiu Monastery built on a steep hill, looking as if it has been carved right out of the rock.
The lake is very popular in Buddhist literature and associated with many teachings and stories. Buddha, it is reported, stayed and meditated near this lake on several occasions. Lake Manasarovar is also the subject of the meditative Tibetan tradition, “The Jewel of Tibet”. A modern narration and description of the meditation was made popular by Robert Thurman.
According to the legend, Lake Manasarovar is the lake in which a great Tibetan monk saw the letters “Aha”, ” Kha”, ” Mha”. These three initials helped the search team to locate the current the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The three initials stand for the province, the district, and the monastery in which the current Dalai Lama was born, i.e. Ahamdho, Khunbum, and Taktser respectively.
In Jainism, Lake Manasarovar is associated with the first Tirthankara, Rishabha. As per Jain scriptures, the first Tirthankar, Bhagwan Rushabhdev, had attained nirvana on the Ashtapad Mountain. The son of Bhagwan Rishabhdev, Chakravati Bharat, had built a palace adorned with gems on the Ashtapad Mountain located in the serene Himalayas.There are many stories related to Ashtapad Maha Tirth like Kumar and Sagar’s sons, Tapas Kher Parna, Ravan and Mandodri Bhakti, among many others.