By Rajesh Jadhav
Worshipped by Hindus as Shiva's abode and by Tibetans as Mount Meru, Kailash is an ancient place of benediction. Those who attempt the Kailash-Manasarovar yatra, one of the toughest pilgrimage routes in the world, return with a sense of the eternal sacred
Mount of Myths
As happens with ancient power spots, the human response to Mt Kailash is cloaked with a web of myths. Faiths that originated in the Indian subcontinent Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Tibetan Bon hold Kailash in reverence as a wondrous, divinely blessed place. The only other place in the world sacred to multiple religions is Bethlehem, where all three Judaic religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) worship together.
The Kailash range in the Himalayas extends from Kashmir to Bhutan, with Mt Kailash at its centre. According to the Mahabharata, it is the place visited by many gods, yakshas, rakshasas and gandharvas. For Hindus, Kailash is the abode of Shiva, and there is mention of Ravana and Bhasmasura doing penance here to propitiate him. The lake, Manasarovar, derives its name from the belief that it originated from the mind, or manas, of Brahma.
Buddhist cosmology views Kailash as the manifestation of Mount Meru, navel of the world, the exact centre of the universe. A powerful image is that of Kailash as world pillar around which the entire created world revolves.
Even the atheistic Jains worship at Kailash. They believe it to be the spot where the first tirthankara Rishabhdev attained enlightenment. Kailash for them is not a deity or the abode of a god; it is the place where the very earth is imbued with wisdom. It is in the hope of experiencing this nirvanic imprint that they pilgrimage to Mount Kailash.
In Bon, the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet, Kailash is a giant protector deity that holds the soul of the nation, ensuring its continuance. As the place where Shanrab, the mythical founder of Bon descended from heaven, it was the centre of the ancient Bon empire, Zhang Zhung.
These myths offer a perspective on the human relationship with Kailash through the centuries. However, as is the nature of places, we cannot really know them without actually breathing their air. Without the journey of faith, Kailash too remains just another mountain, with a lot of snow and a whole lot of fancy stories.
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