Lake Manasarovar

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Manas Sarovar
Lake Manasarovar with Mount Kailash in a distance.
Location of the lake in Tibet.
Location of the lake in Tibet.
Manas Sarovar
LocationBurang County, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China
Coordinates30°39′N 81°27′E / 30.65°N 81.45°E / 30.65; 81.45Coordinates: 30°39′N 81°27′E / 30.65°N 81.45°E / 30.65; 81.45
Native nameMapam Yumtso  (Standard Tibetan)
Basin countriesIndia
Surface area410 km2 (160 sq mi)
Max. depth90 m (300 ft)
Surface elevation4,590 m (15,060 ft)

Lake Manasarovar or Manas Sarovar, also called Swan rimbonche(Tibetan: མ་ཕམ་གཡུ་མཚོ།, Wylie: ma pham g.yu mtsho;; is a high altitude freshwater lake fed by the Kailash Glaciers[1] near Mount Kailash in Burang County, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. The lake is revered as a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.


The Sanskrit word "Manasarovar" (मानसरोवर) is a combination of two Sanskrit words; "Mānas" (मानस्) meaning "mind (in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers), intellect, intelligence, understanding, perception, sense, conscience"[2] while "sarovara" (सरोवर) means "a lake or a large pond".[3]


Mount Naimona'nyi (Gurla Mandhata) and Lake Manasarovar
Map of the region

Lake Manasarovar lies at 4,590 m (15,060 ft) above mean sea level, a relatively high elevation for a large fresh water 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)[citation needed] 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 Indus. Nearby are the sources of the Brahmaputra River, the Indus River, and the Karnali, an important tributary of the Ganges.

Lake Manasarovar overflows into Lake Rakshastal which is a salt-water endorheic lake. When the level of Lake Rakshastal matched that of Lake Manasarovar, these (very narrowly) combined lakes overflowed into the Sutlej basin. Stranded beaches around Lake Rakshastal at 4586 meter would indicate that decrease in inflow and/or increase in evaporation are the cause of this lost connection to the Indus basin rather than tectonic activity.

In May 2020, India inaugurated a new 80 km long motorable road from Dharchula to Lipulekh Pass on India-China border [under geostrategic India-China Border Roads project] to the Kailas-Manasarovar in Tibet.[4]


Climate data for Lake Manasarovar
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −3.2
Daily mean °C (°F) −8.9
Average low °C (°F) −14.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 52

Religious significance[edit]

View from Chiu Gompa Monastery
Satellite view of lakes Manasarovar (right) and Rakshastal with Mount Kailash in the background

In Hinduism[edit]

According to Hinduism, the lake was first created in the mind of the Lord Brahma after which it manifested on Earth.[5] 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 or she is believed to be cleansed of all their sins committed over even a hundred lifetimes.[6]

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.[7] Pilgrimage tours are organized regularly, especially from India, the most famous of which is the yearly "Kailash Manasarovar 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, Indus 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.[6]

According to the Hinduism, the lake was first created in the mind of Brahma after which it manifested on Earth.[5] 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.[8]

According to Hindu theology, there are five sacred lakes; collectively called Panch-Sarovar; Mansarovar, Bindu Sarovar, Narayan Sarovar, Pampa Sarovar and Pushkar Sarovar.[9] They are also mentioned in Shrimad Bhagavata Purana.[9]

The People who belong to this region are called Manasarovariya. Most of those who follow Hinduism here belong to the Koli tribe called Manasarovariya Patels or Mandhata Patels and they claim that their tribe are descendants of the ancient King Mandhata of Suryavansha or Ikshvaku dynasty. There is a mountain nearby named after him. It is called Gurla Mandhata and is the highest peak of the Nalakankar Himal.

In the Bon religion[edit]

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 bathed in the lake.

In Buddhism[edit]

Prayer flags on the shore

Buddhists associate the lake with the legendary lake Anavatapta (Sanskrit; Pali Anotatta) where Maya is believed to have conceived the 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. The 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.[10]

In Jainism[edit]

In Jainism, Lake Manasarovar is associated with the first Tirthankara, Rishabha. As per Jain scriptures, the first Tirthankar, Bhagwan Rishabhdev, 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. [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brockman, Norbert (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 356. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  2. ^ Williams, Monier. "Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary". Archived from the original on 2012-12-03. Retrieved 2017-10-10. mánas n. mind (in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers), intellect, intelligence, understanding, perception, sense, conscience, will RV. &c. &c. (in phil. the internal organ or antaḥ-karaṇa of perception and cognition, the faculty or instrument through which thoughts enter or by which objects of sense affect the soul IW. 53
    • in this sense manas is always is always regarded as distinct from ātman and puruṣa, 'spirit or soul' and belonging only to the body, like which it is – except in the Nyāya – considered perishable
  3. ^ Williams, Monier. "Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary". Archived from the original on 2015-05-20. Retrieved 2017-10-10. sarovara ○vara n. (accord. to some also m.) a lake or large pond, any piece of water deep enough for the lotus Kāv. Pur. &c
  4. ^ Suhasini Haidar, New road to Kailash Mansarovar runs into diplomatic trouble, The Hindu, 9 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b Charles Allen. (1999). The Search for Shangri-la: A Journey into Tibetan History, p. 10. Little, Brown and Company. Reprint: Abacus, London. 2000. ISBN 0-349-11142-1.
  6. ^ a b In Search of Myths & Heroes By Michael Wood
  7. ^ Kailash Yatra. "About Holy Manasarovar Lake – Kailash Yatra". Archived from the original on 2016-05-02. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  8. ^ Eckard Schleberger, Die Indische Götterwelt. Eugen Diederich Verlag. 1997 (in German)
  9. ^ a b [1] Encyclopaedia of tourism resources in India, Volume 2 By Manohar Sajnani
  10. ^ The Jewel Tree of Tibet – Robert Thurman. Retrieved on 2013-07-18.
  11. ^ "'Lost' tirth of Jains traced to Himalayas - Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". 30 December 2011. Archived from the original on 15 August 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018.

External links[edit]