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Myths and Legends of the Himalayas

Creation of the World

Formation of the Himalaya

Mount Sumeru

Origin of the Ganges


Shambhala and Shangri-La


Title:Mount Sumeru
Credit:Compiled from multiple sources by Pragya
Mount Sumeru (also known as Meru) is a cosmic mountain believed to be the central axis of all physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. It is the sacred mountain of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Bon (Tibet’s pre-Buddhist religion). According to the Tibetan ‘Jigten Chagtsul’, a cosmography rooted in the ancient theories on the origin of the world, the story of creation begins with the rise of the cosmic mountain Meru from the primeval ocean. Mount Kailash is believed to be the earthly representation of Mount Meru. It is revered as one of the most sacred sites on earth. One circumambulation of the Kailash is believed to cleanse all sins of a lifetime. Hindus believe Mount Kailash to be the abode of lord Siva and his consort Parvati. The Puranas and Hindu epics state that Surya, the sun god, circumambulates Mount Meru every day. Jains call the mountain Ashtapada and believe that Rishaba, the first of the twenty-four Tirthankaras attained liberation here. The Bonpos call it the Nine Stacked Swastikas Mountain, and believe it to be the seat of all power. Bon and Buddhist mythology also describe this as the site of the legendary penultimate battle between the Buddhist sage Milarepa and the Bon shaman Naro Bon Chung. The story of the epic battle has become something of a legend among the followers of both Bon and Buddhism.
The legend says Milarepa and Naro Bon Chung met on the shores of Lake Manasarovar, where Milarepa had come to meditate. Since Mount Kailash was considered the holy mountain of the Bons, the Bon priest challenged Milarepa and demanded that he follow the Bon teachings if he wanted to remain at the Holy Mountain. It was decided to have a contest to see whose miraculous power was greater. The Bonpo began the contest by straddling Lake Manasarovar with one leg on each shore. In reply, Milarepa sat above the lake and without his body growing any bigger, or the lake any smaller, completely covered the surface of the lake. Then he picked up the entire lake and placed it on the tip of a finger. Naro Bon Chung admitted defeat but demanded another round and so the contest was shifted to Mount Kailash. The second round also went to the Buddhist monk. The Bon priest then asked for one final contest. It was decided that whoever first reached the summit of Mount Kailash on the morning of the full moon would be declared the victor and therefore, the landlord of the sacred mountain. Very early in the morning of the full moon, Naro Bon Chung sat on his shamanistic drum and began to fly towards the mountain summit while Milarepa remained fast asleep. Milarepa’s disciples woke him in a panic but he assured them there was no cause for worry. Then he placed a spell on the Bonpo that prevented him from rising any higher. As the sun began to rise, he snapped his fingers and reached the summit of Kailash in the twinkle of an eye. The Bon priest was humbled and finally accepted defeat. He left Mount Kailash and settled on a small peak to its east. Thus, the Nine Stacked Swastikas Mountain of Bon henceforward became the Buddhist Precious Snow Mountain. Milarepa’s victory had the effect of displacing Bon and establishing Buddhism as the primary religion of Tibet.