Commercial exploitation of Kailash: Why bottling of Mansarovar water is a bad choice



By Gaurav Sharma

Known for its religious value, cultural significance, and physical beauty, the Kailash Mansarovar lies near the foothills of the mighty Mount Kailash.

What sets the beauty of Kailash Mansarover apart from other natural spots is the mystical status of being the spiritual center of the world. Revered by Hindus, Buddhists, Bonpos and Jains alike, Mount Kailash has been inextricably associated with each religion through a distinct spiritual bond.

Every year, scores of pilgrims throng the epic landscape of Kailash Mansarover, circumambulating Mount Kailash and meditating on the shores of Lake Mansarover, in order to accrue good fortune.

The multitude of religious beliefs

The Hindus believe that Shiva, the lord of destruction, resides eternally in the wondrous peak, in a deep state of meditation.

The great Tibetan poet and saint Malarepa chose Kailash as the place to pen down a mind-boggling hundred thousand verses on Buddhism.

Known as Mount Meru in Jainism, the splendid mountain has also been witness to the enlightenment of the first Jain tirthankar or teacher, Rishabhdeva.

Bon, a lesser known religion which predates Buddhism but is closely associated with it, also holds the mystical region as the seat of all spiritual power.

It is not for any paltry reason that the Tibetans call the magnificent snow shrouded rock of Kailash as ‘The precious jewel of snow’.

The ancient folk lore

An ironical and baffling belief centred around the Mount Kailash is that setting foot on it is a dire sin, even though it serves as a stairway to heaven.

The mystic lore of the mountain are echoed in the pristine aura of Lake Mansarover.

The word “Mansarover” is derived from a combination of Sanskrit words Manas and Sarover, meaning the mind and lake respectively. Therefore, the complete meaning of Mansarover amounts to ‘the lake of mind’.

It is due to the belief in Hinduism, that the lake was created in the mind of Brahma, the first living being and the creator of the material world.

When the Hamsa or Swan establishes Mansarover as its summer abode, it holds apt the symbolic meaning of the value of the lake. This is because in Hinduism, Swan is considered as the epitome of beauty and wisdom.

The annals of Buddhism also mention Mansarover quite profusely. It is said that Buddha stayed and meditated near the lake on several occasions.

Also called the Jeweled Tree of Tibet by the followers of Tibetan Buddhism, Mansarover houses a few monasteries on its shores, the most notable one being the Chiu Monastery, appearing as if carved out of a rock.

The unparalleled beauty of the lake can be fathomed by merely eyeing its contrasting yet inextricably merging of the emerald green and sacred blue waters.

With the kind of cultural history associated with Mansarovar, it is difficult to imagine it being used for commercial purposes. But in today’s day and age, strong commercialism has become a signifier of all human activity.

Usage of religious sentiments for commercial gains

Today, however, the rich history that embellishes the resplendent Kailash Mansarover region is under great threat.

Even after being aware of the dangers that plastic bottles pose to the health of the environment, Vaishali Midha, wife of a high level Dell employee in the Asia-Pacific region, has started bottling Mansarover water, marketing the idea with a dash of religion.

At a press conference, Midha announced excitedly that bottles of Mansarover water would be sold from October 2015 onwards.

“When we got the opportunity to open up a bottling plant, we took it with both hands. We will be launching bottled Mansarover water during the Diwali festivities”, said an unabashed Midha..

As an additional selling point, she has decided to enshrine the cap of the bottle with Raudraksha beads, a religious accessory associated with Lord Shiva.

The ethical question of utilizing people’s sentiments for making profit by Midha is completely justified in today’s crude age of crass consumerism.

How just is this commercial exploitation?

However, the more pertinent and questionable dimension of the bottling tactic, is related to the fragile ecosystem of Tibet.

Should a freshwater lake holding so much religious and environment significance, be subjected to such commercial exploitation?

The 12th Five Year Plan, forecast Tibet as becoming a mining center and a hydro-power engine.

While the effects of mining have already been seen in the form of fatal landslides that struck Tibet in 2012, the consequence of up and coming hydropower plants, along with bottling units are yet to be seen.

They say experience is a great teacher; but have we learnt from it, yet?

The commercial expeditions in such sacred surroundings make a mockery out of the devotional sensibilities of the religious people.

If such reckless invasion continues uninhibited, the time may not be far when “The Roof of the World” may require a roof to be built for itself.