The advent of the resplendent day-goddess, Lakshmi, Vishnu’s bride, has ever rejoiced the Indian heart, even as do the Himalayan summits. Vishnu’s second Avatar, the blue Tortoise, aided in stirring up the great ocean of space, indicated in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Vishnu Purana. To restore to the three regions of earth, air and heaven, their lost treasures, Vishnu commanded the Devas, sons of heaven, sons of fire, to join the dark demoniac Asuras in stirring the cosmic ocean, in order to create the sea of milk, or Amrita, the heavenly nectar of life. The Devas, in glowing sheen, came to the edge of the sea, which moved as the shining clouds of autumn. And with the help of the Great One, they uprooted the holy mountain to serve as a churning-pole. The great serpent Ananpa offered himself as a pole, and the mighty Vishnu, assuming the form of an immense Tortoise, made a pivot for the pole. The Devas held the tail of the serpent and the Asuras approached the head; and the great creative churning began. The first creation of this tumultuous labor was the divine cow, the fountain of milk, shown in the Vedas as the rain-cloud, which conquered the drought. Then was manifested Varuni. Vishnu’s crystallized radiance. After came the Purijara, source of all-heavenly fruits. Afterward rose the moon and was possessed by Siva. At this moment conflagration, destructive fumes, emitted by this process, engulfed the earth and threatened the whole universe. Then Brahma, the creator, arose and bid Siva manifest his power. Siva, for the sake of all existing beings, swallowed the poison self-sacrificingly and became Nilakanta the blue-throated. Then appeared Dhanivantari bearing the precious cup of Amrita. Hark and rejoice! After him came Lakshmi the effulgent, herself. Radiant, surrounded by her celestial attendants, glowing as a lustrous chain of clouds. At the same time, the gray rain clouds, the powerful elephants of heaven, poured water over her from golden vessels. Amrita was manifested and the eternal battle over the treasure of the universe began. The Devas and Asuras clashed in battle but the Asuras were vanquished and driven to Batala, the gloomy recesses of earth. Again came joy and happiness to the three worlds —the festival of gods and men.
As you ascend the peaks of the Himalaya and look out over the cosmic ocean of clouds below, you see the ramparts of endless rocky chains and the pearly strings of cloudlets. Behind them march the gray elephants of heaven, the heavy monsoon clouds. Is this not a cosmic picture which fills you with understanding of some great creative manifestation? The mighty serpent in endless coils sustains the milky way. The blue tortoise of heaven, and stars without number, are as diamond treasures of a coming victory. You recall the huge mendangs in the Sikhimese range, with their stone seats used by the great hermits for meditation before sunrise; the great poet Mila-raspa knew the strength of the hour before dawn, and in this awesome moment his spirit merged with the great spirit of the world, in conscious unity.
Before sunrise there comes a breeze, and the milky sea undulates. The shining Devas have approached the tail of the serpent and the great stirring has begun! The clouds collapse as the shattered walls of a prison. Verily, the luminous god approaches! But what has occurred? The snows are red as blood. But the clouds collect in an ominous mist and all which was erstwhile resplendent and beauteous becomes dense, dark, shrouding the gore of the battle. Asuras and Devas struggle; the poisonous fumes creep everywhere. Creation must perish! But Siva, self-sacrificingly, has consumed the poison, which threatened the world’s destruction—he, the great blue-throated. Lakshmi arises from darkness, bearing the chalice of nectar. And before her radiant beauty all the evil spirits of night disperse. A new cosmic energy is manifest in the world!
Where can one have such joy as when the sun is upon the Himalayas; when the blue is more intense than sapphires; when from the far distance, the glaciers glitter as incomparable gems. All religions, all teachings, are synthesized in the Himalayas. The virgin of dawn, the Ushas of the ancient Vedas, is possessed of the same lofty virtues as the joyful Lakshmi. There can also be distinguished the all-vanquishing power of Vishnu! Formerly he was Narayana, the cosmic being in the depths of creation. Finally he is seen as the god of the sun and, at his smile, out of the darkness, arises the great goddess of happiness.
And may we not also notice this link between Lakshmi and Maya, mother of Buddha? All great symbols, all heroes, seem to be brought close to the Himalayas as if to the highest altar, where the human spirit comes closest to divinity. Are the shining stars not nearer, when you are in the Himalayas? Are not the treasures of earth evident in the Himalayas? A simple sardar in your caravan asks you, “But what is hidden beneath the mighty mountains? Why are the greatest plateaux just in the Himalayas? Some treasures must be there!”
In the foothills of the Himalayas are many caves and it is said that from these caves, subterranean passages proceed far below Kinchenjunga. Some have even seen the stone door which has never been opened, because the date has not arrived. The deep passages proceed to the Splendid Valley. You can realize the origin and reality of such legends, when you are acquainted with the unsuspected formations in Himalayan nature, when you personally perceive how closely together are glaciers and rich vegetation. The homage to Kinchenjunga from the simple people does not surprise you, because in it you see not superstition, but a real page of poetic folk-lore. This folk-reverence of natural beauties has its counterpart in the lofty heart of the sensitive traveler who, enticed by the inexpressible beauties here, is ever-ready to barter his city-life for the mountain peaks. For him, this exalted feeling has much the same meaning as has the conquering dance of the Guardian of the Mountains, and the bevy of archers who stand vigilant, ready to guard the beauties of Kinchenjunga.
Hail to unconquered Kinchenjunga!