If one were to interpret the Valmiki Ramayana with a modern technological frame of reference, much new information unfolds which reveals why Ramayana is the epic that it is. Rather than accept its popular ‘Ramcharitramanas’ interpretation which was written only as recently as 1532 AD and where many new additions and reductions were made to the story (for example the addition of the ‘Laxmanrekha’ episode, where Sita steps out of a boundary marked by Laxman and is abducted, and the deletion of the significant portion where Valmiki describes the discussion that takes place between Ravana and Sita before the abduction, which entirely changes the scenario of the incident, a re-look at Valmiki Ramayana through the present day lens is an eye-opener.

On this page, we limit ourselves to the geography of the area in the north of India and beyond the northern boundaries of present day India mentioned in the Ramayana. Four ‘vanara’* brigades are commissioned to be sent out in four different directions for the search of Sita, the wife of Sri Rama (who ruled India from the city of Ayodhya), after she is abducted by Ravana, the king of the mighty Lanka kingdom.

At a point in time when it is not yet established where Sita was being held captive, the search party headed from Jambhudwipa (India) towards the north, in the command of the mighty vanara named Satavala, is given a route-map by Sugreev, the vanara leader, which would lead the vanaras to what appears to be a path right accross the Himalayas to the Xinjiang range, Hotan, Kasghar, the plateau of Mongolia, Lake Baikaal of Siberia and then along the Angara River northwards to the Kara Sea of the Arctic Ocean where the search is to end. That the ‘vanaras’ are indeed headed to the Arctic Ocean is established by studying the route path that Valmiki mentions and especially because of the description of a unique phenomenon, the ‘Northern Lights’ or ‘Aurora Borealis’ of Siberia and the Arctic Ocean. There are many other verses laden with deeper meanings that the first glance suggests and prove the same.

The search headed by Satavala begins by first scouring the region of the Malecchas, Pulindas, Surasensas, Prasthalas, Bharatas, Kurus and Madrakas, and Varadas, as well as cities of Kambojas, Yavanas and Sakas. These names are a reference to the tribes and communities inhabiting territories extending up to Afghanistan in the north-west of India.

Then, the vanaras are to move back eastwards towards the endearing Soma Hermitage in the foothills of the Himalayas. Thereafter, the vanaras are to move ahead to the mountains of the range of Himasaila, literally ‘snow stone’, also refrred to as Himavata, now known as the Himalaya or the ‘abode of snow’. Valmiki mentions three mountain peaks of the Himalayas, the Kala, Sudarshana and the Devasakha which are to be searched for Sita.

The Soma Hermitage, Valmiki says is located close to Mt. Kala. This seems to be the area of Rudra prayag because it is in this area that the Geological Survey of India has confirmed the presence of gold and other mineral deposits that have never been mined and exist there to this today. Mt. Kala may be a reference to Kedarnath. Soma or Somanath, and Kala or Kaleshwar, both refer to Lord Shiva.

One may also consider looking at the three highest mountain peaks in the Himalayas and equate them with the three peaks mentioned by Valmiki. These include the Nanda Devi – the highest peak in India, the Chaukhamba which is the main donor to the Gangotri glacial complex that supports the water supply of the three sources of the Ganges viz. Bhagirathi, Alakananda and Mandakini, and Mt. Trishul. This entire region is the dharmasthala or the scared land of Shiva.

Across these peaks, Sugreev informs the ‘vanaras’, is a vast expanse of barren plain land, crossing which they shall see Mt. Kailash resplendent with the shine of burnished gold, and a lake overflowing with lotuses and lilies, thronged with swans and Karandavas, and frequented by troops of apsaras. This vast expanse of land void of mountains or trees or rivers, is definitely a reference to the Tibertan Plateau, Kailasha is of course referred by name, the lake is identified as Mansarover.

There are two ‘Kailash’ peaks in Tibet in today’s maps, but a quick search on Google Maps by looking up ‘Kailash, Burang, Ngari, China’, will pop up the right Mt. Kailash. Those who are familiar with Mt. Kailash will recognize the peak immediately and will be able to identify the grooves which are cut horizontally across the peak (popularly referred to as the ‘jata’ of Lord Shiva). An oblong reservoir (or the ‘yoni’) just below the peak, and Lake Mansarover (Mapam Yumco) down at ground level below are also easily identifiable. A look on the zoomed satellite image of the Mt, Kailash at Ngari, Tibet will revel these unique well known features of Mt. Kailash.

Sugreeva then mentions the magnificent mansion of Kubera built on Mt. Kailasha constructed for him by the celestial architect Vishwakarma. In the Ramayana Vishwakarma has been attributed with having been the architect of many large ancient structures around the world and many of them are mileposts for the four vanara brigades travelling in different directions in the search for Sita. Some of these structures still seem to exist on what are regarded as sacred or archaeological sites around the world. Most of them do not have a record any where else except in the Valmiki Ramayana. The Ramayana and other ancient texts such as the Purana have a lot of information hidden in them and can be unveiled by alternative archaeologists around the world.

About the Kailash peak alternative scientists and some researchers who study pyramidical structures around the world, have already put forth the view that Kailash does not appear to be an ordinary peak. The Kailash is amountain surrounded by pyramid shaped peaks which may have been inhabited and may have been used for technological purposes – as were many other pyramids around the world. These scientists have argued that there may have been a complex of about 100 pyramids in the Himalayas, used for power generation or other unknown scientific purposes, in antiquity in the Himalayan mountains. Other present day alternative scientists have come to similar conclusions about the pyramids of Egypt and elsewhere.

Though these observations and claims about the pyramids being technological structures cannot be verified in scientific terms yet, but the fact that the oldest and most authentic version of Ramayana says that a ‘mansion’ was built here by the celestial scientist ‘Vishwakarma’ should not be ignored. To disregard ancient scriptures and alternative scientists in one shot is a bit high handed, not to say a highly biased conclusion, so we leave the research part for the future when perhaps more advanced tools of history can shed more light. But even in todays time the fact that climbing Mt. Kailasha, for some unearthly reason, is barred by the People’s Republic of China, should by itself raise a red flag. It is perhaps the only mountain which is barred to climbers. And those who have managed to get close to it seem to have experienced strange phenomena.

Sugreeva instructs the ‘vanaras’ to move ahead from Kailash, explore Kubera’s mansion and the Mansarover Lake, which he says was frequented by Karandavas and troops of apsaras. He also adds that King Vaisravana, lord of the Yakshas frequented here with the Guhyakas (cave dwellers).

Ahead from this site, in verse 25, section 43 of Kishkinda Kand, the vanaras are told that they would arrive at Mt. Krauncha, where Skanda had chiselled a tunnel in the highly impassable mountains. This is a very interesting verse, loaded with clues, and perhaps adds a glorious chapter to ancient Indian history, science and technology.

Though Valmiki does not provide any details about this tunnel, it is clear he would not have mentioned the chiselling of a tunnel by Skanda unless it was significant. It is well known that Skanda was involved in the magnificent project of bringing down the Ganges into the plains of Himalayas along with Lord Shiva and Sage Bhagirathi. According to Valmiki Ramayana when Shiva had brought down the Ganges from the Himalayas to the plains, it is Skanda who had built a lake and a dam to contain the water, before he released the water through the dam that Bhagirath then monitored as the water flowed into the channel of the Ganges. Incidentally, the channel into which the water flows was earlier dug during the reign of King Sagara, a forefather of Sri Rama.

Here in the mountains of Krauncha, something equally significant must have taken place in antiquity. Just as the building of all magnificent, houses, mansions, and structures were attributed in the Ramayana to a person, called Vishwakarna, all ancient engineering marvels were attributed to Skanda. Whether it is the name of a single person, or people in the same profession, or people of similar calibre is not known.

But back to the story of Skanda. Where might the vanaras find Mt. Krauncha as they move ahead of the Kailash peak? Between Kailash in the Himalayas to Mt. Krauncha Valmiki says there are two other mountain peaks – namely the ‘treeless’ Mt. Kaama and the ‘abode of birds’, Mt. Maanasa. Sugreev instructs the Vanaras to scour these mountains thoroughly for Sita. Since the ultimate destination for the vanaras is Siberia and the Arctic, the best known path from Mt. Kailash to these destinations will be via the Xinjiang Range which lies just north of Kashmir across the Himalayas, but extends right up in Mongolia. Along the Xinjiang mountain chain lies a stretch of what in medieval times came to be known as the Silk Route. The vanaras seem to have been amongst the earliest to have traversed this path. But how did they get there from Kailash.

To get to the Silk Route from Kailash one will have to cross from the Himalayas in to the Xinjiang range. The only way that this can be done is by either climbing over some of the highest peaks in the world or travelling through a pass in the mountains. As mentioned above, just as the waters of the Ganges flowed directionless till they were dammed, tied in the locks of Shiva as mythology says, and brought down into the channel in the plains of India, in a similar fashion it seems a tunnel or a pass was cut across the Himalayan mountains so that there was a path to reach the other side of Himalayas. The person responsible for these engineering tasks was Skanda.

In the ancient literature of India we find many a clues that indicate that Skanda was indeed responsible for digging a channel, or cleaving a mountain of the Himavats, i.e, the Himalayas, to create an access into present day China. Here is the description of what has been described as the birth of Skanda, but really is the story of blasting a chasm into the Himalayas. The Mahabaharata states, “…and thrown there it produced a male child endowed with great power. And from the fact of it being regarded by the Rishis as cast off, the child therefore came to be called Skanda…… And being surrounded by masses of red clouds flashing forth lightning, it shone like the sun rising, in the midst of a mass of red clouds. And seizing the terrific and immense bow which was used by the destroyer of the Asura Tripura for the destruction of the enemies of the Gods, the mighty being uttered such a terrible roar that the three worlds with their mobile and immobile divisions, became struck with awe. And hearing that sound which seemed like the rumbling of a mass of big clouds, the great Nagas, Chitra and Airvat, were shaken with fear. And seeing them unsteady, that lad shining with sun-like refulgence, held them with both his hands. And with a dart in another hand, and with a stout, red crested, big cock fast secured in the other, that long armed son of Agni began to sport about making a terrible noise. And holding an excellent conch shell with two of his hands, that mighty being began to blow it to the great terror of even the most powerful creatures. And striking the air with two hands and playing about on the hill top, the mighty Mahasena of unrivalled prowess and matchless strength, seated on top of that hill, looked on with his numerous faces directed, towards different cardinal points, and observing various things, he repeated his loud roars. And on hearing those roars various creatures were prostrate with fear of that god. And frightened and troubled in mind they sought protection. And all those persons of various orders who then sought the protection of that god are known as his powerful Brahmana followers. And rising from his seat that mighty god allayed the fears of all those people, and then drawing his bow, he discharged his arrows in the direction of the White mountain. And with those arrows, the hill Krauncha, the son of Himvat, was rent asunder. And that is the reason why swans and vultures now migrate to the Sumeru mountains. The Kraucha hill, sorely wounded, fell down uttering fearful groans. And seeing him fallen, the other hills too began to scream…. and that high-souled being then hurled his mace of great lustre and quickly rent in twin one of the peaks of the White mountain. And the White Mountain being thus pierced by him was greatly afraid of him, disaasociated itself from the earth and fled with the other mountains”.- Translation of verses from The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa.

This is the description of the scene when Skanda created a pass through one of the mountains of Himavata or the Himalayas. It is for this reason that Kartikeya earned himself the name Skanda (स्कन्ध) , meaning ‘cutter’. The Mahabharata states that this chasm in the mountain became the path that the birds then took to fly to Sumeru to Jambhudwipa. The Karakorum pass is a part of the migratory route of birds flying to India from Siberia and back on what is known as the Indus Flyway. Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote in his book, The Arctic Home in the Vedas, published in 1903, that Meru or Sumeru of the Hindu Vedic tradition is located in the Arctic and was the original home of the Aryans but with the advent of Ice age the Aryans moved out of the Arctic and settled in India.

In the Ramayana the vanaras are warned that when they pass through the path that Skanda had created, they are to keep their wits about themselves as this tunnel otherwise is unsurpassable. Valmiki describes the pass as an ‘inaccessible cavern’ with a ‘difficult entrance’.

Moving ahead from Kailasha and following the tract parallel to the mountains of Aksai Chin the only major pass that could put the vanaras into Xinjiang, and on the path that came to be later known as the Silk route, is the Karakorum pass which connects Ladhak to the Tarim basin of Tibet. There is no way to find out whether the description above refers to the carving out of the Karakorum pass or some other, but the description certainly refers to a pass that would take the vanaras from Himalayas, then called Himvat into the Xinjiang region in China.

The other passes in the Himalayas that lead access into China is the Nathu La pass from Sikkim to Tibet, but is eastward and way off of the tract on which the vanaras are travelling near Kailash. The Khyber and the Gomal passes connect Pakistan with Afghanistan and are once again way off in the western direction from Kailash. Karakorum is the most likely location of Skanda’s tunnel.

The land of Xinjiang has had a deep connection with northern India in known, and looks like it was so too in the Ramayanic times. Xinjiang, also called Hotan and Khotan, was heavily influenced by Indic languages and culture prior to the advent of Buddhism. Professor Subhash Kak states in his article ‘The Rama Story and Sanskrit in Ancient Xinjiang’, “Most people do not know that until about a thousand years ago, the Tarim Basin in northwest of Tibet, which is the part of Xinjiang below the Tian Shin Mountains was Indic in culture and it was a thriving part of the Sanskritic world; its people spoke the Gandhari language which many see as descended from Vedic Sanskrit, and the closely related Khotanese Saka. Gandhari inscriptions have been found as far east as Luoyang and Anyang in Henan Province in Eastern China which attests to the vastness of the influence of

He further says that many Khotanese cities had Sanskrit names, Khotan in antiquity was Gaustana or Gosthana, ‘Place of the Cow’, and the modern city of Kashi was called Shrikritati or ‘Glorious Hospitality’. Kashgar also derives its name from ‘Kasha’ plus ‘Giri, or ‘bright mountain’. The Khotanese called their language Hvatanai, distorted from Sanskrit Svatana meaning ‘own land’.

Another part of Xinjiang also called Kuche, the Sanskrit Kucina, equated with Kushan empire, emerged as an ancient Buddhist kingdom located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin and south of the Muzat River. The area lies in present-day Aksu Prefecture of Xinjiang. bAs stated by Prof. Kak, all these regions were Indic in culture. The highest peak here is the Jengish Chokusu located near Lake Issyk Kul. Notice the word ‘kul’, Sanskrit for ‘lake’.Across the pass from Mt. Krauncha, Valmiki states, dwell certain Maharishis, highly souled and effulgent resembling the sun. Then ahead is the treeless Mt. Manasa, the scene of Kama’s austerities. Manas is a town that still exists on the map of Mongolia.

After exploring this mountain, the vanaras are to move ahead to Mount Mainaka, where there is the residence of Danava called ‘Maya’. Somewhere in the vicinity one even today may look for traces of an ancient structure, or a place or marvel of some kind, that Maya Danav is known for. Though the Silk route came into prominence un ancient times, but it must have existed as a path in pre-historic times too, the time when the vanaras passed through. On this path we do come across a place of engineering marvel which is dated to about 2000 years back, no one knows for certain and may be even older. Thus is what is known as karez in the local language.

Then Sugreev mentions another peak called Mt. Mainaaka, which is identified by ‘a massive mansion built by demon architect by the name Maya’. Just as the ‘Ram-Setu’ of Ramayana (also called Adam’s Bridge) lies exactly in the spot mentioned in the Ramayana, and the Gympie Pyramid of Queensland (Australia) referred in Ramayana as ‘a peak like structure built by the celestial architect Vishwakarma’, the ‘Mansion of Maya’ may also be another pre-historical megalithic structure built by unknown ‘celestials’, this time in China. The maximum number of ancient pyramids of China, whose existence until recently was completely denied, lie in the Shaanxi Province. The largest one of them, the Xi’an is only 184 Km from the Taibai peak, well on the path of the ‘Vanaras’ mentioned in the Ramayana. So could the so called Mt. Mainakaa be one of the ancient Pyramids of the Shaanxi province of China? Quite possible. For more details on Pyramids of China, click here.
In the verses that follow, Sugreev mentions the next landmark – he says that after crossing over a vast province, the ‘vanaras’ would arrive at a large lake by the name ‘Vaikhana”. Travelling North of China, crossing the Mongolian province or plateau, one would arrive at the eastern tip of Lake Baikal in Siberia. Many scholars have identified ‘Vaikhana’ as the ‘Baikaal’ lake of Siberia. Many facts support why this might be true:1. What the Ramayana says is that on the other (Western) end of Lake Vaikhana, is a river by the name Shailoda, and if the ‘vanaras’ were to follow its path northward, across many miles ‘they would reach the Northern Ocean’. This is indeed true. Shailoda has been identified as the present day Angara. River ‘Angara’ flows from the western tip of lake Baikaal and after many miles falls into the Kara Sea of North Arctic Ocean. (Like their ancient names ‘Vaikhana’ and ‘Shailoda’ mentioned in the Ramayana, their present names ‘Baikal’ and ‘Angara’ too are of Sanskrit origin. Click here for more details).

2. The name Kara itself is interesting. Ancient Indian texts refer to Siberia as Uttara-Kuru. ‘Uttara’ means ‘North’, ‘Kuru’ is the name of the Indian tribe that had traveled north. ‘Kara’, the name of the Sea into which the Angara River falls, could be a distortion of the ancient Sanskrit name ‘Kuru’.

Keechaka or Siberian Bamboo on the Lake Baikaal
The Siberian Zone in Green where the Northen Lights are visible

3. Sugreev also advises the ‘vanaaras’ to cross Lake Baikaal with the help of the ‘keechaka’ (hollow amboo) that grows there. This has reference to the ‘Siberian Bamboo Grass’ which was used by the locals to cross the lakes and water odies in this region For more on the subject click here.

4. Finally, Valmiki mentions the ‘Northern Lights’ which Sugreev tells the ‘vanaras’ will become visible as they move northwards from Lake Vaikhana. In section 43, verse 36 of Kishkinda Kand, Valmiki says, “Going beyond that expanse of water, you will come upon a sky, which even when devoid of the stars or the moon or the sun is illuminated by rays, as if there is light emitting from the self-luminous, god-like sages who repose there”. Valmiki equates the light of ‘Aurora Borealis’ to the ‘light that emits from sages who have attained ‘siddhi’.

The last landmark mentioned in Uttara-Kuru is Mt. Soma. Mt. Soma has to be one of the peaks of the Urals. The highest peak in the Urals is the ‘Narodnaya’ – which in the local language means ‘Mountain of the People’. In Sanskrit too the word has the same meaning- ‘nara’ means ‘people’ or ‘human’ and ‘udaya’ means ‘elevation’.

Many rivers and mountains of Siberia have surprisingly close Sanskrit names, including Mt. Mana-Raga, River Kama, Lake Kulind and many many more.

Suggested Readings:

1. A Companion to Sanskrit Literature by Suresh Chandra Banerji

2. The Indo Mongolian Relationship
3. The Jatland Home and Mt. Karauncha____________________________________________________________________________
* ‘Vanara’ translates as ‘monkey’ but from the descriptions in Valmiki Ramayana they were ‘trained commandos’. The Ramayana describes the ‘vanaras’ as acclaimed for undertaking impossible deeds, renowned for their confrontation skills, and noteworthy in their manoeuvers. They dwelt in the mountains and were known to travel on earth, on water and fly through the sky. 



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