SRI RAMA ANU YATRA- A PILGRIMS’ DIARY
Apadam-apahartAram dAtAram sarva sampadAm
lokAbhirAmam shrIramAm bhooyo bhooyo namAmyaham
Adiyen bows again and again to Sree Rama who removes (all) obstacles and grants
wealth and pleases all.
ArtAnAmArtihantAram bheetAnAm bheeti-nAshanam
dvishatAm kAladanDam tam rAmchandram namAmyaham
He who annihilates the pain of the distressed, He who destroys fear in the minds
of the fearful, He who is like the Weapon of Death to his enemies, that
Lord Raamachandra do I worship.
SRI YATHIRAJA VALLI NAYIKA SAMETHA SRI ADIKESAVAYA NAMAH
SRI SEETHA RAMAR THIRUVADIGALEY SARANAM
SRIMAN NARAYANAYA CHARANAU SARANAM PRAPATHEY!!
SRIMATHEY NARAYANAYA NAMAH!!
SRI RAMBHAKTH ANJANEYAR DIVYA THIRUVADIGALEY SARANAM
SRIMATHEY RAMANUJAYA NAMAH!!
SRI MUDALIAANDAN SWAMI DIVYA THIRUVADIGALEY SARANAM
ACHARYAR DIVYA THIRUVADIGALEY SHARANAM
Prostrating at the holy feet of acharyars, azhwars and Divya Dampadhigal, Adiyen makes an attempt in penning down our recent “SRI RAMA ANU YAATIRAI” experiences to share the same with all the Srihari devotees and bhagavatas and earnestly request devotees to forgive adiyens shortcomings
Firstly ,Adiyen offers sincere obeisance’s and prostrate at the feet of Sri Velukudi Swamin and all the devotees who had inspired adiyen in taking this pilgrimage to the holy places where Lord spent HIS DIVINE pastimes . With Acharyans kripa, Adiyen made attempts in gathering information about the holy places scattered all around Northern India . The Internet was of a very good use in the form of Antaryami .Browsing with minute search words of the places related to Srimad Ramyana many great devotees of Lord Rama have already made their contributions in making fallen soul like me to get the information . Though Adiyen could get a fair idea about the location of these holy places by going thru their travelogues , was apprehensive whether It would be possible to visit the places at stretch . As the bhagavatas had gone in a conducted tour, their knowledge about how to reach the place was limited and was not sure whether local people would be able to identify these places .
Adiyen surrendered to the lotus feet of LORD Sri Rama Bhaktha Hanuman and booked tickets 3 months in advance . On SriRama Navami Adiyen was fortunate to alight a silver idol of LORD SriSeeta Rama Lakshamana and hanuman vigraha after purificatory rites at temple and started worshipping Lord daily chanting Taraka mantra and performing Thirumanjanam ( Abhishekam ) to the deities along with NityaThiruvaraadhanai ( daily prayers ) . The prayers were simple .LORD we wish to have darsanam at all the holy places with satsang association and leave the phalam to your lotus feet .Kindly bless us to be there where the fragnance of LORD RAMA and the dust on which your lotus feet imprinted for us to roll on them .Our all compassionate LORD had already earmarked a devotee to guide us and the incident happened .
During a darsanam at SriHanuman temple in Skandagiri , Adiyen happened to meet a devotee in Hyderabad , Sri Raghunathan Swamy, who participated in the Sri Rama Anu yaatirai conducted by Sri Velukudi Krishnan swami . He shared his experiences and showed the photographs he had taken. These photographs helped us immensely in identifying some temples. He also mentioned that being a conducted tour It was difficult to guide about the routes etc .However the photographs of the temples and the surroundins induced positive thinking that with HIS mercy the piligrimage will be a great success. Adiyen profusely thank him and other devotees who made this possible and shall remain deeply indebted to them forever.
Our SRI RAMA ANU YAATIRAI was fulfilled during the year 2010 . Adiyen undertook this yaatirai of having “ Sri Rama anubhavam” and sharing the bliss with many advanced devotees. In this yatra, adiyen had the bhagyam to be associated with many saints and devotees who shared their spiritual knowledge thus enhancing my desire to submit to LORD for whatever is there and will be there . Sri Rama is “Maryadha Purushothaman” full of virtuous qualities. Adiyen made an attempt in visiting the various places sanctified by Lord Sri Rama by association of which Adiyen attempts to follow Sri Rama atleast to some extent in this materialistic world.
Keeping in view children’s academic requirements ,time constraint, we decided to undertake Sri Rama Anu Yaatirai into two phases- first phase covering North and Central India(Bala kandam, Ayodhya kandam, Aranya kandam, Uttara kandam) during summer and second phase covering South India (Kishkinda kandam, part of Yudha kandam) during Dasera holidays. Adiyen planned our journey by booking circular ticket with maximum 8 break journeys three months in advance. Our long distance journeys were by train. We stayed at the nearest town and hired car for visiting the surrounding holy places thus managed to have good darshan and spending time with devotees to know about the importance of the place . The interesting thing was somehow adiyen could locate a map which was done by Sri Ramananda sagar group who had given us the mega serial RAMAYANA which made billions of Indians SriRamabhaktas .Please check this map
Our Train Route:-
Our first halt was at Kanpur Central as the train reached at at 1030 hours . Fortunately the status of our onward journey ticket from Kanpur to Ayodhya which was waitlisted since 3 months also got confirmed.( SRISITARAMA KRUPA) After quickly refreshing in the AC waiting room , hired a cab Wagon R for Rs.800/- (including petrol charges) to visit Bittoor and return to Kanpur.
We wanted to start our yatra by purifying ourselves in the sacred Tamasa River where Valmiki rishi cursed the hunter which became the introductory sloka of Ramayana and hence proceeded to Bittoor. Due to geographical changes, presently River Tamasa has dried up . Our journey was to begin by taking blessings of Sage Sri Valmkee who gave us the epic “SRIMADRAMAYANA” .
Check this map
BITTOOR , NEAR KANPUR ” THE PLACE WHERE SRIMADRAMAYANA WAS WRITTEN BY SAGE VALMIKI “
We proceeded to ” BRAHMAVRAT THEERTH” , the most holy bathing spot in Bittoor. Legend says Brahma started creation starting from Swayambhu Manu at this place which is mentioned on a board. This place is also supposed to be the centre of the earth as per the priests conversation . River Ganges was in full flow at Brahmavrat theerth. After taking a holy dip we returned to Brahma mandir to offer prayers to the Creator who emerged from the Lotus navel of Perumal which is located on the main bank. Brahma’s footprints covered with copper plate are worshipped here . There are only 2 temples for Brahma-one is at Pushkar where the four faced Brahma seated in meditative posture is worshipped, the other temple is at Bittoor where his footprints are worshipped. We performed puja to Brahma’s toe offering incense and flowers . Later we proceeded to ” DHRUVA TEELA” driving past narrow and steep road with ups and downs for about 2 kms, we reached Dhruva Teela which is the birthplace of the child-devotee Dhruva. Dhruva meditated at this place by uttering Dwadasakshari mantram ”OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAYAH” as instructed by Sage Narada. ( The place where he mediated is at Mathura). The brave devotee did intense tapas controlling all his senses and attained Perumal’s grace within six months. He glorified Perumal with hymns known as “Dhruva Sthuthi” which enhances bhakti. The story of Dhruva is vividly mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam, fourth canto. There is a small sannidhi for Dhruva and few saalagramams are worshipped there .
We visited the Jeeva Samadhi of a North Indian saint who chanted Taraka Mantram for 30 years continuously at this place. Was feeling the positive vibrations all over .The beauty of this place is the serene atmosphere and people who are kind .We now proceeded to ” LAVA-KUSHA JANMASTHAL ” This temple houses 3 shrines- In the centre is the sannidhi for Sita devi with her sons Lava and Kusha,; to its right is the actual place of birth of Lava and Kusha. Here the deities of Sita, Ramar,Lakshmana and Hanuman along with Lava and Kusha are worshipped. Opposite to this sannidhi, is Bandhey Hanuman’s sannidi. As Hanuman was “tied” by Lava and Kusha, he is thus known as Bandhey Hanuman
( In hindi )
We recited the introductory chapter in Ramayanam describing the origin of Valmiki Ramayanam and did kirtan of 108 Nama Ramayanam. All of us decided we will continously chant Taraka mantra and at the temples 108 Rama Namam .The Hanuman temple priest gave us kankanams which we tied around our wrists praying for successful completion of the yaatirai. With the support of other devotees we performed bhajan chanting Taraka mantra well received by the crowd . The place was electrified by chanting the HOLY NAME .. Adiyen prayed LORD to give us more oppurtunities to sing his HOLY NAME .Our next stop was at “VALMIKI ASHRAM” which is located besides the same temple . The priest was kind to speare some time narrating Sage Valmiki rishi’s story his life as a hunter and dacoit , amd how his life was transformed due to saptarishi’s grace, how he meditated on the Lord, how he composed Ramayanam and taught Lava and Kusha who spread its fame throughout. Adiyen could feel how the HOLY NAME RAMA changed a hunter .Prayed LORD to synchronise my breath with the HOLY NAME always ..JAI SITARAM..
With a humble prayer to make us understand the deeper meanings of the great epic as expounded by our Azhwars and Purvacharyars, we left the place. Just opposite to this sannidhi is Sita Rasoi (sita devi’s kitchen) and nearby is Sita Paatal Pravesh(from where Goddess Sita disappeared into the the earth). A hollow place laid by 1m X 1m stone with Kusha grass grown near it is the spot from where Sitadevi disappeared . Lord Sri Rama tried to stop this act by holding her hair which has now grown as Kusha grass as per the priest . Ram Stupa( a pillar in which important slokas from Valmiki Ramayanam are inscribed in Hindi) is beside Paatal Pravesh sthal. To recapitulate Lava-Kusha’ prowess who tied the Aswamedha horse which was let loose freely and defeating Rama’s army including Hanuman, Bharata ,Shatruguna and Lakshmana , the temple authorities have built a mural with fountain in the middle in the garden adjacent to the temple. Having visited all the important places in Bittoor, we left the place around 1400 hours. We proceeded to Kanpur and enroute we could see ISKCON temple, Kanpur . We thought that it was Lord’s will to give us HIS darshan thus we were at HIS temple. The ever loving LORD arranged Prasad and having HIS RAJBHOG PRASHAD was ultimate .. JAI SITARAM ..
This Ashram is located on Bittoor road and is exactly in the midway from Kanpur to Bittoor.. After partaking the prashad, the chief priest took us to “GOSHAALA”(cow shed) for GO DARSHAN .
We were surprised to find the priest addressing each cow by its name and enquiring affectionately. Adiyen was amazed to note the temple authorities compassion for cows . Prayed may all temples , ashrams , organisations adopt cows Several fans were provided in the cow sheds to provide some relief from the scorching heat to the cows and were bathed in cool waters periodically. The cow sheds are hygienically maintained –not a single housefly around.
He demonstrated that a realized soul will not differentiate between jeevatma in humans and animals as he sees GOD EVERYWHERE. Remarkable indeed.Wonderful Organic farming was a feast to watch . Meantime, H.H.Sarvabhauma Swami, who used to give lectures on Star TV entered the temple and was about to start his discourse on Srimad Bhagavatam. WE were delighted to have his darshan as bhagavatas intervention is required for Bhagavan’s kataksham. The whole day , we were having only Bhagavatha sambhandham-having darshan of Brahmaji, Dhruva Maharaj, Hanuman, Sage Valmiki, and now H.H.Sarvabhouma Prabhu. Offering our pranaams , we introduced ourselves and shared our trip details .He blessed us holding our bead bag . When the temple curtains were drawn open ,we had darshan of the enchanting form of the presiding diety SRI RADHA-MADHAV . We were delighted to see the utsava murthis of Sri Rama,Sita,Lakshmana and Hanuman along with other regular utsava murthis of Radha-Krishna. We felt that Lord was giving darshan in both the forms as Rama and Krishna. This aarthi and kirtan was followed by Sarvabhauma Prabhu’s lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam. After having darshan of the Lordships to our heart’s content, we left the place resolving to revisit Bittoor and stay at ISKCON guest house. We reached Kanpur by 1800 hours and awaiting for our connecting train to Ayodhya.
It was the time to Board Sabarmati Exprss at 0015 hours (the train was late by 45 minutes. Reached Ayodhya at 0500 hours . We reached Ayodhya from Kanpur by Sabarmati express at 0500 hours on 09th May,2010. We were greeted by hordes of monkeys which kept us on check and vigilant. The little monkeys are mischievous and snatch away eatables from us. Ayodhya and Mathura are places we can see the monkeys in plenty . We checked in one of the AC rooms at Hotel Saket run by U.P.Tourism for Rs.650/-which is very near to station.(Tariff –for AC rooms-Rs.650/-; For air cooled rooms –Rs.350/-; for ordinary triple bed rooms-Rs.300/– As only AC rooms have inverter provision, it is preferable to go for the same as during power cuts which is very common, the fan works. With the help of the local receptionist, finalised a seven seater auto to visit all the holy places in and around Ayodhya for Rs.1,200/- . With a pair of clothes, we all moved at 0630AM to Gupthar Ghat for a holy dip .
Adiyen wanted to start the yatra from Sri Ram Janma bhoomi, the birth place of LORD Sri Rama . But the auto driver opined that it would be crowded during morning hours and would take minimum 2 hours to have darshan. As we had to cover distant places within our planned time frame, he suggested us to visit Guptar Ghat, Nandigram, Purva Chakiya so that the remaining local temples can be visited in the evening till late in the night. Adiyen had to compromise on this. Instead of visiting the birth place, Adiyen started with the place of Lord Sri Rama’s disappearance . Driving past the military areas in Faizabad roads really grand , we reached Gupthar Ghat in half an hour’s time. River Saruyu also known as River Gargha who is considered as Sage Vasishta’s daughter was in full flow and calm.
The bathing ghats at River Saruyu are meaningfully constructed and are well maintained. After purifying ourselves in the sacred waters and offering morning oblations, Adiyen was engaged in routine morning rituals when a group of devotees headed by Sri Gomadam Swami of Sri Rangam reached the banks of Sarayu . Looking at us near the ghat, they chose to have bath in the same place. Sri Gomadam Swami , a descendant of Manavala maamunigal, was heading a group of about 100 devotees on a pilgrimage to Muktinath halted at Ayodhya for a day. Swami conducts package tours to divya desams and can be contacted on 09047090590. Swami was addressing the assembled devotees mentioning the importance of Gupthar Ghat in which Adiyen had the bhagyam to listen. When we approached Swami to pay our respects, he was delighted to know about our trip and blessed us. He said that it was due to the divine will of the Lord that we drove all the way from Ayodhya to have holy bath in Saruyu at this place because usually devotees have bath in Ayodhya itself . Citing Nammazhwar’s pasuram,”Karpaar Ramapiraaan…..”(Thiruvaimozhi 7-5-1). , the Swami mentioned about the greatness of Gupthar Ghat and appreciated us for having chosen this place for purifying ourselves.
The Sarayu flowed beside the ancient city of Ayodhya, According to a sub-story within the Ramayana, the banks of the River Sarayu is also the place where King Dashratha accidentally killed Shravan Kumar.It is also called the only river flowing beneath the earth. Nearby there is a SriRamar temple where we installed our Tour dieties and offered dry fruits as neivedyam. We recited our daily parayanam of Sundara kaandam. Many devotees from the group joined us in singing ‘”108 Nama Ramayanam” and it was a memorable experience. We were invited to listen to Swami’s discourse on Srimad Ramayana in the evening. As we had to visit far off places, we skipped Gupt Harji and Chakra Harji temples near the ghat. On the way, had prasad and proceeded to Nandigram, the place from where the most adorable brother Sri Bharata ruled the kingdom on Lord Sri Rama’s behalf.
NANDIGRAM THE PLACE WHERE BHARATHJEE RULED AYODHYA FROM
Nandigram is situated 20 kms south east of Ayodhya and 16 kms from Guptar Ghat. We visited old Bharatha temple and new temple. In the old temple, there are separate shrines for Bharata, Hanuman, Bharat Gufa , Bharat-Hanuman milap mandir, , When we visited the old temple, Bharata was being glorified by recitation of verses from Tulasidasjees Ram Charitra Manas. The priest placed our Tour Perumal in the altar and offered prashad to the deities . We then entered a small cave , known as “Bharat Gufa” in the old temple premises. we stepped down about 5 steps and found a small vigraham of Bharatjee beside which Lord Rama’s padukas were placed. We proceeded to the new Bharat mandir located nearby. Abhishekam (Thirumanjanam-holy bath) was being performed to Bharatjee. This deity is bigger than the one in the old temple. An old priest , who is a disciple of Sri HathiRam Bhabha(the devotee who played dice with Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala) was performing abhishekam while adiyen had the opportunity to recite Pancha Sukthams.
The priest showed us Lord Sri Rama paduka, rare salagrama murthis and Rama bhaktha Hanuman. Switching off the lights, he asked us to observe Sri Bharatar’s thiru mukham. We can see crescent on his forehead (calm and poised Bharata resembles Shiva in meditation). Likewise , Hanumanjes Rudra roopam during the lights are off and looks very calm and poised when there is light. Also, there is a mark on Hanuman’s knee caused by Bharata’s arrow when he wounded Hanuman. The priest allowed us to have darisanam of very old salagrama silas worshipped there . At Nandigram, Hanuman is known as “Lagey Hanuman”(one who was hurt).
After having theertha prasadam, the priest took us to the ground floor in which “Bharat Milap mandir” is constructed. The deities of Bharata and Hanuman hugging each other was a feast to the eyes. We wondered at the dedication of the old priest in performing elaborate thirumanjanam to all the deities daily. He requested us to print some pamphlets in Telugu to be given to the visiting devotees . ( Adiyen took it as an opportunity to do SriRama kainkaryam and got around 2000 pamphlets printed and sent the same to Nandigram). We then visited Purva Chakiya. Adiyen was interested to know about Lords Sri Rama’s first day stay during exile at a place known as “Purva Chakiya” about 20 kms south of Ayodhya ( as per Srimad Ramayana ) but the exact location could not be known.
LOCATING TAMASA RIVER THE FIRST TIME LORD RAMA WENT WITH SAGE VISHWAMITRA
Adiyen could not gather any other info because this place was not visited by Sri Rama anu yathirai Bhagavatas earlier. Even the local residents were not aware about the place. Luckily, to our surprsie, outside the temple, a person whom he introduced himself as resident and sells vyjanthee necklaces said that he knew the location and agreed to take us there. From Nandigram, there is a short cut to this place. Walking through the paddy fields through a narrow pathway for about 7 minutes, we reached the spot. A stone is laid in remembrance of Sri Rama’s stay on the banks of Tamasa. There is no temple. River Tamasa has almost dried up . it is only like a small stream. Vehicles cannot go to that place. Anyway, the adventure was worth it. The auto driver was surprised to know about this place as he was not aware of it. Jai Sitaraam We thanked the guide profusely, bought 2 Vyjayanthi maalas which he was selling and paying some money for his help and left the place with the contentment that it was Sri Anjaneyar who guided us.
We visited Bharat Kund, the place where Bharata used to have bath during his stay at Nandigram. Bharata felt so embarassed of himself to face the citizens as he felt responsible for Sri Rama’s troubles and used to have bath in Saruyu even before sunrise to avoid contact with the citizens. The pond was full of innumerable fully blossomed lotus flowers. The places and the people living there were very kind . We visited the nearby Bharat Ram milap mandir. The temple was closed. Here, Sri Rama, Lakshmana,Bharata and Shatruguna shaved off their jada-mudi after 14 years, changed their ascetic costumes and dressed in royal costumes reached Ayodhya along with their elders and friends. Sri Rama seated in the royal chariot along with Sita Devi and flanked by Lakshmana and Shatruguna while Bharata along with Sumantara drove the chariot reached Ayodhya. The countless vanaras assumed human forms and headed by Sugriva and Hanuman along with Vibhishana reached Ayodhya for Sri Rama’s coronation.This picture was immersed in our hearts.
Further we went to Bharata’s garden nearby saying that Bharata used to do meditate at this place. Nearby there is a well where 27 kinds of theerthas from holy rivers are present. The priest who was present there, drew some water and asked us to drink it citing its significance (it removes malefic effects). Enthusiastically we Collected the water to share it with everyone. After relaxing for about 2 hours, we resumed our journey at 4 P.M.
ON THE WAY TO SRIRAMAJANMABHOOMI AT AYODHYA
Due to security reasons, the auto stopped near Birla Dharmashaala , about 2 kms to Sri Ram Janma bhoomi. The entire area of 2 kms is surrounded by six check posts with security and fencing all around. On the way, we visited the site of Putra Kameshti yaagam . As we had visited this place during our previous trip, we gave a skip . Ram Janma Bhoomi area is still in ruins and is highly protected by army, security and monkeys. Compared to our last visit, we found that security has been tightened manifold due to increase in terrosits activities . We were informed that 3 years ago, few anti-social elements entered the city with grenades but the monkeys who are ever alert in Ayodhya spoiled their attempts. We were frisked at 6 places. We cannot carry anything except money purse which is also checked. Mobiles and camera are strictly prohibited. Not even offerings!!! The only offering that we can take along is “OUR HEART”.
Adiyen was stopped by security for carrying my japa maala bag with me. After convincing the security, I entered with the bag but the kumkum packet which was in the bag, was removed. I prayed to Lord that I wanted to have HIS darshan with the bead bag as I had placed the worshipping ( TOUR PERUMAL )deities also in the bag along with my chanting beads Seeing my attire and continuous chanting, I was let in. Lord was kind to see this fallen soul enter with my own dictums .( I just said LORD the chanting beads have been a part of my journey with YOU and do you want them to be away .In fact I still presume that it was the deities and the japa malai made me enter to HIS place . The monkeys were staring at my bead bag ,probably they mistook it to be some eatable. Passing through the strong fencing, we finally reached the place. We could have darshan of the small deities of Sita , Rama along with Lakshmana and Hanuman from about 100 metres and not even supposed to stand for long. After having theertha prasadam, we left the place immediately. It was pathetic to see the birth place of the Supreme Lord in that condition and prayed that a wonderful temple happen soon in Ayodhya far away from any politics . Another interesting incident noted was on our way to darshan, we saw a holy cow doing pradakshinam (going about in circular path), near the fencing lifting its head facing the temple and continuing to do the rounds. One of the security persons pointed towards the cow and informed that every day the cow does 108 parikramas , lifts its head when it faces the shrine of the Lord and continues with the rounds. It has been doing this daily thrice for the past 8 years. This person keeps track of the parikramas by counting in a book and how the cow stops after 108 is amazing. All were attracted to this miracle and many devotees were staring at the holy cow . (While referring to this incident in Chitrakoot, our guide informed that in Chitrakut too, there is a cow which does parikrama round Kamadgiri hill continuously for 22 hours daily for the past 10 years).Jai SREERAM
ON THE WAY TO RIVER SARAYU
It took more than one hour for us to return. We drove to Ram Ghat , Sri Rama’s bathing spot in River Saruyu which is about 1 km from RamJanma bhoomi. After completing prokshanam and sandhya vandanam , offered lamp and flowers to Saruyu river as evening aarthi was going on and left the place. As it was getting late for attending the discourse (kalakshepam) , we did manasika oblations to Lakshman Ghat, the bathing spot of Lakshmana which is near Ram Ghat. We proceeded to Kanak Bhavan, the palace of Sita-Ramar. There are 3 murthis of Sita-Ramar. As the sanctum is decorated with gold, it is known as “Kanak” bhavan. The place from where Sri Rama left for forest is marked by marble footprints. Circumbulated it and went to Hanuman Gaddi, a famous temple for Hanuman in Ayodhya. This temple is situated on a hillock .
There are about 79 steps to reach the temple. The driver dropped us at Manas Bhavan where Sri Gomadam Swami( whom we met in the morning at Gupthar Ghat was giving kalakshepam on Srimad Ramayanam. The discourse lasted for about 2 hours after which we left at 10 P.M. On day 3, we checked out at 08.30 A.M. to board Mathura-Patna Express to reach Buxar the place where the demon Tataka was creating trouble for the saints . The scheduled arrival of the train was 0912 hours but as usual was late by more than one hour. Reached Buxar finally at 1800 hours. The entire day was spent in traveling. We visited Rama Rekha Ghat on the banks of Ganges at Buxar in the evening and offered prayers to the holy river after purification.
BUXAR THE PLACE WHERE VISHWAMITRA CONDUCTED YAAGA WITH LORD RAMA PROTECTING THE AREA FROM DEMONS
Buxar is a typical small town under developed town in Bihar . The moment “Buxar” is mentioned, we remember “Battle of Buxar” but even prior to this , it had historical importance as this was known as “Tataka Vanam”. Staying in Bihar and visiting the temples was the most challenging part of our journey as we didn’t have any information about these places. We were not even sure whether the locals would be able to help us out. As we had to spend nearly three days in Bihar, was totally perplexed about the stay facilities. Tensed because of the wayside robberies, and worst roads which was common Adiyen was worried . We remembered traveling through worst roads in 2006.
While working on our program, it was told Hajipur is near Patna and thought it safe to stay in the State capital and access the holy places. So, Adiyen contacted ISKCON Patna for booking an accommodation for us and during my conversation, informed about our tour requesting to provide some info about Buxar. The polite Prabhu referred a devotee’s name in Buxar who contacted us immediately. It was sudden when I got a call from Buxar. The person introduced himself as Anil Kumar, an ISKCON devotee and was referring to his close association with our Hyderabad DGP and some politicians. He assured that he would take care of all arrangements like accommodation and arranging vehicle and asked us to contact him as soon as we reach Buxar. Thanked him profusely . This incident renewed our tremendous faith in the Lord who is ever protective.
JAI SREE RAM…..
Elders say that if we put one foot towards Lord, HE puts forth 100 steps to rescue us. This has been proved in our case many times. Ultimately FAITH matters a lot . Also, our experience at Sitamarhi is the most memorable one which Adiyen would like to share later . We reached Buxar around 1800 hours as the train was about 2 hours late which is very common in Bihar . Mr.Anil Kumar had booked an accommodation at Hotel Gitanjali which is located behind Platform no. 1 in a narrow lane. There is a way out from the place where we got down. But as we didn’t know, we came out of the station and went walking thru the narrow lane to the hotel.
The hotel owner greeted us warmly when we referred Sri.Anil kumar’s name and provided us with a double bedded non-AC room for Rs.200/-. Strangely we have not seen Mr Anil kumar but the hospitality in a unknown place among strangers infused tremendous faith in LORD for coming days . This was supposed to be the best room in the hotel. On enquiry, we learnt that none of the hotels have either AC or air cooler as there is no power for atleast 20 hours a day. Luckily, the hotel had generator and inverter which didn’t make much of a difference. It was the worst part of our journey with mosquitoes , no power, fan running at the lowest speed , sweltering heat and added to this was the noise from railway station. The day’s temperature was recorded at 48˚ c . As this was the best hotel in the city we had no option . On enquiring about the holy dhaam Kamasram, no one knew about this place. Hence , Adiyen had to mention Balliya (I learnt that Kamasram is in Balliya district). They informed me that share autos would be available to go to Balliya and it would take about an hour to reach. As there are no street lights and as it was getting dark, they suggested me to avoid going there in the evening and was thankful for not adventuring at that time.
TATAKA VANAM THE PLACE WHERE LORD RAMA KILLED TATAKA THE DEMONESS
Adiyen and family hired 2 rickshaws to go to the banks of Ganges and spend the evening leisurely. We paid Rs.20/- for each rickshaw . Ganges is about 1.5 kms from station. When we went there, evening aarthi was going on. The place was not clean enough to have bath. So we just sprinkled some water and participated in the aarthi. We learnt that Tataka Vanam , locally known as “TADKA” is about a kilometer from this place. As it was dark, we decided to go in the morning. Meanwhile, we tried to contact Sri.Anil Kumar for arranging AC vehicle for the next day to visit places in Buxar-Kamasram- Chapra- Sonepur-Hajipur-Patna as we wanted to leave early in the morning but could not get network.
We waited upto 8 A.M. the next morning and as there was no response from Mr.Anil, we requested the hotel owner to help us out. He immediately arranged a Cab , Bolero for Rs.3,000/- to visit the above places and drop us at ISKCON, Patna. Adiyen was trying to gather info about the route to visit the places connected to Sri Rama from the hotel owner. He too didn’t know much about it. While waiting at the reception, a gentleman named Shri.Punit Kumar Singh passed by the hotel. The hotel owner immediately called him and spoke to him in Bihari about the places which we wanted to visit. He immediately started telling the location of the places and when requested , he gladly consented to accompany us.. Once again thanked LORD for this timely intervention by a devotee.
JAI SREE SITARAM
During my interatction with him, we learnt that this devotee is the distributor for Bisleri water in Buxar. He can be contacted on 09939816488 for any help. First, he took us to Vedashira Ashram. We had darshan of a mural of Maharishi Vedashira and prayed him to make us visit all the places connected to Sri Rama. The inmates were very cordial and informed how Sri Rama protected the seven days yagnam conducted by Sage Viswamitra. We took theertha prasadam . They offered us to have lunch in their ashram. They were referring to a particular dish which Sri Rama had and wanted us to taste the same. The ashram also provides accommodation to devotees who visit Buxar. They have around 2-3 rooms where the devotees can stay. Adiyen felt that this is a better option rather than staying in a hotel because we can have satsang of these humble devotees. The love for Sri Rama bound us together. Their hospitality was indescribable. Their address is:-
Shri Shyam Narayan Patak
Vedashira Ashram, Buxar
Mobile no. 09006461415
Later he accompanied us to Siddhasramam which is located about 3 kms from railway station. This is inside central jail, the only one of its kind in Bihar. We didn’t have any problem in getting inside. Siddhasramam is the place where Lord took avatar as “Vamana murthy” . We expected to see the Lord as Vamanamurthy(We had in my mind the gigantic Trivikrama Perumal and Vamanamurthy as seen in Seerkazhi and other southIndia temples )and imagined to see one such idol but found a small Shiva linga . The priest endorsed the sthalapuranam that it was the birth place of Vamana murthy . Amidst the beautiful surroundings , prayed LORD for more satsangh .
SOUTH INDIAN TEMPLE VAIKUNTANATHAR KOVIL NEAR BUXAR
Later we proceeded to VAIKUNTANATHAR KOVIL .This South Indian temple , popularly known as “Nuv Lakh mandir”was constructed some 30 years ago by a Marwadi family who presently reside in Mumbai. There are shrines for Perumal, Thayar, Andal,Azhwars and Acharyars. A young preist placed our TOUR PERUMAL in the sannidhi and after archanai and neivedyam returned to us with some Tulasi leaves. While we were enquiring about the temple, an elderly person who is the incharge of the temple met us. He was kind enough to offer pongal and nellikaay thogaiyal(amla thogaiyal) on this auspicious Dwadasi . During our conversation, we learnt that he hails from Srirangam . This temple can be approached for accommodation and food arrangements . Later , Tridandi Jeeyar Temple which is at a walkable distance from Vaikuntanathar temple. A Vaishnavite who was a great Rama bhakta, took jeeva Samadhi at this place. We had darshan of the saint through grilled doors. LAKSHMI NARAYANAN MANDIR temple is beside Jeeyar Samadhi. sri Ram Charitra Manas was being recited by a priest. We requested him to place our Sri Ramar vigraham and offer neivedyam to our Lordships. He glorified Sri Rama’s pastimes and was happy to hear about our trip. After taking his blessings, we left for Ram Rekha ghat.
Leaving Kamasram, Sri Rama reached Tataka vanam after crossing Ganges at this place. Hence it is known as “Ram Rekha ghat”- the most important ghat in Buxar. On the way to Ghat, he took us to 2 temples situated opposite to each other. In one temple , there are many forms of Shiva linga and akanda Sri Rama japam is being chanted here. Opposite to this is Rameswar Mandir Sri Rama offering puja to Shiva and Sri Rama’s paadukas carved in marble are worshipped. Water cans and puja materials are sold on the way to the ghat.
Thanking him profusely who spent more than three hours showing us all the temples, we proceeded to Kamasram. Mr.Punit gave the necessary instructions to the driver and left . The driver somehow forgot to take us to Tadka which is about one kilometer from Ram Rekha Ghat and proceeded to Kamashram. Later when we questioned him for not taking us to Tadka, he reasoned that some maintenance work was going on there which we simply had to believe. Offered obesiances to the holy dham we proceeded . No one in the town at Buxar could exactly tell us the location of this place. Zeroing that the place has to be in Baliya district attempted to mine the info further speaking in delicate hindi ,asked the driver to take us to Balliya which is about 35-40 kms from Buxar.
DARSHAN AT BHRIGUMUNI ASHRAM AND KAMASHRAM
He stopped at BRIGHU MUNI ASHRAM which is situated near the police chowk claiming this to be Kamashram. Luckily, Adiyen’s wife remembered the photo taken by Sri Raghunathan at Kamashram and was sure that this was not the place. The arch was clear in her memory and the place seemed to be big.. Arguing with the driver that this was not the place, Adiyen decided to go inside the temple and find out the details. The important sannidhi is that of Bhrigu muni’s. A priest extolled the greatness of Brhigu rishi-how he tested the Trinities, etc . adding that Lord Sri Rama visited this place while he was guarding Viswamitra’s yagnam(Rama guarded 5 yojanas on all sides ) in Siddhasram. This is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayanam too. Thanking Sri Brigu Muni for gracing us we moved to locate Kamasram though the head priest was not able to help us out in locating Kamasram We were disappointed and confused and decided to leave the place convincing that we could atleast place ourselves in the place visited by LORD Rama. But Adiyen’s wife was determined to find out the location . We were worn out , dejected, verge on losing our patience due to hunger and the peak summer . Luckily we came across an elderly pundit who knew about the place. We were excited when he mentioned about the arch and were convinced that this was the place which we saw in the photograph adding that we had come far about 20 kms.
We requested him to give driving directions to the driver. Initially, the driver was reluctant to go back as it would cost him extra 40 kms but finally consented to take us to the temple. The priest informed that we should ask for “KARON village near “CHITPADA GAON” and take the immediate right turn after crossing the bridge if we come from Buxar. It is about 36 kms from Buxar. Finally we reached the temple around 1 P,M. Yes, it was indeed worth driving. A big arch displaying “Kameshwar dham ” welcomed us. Near the arch, is a small Hanuman temple. After about 3 minutes drive, we reached this temple . There were many devotees in the temple premises but the main shrine of Shiva was closed. A devotee pointed out to a tree in front of the sannidhi with dark marks on the trunk. He referred to the incident of Siva burning Manmatha and said that these were the marks which fell on the tree as Manmatha stood at that place. We had to satisfy ourselves with the lovely photographs displayed on the outer walls of the temple-photo showing Sri Rama and Lakshmana pressing Viswamitra’s feet is still vivid in our memory.
JAI SREE SITARAMA
From Kamasram, we drove for about two hours and reached Ahroli. There is very small sannidhi houses the marble sculpture of Ahalya offering obeisances to Sri Rama while Lakshmana and Sage Viswamitra look upon. After offering Praams , we drove to Gautamasthan located in Chapra district near Rewalkunj . This is easily identifiable. The temple was closed but we could have darshan of Sita-Ramar in the main sannidhi through the grill gate. Opposite to this sannidi is the sannidhi for Hanumar near which there is Sree Ram Paduka. On the right side, we had darshan of Gautama rishi, Ahalya, Sadanandar, Anjana Devi. The confluence of Saruyu with Ganges is located nearby. As it was summer, the river had dried up and now it was about 2 kms from this temple. Due to time constraint, we didn’t visit the place and looking at the direction , offered our obeisances from the temple itself .
JAI SREE SITARAM
Driving past Chapra, we reached Sonepur in the evening . Compared to other places we visited, Sonepur seemed to be a bigger town . On reaching, we enquired the location of Harharnath temple. Our driver didn’t know the location. We followed the directions and reached the temple at 7 P.M. This temple is dedicated to Shiva. Had darshan of the deities. In the temple premises, in a mantapam, we found Gajendra Moksham beautifully depicted. There are many shops on either side of the lane leading to the temple. As it was dark, we did not see the confluence of River Sona with Ganges which is about half a kilometer from the temple. The famous Sonepur Mela where cattle is traded takes place at this place. Manasika Aradhanai was done and reached Hajipur at 8 P.M.
As it was not possible to go to Ram Chauda at that time, we proceeded to Patna. As it was late, we decided to visit Ram Chauda at Hajipur the next morning. Hajipur is about 6 kms from Sonepur. Patna is about 15 kms from Hajipur. Some trains which do not touch Patna pass through Hajipur. Hajipur and Patna are on either sides of Ganges. Mahatma Gandhi Sethu, one of the longest bridges is about 11 kms connects these two places. Ganga can be seen in full flow at this place. Our car rolled slowly due to the heavy traffic near Hajipur station upto Mahatma Gandhi Sethu. After paying the toll tax at the entrance of the bridge, we continued our drive It is common for a chain of vehicles to wait for clearance at the check post.
ISKCON is located about 3 kms from Patna railway station on the main road. Situated on a vast area of land, a new temple for Krishna is under construction. Presently there are about 25 rooms in the guest house. The rent for AC room is Rs,500/- per day.
It was 10.30 P.M. when we reached the guest house . So, prashad was not available. After settling the driver’s bill, we checked into one of the AC rooms. (We expected the driver to charge us for the extra mileage we traveled for going to Kamasram but looked like he adjusted it for Hajipur visit) We were totally exhausted and doubtful about stay facilities in Sitamarhi. We came to a stage where we wanted to cancel our Sitamarhi trip and proceed straight to Allahabad but Lord had other plans. Surrending to the Lord to help us accomplish our trip, we retired for the night.
REACHING PATNA/ HAJIPUR AND LEAVING TO SITAMARHI
As we had drived a long distance we decided to take a break and spend time with ISKCON devotees in the morning with HARINAAM sankirtan and the rest of the day was spent in traveling. Adiyen had the chance to meet a devotee Sri.Nagamani Prabhu who hailed from Darbhanga and knew Sitamarhi and other places very well. He is the program coordinator for the North eastern region of ISKCON. We expressed our doubts regarding our night stay at Sitamarhi as our train ,Lichavi express would reach at 10.30 P.M. The devotee was too kind and he immediately called up Sitamarhi M.L.A. to make all arrangements. The MLA who was not in town helped us with phone number of Hotel Aashirvad, a decent hotel. Mr.Nagamani Dasa immediately spoke to Hotel Aashirvad and booked a room for us and also made vehicle arrangement for us to go to Janakpur next day. He said that hire charges for vehicle would be app. 7000. He drew a rough sketch and explained about the important places in and around Sitamarhi.
• Sitamarhi- the birth place of Sitadevi. This is located in the bazaar about 3 kms from railway station
• Punouda- also considered as the brith place of sitadevi- on the way to Pant Pakar
• Pant Pakar- where Sita Ramar on her journey to Ayodhya stayed for a night –between Janakpur and Sitamarhi
• Janakpur- where Sita Ramar got married
• Dhanusha- where Sri Rama broke Shivadhanush- this is about 30 kms from Janakpur
• Madhubani- where Viswamitra stayed with Sri Rama and Lakshmana before entering Janakpur and the place where Sitadevi happened to cast HER glance on Sri Rama. This place is not on Sitamarhi-Janakpur route. One needs to reach this place from Darbhanga.
• Kamtaul –the actual place where Ahalya was redeemed from curse It is clearly mentined in Valmiki Ramayanam that before entering Janakpur, Sri Rama redeemed Ahalya from curse. Viswamitra introduces Sri Rama to King Janaka in the presence of Sadananda, son of Gautama rishi and Ahalya that HE had just redeemed his mother’s curse and his parents were united. This place is enroute to Sitamarhi from Darbhanga. One needs to take a local train from Darbhanga to Kamtaul from where share autos are available to Ahalya’s temple. Kamtaul to Sitamarhi is about 40 kms. In Bihar, speed of vehicles is only 20 kms per hour only.
It is best to travel by road from Patna to Sitamarhi via Darbhanga visiting Kamtaul and Madhubani enroute, reach Sitamarhi, proceed to Punouda, return to Sitamarhi and stay overnight. Next day visit Janakpur and return to Sitamarhi via Pant Pakar. Only one express train goes to Sitamarhi and it takes a longer route. This is being penned with our experience for devotees to plan accordingly when they visit these holy places .
We knew about Madhubani and Kamtaul but as Swamin did not visit these places, we did not want to venture on our own and hence skipped these places. After our visit to Sitamarhi, we are now confident that we can visit all the above mentioned places without any trouble. We thanked him profusely. Confident that everything would be taken care of, we participated in Srungar Aarthi followed by discourse on Srimad Bhagavatam in ISKCON temple.
After partaking prashad, we tried to enquire about Ram Chauda and as no one was able to give correct information, we gave a skip to it. Relaxed in the room itself. Mr.Nagamani Prabhu had arranged for a cab for us to go to Patna railway station from ISKCON for Rs.600/-. He suggested to leave early because of the common traffic jam on M.G.Sethu bridge which would last for 2 hours or so. We once again thanked him for all his kindly help and left at 1 P.M. Luckily there was no traffic jam and within an hour we reached Patna station. The scheduled arrival of our train Lichhavi Express was at 1558 hours but was late by 6 hours. Shri.Nagamani Prabhu was in constant touch with us till we left Hajipur and we remain grateful to him for boosting up our spirits.
We could not bear the heat wave and the noise around. So, we requested an attendant in the Station Master’s office to allow us to sit in his AC room and he obliged as there is no separate waiting room for AC passengers. The station master suggested us to go by bus to Sitamarhi as he was not sure whether the train would arrive at 10P.M. It takes about 4 hours to go to Sitamarhi from Patna by road whereas it takes about 6 hours to go by train. The railway authorities explained that from Darbhanga, the train has to take a round about route as there is no proper track to Sitamarhi. Whoever visited the room advised very casually not to wait for the train . They were telling that sometimes the train would not proceed to Sitamarhi. Lichavi Express is one of the most unpredictable trains in India. It always runs late. AS the sun was scorching, we didn’t venture out to have either lunch or supper and had to satisfy ourselves with fruits and juice.
There is a straight road from Darbhanga to Sitamarhi but we were afraid to go by bus because of the bumpy roads and overloaded buses where passengers travel on top of the buses with luggage. Hence ,decided to stay back in the station and waited patiently for the train to arrive chanting LORDs holy names . The advantage was if the train was late, we would be reaching Sitamarhi in the morning and thus avoid night stay . Whenever we enquired about the train’s arrival, we used to get reply as “PATHA NAHI.”(DON’T KNOW) We were on the verge of frustration and finally after 8 hours of wait, the train reached at 11 P.M. We were the only passengers in the Second A.C. coach and had fear in traveling alone. However the coach attendant was kind enough and asked us to relax saying that the train may reach Sitamarhi at 6 A.M. and that he would wake us up. The train halts for more than one hour at Darbhanga for a Engine change over . It takes round about turn to reach Sitamarhi. Unfortunately, Lichavi Express is the only long distance express train to Sitamarhi, the rest being passengers bound to Darbhanga and nearby places. However, the train reached at 03.30 A.M.
The same train leaves for New Delhi after 2 hours. The scheduled departure from Sitamarhi is 2340 hours but was expected to leave at 06.00 A.M.Even the T.T. was taken by surprise as it took only 5 hours to reach Sitamarhi. We were awaiting further surprises . While conversing with the TTE, we informed him about our accomodation at Hotel Aashirvad and wanted to know whether any vehicle would be available to go to the hotel. He replied that though it was about 2 kms from the station it was not advisable to make an attempt to leave out of the station and suggested that we could as well stay in the AC waiting room and not unnecessarily waste money for hotel accommodation. He said that the money could be used for paying Border tax etc. He personally spoke to the Station Master and gave us the keys. Locking ourselves inside the comfortable and well maintained waiting room , we relaxed for about two hours. We guessed it was Lord Sri Rama bhaktha Hanuman who had once again come to our rescue in the form of TTE.
MOST MEMORABLE DAY AT SITAMARHI, THE APPEARANCE PLACE OF MOTHER SITA ,JANAKPUR
When Hotel Aashirvad was contacted for the vehicle but there was no proper response as the Manager was not available. And the net work was not activating . Allowing my family to get ready, Adiyen went outside the station casually to get some milk for my children. Sitamarhi is a sleepy village in the border of Nepal . With a perplexed mind, Adiyen didn’t know what to do. Spotted a Sri Rama Bhaktha Hanuman temple just opposite to Railway station where Abhishekam was performed to the Moola Virat. Adiyen went inside the temple and prayed Lord to help us . In the temple, one of the sadhus gestured me to come near him. When I informed him that I have undertaken”SRI RAMA ANU YATIRAI” visiting places visited by Sri Rama, he was happy and blessed me. He said “DON’T WORRY… I WILL TAKE CARE” The words which he uttered was more like an “assurance” to me.
He instructed one of his followers to take me to Mr.Sunil,a travel agent’s house and instruct him to do the needful . We were welcomed by him warmly . This person told him that Hanumanji Maharaj has asked him to arrange a vehicle for us to go to Janakpur to visit the important places and also visit temples at Sitamrhi instructing him to charge a nominal amount. The moment he referrd Hanumanji Bhabha’s s name, he greeted us reverentially and offered tea. As he had regard for that siddha purush , Mr,Sunil didn’t want to make any profit from the trip and charged a very nominal amount of Rs.2,100/-.(I remembered the station master at Sitamarhi telling me that the vehicle hire charges would be app. Rs.7,000/- plus border permit charges). I was thrilled , went back to the temple and thanked the sadhu. The person who accompanied me said that the sadhu will be in mounam(Silence) till aarthi is given to Hanuman.
Excited about Lord’s arrangements, Adiyen returned to the waiting room enthusiastically and got ready for our trip. My wife had just completed recitation of Sundara kandam and was confident that Lord would guide us. Her faith was endorsed by my words. We reached the temple by 0715. Participated in the aarthi and offered fruits which we had bought for Lord Hanuman and for the sadhus . Thanked LORD profusely for this. Mr.Sunil himself came with Bolero and the sadhu instructed him to take us to Dhanusha ( The holy dham where LORD broke the Siva Dhanush ) also. (Adiyen remembered Nagamani Prabhu telling us that it may not be possible to visit Dhanusha and return to Sitamarhi in the same day.) Mr.Sunil suggested us to go to Janakpur first and then visit the local temples in Sitamarhi because the Indo-Nepal border closes at 5 P.M. As we wanted to visit Dhanusha also, he asked us to hurry up. .
Sitamarhi is the last town in this side of Bihar near Nepal border. The Indo-Nepal border at Bithamode is about 60 kms from Sitamarhi. Janakpur is 25 kms from the border. We fuelled the vehicle for Rs.800/- and after driving for about 2 hours on the sandy roads , reached the border by paying Rs.300/- as border permit charges . Getting permission to cross the border for Indians is easy. (WE remembered crossing Indo-Nepal border at three places in three different instances- in 2006 we went from Gorakhpur when we visited Salagramam(Muktinath), in 2008, we crossed the border from Gangtok, and now it was through Bithamode near Sitamarhi) . The border on the Nepal side is Maliwada.
MEMORABLE DARSHAN AT JANAKPUR AND SITAMARHI
After about 45 minutes drive, we reached Janakpur temple. JANAKI TEMPLE temple is 100 year old built by a Rajasthani devotee . This was our second visit to this temple. In the main garbagriham, there are three sets of Sita-Ramar deities Adiyen requested the priest to place our TOUR PERUMAL deities in the garbagriham and recited selected sargams relating to Seetha’s ancestors, Swayamvaram, Sita-Ramar kalyanam etc. After completion of recitation, the priest handed over our idol along with theertham and prasadam. Circumbulated the temple and visited Sri Janaka’s sannidhi where there are idols of Janaka’s family- 4 daughters and sons-in-law and various saalagrama shilas. Beside this, there is another sannidhi in which about 1.25 lakh saalagrama shilas are worshipped daily. Everyday, thirumanjanam is performed to all the shilas. We had the bhaagyam to have darshan of more than a lakh of salagrama shilas…… Participated in the Akhanda Rama naamam which is recited round the clock. KALYANA MANDAPAM is situated outside the main temple. Entered the premises after paying a nominal amount of Rs.2/- towards entrance fee. Nothing had changed since our last visit. Had darshan of Sree Sita-Ramar in the centre in Kalyana Thirukolam. The divine marriage of Sri Ramar with Sitadevi took place here in the presence of their parents while Sage Vasishta, Viswamitra and Sage Sadanandar officiate the wedding.Urmila-Lakshmana, Mandavi-Bharata and Srutakeerthi-Shatrugunan in Kalyana Thirukolam are also seen.
Recited Sita Kalyana sargam from Ramayanam. Keeping Sita Devi as Purushakaaram to recommend us to Perumal, we prayed for Rama bhakti and successful completion of our yaatirai. With a prayer to Sita Piratti to recommend for Perumal’s grace by forgiving and overlooking all our faults, we circumbulated the temple and offered namaskarams to the individual sannidhis built on all the four sides of the Kalyana Mantapam. It was noon and bhog was being offered to the deities . So, we had to leave hastily. Nearby we went to RAM MANDIR in the proximity of Janaki Mandir though not as big as Janaki Mandir, this is deemed as the oldest temple in Janakpur. In the garbagriham, there are 3 unique shilas. In one shila, Sri Rama is carved out with Sita sitting on HIS lap,Lakshmana by Sri Rama’s side, Bharata and shatruguna near Sri rAma’s feet. This is the very rare shila and ancient . Another shila has Lakshmi and Narayanan together and the third shila is that of King Janaka’s. A Nepali monk offered us theertha prasadam. Thanking LORD profusely we proceeded to Dhanusha another 30 km interior .
DHANUSHA THE PLACE WHERE THE SIVADHANUSH WAS LIFTED BY LORD RAMA
40 minutes drive past Janakpur, we reached this village located in a serene place. The entire temple area is covered by a shed. Presently, this particular piece of Dhanush is about 30 feet in length and is growing in size. There is a peepul tree at that place and the dhanush emerging from the earth is found to be growing length-wise.. For the materialistic person it looks like a rocky one. We were amazed when we read this information written on the display board stating that every two years when they measure the length, they find an increase in size by 2 cms. A resident of that place said that when there was famine or some crisis, it is customary for them to pour huge quantities of milk at this place and offer puja to the Dhanush. When the milk overflows, the devotees are ensured that their problems would be solved. Especially when there is no rain, the devotees pour milk and when it starts overflowing, they would be blessed with rains. There is no separate sannidhi for the Lord. Having visited all the important places in Janakpur, we started on our return journey and crossed the border by 3 P.M. On the way to Sitamarhi, we visited Pant Pakar. This is not exactly in the main route. One needs to take a diversion and travel for about 2 kms to reach Panth Pakar. A beautiful temple amidst a serene village .
PANT PAKAR THE PLACE WHERE THE DIVINE COUPLE RESTED FOR A DAY
After the LORD Sita Ramars wedding, on their return journey, Dasaratha’s retinue along with newly wedded couples halted at this place. The place where Sita devi’s palanquin (“doli”) alighted under a banyan tree is marked by a hound covered with red cloth and pooja is performed. Beside this , a small vigraham of Sita-Ramar is kept. There is a stone inscription mentioning that Sri Rama defeated and humbled the angry and arrogant Parasurama who challenged him to break the Vishnu dhanush which the latter was possessing. ( Sri Velukudi Swamin in one of his discourses, states that Parasurama was defeated by Lord because he was arrogant whereas victory was on Rama’s side because HE was calm and composed and full of virtues.) . Parasurama realized that Sri Rama was also a manifestation of Lord Vishnu and transferred all the yogic powers to Sri Rama and left for Himalayas.
THE HOLY BANYAN TREE
The banyan tree is itself very sacred and powerful.
All disputes are solved at this place. No one can utter lies at this place. If someone dares to tell lie, he would be punished immediately. The roots of the banyan tree get coiled to the main trunk itself . Amazing fact was the roots get coiled and do not touch the ground. This place is considered very holy and many piligrims come here . Mela was going on when we visited this place. Exactly one month after Sri Rama navami, Seetha Navami is celebrated. Throughout Janakpur and Sitamarhi, this festival is celebrated for 10 days culminating in Sita Navami in the Tamil month of Vaigasi (May-June). Everyone feels proud to be associated with Sita Devi who is eternally remembered for her “PATIVRATA DHARMAM”. They keep glorifying Sita and Rama and go to the extent of declaring that Sri Rama gained so much recognition because of HIS association with THEIR SITA DEVI. Every evening, Sri Ram charitra Manas is recited and there would be some dance-drama etc. The entire place wore a festive look. Nearby there is a small tank known as “Sita Kund” where Sita is supposed to had bath. Near this kund under a tree, had darshan of small utsava murthis of Sita ,Ramar, Lakshmana and Hanuman along with a doli(wooden palanquin). Pooja was being offered to the deities. On enquiry, the priest informed that these deities belonged to Sitamarhi temple and it is customary for them to take the deities in procession to Janakpur and while returning from Janakpur, to halt at all the places connected to Sita Devi. Another priest with whom we interacted made us sit under the tree where the original doli was kept and explained the importance of that place. Three others joined them and enthusiastically,they started narrating RAMACHARITRA MANAS . The priest was adept in the epic and was quoting verses from the holy text written by Tulsidas. He also referred to slokas from Valmiki Ramayanam. We were strangers to that place but the priests were so cordial and spent their time sharing their information with us. It was pure Sree Rama bhakti which bound us together. They blessed us and suggested us to start our next visit from Sitamarhi as that was the practice. He said that in that village, there was no police station/ no panchayat. Any dispute would be solved under this tree as it has special powers. No one can utter any lie at this place. The offender would be punished immediately. He asked us to circumbulate the tree thrice . We found a net tied around the tree to ensure that dried leaves do not fall on the ground. Such is the sanctity of that place. We happened to see few devotees including an old lady who were doing bhajan and reached this place.. The priest informed that many devotees do “ Mithila Parikrama” starting from Sitamarhi , they reach Janakpur, on their return visit Panth Pakar, Punouda and other places which are on the way to Sitamarhi and end their parikrama on Sita Navami at Sitamarhi. Such is the bhakti….. May the Lord bless us to do a similar parikrama in this janma…. The priests accompanied us upto the parking lot and bade adieu. We reached Punouda which is on the outskirts of Punouda.
PUNOUDA THE HOLY DHAAM WHERE MOTHER SITA APPEARED
There is an old temple dedicated to Janaki devi. This place is considered as the birth place of Janaki. To face his country from severe drought, Janaka performed a sacrifice and personally started digging the earth with a plough when suddenly, the plough got stuck and a golden casket with a girl child appeared at that place. Since Janaka was childless, he adopted the child . The celestials blessed Janaka with rains . Rain water got collected in the area where he ploughed which is known as Sita Kund. A beautiful temple built in Pagoda style for Seetha-Ramar. There are very small sannidhis in the premises denoted as the place where Janaka stood with the child while it was raining….Performed evening sandhya vandanam at Sita Kund.The entire place including the temple structure was illuminated . We participated in the evening aarthi. Purchased few photos. Preparations for the 10 day celebration which was to start on the following day was in progress. Mela takes place here for 10 days . Springing up of malls has become very common in cities , finding village fair where traders from different places assemble to do business was something new to younger generations dwelling in cities. YES… INDIA is still a land of villages…. We Proceeded to Sitamarhi new temple which is in the Bazar about 2 kms from railway station. We participated in the night aarthi and had prashad. This temple is in the heart of the town. This place is also considered as Sita’s birth place. Beside the temple, there is a small tank known as Sita Kund, in the midst of which are beautiful statues.. A narrow wooden bridge is constructed across to enable devotees to visit the small mandapam housing seven statues. Janaka seen ploughing the field and Sita Devi appearing from the ground while Janaka’s wife, Sage Satananda and others look upon is a feast to the eyes.
A BIG THANKS TO DEVOTEES OF LORD HANUMAN
Having thus completed all the places within the stipulated time, we returned to Sri Hanuman temple to thank the Lord. All this could happen only because of the great Sri Ram Bhakth Hanuman. Prostrated in front of all the sanths who were eagerly waiting for our arrival and narrated them our experiences. Gave some dakshinai, took some photographs with them. Adiyen was surprised to know that the saint who helped us was more than 80 years old. He was glowing with effulgence and it was hard to believe his age. He looks like a 30 year old person. We returned to Sitamarhi station at 9 P.M.
When we enquired about our train, the Station Master informed that it would reach tentatively by early morning 2 A.M. and was not sure about it. Took waiting room keys and refreshed ourselves under a cool shower. As we had to travel by train the whole of next day to reach Allahabad , my wife unpacked the suitcases and washed the soiled clothes when suddenly there was a call from the station master at about 10 P.M.. He was literally screaming as to whether there was any passenger to travel by Lichavi Express(“KOI HAI LICHAVI ME JAANE WALE”). Adiyen rushed out and showed him the ticket. To my utter dismay, he informed that the train has been cancelled as it was running late by almost 6 hours saying that the train would terminate at a station named Darbhanga . He advised us to go to Darbhanga Railway station which was about 3 hours from this place and board the train which was scheduled to start from Darbhanga at 6 A.M. I dreaded to think of traveling with 3 ladies in the dark night at such a place. Moreover getting a vehicle at that time to go to Darbhanga was impossible and to travel by road all alone with 2 girls was risky . Luckily another person came running to the station master that there was a passenger train going to Samasthipur break away station on Cord line waiting and about to leave ,and this was the last one. The station master advised us to take this train to Samasthipur and from there to take any train to Darbhanga as there would be many trains en route . The travel time to Samasthipur is about one hour from Sitamarhi and from Samasthipur to Darbhanga is about one hour . He assured that we would be able to board our train at Darbhanga. During the discussions the train slowly left the platform .Suddenly sensing the train leaving us he gave instructions to his assistant to immediately stop the passenger train which had already went out of the platform and sent his assistant to help us carry the luggage. When I imagine how we immediately packed our belongings , carrying the wet clothes and baggages and ran to catch the train, I feel a chill passing through me. After we boarded the train hurriedly in a sleeper coach , the station master gave signal for the train to move on . True It was almost like Sri Hanumanjee had taken complete control of our trip as per Mothers advise ..JAI SREE SITARAAM
The train moved slowly and stopped at each and every station and finally after 90 minutes, it reached Samasthipur at 00.00 hrs. Our clothes had dried up by that time and we were ready with our baggages for our next adventure. While getting down, a co-passenger pointed towards a train in the next platform which was about to start saying that it would go to Darbhanga. Children were half sleepy and at midnight , we were changing platforms with heavy baggages to catch the train. We could get in luckily and somehow managed to sit in the available side seats. There were many locals who were happily sleeping not bothering about when they would reach their destinations. These things are supposed to be very common in Bihar- the state which gave an efficient Railway Minister.!!!!
Reached Darbhanga at 02.30 A.M. Darbhanga is a big junction. Leaving the baggages and children in my wife’s custody, Adiyen went to enquire about our train Lichavi Express bound to Allahabad. Luckily the disguisting train had arrived some one hour back and was stationed in some far away platform. Totally exhausted, we just wanted to throw the baggages and relax in our coach. Initially the coach attendant was reluctant to allow us inside as the train will leave only in the early hours the next day ,but when I pleaded him he conceded to my request. Prayed the Lord for making our trip successful ofcourse with some thrilling moments and retired for the night.
HOLY DIP AT TRIVENI SANGAMAM
Throughout the next day, i.e. 14th May, we traveled in the train sharing our experiences with relatives over mobile . The train was as usual late and we reached Allahabad by 9 P.M. Boarded an auto for Rs.100/- to ISKCON , Allahabad located on the banks of Yamuna where we had already booked our accommodation. As the trains usually run late for hours together, the inmates were literally not prepared for our arrival. They were surprised to note that our train was late by two hours only. We had to satisfy ourselves with a chapatti served with sugared milk…. We disclosed our plan to the ISKCON prabhu with whom we had telecom contact for room booking etc. We wanted to have holy bath at Triveni Sangamam in Prayag, visit Bharadwaja Ashram in Allahabad, visit Srungaberipuram which is about 30 kms from Allahabad and proceed to Chitrakut and requested him to help us out. He called up one of the known travel agents who agreed to take to all these places for Rs.2,200/- which was very nominal. The tour operators charge Rs.6/- per km. and also for the return trip from Chitrakoot to Allahabad. We were allotted an air-cooled room in the first floor.
JOURNEY TO PRAYAG, SRUNGABERIPURAM,BHARADWAJA MUNI ASHRAM AND THE GREAT SAINT SRI TULSIDAS BIRTH PLACE
We had a holy dip at Prayag which is about 9 kms from ISKCON , Allahabad and we took of in the booked cab . The owner of the cab was a middle aged devotee of Lord Krishna . He was very enthusiastic to take us to all the places as desired by us through the Temple President . Prayag also known as “Triveni Sangamam” is one of the holiest places. The confluence of three sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi takes place here.
We hired a boat for Rs.1,200/- to reach the Triveni Sangamam. Prayag is a typical piligrimage spot in U.P.where the boatman, pandas take you for a real ride . We really need to be careful while handling the locals . All of us had holy bath and offered ghee lamp and flowers which we had purchased on the way. Just for using another boat to keep our belongings, we had to pay Rs.100/-.!!! . On the way, we had darshan of “Letey Hanuman” (Hanumanji is in sleeping pose )mandir which is closeby. We could not visit Patalputri Fort which earlier housed the deities of Sri Ramar as it has now been converted into amnutions factory. The significance of the Hanuman temple is that the floods do not cross the temple due to Hanumans protection . The Kumbh mela attracts many piligrims and the area covered is huge
EAGER TO HAVE DARSHAN LORD KRISHNA AT GAUDIYA MUTT , ALLAHABAD
GAUDIYA MUTT is situated enroute to ISKCON from Prayag and is supposed to be the place where Srila Prabhupada the founder of ISKCON stayed for many years and took sanyasi dikshai. Sri Radha- Shyamsundar is the presiding diety. Had a wonderful darshan . The holy place was calm and peaceful perfect for meditation. We happened to meet an exalted devotee, (whom we refer to as Kaliyug “Avadooth”). In a nutshell, he narrated the essence of Srimad Bhagavatam in simple words . There was a chart showing the various heavens and hells which would be obtained based on our karmas. Pointing to these two huge pictures hung on the wall showing the acts which leads a person to heaven/ hell and a Vaishnavite’s act, he described Bhakti Yoga in simple terms pointing out that only by having unflinched devotion to the lotus feet of Sri Hari, we can attain moksham.
He referred to Katvanga, Prahalada, Dhruva, Parikshit,Ajamilan’s stories from Srimad Bhagavatam advising that age is not a factor for cultivating bhakti. . He briefly explained the nava vidha bhakti as expounded by Prahalada. We were totally mesmerized by his lecture unaware of time. We realized that only due to our acharyar’s grace, we could meet this person who definitely left his impact on us. We profusely offer our pranams to this person and pray for our spiritual upliftment.
30 kms from Allahabad and 90 mintues journey from ISKCON.
We reached this place around 11 A.M. We could not tolerate the heat wave. Even the AC in the car could not cool the inside temperature. We happily dipped our towels and covered our heads and faces and this was done done umpteen times as the towels were getting dried instantly due to the heat wave . The temperature was 49 degrees The driver took us to the excavated site which is an evidence that Sri Rama visited this place and stayed with Guha. Except archaeological remains, there is nothing to be seen. We considered ourselves to be fortunate for having the sparsha of the place which was sanctified by Sri Rama.
REACHING RAM SAYYA” ON THE BANKS OF GANGES
-. This is the place where Lord Sri Rama rested on the banks of Ganges near the excavation site. There are sannidhis for Hanuman and Shiva but no sannidhi for Sri Ramar.. The face of Hanuman resembles Garuda’s face. We met a priest who stays with his family at this place. After providing with water for quenching our thirst, he started narrating about Sri Rama’s exile and his visit to this place, about guha’s qualities , how Guha helped the Lord cross the river. He was adept in Ram Charitra Manas and referring to select verses, he explained Guha’s reply to the Lord. Guha says that the Lord does not need any boat to cross over but he is asking only to give us an opportunity to serve HIM. When Sri Rama was about to place HIS foot on the boat, Guha wondered what would happen to the boat reflecting Ahalya’s incident. When Sri Rama stepped on a stone, it transformed into Ahalya, a lady. We recollected an old Telugu movie song ”Ramaiyya Thandri O Ramaiyya Thandri…ee nomuli nochaamu Ramaya thandri……” The priest whom we named as “Guhan” enthusiastically went on telling about Ramayanam for more than one hour. Adiyen wondered how even an ordinary person was well versed in Ramcharitra Manas. Offered humble obesiances to Goswami Tulaseedas .The scene of Guhan Azhwar describing LORDRANA was spell bound . Could see Guhan azhwars love in him . We got delayed because of this and had to skip Sri Rama and Rishyasrunga muni’s temples.
REACHING BHARADWAJA ASHRAM
This Ashram is located in Allahabad and is well known temple. LORD Sri Rama accompanied by Sita Devi and Lakshmana visited this muni’s ashram(earlier this place was a forest) and stayed here twice- at the beginning of Vana vaasam and at the completion of Vana vaasam. Bharata along with his retinue also stayed at this place. On this rishi’s advise, Sri Rama went to Chitrakoot and stayed. There are many sannidhis in this temple including that of Santoshi Maatha. There are sannidhis for Sita-Ramar, Bharadwaja rishi in an assembly of rishi, separate shrine for Bharadwajar etc. Near the entrance there is an inscription about Sri Rama’s visit to this place.
We had to feel content for having visited the excavated site which other bhagavatas did not visit. We did not visit Rishyasrunga’s temple due to lack of time. Returned to ISKCON and checked out at 2 P.M. Purchased few gift items to our relatives from ISKCON shop and resumed our journey to Chitrakoot.. We learnt from a shopkeeper that Yamuna ghat from where Sri Rama crossed to reach Chitrakoot with boat constructed by Lakshmana was few miles away from the place. We didn’t visit that place.
ARRIVING AT GOSWAMEE TULASIDAS BIRTH PLACE “RAJAPUR”
Rajapur is the birth place of the great saint SriRama bhaktha Tulsidas, the great poet who composed Sri Ram Chairtra Manas . This dhaam is located on the way to Chitrakoot from Allahabad, though not on the main route. Chitrakoot is about 20 kms from this place One needs to take a diversion and drive for about 19 kms to visit this place. A new temple built at this place has a shrine for Tulsidas. We reached this place around 5 P.m. At the entrance, there are huge statues of Hanuman . The sannidhi was closed but we could view the idol of Sri Tulsidas through the meshed grilled door. The vigraham looks full of life. Beside the sannidhi, few important slokas from Ramcharitra Manas is written. In the big hall in front of the sannidhi, there are beautiful murals made of Plaster of Paris of important characters from Ramayana- Sravana carrying his aged and blind parents, Sri Rama doing Shiva pooja, Sri Rama accepting fruits given by Sabari while Lakshmana looks upon, Lord Narayanan in Adisesha ……
Prostrating at the feet of this bhagavata to bestow Sri Rama bhakti on us, we proceeded to Chitrakoot. The travel agent at Allahabad who had arranged vehicle suggested us to stay at Hotel Kamadgiri where the rates are reasonable. Situated near Ram ghat, this hotel is very famous in Chitrakoot for its satwic food-vegetarian food without onions and garlic.
MEMORABLE DARSHAN AT CHITRAKOOT , THE PLACE WERE LORD RAMA STAYED
We reached Chitrakoot from Allahabad at about 7PM . It is 5 hours drive from Allahabad. As we visited Rajapur and halted at some places, enroute it took six hours. Located between Allahabad and Satna but comparatively nearer from Allahabad. Chitrakoot shares space with two states- U.P. and M.P. Most of the temples are in M.P. The telephone booths and the hotels have two phone connections-one is M.P. and the other U.P. connection. The local drivers fuel their vehicle in U.P. as there is price difference in petrol.
Chitrakoot is a hilly region located in the picturesque surroundings abundant with natural beauty. Surrounded by River Mandakini Ganga and trees touching the sky, the whole place is a feast to the eyes. Bharadwaja muni describes the scenic beauty of this place and advises Sri Rama to stay at this serene place . Lakshmana constructed a hermitage (parna saalai) on Kamadgiri mountain for them to reside. Even today, Kamadgiri mountain is considered to be very sacred as it was Sri Rama’s dwelling during HIS exile.. No one ascends the hill as it is very sacred. Thousands of devotees circumbulate the hill daily. The whole place vibrates with SriRama bhakti.
We checked into Hotel Kamadgiri .The room rent is Rs. 350/- plus 100/- per extra person. The food provided is excellent. After many days, we tasted good food. WE came to know later that the restaurant arranges for the food to be packed neatly to be had later. The owner a great devotee of LORD RAMA ensures this . The restaurant is always fully packed. Another interesting news is that Chitrakut has pure HINDU cult. There is no church or mosque in Chitrakut. Hope all other pilgrimage centres like Tirupati are maintained like this. The whole place vibrates with Sri Rama bhakti. The famous telugu song “ANTHAA RAMAA MAYAM, JAGAM ANTHAA RAMA MAYAM “ aptly applies to this place. (The whole world is full of SriRama …)
Coordinated with the hotel owner who was at the Reception to arrange a vehicle for us to visit nearby places. He contacted Sri.Ansal , a local taxi driver on his mobile but there was no response. Later we learnt that he does parikrama twice daily and in the evenings , he maintains silence while doing parikrama. He met us at the hotel at about 9 P.M. He agreed to take us to “Char dhaam” (comprising of Janaki Kund , Sati Anasuya ashram, Spatik Shila and Gupt Godavari), Hanuman dhaara, Kamadgiri mountain , Ram darshan and drop us at Satna for Rs.2,200/-. We were keen on visiting Sarabhanga ashram which is located on the route to Satna from Chitrakut and Suteekshana ashram near Satna (as Suteekshana muni stayed here, this place was earlier known as Suteekshanapuri which got corrupted as “Satna”) but he said that as these ashrams are located deep in forest, it will take one full day to visit these two places. The charges for visiting Sarabhanga asram is Rs.2000/-. As we had to board train from Satna on the same day, we did not visit these ashrams. Having bath in Mandagini Ganga and doing Kamadgiri parikrama are the two most auspicious things one needs to do at Chitrakut. So, we decided to go for parikrama or Pradikshana .
REACHING RAM GHAT
Next day morning at about 5 A.M. before sunrise, we walked down to Ram Ghat which is the holiest spot in Chitrakut. This is very near to Hotel Kamadgiri where we stayed. Learning from Bharata about Dasaratha’s demise, Sri Rama performed”jala tharpanam” to Dasaratha along with HIS brothers and hence is considered to be very sacred. It is customary for the local people to do their child’s first tonsuring at this place .
DARSHAN OF KAMADGIRI
We left for Kamadgiri parikrama at about 6.30 A.M. Kamadgiri hill is about 4 kms from Hotel Kamadgiri. We started parikrama after worshipping Lord Kamadrinath at Doosra Prachin Mukharavinda. Offered milk ,water and coconut . (It may be noted that the coconut offered here is without water ) This diety was worshipped by Sri Rama HIMSELF. Chanting Rama naamam continuously, we started parikrama visiting various shrines on the way. The most important shrines are Bharat Milap (where Bharata met Sri Rama), Paduka dhaan (the place where Sri Rama bestowed HIS sandals to Bharata). While doing parikrama, Adiyen happened to set my eyes on small wooden sandals. Deeming it to be Lord’s Thiruvadigal, Adiyen placed it on my sirasu(head) and continued pradakshinam. Purchased some photos as a remembrance to be gifted away to our siblings. It took about 2 hours for us to finish the parikrama.
HANUMAN DHAARA A PLACE TO HAVE DARSHANAM OF VEERA HANUMAN AFTER RETURN FROM LANKA :
We drove to Hanuman dhaara which is about 19 kms from Chitrakut. The driver advised us to carry water bottles with us as water would not be available on the route. Under the scorching sun, we started trekking at 11 A.M. and took about 30 minutes for us to climb 609 steps. The temperature was 49.5 degrees . The whole way was infested with langoors. The ascent was tiring because of the heat. Refreshed and sprinkled water from the tank in which water touching Hanuman’s thirumeni is collected. This water is potable.
Recited Hanuman Chalisa and offered dry fruits to Hanuman. To cool the burning sensation in Hanuman’s body caused by the burning of Lanka, Sri Rama advised Hanuman to stay at this place and aimed an arrow which caused flow of water to fall on Hanuman’s right shoulder. The source of water is not known. Presently, to avoid dampness in the surrounding areas, water is being routed through a pipe line and gets collected in a vessel from which water falls on Hanuman’s shoulder. The marble vigrahams of Sita,Ramar,Lakshmana are beautiful Filled up our bottles with this water and descended the steps and drove to “ Ram Sayya” .
RAM SAYYA THE PLACE WERE LORD RAM STAYED IN CHITRAKOOT
This is on the outskirts of Chitrakoot and is the place where Lord Sri Rama spent his first night on arriving at Chitrakut. The impressions of the lying posture of Sri Rama and Sitadevi can still be seen on the rock in which they slept. Sita Devi slept on one side ,between them Lord’s Kodhandam was kept. Sri Rama slept on HIS back. The rock melted at the plight of Sri Rama’s condition. Hence, the rock is shallow and soft at the place where the Lord slept along with Sitadevi. An old priest, unmindful of the heat , showed us the rock on which Sri Rama slept. The names of Sita and Rama where they slept are painted on the rock. The priest showed us Bharata’s finger prints and Hanuman sannidhi . This Hanuman’s face resembled like the one we saw at Srungaberipuram. The priest informed that Shiva had advised Rama to stay in Kamadgiri mountain. Sri Rama slept for a night on arriving at Chitrakut at this place. Offered some dakshinai and after taking his blessings, we left for Bharat Koop.
BHARAT KOOP THE PLACE WERE ALL THE RIVER WATERS JOINED
Bharata along with Shatruguna, queens, priests and Ayodhya citizens set forth to meet LORD Sri Rama at Chitrakut with his army carrying sacred waters for performing pattabhishekam to Sri Rama in the forest itself. Despite Bharata’s persuasion ,Sri Rama denied coronation and refused to return to the kingdom to keep up HIS father’s promise. No amount of persuasion, justification had any impact on Sri Rama who was “TRUTH PERSONIFIED “ and believed in DHARMA. When Bharata did sarangathi, Sri Rama accepted to return to Ayodhya after 14 years and rule the kingdom. The sacred waters which were brought in golden vessels for performing abhishekam to the Lord were poured in a well which is known as Bharat koop. Drew water from the sacred well and amazed to find different tastes of water drawn from the same well. Sweet from one side, salty , tasteless etc. Each bucket of water tasted differently. I am sure even scientists would not able to explain this.
SPATIK SHILA ONE OFTHE CHAAR DHAAM AT CHITRAKOOT
This is one of the chaar dhams in Chitrakoot . A big creamish colour rock on the banks of Mandagini Ganga was the favourite spot where Sri Rama and Sitadevi spent together- This is the place where Kakasuran was punished. When Hanuman requests Sitadevi to inform something which would make Sri Rama believe that Hanuman had Janaki’s darshan, Sitadevi narrates Kakasuran’s incident in the 67ths sargam of Sundarakandam and wonders why Sri Rama has not yet saved her from the clutches of Ravana. . Indra’s son, Jayanthan disguised as a crow did apacharam to Jaganmatha by wounding her . Sri Rama took a grass and uttered Brahmastra mantram and threw at the crow which chased him and made to fall at Sri Rama’s feet in surrender. the place where Sri Rama and Sitadevi sat is soft.
Another incident referred by local devotees is Sri Rama personally decorated Sitadevi with flowers at this place. This rock speaks the happy times the Divya Dampadhigal had at this place.
Only in a holy place such as Chitrakoot dham can one find and feel softness even in rocks.
REACHING JANAKI KUND
– We visited this place which was Sitadevi’s favourite bathing spot in chitrakoot. From the road, one has to descend about 20 steps or so, to reach this place which is in a secluded spot. .
AT RAM DARSHAN:- We visited this place by paying entrance fee of Rs.10/- per person. Photography is not allowed. It was a feast to the eyes. It was as if we could see entire Ramayanam in front of us. Beautiful paintings and murals from Ramayanam are displayed in the ground and first floors. The museum ends with Sri Rama Pattabhishekam. THE BEST PLACE TO VISIT.
AT SATI ANASUYA ASHRAM:- We drove to this place which is on the outskirts of Chitrakoot . Visited the jeeva Samadhi of Paramhamsa. This temple was built by Paramhamsa Trust. Clay murals from important incidents in Sati Anasuya’s life are kept. – Anasuya praying to Ganges for providing water,; Sri Rama and Lakshmana sitting near the feet of Atri muni who advised them, conversation between Anasuya and Sitadevi, Anasuya taking care of Trimurthis who were transformed into infants with her power etc.
My wife and daughters offered bangles and kumkum to Sati Anasuya as it is a prevelant practice there. In front of the ashram, there is a big kund which is considered to be sacred. Many sacred rivers have mingled in it and there are about 1000 small kunds in that pond. The little monkeys snatched away the beaten rice(pori) packet which we purchased for feeding the fishes. The little monkeys are mischievous.
GUPT GODAVARI THE ONLY PLACE WHERE GODAVARI IS SEEN AND DISAPPEARS
This was our last temple and is well maintained. There are few shrines of rishis. After paying money for entrance ticket, entered into the deep cave. We sprinkled water from a small kund known as godavari kund and after applying tilak in Godavari’s sannidhi, we visited Ramar sannidhi,Karkata chor shrine(the thief who stole Sitadevi’s saree and was cursed by Lakshmana to turn into a stone-to satisfy its hunger, Lakshmana said that he could consume the sins of the visitors at this place), Hanuman shrine. A priest offered theertha prasadam and informed the importance of this place to us. We recited Hanuman Chalisa. After taking the blessings of the priest who handed us few kankanams at Hanuman sannidhi, we went to visit other kunds like Dhanush kund.
Following the directions displayed on the boards, we entered the second cave after coming out of the first cave. The cave was dark and was illumined with lights at some places. Reciting Vishnu Sahasranamam and Narasimha dev kirtan chorously, we were thrilled to walk through the water which was upto our knee level amidst narrow rocks was an exciting experience. The crowd around us started to join us in chanting the names of SRIlAKSHMI Narsimhar .It was a rocking experience . We were totally transported to spiritual plane. We recollected our recent visit to Jala Narasimhar sannidhi at Bidar where you need to walk in knee-deep water to reach JALA NARASIMHAR . After worshipping the small vigraham of Godavari, the priest pointed out two kunds named as Ram Kund and Lakshman Kund. The priest said that Godavari washed Lord’s Thiruvadigal at this place. While returning, we were chanting “SRI RAM JAI RAM JAI JAI RAM” and were joined by about 50 devotees. The whole area vibrated with this mantra and the echo produced thereof. We wondered to see that once out of the cave there was no sign of water. The driver didn’t know the exact location of Vasishta muni ashram and Viswamitra muni’s ashram in Chitrakut. So, we could not visit these places.
Having completed all the important places in Chitrakoot, we prayed to lORD Sri Rama to always contemplate on HIM and drove to Satna. As Suteekshana muni stayed here, this place was earlier known as Suteekshanapuri and later on got corrupted as Satna. Satna is about 2-3 hours drive from Chitrakoot. There is no proper restaurant to have good food on the way. The driver suggested that we should have got the meals packed which is the system travelers usually follow. Children had some rotis from a wayside dhaaba. We reached Satna at about 9 P.M. Our onward train to Nagpur was at 2220 hours and was as usual late by three hours. We were supposed to reach Nagpur by 11.30 A.M. but reached only at 3 P.M. The driver kept contacting us continuously . We were still waiting for the train while he returned to Chitrakoot and completed his daily routine of Kamadgiri parikrama.
We boarded Secunderabad-Patna express from Satna to reach Nagpur which was late by 4 hours. We got down at about 4 P.M. in Nagpur instead of scheduled time 1130 hours. Being the headquarters for Central railway, this is one of the busiest stations . Our connecting train to Nasik was at 2000 hours on the same day . There was no question of train running late as this is the starting point for Sewagram express. WE had hardly 4 hours at our disposal and within this stipulated time, we wanted to visit Ramtek. (This waiting room was air conditioned and well maintained like Ahmedabad waiting room. )
Coming out of the station, we met a taxi driver who was prepared to take us to Ramtek and drop us back at station for Rs.1000/-. Ramtek is about 60 kms from Nagpur station and takes about an hour or so to reach subject to traffic. He happened to be a Tamilian and understanding our anxiety to catch the connecting train in the night, he hastened .
Leaving our baggages in the car, we proceeded to the temple. Doing kirtan of Taraka mantram, we ascended the broad steps passing through wayside shops. Ofcourse, monkeys were ever ready to snatch our belongings. On the way, offered namaskarams to Narasimhar sannidhi. We had to be vigilant in protecting our camera and flipper. Visited Jeeva Samadhi of a saint in Agastya muni ashram, Agastya muni’s shrine and after donating for Akanda Jyothi, we proceeded towards the temple. We first visited Lakshmana sannidhi as he has to be worshipped first.
We then proceeded to Ramar sannidhi, which is behind, chanted select verses from Ramayanam. We requested the pujari who gave us theertha prasadam to narrate the importance of this temple Did japa for sometime and after thanking the priest, left the place. We felt satisfied when the priest said that this was the original Agastya ashram and not the one which we missed at Satna.
About a kilometer from Ramtek there is a Vigneshwara temple where Ganesha is seen with 16 hands. Due to time constraint, we didn’t visit this place. On the way, we went to Ram Krishna Darshan. This place is constructed recently in a vast area. The entrance fee is Rs.50- and will take minimum one hour to visit all the places. Shiva darshan, sri rama darshan, sri Krishna darshan , sound and light shows, kutputli shows form part of this amusement park. It was not that appealing as the one in Chitrakoot.
RAM-TEK: – This place, situated on a hill ,is about 60 kms from Nagpur Railway station. Opposite to station, there are many travel operators who will take you to Ramtek and Ram Darshan which is app. 2 kms from Ramtek. One can finish visiting this temple from Nagpur within 4 hours.
“TEK” means oath. As Sri Rama took an oath in the presence of rishis at Agastya muni ashram to protect them and annihilate the rakshasa race, this place came to be known as “Ram-tek”.
This is one of the ashrams of Agastya muni. There is an ashram of Agastya muni near Satna about 4 hours journey from Satna. To visit this place one has to stay at Satna or Chitrakut for an extra day. There is evidence that Agastya muni stayed at Ramtek.
After Bharata’s visit, Sri Rama did not wish to continue to stay at Chitrakoot and moved out of it towards south. They went to Sarabhanga muni ashram who was eagerly awaiting Sri Rama’s arrival. From here, Aaranya kaandam begins.
Aaranya kaandam refers to the Lord’s interaction with many rishis who were given asylum by the Lord. The rishis who are adept in self-control were infatuated with Sri RAma’s beauty and mannerisms. Sri Rama met many rishis in Dhandakaranayam. The rishis offered the fruits of their tapobalam at Sri Rama’s feet. The rishis always longed to be in Sri Rama’s company.(Their wish was fulfilled by the Lord in HIS next avataaram as Sri Krishna when the rishis appeared as gopis and did raasa-kreedai).
After providing hospitality to Sri Rama, with the Lord’s permission, SArabhanga rishi cast aside his mortal coils by jumping into the sacrificial fire and attained oneness with the Supreme Being, Sri Rama. Before leaving, he requested Sri Rama to visit Suteekshana muni who was doing penance . Sarabhanga muni’s ashram is in the outskirts of Chitrakoot on the way to Satna in a dense forest. Suteekshana muni’s ashram is about 4 hours drive from Satna. Due to time constraint, we didn’t visit these two ashrams.
So, Sri Rama reached Suteekshana muni’s ashram and as per the rishi’s advise, Sri Rama visited Agastya Muni, guru of Suteekshana muni. Agastya muni imparted knowledge about weapons which he attained due to his tapas and presented Sri Rama with a bow and a quiver of inexhaustible arrows.
Sri Rama stayed at this ashram for 4 months during rainy season and promised protection to the rishis. Hence, this place is known as “RAM-TEK”(tek = oath). Agastya muni shared his knowledge about usage of various astras and presented a bow and quiver of inexhaustible arrows. Many rishis approached Sri Rama for protection and the compassionate Lord assured them protection and took an oath to annihilate the rakshasas . Hence this place came to be known as “Ram-tek” This place was part of Dhandakaranya forest. To protect the rishis, Sri Rama ventured deep into Dhandakaranya forest(Panchavati) which was home to innumerable rakshasas with an intention of destroying them. The Lord convinced Sitadevi that it was HIS duty to protect the interests of the rishis who sought HIS protection.
The Lord stated that protecting HIS devotees who sought refuge in HIM was more dearer to HIM than Sitadevi HERSELF.
He explained in details about the two main festivals celebrated in this temple- Sri Rama navami festival for 15 days and one month festival culminating with Purnima festival.
In Uttarkandam, it is mentioned that Sri Rama killed Sambarasuran at this place. He paid respects to Agastya muni who was staying here.
Agastya muni blessed and rewarded Lakshmanan for all the kainkaryams he was doing to Sri Rama, that he would give darshan prior to Sri Rama. Usually, Lakshmana is always seen by the side of Rama. Only in this temple, there is a separate sannidhi for Lakshmana whom should be worshipped first.
This temple situated on a hillock has motorable road upway to the temple. Only very few steps are to be climbed. On the left side, there is Agastya muni ashram where akanda jyothi glows continuously. If we go further inside, we find Narasimhar sannidhi on the right, then Lakshmana sannidhi. Behind Lakhsmana’s sannidhi, is the sannidhi for Sita-Ramar.
In the main sannidhi, there are vigrahams of Sita-Ramar. 15 days utsavam is celebrated during Chaithra maasam(April) culminating with Sri Rama Navami..
Starting from Ashwini Pournami (pournami after Dassera ) upto Kartika Pournami, special puja takes place in the evenings and on th last day i.e. Kartik Pournami also known as “Tipini Purnima”, the old dresses worn by Perumal earlier are kept in a vessel and dipped in ghee. The vessel is then taken to the hilltop and lit fire. Thousands assemble to witness the jyothi. As the asura, Tipini was killed by Shiva on this day, it is celebrated as “Tipini Purnima”
Sri Rama and Lakshmana appeared as two young boys of about 12 years of age to Tulsidas in this temple premises. Tulsi could however not recognize them. Later Hanumanji informed him that the two boys were Rama and Lakshmana. Tulsidas was full of anguish that he did not recognize the Lord on whom he constantly contemplated. Later with Hanuman’s grace, Sri Rama appeared to him in HIS original form-with Sita devi,Lakshmana and Hanuman and blessed him.
Ram Talab is a sacred pond in Ramtek which is located behind the temple premises.
We reached station at 1950 hours to board Sewagram express bound for Nasik at 2000 hours.
We reached Nasik at 8.15 A.M by Sewagram express from Nagpur. After refreshing in the waiting room , we engaged a car to visit Triambakeswar, Nasik,Panchavati, Taket and to be dropped at Shirdi for Rs.2,500/-
Triambakeswar is 52 kms from Nasik and Panchavati which is enroute is about 12 kms from Nasik. Taket is 60 kms from Nasik and 110 kms from Triambakeswar. Shirdi is about 130 kms from Nasik.
We drove to Triambakeswar to have blessings of Shiva, the foremost Vishnavite. Abhishekam was being performed to the Jyotirlingam and took about an hour for us to return after having darshan. The details about origin of Godavari and its importance are written on a notice board.
– We drove to Panchavati and visited all the important places located at walkable distance. We first went to Ram ghat, the bathing spot of Sri Rama during HIS stay at Nasik, and had bath in River Godavari as it is considered to be sacred. Kumbh Mela and Ardh Kumbh mela once in 12 years and 6 years attracts large crowds. Visited Godavari’s shrine, proceeded to visit Kapaleshwar nath temple, from there to Panchavati temples. Purchased a booklet containing “108 Rama Naamam “ written in Hindi extracted from Ram Charitra Manas. Composed a tune and sang in the presence of Kaaley Ramar.Since the idols are in black colour, it is known as “Kaley Ram Mandir” for the purpose of identification. Continued reciting it in all other temples. Gorey Ram temple is the biggest temple in Nasik.As the name suggests, here the murals are made of marble and white in colour. Had a very good darshan. Recited related sargams from Ramayanam in this temple and sang 108 Rama Naamam in Hindi and in Tamil. It was noon and bhog was being offered to the Lord. Met some Tamilian devotees from Madurai. We then visited Pancha –vati(the place surrounded by five banyan trees where Sita-Ramar stayed, Sita Gufa(the cave in which Sita devi remained with Lakshmana on guard while Sri Rama was fighting 14000 asuras in Janasthan, Sita Haran(the place from where Ravana abducted sitadevi and sought his destruction), Tapovan(the place whereLakshmana disfigured Surpanaka), Parnasaala(Sita-Rama’ s hermitage built by Lakshmana) and left Nasik. To our disappointment, we didn’t see much at Tapovan. Having visited all the temples in Nasik, we proceeded to Taket, the last temple in our tour iterinary.Had lunch on the way and reached Taket at about 4 P.M.
DARSHAN AT JATAYU MOKSHA STHANAM Taket ( Near Nasik)
It is about 65 kms from Nasik on Igatpuri Road in Mumbai Highway. A slight diversion from the Highway has to be taken to reach this village. This is the place where the vulture,Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana with the intention of rescuing Sitadevi and lost its life at the feet of Sri Rama. The idol of Sri Rama hugging Jatayu is very beautiful. It was as if we were seeing the incident in front of us. We recollected incident of Jatayu fighting with Ravana and wondered at its courage.. In the sannidhi, a replica of the vulture made from cotton is hung. A priest recapitulated all the incidents – how Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, how it died in the arms of Sri Rama, how Sri Rama performed last rites and brought sacred water required for performing rits by shooting an arrow and all sacred rivers assembled in the kund, showed us the tree under which Sitadevi was kept. Contemplating on Sri Rama and recollecting our trip in visiting places sanctified by Sri Rama, we thanked Perumal for HIS abundant grace.
rAmAya rAmabhadrAya ramachandrAya vedhase
raghunAthAya nAthAya seetAyah pataye namah
Reached Manmad by taking a taxi from Shirdi and boarded Ajanta Express at 2100 hours and reached Secunderabad on 20th May at 10 .AM. Due to SitaRamar’s grace, we completed this yaatirai successfully and booked tickets for our second phase of Sri Rama Anu Yatirai Anubhavam during Dussera and successfully completed the same whose details are available in this link
We Performed Kalyana Utsavam to Sri Sita Ramar at our Kushaiguda temple and did dhadhiyaaradhanai to elders and devotees.
Adiyen thanks profusely all the bhagavathas who helped me complete this yaatirai successfully. Any devotee who wish to get more details please feel free to order Adiyen .Our contact details are enclosed .
Jai Sita Ram
Acharyar Divya Thiruvadigaley Saranam
daasan Kazhiyur Varadan