SRI RAMA ANU YATRA- A PILGRIMS’ DIARY
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 my recent “SRI RAMA ANU YAATIRAI” experiences to share the same with the SriRama devotees and bhagavatas and earnestly requesting to forgive my shortcomings and enlighten me with more facts and information.
Adiyen offers sincere obeisance’s and prostrate at the feet of Sri Velukudi Swamin and all the devotees who were sniors who had inspired in taking this pilgrimage to the holy places where Lord spent HIS pastimes . It is well known that Swami had conducted the first Sri Rama Anu Yaatirai in mid-September 2006, mostly traveling by bus, in which around 350 bhagavatas had participated and their travelogues and experiences boosted my spirits. Adiyen did not have the bhaagyam to participate in Swami’s yaatirai as I visited Salagramam(Muktinath) during that time. (I wish and pray that I get an opportunity to participate in Swami’s yaatirai along with my family in the near future because getting associated with such an exalted bhagavata like Sri Velukudi Swami is considered as the greatest punyam by me. With my 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 information . Though Adiyen could get a fair idea about the location of these holy places by going thru their travelogues , but was apprehensive whether I would be able to visit the places . 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 feet of Sri Rama Bhaktha Hanuman and booked tickets 3 months in advance but was apprehensive about the holy places and the present names. On SriRama Navami Adiyen brought silver idol of SriSeeta Rama Lakshamana and hanuman vigraha after purificatory rites at temple and started worshipping Lord daily chanting Taraka mantra daily after performing Thirumanjanam to the deities along with NityaThiruvaraadhanai . The prayers were simple .LORD we wish to have darsanam at all the holy places with satsang association and leave the phalam ti you .
Lord had HIS own plans. 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 in identifying some temples. I profusely thank him and other devotees who made this possible and shall remain deeply indebted to them forever
OUR LORD SRI RAMA
(in a nutshell)
• Moola Roopa: Sri ManNarayana (Sri Maha Vishnu)
• Avathara: Sri Ramaavathara (Paripoorna Manushya Avathara)
• Number in Dasavathara: 7th among Dasavatharas of Lord Vishnu
• Purpose of Avathara: Dharma Samsthapana, Dusta Sikshana, Sista Rakshana
• Yuga period: 24th Thretha Yuga in Vaivasvatha Manvanthara (approx, 20 millions years back)
• Contemporary Avathara: Lord Parashurama
• Longevity of Sri Ramaavathara: 11000 years(approx)
• Date of Birth (Lunar calendar): Chaitra Masa, Sukla Paksha, Navami thithi
• Birth Star: Punarvasu (4th charanam), Karkataka Raasi
• Place of birth: Ayodhya (on the banks of Sarayu River)
Lineage in Ramaavathara:
• Varna: Kshatriya
• Dynasty: Surya Vamsam – Ikshvaku Dynasty
• Moola Purusha: Manuvu
• Key persons in the Lineage: King Harischandra, Sagara Chakravarthi, Bhagiratha (responsible for the descent of River Ganges)
• Grand Parents (Paternal):
• Great Grand Father: Raghu (Raghu Vamsa)
• Grand father: King Ajha
• Parents: King Dasaratha & Kausalya Devi
• Step Mothers: Kaikeyi and Sumithra
• Name of the Yagna performed
by King Dasaratha for progeny: Sri Puthra Kaameshti Yagam
• Brothers: Bharatha (born to Kaikeyi)
Lakshmana & Sathrughna (twins born to Sumithra)
• Avatharas of Brothers: Lakshmana (Aadi Sesha Avathara)
Bharatha (Sudarshana Chakra)
Sathrughna (Panchajanya Shanku)
• Vidya Guru: Sage Vasista and Sage Viswamithra
• Number of wives: Only one (Eka Pathni Vratha)
• Name of his consort: Goddess Sita Devi (foster daughter of Janaka Maharaja) – Avathara of Goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi also known as Janaki, Vaidehi. Found in the earth while ploughing.
• Mode of marriage: Swayamvara, by breaking theShiva Dhanus
• Consorts of his brothers: Lakshmana (Urmila), Bharatha (Mandavi) and Sathrughna (Sruthakeerthi)
• Progeny of Sri Rama: Two sons (born in Sri Valmiki Ashram)
• Names of sons: Lava and Kusha (Twins)
• Capital of his Kingdom: Ayodhya (currently in Uttar Pradesh)
• Name of the Kingdom: Koshala Desam
• Key weapon (Aayudha): Bow and Arrow(Dhanurbhana)
• Sri Rama’s exile: 14 years spent in exile to fulfill his father’s boon given to his step Mother. During which period moved in Dandakaranya, Kishkindha etc… met Lord Hanuman, went to Lanka crossing the Ocean to kill Ravanasura and to bring back Goddess Sita Devi.
• Person responsible for his exile: Kaikeyi (Step Mother) provoked by the preachings of her maid servant Manthara
• Enemies (important): Ravanasura, Kumbhakarna
• Sri Rama met Hanuman: For the first time on Rishyamooka Hills in Kishkindha (currently said to be Pampa Kshetra near Hampi)
• Name of the bridge constructed by Sri Rama to cross the ocean: Rama Sethu (constructed with the help of of Vanaras led by Nala) near Rameswaram
• Close friends of Sri Rama: Sugreeva, Vibheeshana, & Lord Hanuman
• Other key names associated with: Vedavathi, Vibheeshana, Jambavantha, Vali, Angada, Jatayu, (Sages): Gautama, Bharadwaja, Agasthya and Valmiki to name a few
• Prominent devotees of Sri Rama: Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman,
Bhadra, Sabari, Saint Tulsidas, Bhakta Sri Ramadas to name a few
• Ending of Avathara: After a long rule of 11000 (approx) years, Lord Sri Rama ended his Avatara in Ayodhya and returned to his abode Vaikunta on a request by Brahmaadi Devathas
• Pouranic references to Sri Rama:
Lord Sri Rama’s story we find in an Epic called Ramayana (Rama + Ayana). Aayana means journey. Ramayana means the journey of Lord Sri Rama. Originally the story of Sri Rama is said to have been a composition of 100 crores of slokas.Charitam Raghunathasysa Sathakoti Pravistharam(Sri Rama Raksha Sthothram by Sage Budha Kousika). We also find reference to the story of Lord Sri Rama in Vishnu Purana and Srimad Bhagavatham. Popularly we find Sri Rama’s story from the works of Sage Valmiki which was a Sanskrit version comprising of Six Kaandas.
• Primary source: Sri Valmiki Ramayana (24000 slokas)
• Other Literary sources: Ananda Ramayana, Aadhyatma Ramayana,
Sri Tulsi Ramayana also known as Sri Rama Charita Manas (Hindi), Kamba Ramayana (Tamil), Sri Ramayana Darshanam (Kannada) Molla Ramayana and Sri Ramayana Kalpa Vruksham (Telugu)
• Sri Rama known by other names: Sri Ramachandra, Kausalya Nandana, Daasarathi, Maryada Purushottama, Raghu Rama, Raghava, Kodanda Rama to name a few
• Festivals related to Sri Rama: Sri Rama Navarathri starting from Ugadi and ending with Sri Rama Navami (Nine day festival)
• Famous Temples & places associated with Sri Rama: Ayodhya, Nasik, Bhadrachalam, Rameswaram, Sri Rangam, Hampi, Kasi, Gaya, Prayaga, Srisailam, Naimisharanya, Tirupathi, Lanka
• Popular Prayers of Sri Rama:
• Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama
• Sri Rama Raksha Sthothram
Rama Nama = Taraka Manthram
Due to the abundant mercy of Sriyapathi ,Adiyen desire to visit the places connected with Srirama during HIS avatar in this punya bhoomi , SRI RAMA ANU YAATIRAI was fulfilled this 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 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 coaching and due to time constraint, we decided to split 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.
Our Train Route:- Secunderabad-Kanpur-Ayodhya-Buxar-Hajipur-Sitamarhi-allahabad-Satna-Nagpur-Nasik-Secunderabad
A route map is furnished below for ready reference .This was downloaded from Saagar web site for which I am thankful to the owners of the site as being SriRama devotees the abundant information will be of immense help from the map .
Compared to our Sri Krishna Anu Yaatirai covering Mathura,Vrindavan and Nava Dwarakas, done during 2009 , this one was more challenging because the holy places are scattered all over India and Nepal. Repeated enquiries about these places which though have old names have got corrupted due to the civilization around
We surrendered to the lotus feet of the Lord and HIS foremost devotee, Sri Hanuman to make this trip successful. Undertook to recite 41st and 67th sargams from Sundarakandam daily and recited Valmiki Ramayanam starting on Sri Rama Navami and finishing it off with Sri Rama Pattabhishekam before we took up the yathirai . Sri Seetha ,Lakshmana, Hanumath sametha Sri Ramar graced us by entering our altar on the most auspicious day, SRI RAMA NAVAMI. We carried this Perumal to all the temples during our yaatirai, adorned them in all the sannidhis, offered dry fruits as prasadam to the presiding dieties and shared with devotees back home. All of us were regularly chanting Taraka mantra and there was always a surprise in this trip with association of LORDs devotees …
After taking the blessings of our Thirumaligai Perumal and elders, we started our journey on 7th May,2010. Boarded Secunderabad-Gorakhpur Express at 0720 A.M. and the whole day was spent in the train listening to kirtans/ Sri Velukudi Swamin’s discourse on “Kamba Ramayanam/ reading Ramayanam and other spiritual books. The train was scheduled to reach Kanpur located in UP at 0815 hrs the next day but was late by 90 minutes . We could reach Kanpur at 1030 A.M only In the train, we happened to meet some devotees from Hyderabad who were going to Muktinath . On enquiry about the train s delay etc we conversed about the holy dhams . It was suprising to see them reading our Travelogue to Salagram . On noticing that we were right in front of them describing our another trip to Sri Rama Yathirai , they were overjoyed and discussed in detail .When they shared their experience of reading our travelogue, and appreciated our kainkaryam , with tears I submitted to LORD who was kind enough to use this fallen soul for some bhagavatha service .
Our experience to these holy places marked in bold letters is followed by the details of the place and sthalavaralaaru(significance of the places)
Reached Kanpur Central at 1030 hours . Fortunately the status of our onward journey ticket from Kanpur to Ayodhya which was waitlisted since 3 months. had got confirmed.
We quickly refreshed in the AC waiting room and 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 .
River Ganges sanctifies this place, Brahmavrat theerth being the most holy bathing spot in Bittoor. Brahma started creation starting from Swayambhu Manu at this place which is mentioned on a board. This place is supposed to be the centre of the earth.
After parking the car, we went past small shops selling various items like water cans, bangles, pooja items and reached the archway entrance to the theerth. Pilgrims were offering special puja amidst recitation of some mantras by the local pundas (priests) . As the banks of Ganges was crowded, we decided to take a boat for Rs.20/- to cross over and go to the other bank which was less crowded. Ganges was in full flow at Brahmavrat theerth.
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 . Brahma placed his foot on earth for the first time at this place. 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.
The priest made us do sankalpam by touching Brahma’s toe and performed a small puja offering incense and flowers to the feet. Like in Pushkar, bees were buzzing around distracting us from the ritual. It was informed that this place is the centre of the world where Brahma started creation
On enquiry we were told to visit Dhruva teela . Driving past narrow and steep road for about 2 kms, we reached Dhruva Teela –the birthplace of the child-devotee Dhruva. The place where he mediated is at Mathura). He 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. There is a small sannidhi for Dhruva and few saalagramams. We visited the Jeeva Samadhi of a North Indian saint who chanted Taraka Mantram for 30 years continuously at this place.
Later we visited Lava-Kusha Janmasthal- Lava-Kusha Mandir. The temple houses 3 shrines- In the centre is the sannidhi for” Vandevi Sita devi with her sons Lava and Kusha”(Sitadevi was known as Vana devata to the residents of Valmiki ashram at this place),; to its right is the actual place of birth of Lava and Kusha. Here the idols 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.
Recited the introductory chapter in Ramayanam describing the origin of Valmiki Ramayanam and did kirtan of 108 Nama Ramayanam. 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 .
Visited Valmiki ashram which is on the right side. The priest narrated Valmiki rishi’s story.- his life as a hunter and dacoit , 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.
With a prayer to make us understand the deeper meanings of the great epic as expounded by our Azhwars and Purvacharyars, we left the place. Opposite to this sannidhi is Sita Rasoi (sita devi’s kitchen) and nearby is Sita Paatal Pravesh(from where Goddess Sita disappeared into the bowels of the earth). A hollow place laid by 1 X 1 stone with Kusha grass grown near it is the spot from where Sitadevi disappeared . Sri Rama tried to stop this act by pulling her hair which has now grown as Kusha grass.
Ram Stupa( a pillar in which important slokas from Valmiki Ramayanam are inscribed in Hindi) is beside Paatal Pravesh sthal. Took a photograph of the aswamedha horse and Hanuman bound by Lava and Kusha in the nearby garden. 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. On the way, the driver took us to Sai Baba Temple which is very famous in Bittoor. Considering SaiBaba as one of the Lord’s messengers in Kaliyuga, we visited the temple though we were not very keen in visiting the temple
While proceeding to Kanpur, a signboard “ISKCON KANPUR” attracted us. This Ashram is located on Bittoor road and is exactly in the midway from Kanpur to Bittoor.. The temple authorities wer kind to offered us “Raj Bhog” prasadam –the one that is offered to the Lord-a variety of dishes and sweets. After partaking the prashad, the chief priest took us to “GOSHAALA”(cow shed). We were surprised to find the priest addressing each cow by its name and enquiring affectionately. He demonstrated that only Krishna Conscious people can extend the same affection towards humans and animals. Remarkable indeed
Meantime, H.H.Sarvabhauma Swami entered the temple and was about to start his discourse on Srimad Bhagavatam. We used to watch him on Star TV delivering discourses few years back and today we got the opportunity to see him directly. We felt ourselves blessed . Offering our pranaams , we introduced ourselves. He was glad to know about our yatra and blessed us.
When the temple curtains were drawn open ,we had darshan of the enchanting form of the presiding diety 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. Boarded Sabarmati Exprss at 0015 hours (the train was late by 45 minutes. Reached Ayodhya at 0500 hours on 09/05/10.
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.
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/- .
Carrying a set of clothes, we proceeded to Gupthar Ghat at 0630 for a holy dip. Adiyen wanted to start the yatra from Ram Janma bhoomi, the birth place of 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 and as we wanted to purify ourselves in River Sarayu, 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 Sri Rama’s disappearance .
Driving past the military areas in Faizabad roads , we reached Gupthar Ghat in half an hour’s time. River Saruyu also known as River Gargha and Vaasishti (As she 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.
SARAYU RIVER AT GUPTHAR GHAT
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.Gupt means secret.. As Srirama ascended to Vaikuntam from this place, this place is known as Gupthar Ghat. Srirama walked into Sarayu river with his physical form and disappeared. Sri rama took along with him the entire animate and inanimate things to Vaikuntam. That is why , Srirama is considered as the Lord who bestows Moksha which every entity aspires to achieve.
The Sarayu flowed beside the ancient city of Ayodhya, It was a tributary of the Gogra. 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.
LISTENING TO SWAMIS ADDRESS AT BANKS OF SARAYU
Nearby there is a Ramar temple where we kept our 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 breakfast and proceeded to Nandigram, the place from where Bharata ruled the kingdom on Sri Rama’s behalf. Nandigram is situated 20 kms south east of Ayodhya and 16 kms from Guptar Ghat.
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 Ram Charitra Manas. The priest placed our 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 Bharata beside which Rama’s padukas were placed.
From there we went to the new Bharat mandir located nearby. Abhishekam (Thirumanjanam-holy bath) was being performed for Bharata. This idol 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 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 , Hanuman looks ferocious when 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 showed us rare salagramams. 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 vigrahams of Bharata and Hanuman hugging each other was a feast to the eyes. After having thirumanjana theertham (5 types) of all the deities, we took few photographs with the priest who looks ever jubilant and is in bliss. 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 night 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. Adiyen could not gather any other info because this place was not visited by 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 watch-man 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.
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 ashamed 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
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 mothers 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.
The driver took us 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). Collected the water in a bottle to share it with everyone.
After relaxing for about 2 hours, we resumed our journey at 4 P.M. The driver took us to Sri Ram Janma bhoomi. Due to security reasons, the auto stopped near Birla Dharmashaala , about 2 kms to 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 Dasaratha bhavan . 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 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 vigrahams 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.
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 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).
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 as evening aarthi was going on and left the place. As it was getting late for attending kalakshepam, we didn’t visit 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. Evening aarthi was going on.
The driver dropped us at Manas Bhavan where Sri Gomadam Swami( whom we met in the morning at Gupthar Ghat was giving kalakshepam on Ramayanam. The discourse lasted for about 2 hours after which we left at 10 P.M. Returned to Hotel Saket and retired for the night.
We checked out at 08.30 A.M. to board Mathura-Patna Express to reach Buxar. 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 wasted waiting for the train and then in journey. We visited Rama Rekha Ghat -Sri Rama’s footprints are imbibed and a temple is constructed on the banks of Ganges. Srirama had crossed Ganges at this place to go to Siddhasram along with Lakshmana and Sage Viswamitra. Did evening aarthi along with other devotees to Ganges .
Buxar is a typical small 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 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 my program, I gathered information that 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 for 12th May and during my conversation, I informed him about our tour requesting him to provide me some info about Buxar. That Prabhu referred a devotee’s name in Buxar who contacted me immediately. I was taken aback 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. 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. Also, our experience at Sitamarhi is the most memorable one which Adiyen would like to share later
We reached Buxar around 1800 hours- the train was about 2 hours late which is very common. 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 biting, 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 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 I was thankful for not adventuring at that time.
Adiyen and family took 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. I 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. Returned to the hotel and had rotis with some veggies for supper . 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. During my interatction with him, I 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.
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 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 .
INSIDE BAUXAR JAIL VAMANA TEMPLE
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 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 and is related to my second brother –in-law . 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:- this temple is beside Jeeyar Samadhi. Ram Charitra Manas was being recited by a priest. We requested him to place our 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 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. 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 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 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.
Rama and Lakshmana pressing Viswamitra’s feet
From Kamasram, we drove for about two hours and reached Ahroli. A very small sannidhi houses the marble sculpture of Ahalya offering obeisances to Sri Rama while Lakshmana and Sage Viswamitra look upon. 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 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 .
Gautamasthan located in Chapra
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.
Ahalya offering obeisances to Sri Rama while Lakshmana
WE 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.