SRIMATHEY RAMANUJAYA NAMAHA
Srimad Ramayana, the great Indian scripture (Ithihasam) composed by Sage Valmiki, narrates the incidents in the lives of Lord Rama and Mother Sita who were the incarnations of Sriman Narayana (Perumal) and Mahalakshmi (Thayar) elaborately. This epic comprising of 24000 slokas has been divided into seven kaandams-Balakandam, Ayodhya Kaandam, Aaranya kaandam, Kishkindha kaandam, Sundara kaandam, Yuddha kaandam and Uttara kaandam.
The purpose of Lord Sriman Narayana incarnating as a human being was to annihilate RAvana- and Kumbakarna –the fierce demons who had acquired invincible powers from Brahma that they would not be killed by any God/demon etc., neglecting humans and monkeys (vanaras) as the egoistic Ravana felt that human beings and vanaras were too insignificant for him.
Having thus obtained boons, RAvana became so powerful and invincible that he started tormenting the sages (rishis), misbehaved with women and killed innumerable beings and finally committed the gravest sin of abducting Mother Sita, the personification of chastity.
RAvana recollects all the misdeeds he committed in Yuddha kandam but doesn’t repent for his deeds. The demigods (devas) appeared as monkeys (vanaras) in large numbers to assist the Lord in this great mission..
To quickly recap Ramayana, Lord Sriman Narayana appeared as the eldest son of King Dasaratha in Ishvaaku dynasty in Surya kulam along with Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatruguna .
Mahavishnu appeared as Lord Rama, Adisesha as Lakshmana,panchajanyam(Vishnu’s conch) as Bharata, and Sudarshana Chakram as Shatruguna. Protected Vishwamitra’s yaga and married Sitadevi-an ayonija, an incarnation of Mahalakshmi –the foster daughter of King Janaka who appeared from the bowels of earth in Chandra vamsam. Srirama was 12 years old and Sitadevi was 6 years old at the time of wedding.
They spent 12 years happily in Ayodhya until Srirama left for forest to spend 14 years in exile to keep up HIS father’s word. Lakshmana and Sitadevi accompanied Srirama. After pacifying and assuring Bharata HIS return after 14 years and giving HIS padhukas to Bharata to rule as HIS representative, Lord moved out of Chitrakoot and went into Dhandakaranya forest. Lord Rama promised the rishis in Dhandakaranyam that he would kill the asuras and resolved to kill Ravana who was terrorising the entire Universe. Surpanaka-Ravana’s sister who was captivated by Rama’s beauty was disfigured by Lakshmana when she tried to harm Sitadevi .
Srirama single handedly killed 14000 rakshasas including Kara,Dooshana who came to fight Srirama. The humiliated Surpanaka influenced Ravana by describing about them emphasising more on Sitadevi’s beauty kindling lustful desire saying that she was fit for Ravana. Having heard about Rama’s valour, RAvana deceitfully planned to abduct Sitadevi in Rama’s absence and with the help of Mareecha who was disguised as golden deer separated Rama and Lakshmana from Sitadevi thus paving way for the shameful ghastly deed. RAvana disguised as sanyasi approached Sitadevi for alms and enquired about her presence in the forest. Sitadevi replied to him enumerating all the incidents adding that they have completed 13 years and were undergoing the last year of vanavaasam after which they would return to Ayodhya.
When she queried about him, Ravana revealed his true form ,boasted about his achievements and expressed his desire of making her as his queen. When Sitadevi rebuked him, he got angry and abducted her in Pushpaka vimanam and proceeded southwards towards his country, Lanka
(Our poorvacharyars opine that Mother Sita underwent all these troubles for our sake as SHE being Jaganmatha wanted to protect Ravana. Whenever Mother Sita encountered RAvana, SHE chastised him for his ghastly act, advised him to return HER back and not get punished. She enumerated Srirama’s qualities and advised him to surrender to the lotus feet of the Lord. That is Jaganmatha’s compassion. Though she could protect HERSELF, she waited patiently for Srirama’s arrival as SHE had surrendered to HIM.)
Jatayu –the eagle bird fought valiantly to rescue Sitadevi from his clutches and in the battle that pursued, he sacrificed his life after informing Rama about Sitadevi’s abduction. Srirama performed last rites to the eagle-the privilege which even his own father Dasaratha didn’t get. Later, after killing Kabandhan and granting moksha to Sabari, Rama and Lakshmana met Hanuman and Sugreeva who presented the jewels thrown by a distraught lady while travelling on an aerial car southwards. Lord Rama recognized Sitadevi’s jewels and became inconsolable. Rama accepted Sugreeva as his friend, killed Vali and made Sugreeva the vanara king.
In turn, Sugreeva deputed the entire vanara army to search for Sita throughout the universe giving them 2 months’ time. The vanaras headed by Angadha, supported by Hanuman and Jambavan went southwards until they reached the ocean. Unable to trace Sitadevi, the distressed vanaras decided to end up their lives by jumping into fire. Sampaathi- the eagle bird who was in an immovable condition heard Angadha lamenting about Sitadevi’s abduction , Jatayu’s death and their unsuccessful attempt in tracing her and being unable to face their king , decided to end up their lives. Sampaathi with his sharp eyesight spotted Sitadevi in Lanka and informed them that she was in Lanka but was unable to mention the correct location.Having helped in Rama kainkaryam, Sampaathi got its wings and flew away. All the vanaras became joyful and started contemplating as to who would go to Lanka. Each vanara expressed his capability to cross the ocean while Hanuman sat silently. The aged Jambavan approached Hanuman-Vayus’ son , praised him about his capabilities and strength and influenced Hanuman to take up the yeomen task of finding Sitadevi. Hanuman had a curse because of which he would know his capabilities only when he is reminded of.
Thus starts Sundarakandam-the most beautiful heart rendering acts of Hanuman who saved Sita Devi and Rama’s lives . In Srivaishnava sampradayam,Lord Hanuman is depicted as Acharya who goes in search of Jivatma-Mother Sita, gives her the holy ring containing the Lord’s name (samasrayanam) , consoles the Jivatma , advises the mind which is the controller of senses to surrender to Lord, burns Lanka which is considered as the human body and cause for all troubles , submits the Jivatma’s plea to Paramatma(Sri Rama) and ensures unification of Jivatma with Paramathma.
It is normal practice in Srivaishnava wedding to present a copy of Sundarakandam to the bridegroom as the mere presence in the house would bring all auspiciousness and the couple would live happily. Reading Sundarakandam is considered as reading the entire Ramayanam because (1) Hanuman narrates to Sitadevi by singing the praise of Srirama. He describes in detail Lord’s appearance, HIS marriage, happy life in Ayodhya, exile, killing of rakshasas in Dhandakaranyam, Ravana’s foul play, Sugreeva’s friendship, search for Sitadevi. When Sitadevi queried about their friendship, Hanuman submits that because of HER anugraham by throwing HER jewels, Rama trusted them and entered into friendship with Sugriva. He further informed about Vali’s death, Jatayu’s death, search expedition undertaken by them. For consoling HER, Hanuman assured HER that Rama would kill Ravana, rescue HER, would go back to Ayodhya and rule over the entire world. Thus, all the incidents pertaining to Ramayana are covered in Sundarakandam.
Sundarakandam is of the shortest tenure but the most important incidents took place. Hanuman is the main character. Starting from his flight from Mahendragiri, his encounters with Mynaaka parvatham , Surasa,Simhika, Lankini, search for Sitadevi, rescuing Sitadevi by singing Lord Rama’s praise when she attempted to commit suicide, updating her with the developments in HER absence, assuring her of Lord Rama’s arrival to rescue HER, handing over the ring given by Lord Rama , accepting Choodamani to be handed over to Srirama as identification, destroying Ravana’s one-fourth army, representing as Rama’s messenger, He advised RAvana to return Mother Sita or face dire consequences and finally burning Lanka with the fire lit on his tail by Ravana, and after ensuring Mother Sita’s safety returns to Lord Rama to convey the good news about Mother Sita’s welfare and Lord Rama embracing Hanuman as a token of gratitude. All these incidents except meeting Lord Rama took place in and around Srilanka and these places have been identified which is mentioned in the later part of the post.
Likewise, most of the incidents mentioned in Yuddha kaandam except Rama’s return to Ayodhya via Kishkinda, Bharadwaja ashram, Nandigramam took place in Srilanka. Most of the places have been identified and an attempt was made by Divyadampathigal’s grace to visit the Ramayana sites in Srilanka.
In Srilanka, Buddhism is widely followed and we can find stupas in almost all the places. Likewise there are many temples for Murugan and Shiva and these places are identified with Ramayanam. People of this beautiful country respect all religions. There are few places identified with Ramayana but which does not bear any reference in Valmiki Ramayana. Few incidents not mentioned in Valmiki Ramayanam which is considered as the “moolam-source” are identified with these places. To mention a few, Muneeswaram,Manawari, Koneswaram,Sanjeevini drops which fell at 5 places, Ravana caves , Istreepura are not mentioned in Valmiki Ramayanam.
The Ramayanam sites in Srilanka can be classified as
Holy places associated with Mother Sita
–Weragantota,Sitakotuwa,Ashokavanam,SitaEliya, Divurumpola, Sitawaka.
(All these locations can be found near Central Srilanka and NuwaraEliya-the hill station towards south ).
- Holy Places visited by Lord Rama from north-west- . Lord started from Thirupullani near Rameswaram on the south-western part of India, built the Ramsethu bridge from Pamban island to Thalaimannar near Mannar located on the north-western part of Srilanka..Other places are : Nilavarai near Jaffna, place near Keerimalai Varadarajar temple, Ramboda,Dunuvila, Rattota (all these are located around Kandy)Divurumpola , Muneeswaram, Manawari. Lord entered Srilanka from the north-western part moved along the west coast and finally reached the central highlands around Kandy .These places are located around Kandy and one has to drive through hilly roads
- Holy places visited by Hanumanji :- Hanumanji traversed through the country three times. First time,from southern tip of India to central srilanka when he came in search of Sitadevi. He flew from Mahendragiri –the southern tip of India and landed on Suvela parvatham (Ramboda) after encountering Surasa at Nagadeepa(presently this is near the north-western part of Srilanka). Further, came down and killed Simhika-the rakshasi –the place now identified as Thiruketeeswaramnear Anuradhapura and then landed on Suvela parvatham (Ramboda). Encountered Lankini-the guardian rakshasa on the western side and then entered Ravana kingdom (Sigiriya-central part), searched for Sita in Mandodari palace too (now known as Sita Kotuwa), worried and prayed to HER sitting on a rock known as Manikatuther( near Ramboda), spotted AshokaVanam(Hakgala Botanical garden-a hill station in the Central highlands) ,found Jaganmatha in a distressed position under Simshukavruksham (Sita Eliya Sita amman temple), consoled her, conveyed Srirama’s message. Hanumanji conversed with Mother Sita assuming a tiny form. As he wanted to get Sitadevi’s grace , he assumed a giant form in her presence thus convincing her about his capabilities to assume any form and obtain HER cool grace on the huge form. WE can find Hanuman Footprints(huge and small) near Sita Eliya After accepting “choodamani” from her, he destroyed Ashokavanam and challenged the asuras , vanquished one-fourth of the army killing many rakshasas including 80000 kinnaras, 5 army commanders and a vast army, Jambumaali, Akshakumaran-ravana’s son,and finally voluntarily got bound by Indrajit’s brahmastram with the intention to meet and advise Ravana to return Sitadevi. As Srirama’s messenger, he enumerated Srirama’s valour citing Vali’s death and advised him to return Sitadevi else face dire consequences. The furious Ravana ordered his tail to be burnt and accordingly Hanumanji’s tail was wrapped with cotton and dipped in oil and fire was lit to his tail. Due to Sitadevi’s prayers, the fire didn’t burn him. He set the whole Lanka into flames except the Simshuka tree which sheltered Sitadevi and dipped his burning tail at the southern most part of the country known as Ussangoda which was one of the aircraft centres of Ravana. Hanuman ensured that the safety precautions like moots etc. were damaged, hiding places for the Ravana’s army for attacking enemies were destroyed, RAvana’s aircraft centres were destroyed thus curtailing his movement out of Lanka.
During his second visit to Lanka, Hanumanji was part of Rama’s army. Hanuman carried Rama on his shoulders while crossing the ocean and also during the war. Likewise, Angadha carried Lakshmana on his shoulders while crossing the sea.
Hanumanji played a vital role in the war that ensued between Rama and RAvana. Hanuman traversed through Lanka for the third time when he flew twice to fetch Mruthasanjeevini herbs to revive Lakshmana and Rama. AT that time he must have flown from the north and reached Himalayasenroute stopping at the Himalayan ranges near the present KuluManali in Himachal Pradesh which is slightly located on the north-eastern part of Ayodhya. He was advised by a rishi meditating there that sanjeeviniparvath which lies between Mount Kailash and Mount Rishaba was far away from that place and requested Hanuman to accept his services. As Hanuman was running short of time, he explained the situation to the rishi assuring him to visit again. Hanumanji later appeared as a small swayambhu idol to the rishi meditating on the hill near Kullu. This incident is displayed in the famous Hanuman temple in Kullu. A huge statue of Hanuman greets the visitors.
Dronagiriparvath-another mountain range in the northern India volunteered to do Rama kainkaryam. Hanuman pleased with the mountain’s gesture blessed it saying that it would get rewarded by the Lord Himself in future.(This hill is the famous Goverdhanagiri parvath located near Vrindavan and Lord Krishna blessed it by placing it on his little finger for seven days and blessed that the Lord and Goverdhan were synonymous. Goverdhanagiri is very close to Lord Krishna’s heart.!! We considered ourselves very fortunate to carry a part of Goverdhan being worshipped as “Giriraj” in our altar to Srilanka. )
While returning to Lanka carrying the Sanjeeviniparvath, as it was getting late, Hanuman flew through Ayodhya, Nandigramam(there is a shrine in Nandigramam for Hanuman known as “Lagey Hanuman” as he got injured by Bharata’s arrow. Due to lack of time, Hanuman didn’t retaliate at Bharata and proceeded southwards ), crossing over Arakonda near Chittoor and reached Lanka as he had to be there before sunrise. (Arakonda located about 3 hours drive from Tirupati has been identified as Sanjeevini drop place in India .)
As per the research done in Srilanka, they have identified 5 mountains as Sanjeevini drops . The medicinal plants which grow in the cool hilly regions of Himalayas grow on these mountains situated in the tropical regions of Srilanka. They are (1) Thalladi near Mannar, (2) Kachiteevu island near Jafffna, (3) Ritigala mountain 84 kms from Anurdadhapura towards Central part of Northern Srilanka on Anuradhapura-Habarana road near Sigiriya, (4) Dolukonda near Kurunegala, (5) Rumasalla in Unawatuna near Galle in the southern most tip of Srilanka. IN Valmiki Ramayana, it is mentioned that when Hanuman flew across the sky carrying Sanjeevini , the injured and dead vanaras were revived due to the medicinal power. Hanumanji flew back to replace the Sanjeevini parvath at the same place in Himalayas. So, we can assess that Hanumanji flew to and fro through Lanka atleast 3 times.
With the blessings of Asmath Acharyar and Elders we could have darshan of all the holy places during 2010 which is briefed as SriRama Anu yatra travelogue
The inert desire of visiting the holy places in Srilanka fructified this August 2018 After obtaining Asmathacharyar’s blessings ,and with the grace of our Kula deivam-KazhiyurAdikesava Perumal and Lord Srinivasa, we undertook this yatra.
A detailed plan was chalked out which would normally take 14 days. But due to official constraints, we had to cut short the trip to 9 days .
Initially, we had decided to book the accommodation on our own and arrange for transportation by contacting service providers in Srilanka . But the hanuman logo of Ramayan Tours attracted us and we decided to go with them for our tour. Later, during our visit, we learnt that all tour operators in Srilanka have to get themselves registered with the government by which they can get concessional rates in hotel accommodation. If we book through online hotel accommodation sites like booking.com/agoda etc., the rates quoted by them are higher. If we go directly , we are considered as “foreigners” and the rates are different. Also, few bookings online were cancelled by the hoteliers citing some reason. So, it is better to plan through reliable tour operators like “Ramayana Tours” for a hassle-free trip. They had offerd us 10 seater A/c Luxury model High end vehicle for our trip, Family A/c room at all places, Jain breakfast and dinner. Coffee addicts may have to make their own arrangements as we don’t get south Indian coffee there especially in the southern and central parts. Cost of living is on the higher side compared to us. You get fresh vegetables,fresh fruits and curd everywhere.
Our customized itinerary covering Ramayana places on daily basis was shared with M/s Ramayan Tours ,srilanka (also known as Flywing Tours) who ensured that we have a comfortable trip. Mr.Kingsly-the chairman of the company with whom we were negotiating assured us excellent service and stood by his word. In Srilanka, there is a restriction on speed limit and night driving–the vehicles cannot exceed 50 KMPH . In our case, the travel agent risked the two restrictions. Usually the guide and chauffeur don’t provide service after 7 P.M. So, he deputed his son who is the Managing Director of 3 travel companies to guide us and also arranged for a young reliable person who drove beyond the stipulated time. We used to travel for about 10-12 hours daily at 80-100 KMPH and usually reach the hotel for night stay after 9 p.m. only. WE visited two sanjeevini drops but could not view Ramasethu due to government restrictions .
After taking leave of our Aathu Perumal, myself along with my wife and 2 daughters carrying our yatradieties-(Sita Lakshmana hanumathsametha Sri Ramachandran, laddugopal, giriraj, srimurthis, dwarakasalagramam, swamyramanujar and our acharyars pic ) left Thiruvengadam and took the night flight to Colombo via Chennai on 10th august ,2018 reached Colombo at 3 A.M.on 11 th August, 2018. The flight was delayed by an hour . WE were warmly welcomed by Mr.Kingsly and his son,Mr.Ishaara whose Office address and phone numbers are mentioned for devotees to take up similar yatra .
Drove us to Hotel Crown Plaza in Katunayake which is about 5 kms from the airport and retired for the night.
In this article, a brief account about the location ,actual distance etc. is given for quick reference. WE started from west (Colombo) and proceeded down south, moved towards central srilanka, north-east, north and ended along the west coast.
WE traveled for about 2300 kms in 8 days but didn’t get strained at all due to the smooth drive on the lovely well maintained roads(no bumps/speed breakers) surrounding greenery was a feast to the eyes, the weather was cool with average max.temperature around 22 degrees , no noise pollution. The places around Kandy are on the hilly region and the driving time would be more compared to other places. The travel operator provided a brand new Nissan High Roof A/c vehicle .
The details and importance of the above holy places would be shared soon in the coming blog posts
Adiyen Ramanuja dasan
JAI SITA RAM