Saturday, 2 March 2013

Inside Ram territory in Chitrakoot

       Its probably the only district claimed by two states . A river separates Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh and Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh. And why not?  Chitrakoot , literally  translated to mean the hill of many  wonders is the haloed place where Ram,Sita and Lakshman spent the major part ,almost eleven and a half years of their 14 year exile.
  About 120 kms  south east of  Allahabad on NH76  , it was going by the  google map a 2hrs 7 mins journey. But that did not take into account that NH 76 is a forgotten Highway , just a two lane road ,with little rumble strips,a busy railway crossing just after Naini  and twists and turns when it reaches the Vindhya ranges.It took us a good four and a half hours to reach Karvi . The road took us past wheat and mustard fields,the Gangetic plain slowly giving way to the rocky Vindhya terrain .
We met  our guide ,Tripathiji ,at a Government guest house .Tripathiji is a local government official who very kindly agreed to take us around this holy place .His dhoti clad bulky frame with a befitting red tilak on his forehead was in sync with the ambience of the place.  .He would narrate  the history of the place with all the reverence due to the legend  of Ram and Sita,interspersed with Ramcharitmana quotes. Though it was almost one in the afternoon and we were hungry we were advised to visit the Ramghat first. Ramghat is on the bank of Mandakini ,the place where Ram alongwith Sita and Lakshman first   resided in a small cottage or parnkuti  built by the tribal inhabitants of the forests. .A flight of steep steps leads us to a  temple  built at this site by the king of Orissa . This is also the place where Bharat met Ram to take him back to Ayodhya .Each small area of this place is linked to some activity of Ram's exile.
Ramghat is also the place where Tulsidas had the darshan of Lord Ram . A small statue on the banks of Mandakini  is installed at the place. Like all temple towns,the place is dotted with temples associated with the stay of Ram here and small shops sell the usual things,diyas,Ramayan, Ramcharitmanas,incense holders .The river has people taking a bath with religious fervour. A huge banyan tree is said to have been inhabited by Hanuman.
It was about 2in the afternoon  and we stopped for lunch at Kamadgiri Bhavan ,just about  100 mtrs from Ramghat.The food was good,vegetarian thali .The place also offered lodgings for the devout.  A quick lunch and then it was time  to move to Gupt Godavari. about 20 km from Ramghat .The road was narrow and in a very bad condition.We did twists and turns , the vehicle just about managing to be kept straight.Its a pity that the Government does not do anything to improve the conditions of the roads despite their beig a steady stream of pilgrims. The weather had become rainy and when we reached the place ,it had become slightly slushy.Nevertheless we got down and had to walk some distance a narrow 
At Gupt Godavari 
path lined with the uual shops.Interestingly some of them were selling herbs,said to be sourced form the vast forests of this region. Some were calling out names like Sanjeevini and other herbs for the skin !The Gupt Godavari is a rivulet which runs through two caves in the mountains and forms two tanks .A huge crowd had lined up for entry in the cave. The entry to the cave was between two overhanging rocks .Different legends are associated with this place.The main story relates to hoe Godavari wanted to come and meet Ram during his exile,but because she was young,her father the sea,allowed her to come here in the form of an underground rivulet.

Sati Anasuya Ashram 
A visit to the two caves does not gtake much time and we come out to find a slight drizzle.On the advice of Tripathiji ,we move to Sati Anasuya Ashram. A little more than 6 kms ,the appraoch to this ashram has dense forests on both sides.The narrow road becomes busy with traffic as we approach the place.In fact a jam like situation is all set to be created as the road is really to narrow for both sides of traffic and the devotees on foot. A couple of cares and vehicles parked on the side lead to the confusion. The Ashram itself is on the banks of Mandakini which has its source in the Vindhya ranges .The story of Anasuya,wife of Atri Rishi and how she did  'tapasya' to bring the river Mandakini to this region is famous.So are other stories about her faith,all depicted in the temple built by a sadhu sect at this place.The place is serene ,the river barely flowing ,forest on the other bank,a mountain in the background and people taking a holy dip. There is also a smaller temple said to be the original home of Anusuya. 

It was getting late now and with the rains and an overcast sky ,not really a good day for visiting a basically rural place.As it is we had just one day to visit Chitrakoot.Tripathiji,our very respectful guide was unhappy with this shortest of visits.A place where Ram lived for 11 years needed more time .There were about 99 places associated with his exile and we were not doing justice to this place.
So we were on our return journey and on the way we stopped at Kamadgiri temple.This is said to be the original Chitrakoot hills ,from which the town takes its name.Kamad,another name for Ram is the reigning diety here .Thanks to our guides Connections and the word VIP which slipped easily off his tongue,we had a close darshan of the temple and our own samll pooja.The temple buitl in the mountain has a small parikrama of about 5 and half kms.We,of course did not have time for that.Maybe Shri Ram will call us another time to perform this parikrama. 
Till then we said goodbye to this place full of the echoes of devotion to Ram,Sita and Lakshman and it seems as if their lives are still being played out,in the folded hands of the pilgrims and the stories being narrated by the local people.They consider themselves  blessed to be in a place where the Lord spent so much time as an ordinary mortal. 

Boats lined up at Ramghat 


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