Best Places to visit in Chitrakoot
Best Places to visit in Chitrakoot
The Hill of many wonders” rests peacefully in the northern spurs of the Vindhyas, a place of tranquil forest glades and quiet rivers and streams where calm and repose are all- pervading. This loveliest of Nature’s gifts is also hallowed ground, blessed by the gods and sanctified by the faith of pilgrims. For Chitrakoot’s spiritual legacy stretches back to legendary ages: it was in these deep forests that Rama and Sita spent eleven of their fourteen years of exile; here, that the great sage Atri and Sati Anusuya meditated; and here where the principal trinity of the Hindu pantheon,
Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh took their incarnations. Sufferers and seekers, poets and visionaries, princes and noblemen have, through the ages, sought and found solace in Chitrakoot, drawn inspiration from its sublime natural beauty, gained spiritual strength from its serene temples and, in turn, become part of the hallowed legend that is Chitrakoot.
The original hill mentioned in the Ramayana – Kamadgiri – is one of the prime spots of religious significance in this temple town. This hill, laden with trees, has a pedestrian path at the base, which is used by barefoot pilgrims for circum-ambulation. Some people believe that the hill is hollow from within and that it contains a blue, illuminated lake. Immortal sages who can tell the destinies of the world and of mankind inhabit the banks of the lake. It is believed that only pure souls can find the entrance to this hallowed place and pass through.
Another story associated with this hill is that when rainwater fills the lake, overflowing its banks, 24 springs gush out together.
These ghats run along the River Mandakini, the permanent source of water for Chitrakoot. the centre of the twon`s activities, the Ram Ghats are believed to have been the favoured bathing place of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. As the sun rises, innumerous devotees gather at the ghats to perform the suryanamaskar or salutation to the sum. Amid incessant hymns and the fragrance of incense, you can witness a fluffy of religious activity throughout the day. There is a string of bright shops and vendors on the banks selling trinkets, flowers and souvenirs, which add to the overall commotion. You might have to constantly fend off invading troupes of monkeys while trying to get accustomed to the din of sonorous bhajans.
The evenings at the Ram Ghats are no different. As the sun sets, devotees gather once again to perform aarti (supplication to the river goddess) and make offerings of flowers and incense. The sight of lamps and lights glistening through the dark of the night is enough to make you overlook the overpowering chaos of the ghats.
After Rama was exiled from Ayodhya, his half-brother Bharata became the successor to the throne. But Bharata, a devout brother, refused to accept the crown as he felt that Rama was the rightful king of the people. In an attempt to put things right, Bharata found the three exiles in Chitrakoot where he assembled his court and tried to persuade Rama to return and rule Ayodhya. When Rama refused, Bharata took his clogs, placed them on his head, and returned to Ayodhya. He then enthroned Rama`s clogs, as a symbol of his divine right over the kingdom.
Bharata`s assembled court has been replicated in miniature in the Bharata Mandir. The priest narrates the entire story for the devotees and, as a reminder of the goodness of the human heart, blesses them by placing a pair of clogs on their head. The footprinits of Rama and his three brothers are etched in the rocks here.
Across from Bharata Mandir is the forecourt of the Yagya Vedi, accessed via a staircase. It is believed that Brahma, the creator of the universe lit his invocatory fires in 108 pits before the creation of the universe. Out of the original number, this pit is all that remains. A domed shrine was built to mark this spot.
In the sanctum of the Yagya Vedi lies another miniature replica of Bharata`s court. It is believed that the assembly was so large that it occupied two terraces.
A short walk away from Yagya Vedi is Param Kutir. It is said to have been built on the site of the cottage that Lakshmana constructed. What exists today in place of the original wooden structure is a beautiful domed shrine with a pillared verandah.
This former home of the exiles provides an excellent view of the stretched ghats of the Mandakini, along with a relatively new towering statue of Hanumana. Be advised that the site is infested with hordes or aggressive monkeys.
This hill is dotted with multiple shrines dedecated to Hanuman. They can be found at the base of the hill, in little pavilions en route to the summit and even carved on rocks – and are all painted a bright orange.
This site is associated with one of the most interesting legends of Hanumana. According to the Ramayana, Sita was abducted by the king of Lanka, Ravana. Hanumana was t hen sent to Ravana as Rama`s envoy but was captured. His tail was set afire to embarrass him even further, whereupon an enraged Hanumana escaped from his captors and burned down the kingdom of Lanka. It is said that the monkey god was so furious that upon his return Rama shot an arrow into a rock to draw a stream of cold water from its recesses, where Hanumana bathed to cool off. This stream is Hanuman Dhara, which has now been chanelled into a pipe.
Across the bridge is a statue of Hanumana, which is painted blue. Past more stalls, shrines and temples is Sita`s Kitchen. It has images of five sages who are seen enjoying Sita`s hospitality. There are many references in the Ramayana that narrate the story of the gradually developing friendship between the three exiles and the hermits seeking solitude.
The Ramayana also narrates the tale of Sati Anasuya, the virtuous wife of Sage Atri. According to the tale, one day the wives of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva decided to test Sati Anasuya`s chastity. The three deities, went to Anasuya`s ashram as instructed by their wives and demanded that she serve them food while being naked. Anasuya agreed but first transformed them into children. The wives found them thus and repented. At the behest of Anasuya, the three gods agreed to be born as her sons. It is also said that her purity had such power that it forced the River Mandakini to gush out from the earth and course past her ashram.
A large glittering temple stands on the site of the modest ashram of Sati Anasuya. Below the shrine is a huge rock with primitive images of Shiva carved into them. A little beyond are a few older shrines.
Sita was also known as Janaki, the daughter of Janak, king of Mithila. This spot, named after her, is believed to have been her private bathing place. Located upstream from the Ram Ghats, this spot is relatively secluded.
A scholar reads the Ramayana in khari boli, the local dialect, at a pavilion nearby that is situated on the banks of the pristine Mandakini.
As with all other religious spots in Chitrakoot, Sphatik Shila too has a legend associated with it. It is said that one day, Rama was decorating Sita`s hair with wild flowers while seated on the banks of the river. They were spotted by Jayanta, the mischievous son of Indra, who, in an attempt to disrupt this scene, turned himself into a crow, swooped down and pecked at Sita`s feet. This iinfuriated Lakshmana, who pierced the eye of the crow with his arrow.
There is a pavilion here that enshrines the footprints of the three exiles to commemorate the events that transpired on the banks of the Mandakini.
Gupt Godaari and Sita Kund
Yet another legend is associated with this cave. As the story goes, the monster Mayanka peeped at Sita bathing in a pool here. An enraged Lakshmana terrified him and stuck him to the roof of the cave. An outcrop of black rock that juts out from the paler roof of the cave is believed to be the monster still stuck to the roof. The pond where Sita was bathing is called the Sita Kund.
Outside this cave is the entrance to a lower cave. A stream flows through here, which originates from a number of little springs that flow from the mountain. Pilgrims seeking spiritual benefits walk the length of the stream and exit through the mouth of the lower cave.
Another logic-defying legend says that the Rive Godavari flowed all the way from Nashik (located around 800 km from here) simply to have a glimpse of Rama. The gupt or hidden Godavari emerges from the cave, flows into a pond and then vanishes underground.