Chitrakoot is the name given to the land where a major portion of the Ramayana unfolded. For it was here that Lord Rama spent eleven long years of his exile, Sita undertook the test by the fire and Lakshman taught to us the virtues of endless patience. No chitrakoot is certainly not the name of a specific village or town but is the general name given to the area of Karvi, Sitapur, Khoyi and Kamta as well as the forest around it. Could the place once have had dense jungle of the Ashoka trees. And hence its name.
With creature cored coming to Chitrakoot, Um began to be held every on festive occasions like ft night of the New Moon, or Diwali — the festival of Lights, Ram Navmi and Dusshera. All these festivals are not just holidays for merrymaking. They have their origins in tales from the Ramayana. The last is, in one full swoop, a sermon, a tale of adventure, self-sacrifice and endless love. It celebrates the victory of honour over dishonour, of virtue over evil, of truth over falsehood, of right over wrong.
And then there’s the Festival of Lights, on the darkest night following Dusshera, just midway between the new-moon and full-moon, to celebrate the return of Lord Rama to the throne of Ayodhya after 14 tong years in exile. What a sight it must have been! Through the dark’forests emerged the mendicant King, bare-footed”and orchre-clothed, heading to the Kingdom which was rightfully his. Cause for jubilation and celebration among the populace. And that is what it is in Chitrakoot today. Light and joy. Nothing else seems to matter.
A circumambulation of the Kamdamgiri mountain is a must for pilgrims for it gives them a sense of spiritual satisfaction. The paved-path has been restored and is now in excellent condition, dotted with numerous temples based on tales from the scriptures — like Bharat Milap as if to remind the pilgrim of the filial love between two brothers. The Ramayana has it that on his return, Bharat was aghast at his mother’s machinations to crown him the king and steadfastly refused to be a part of the ploy. Instead, he returned to place his elder brother’s wooden-sandals on the throne to await his return from exile. It is a favourite place this, on the river bank where in their humble dwellings, the hermits practice the virtues of patience, close to a huge rock-face which is reputed to have the imprints of Lord Rama’s footprints.
Some 15 kilometres to the south of Chitrakoot is the hallowed spot where the ashrams of saints like Maharishi Atreya were reputed to have stood. These are still. places where mendicants chant poetic tales and the huts of ascetics resound with peace and solitude — you too could spend time here to mull over the profundities of the universe.
Six kilometres away is the sacred cave of Gupt Godavari which has a natural kund known as Janaki Kund. The waters from
the cave fall into the pond and disappear forever, this is why it has been called the secret Godavari. The inside of the cave seems as if it has been carved by a skillful artist. Just before Ramghat, atop a small hillock is a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman and one has to see the crowds that gather there every Tuesday to pay obeisance to this devoted incarnation who rendered yeoman service to the Lord. A stream of water falls from the mountain onto the left arm of Lord Hanuman. But do not go too fast — you have to climb some 360 steps to get there! Then there’s Balaji’s temple which has distinct Mughal touches. It is reputed to have been constructed during the reign of Aurangzeb.
So if you want to be immersed in the world of the mythology of Ramayana you can do so in comfort from the Tourist Bungalow at Sitapur. Come and see the magic of places like Devangana, Kotitirtha, Valmiki Ashram, Mandpa, the Five-mouthed Hanuman Falls and Tulsi Kuti. Should you venture out there is always the beauty of adjoining places of Rajpur, Kalinjar, Bharatkoot, Ganesh Bagh. You could very well make your own list of places which make Hinduism a vibrant, living way of life.
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