How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

Location: India

Saturday, January 08, 2005

ek yaatraa - VII

Day 3: Allahabad/Chitrakoot, 30 Dec. 2004, Thursday

On the way to Chitrakoot

We had decided to visit Chitrakoot this day since it would be taking up practically the entire day. With the taxi (a Tata Sumo) arriving 45 minutes late, we began by around 8am. We were out of the city by around 8.30am and on the highway that would eventually enter Madhya Pradesh. Rewa is straight ahead on this highway, while we took a branch off this road for Chitrakoot. After driving through many villages (again with the road turning to a paved or brick road), we made a brief halt for tea at a relatively isolated tea stall.
The sun was out and it was not very cold at all. The mountains had shown up on both sides of the road, with green and yellow fields of wheat, sarson and other crops extending right up to the foot of the mountains.
We resumed and finally reached Chitrakoot at around 12 noon. We again went to the Rahi Tourist Bungalow here and took a boy with us as guide.

Kamadgiri temple

Chitrakoot, as the boy explained to us, is the place where Lord Ram, Sita, and Lakshman spent the first 11.5 years of their exile, before moving south to Panchavati near Nasik. The first thing Ram did after setting out on exile was to visit the ashram of Bhardwaj Muni in Prayag, seeking directions to a place where the exile could be peacefully spent. The muni, in turn, directed Ram to Rushi Valmiki, who told him that Chitrakoot was the ideal location for the purpose.
After 10 minutes of travel came a checkpost which separates UP from MP. Thus, the real places of religious importance in Chitrakoot lie in MP.
The first of these is the Kamadgiri temple, situated at the place where Ram supposedly offered puujaa every day of his stay here. The temple is very small but holds great religious importance. The pradakshiNaa around it runs through the mountains and is 5 km. in length. We did not have that kind of time, so we moved on. At every place we visited in Chitrakoot, there were a large number of red-faced monkeys.

Ram Darshan/Jaipuria Smruti Bhawan

We next arrived at a modern establishment - the Jaipuria Smruti Bhawan - built by a Marwari businessman of the same name. It is clean and grand. A huge statue of Hanuman tearing his chest to reveal images of Ram and Sita within is present inside the gate. Beyond it are several residential quarters for Marwari devotees that are part of the complex. The Smruti Bhawan consists of various beautiful and meticulously made exhibits depicting events in Ram's life. We spent quite some time looking at these exhibits and reading the descriptions. Another striking aspect of the Bhawan is the magnificent arrangements of artificial flowers in it. This is definitely a place worth visiting.

Gupt Godavari

The next stop was a place where two large natural caves existed in mountains. Water comes out of the mountains here and that water is said to be of the river Godavari, which, the boy says, 'had come north to be at Ram's feet'. This water has been arrested into 7 kund-s, where people take baths. From here, the water again flows underground.
We climbed up the steps to the first cave. We had to buy tickets to get inside the caves, and the caves are under government control. As the boy said, 'ye government ki gufaa hai'. That made me think that this was also appropriate in another way - here the water originated from no one knows where and went no one knows where - just like nobody knows where government funds really go :).
The first cave has a very narrow entrance but it opens out to a vast interior. There is a high platform on the left, where Ram was supposed to hold his court in exile. There are idols here too. We came out of this cave and went into the next. Now this is the cave into which the Godavari water comes and flows out into the kund-s. We had to fold up our trousers and walk in knee-deep (and later thigh-deep) water into the cave. The eroded cave floor was very uneven making it quite painful to walk. We didn't go into the cave fully, and came back out. It was quite an experience to see this natural cave.
We were done with the caves and were on the way to our last site in Chitrakoot.