Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Journeying through The Ramayana Day 6 & 7 @ Sita Marhi & Janakpuri

Sita Marhi - The land of Sita's birth

There was excitement as we left Sonepur – we would soon be touching the land of Sita – the exact place where she was found – Sita Marhi. We had been warned that it’s a small town and lacked any kind of basic facilities that we city bred yatrikas are used to. With apprehensions that it could be worse than our stay at Buxar, we began our journey to the beautiful land of the Devi.

As we travelled my thoughts floated fitfully to the life that Sita led - from  being the loved daughter in law and princess to living a hermit's life with Rama in the forest; then the last year in agony at Lanka. If anything the whole Ramayana was more the story of Sita ( hence Sitayana was one of the names being considered at the time by Valmiki!). She was the mover of events - the happiness as a new princess at Ayodhya; the delight at being crowned the young queen; the setting of a beautiful life at Chitrakoot with Rama & Lakshmana; the sighting of Shoorpanaka; the advent of Ravana; the Sundara Kandam describing  her beauty, her pain and anguish, her faith; then the sorrow of Rama, his yearning for her, his anger at not being able to reach her - shown whether at Sugriva or Samudra raja; the final moments of sighting her lord and then the seething pain of having to prove her chastity in front of so many men; joy of being back at Ayodhya; being banished to the forest; the loneliness of being a single parent; and the final end!! What a journey!  As the story moved in slow motion in in my mind, my thoughts went off on another trajectory- The tattva of the whole Ramayana.  Sita represents all of us Atmas. We get carried away by our 10 Indriyas (Ravana) and get locked in this body (Lanka) and its experiences , good or bad. What locks us in with our misery, is this ocean of Samsara (the ocean surrounding Lanka). The Atma (Sita) yearns to join the Lord (Rama) but doesnt know how to reach Him. Sent by Rama who too desires that the Atma (Sita) reach Him,  a Guru (Hanuman) becomes the essential conduit who gives her the knowledge about Rama and further cements her faith. Here too the Lord has to reach us atmas, we cannot attain Him by OUR effort alone. What a beautiful Tattva! As my thoughts flowed, it struck me that in as much as Sita could only sit and pray and yearn for Rama, all the action to be one with the Atma was done by the Lord!! Isnt that what Prapatti or Saranagati all about?! His pain at being away from us and his yearning and desire for us is much more than we can ever imagine. If only we understood His love..... Sleep overtook me on that note.

We jerked awake to find the bus standing still outside what seemed to be a guest house. We realised that we had reached Sita Marhi - It was just about 1 am. Much to our surprise, the lights came on and we saw a beautiful sprawling dak bungalow. All of us lugged our baggage in and settled down in 2-3 large dorms. Some friends just plonked down to continue their beauty sleep. Some others, decided to catch up on some "civilised bathing" and promptly went and had a bath - adiyen was one of them!!! Too excited to sleep and wide awake from a refreshign bath, Vasanthi indira and I chatted through the night.

By around 6.30 am in small groups of 2s and 4s  we trudged to the back of the guest house across wet fields to the temple. Just behind the temple was a beautiful large tank called Sita Kund- a beautiful green pond with wide steps on all 4 sides. It is said to be the exact spot where Sita was found. We returned then to the temple  which was just about waking up to the morning routine. 

Its beautiful marble structure with paved gardens on all sides. This entire beautification, was the brainchild of a district collector and his wife. It is said that the DC collected money from large donors and redid all he temple as also the chathram where we were put up. In fact the last time that Rama Anu Yatra group had come there was nothing. I guess we just got lucky! The DCs  wife did even better- she has organized the akhanda nama japam that is now happening, 24*7 365 days a year!! Groups of 5-6 people sing the nama loudly with the devotees joining in as they come and go.  

As we climb the wide steps of the temple, there is a sudden rush of calm and the soul stands still. The temple has a huge closed courtyard in front of the sannidhi of Sita Ram ( 3 pairs) with the other brothers and their wives. There is also a Radha Krishna sannidhi, Laxminarayana sannidhi & that of Hanuman. We all took the opportunity of doing chamara kainkaryam for perumal and thaayar. And the joy in my heart was palpable. 

We all sat in the courtyard & chanted the nama as we waited in peace for swamigal to arrive. He came in and began a short upanyasam about the importance of the thayar and her greatness. He  mentioned that there was no mention of Sita’s birth in the Ramayanam - details of her birth and lineage is there in the Vishnu purana. This chapter from the Vishnu Purana was then read out at the temple. 

With thoughts of thaayar and her gentleness towards us her children filling our minds, we moved towards to a nearby maidan for breakfast. On the way we visited a small Gayathri temple.

Very reluctantly, turning many times to catch a last glimpse of the Sita Marhi temple, we moved towards the guest house to pack our bags and board the bus by 10.30 to begin our long journey to Janakpuri, Nepal.

Janakpuri, Nepal

We crossed over to Nepal amidst strict security and checking. Military guys entered the bus to check the internals. When we entered Janaka's palace it was around 4 pm.  Immediately we went to the side aisle where the swamigals had done a beautiful decoration of the Therezhendur perumals. There were 2 decorations – one of Rama breaking the Sivadhanush with Sita waiting aside with a garland. The other was with the divine couple in panigrahi position. Just looking at them, took me back to how the actual moment might have felt for Janaka and his wife.  It was an emotional moment. A homa kundam was made in front and all devotees gave clothes, fruits, dry fruits, etc. Mr. & Mrs. Raghunathan from Malaysia gave  mangalasutras also. There was a bhajan mandali from Srirangam that added to the whole zest of the event. They conducted the Sita Kalyanam in bhajana sampradaya style - this was interspersed with homams and stotrams.  All the yatrikas sat around the pandal and saw the divine wedding in an air filled with devotion & joy.I was transported to the moment of Sita's swayavaram and wedding. I empathised emotionally with Janaka's position that day - imagining that this little 6 year old daughter of mine would be gone this evening and I will not see her again for 12 years ! It was a very bitter-sweet emotional moment and most of us cried through the wedding. Imagine what the plight of that father might have been, sending away his beloved daughter to a far off land and then seeing after 12 years in the forest in exile. 

After the wedding ceremonies were over, we visited the main sannidhi which had all the 4 pairs of children decked in wedding finery. There were also 3 pairs of Rama- Sita at the top. There were lot of saligrama murthies too in the sannidhi. Behind the main sannidhi  is another small sannidhi which has the vigrahas of Janaka, his wife, his brother and wife, Rama, Sita, all the 4 brothers with their wives. Only Urmila is a step below in their service. This sannidhi also had 1.25 lakh saligramas laid out in steps below. They were covered with a huge silk cloth. The priest there would lift the cloth only on request for a quick darshan. 

As we came out of the main temple, i turned back to capture the temples silhouette in the deepening sunset. We walked on to go behind this main temple to see a glass temple where the entire wedding scene has been laid out with life size figures of all the important characters - these  can be seen from all sides. This temple is the exact place where the wedding took place. Its a magnificent scene -  On one side we have Dasaratha, with his wives, Guru and the retinue of ministers. On the other is Janaka with his wife, brother & his wife, Guru and others. The children are also there sitting for the first time in pairs. The shilpi has captured beautifully the joy and pride in the faces of all present.  All around this sanndihi are 4 separate sannidhis in each corner for the four newly wed couples. Its amazing to see them in the darkness with just the light from the oil lamp illuminating their faces. each of them look distinct and one can see the happiness and joy in their faces. Yet they look regal and full of sattva. Its as if the shilpi had witnessed the wedding and met each of them. What was interesting was that the architect who designed this recent addition and created the whole scene was also present when we did a pradakshina around the sannidhi.

With heavy hearts, we trudged  back to the compound around the main sannidhi where in an adjacent ground a wedding sit-down meal was being served. It was a grand feast and our hearts filled with joy to imagine what this meal would have been like for the wedding of the divine couple! With great reluctance and hearts filled with deep sadness to see my daughter go, I trudged back to the buses parked some distance away. Our visit to Janakpuri, the land of Sita had come to an end.  We started for the long journey to Allahabad soon after 10 pm. 

Photos of these locations can be seen at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Journeying through The Ramayana Day 5 @ Sonepur on the way to Sita Marhi

Gautama ashramam on the banks of ganga Sone sangam

We started early in the morning to go to Sita Marhi. On the way we were to touch Sonepur where there is a beautiful ashram. This ashram is on the banks of Ganga & Sone sangamam. In Rama’s time this sangam was near the Siddha Ashramam. But the ravages of time, moved it near what is now Gautama ashram. We crossed towns like Chidbadhagaon, Baliya, Rewalgunj bridge to enter the town of Chapral. The Sona river or Sonbhadri comes upto Chapral where it joins the Ganges. Further on, the Sone river joins the Kantaki river at sonepur. At the place of sangamam, is the beautiful ashram of Gautam muni. 

After a nice cold bath at the sangam, we entered this ashram. We found a large open green compound with a huge expansive tree. There are beautiful sannadhis for Gautama, Ahalya, Anjana devi (their daughter and Hanuman’s mother), Sadananda ji (their son and Janaka’s family preceptor). There are also sannidhis for Hanuman, separate ones for Rama, Lakshmana & Sita.  As always with places like these, the calm and serenity of the place trickles into your soul as you breathe in the pure clean morning air. As I sat listening to Swamigal’s discourse on how Vishwamitrar told Rama the story of Ganga, his own story, the stories of Uma, Karthikeyan etc, I wondered about Ahalya. How tragic that such a great woman and pativrata should have made one slip from her dharma and borne such a terrible  punishment for years. What crosses should we be carrying for the myriad sins we knowingly commit every day?  I could only attribute this to the Karunyam of Perumal and Piratti in knowing that despite all my faults, I had not turned to stone!

As  we sat listening to the upanyasam and my thoughts on Ahalya and her predicament made me pensive, it began to drizzle as if depicting my mood. The upanyasam had to be cut short and we somehow managed to scuttle for our breakfast in the drizzle! It was fun!

Gajendra Moksham temple,  Sonepur

We moved on and reached Sonepur towards evening. This is the point where Sone - Kantaki sangamam takes place and also the place where Gajendra Moksham took place. The temple is built on the banks of the river. It is a south Indian style temple with perumal as Vaikuntanathar and separate sannidhi for thayaar as Vaikuntavalli Thayyar. As we eneterd the temple courtyard, we saw first a huge Garuda, that is almost 15-16 ft tall, standing in front of the dwajastahmabam. I could just imagine how big he would be if he had to actually fly & carry perumal and piratti to rescue Gajendra. As we did the pradakshina of the temple, we found a notice in hindi asking us to see the Rama Sila . This is one of the huge boulders that was used for building the bridge across to lanka.

There is a covered mandapam on the side where we all had a late lunch at 4 pm. After assuaging our hunger,  we blessed oursleves with the sangam water. By 5 pm, we moved to the buses to continue our journey from here towards Sita Marhi, the birth place of Sita.

For photos of Gajendra Moksham temple, Sonepur, click here

Journeying through The Ramayana Day 5 @ Buxar

We spent the entire night travelling a not so very long journey on non existent roads. The state administration was obviously non- existent.  We reached  the Chaurasia lodge at Buxar around mid morning. This seedy lodge was very close to the Railway station and probably the only taxi & rickshaw stand in town. With skirmishes for finding rooms (or should I say ratholes) for about 90 - 100 of us, we settled down to 6 of us keeping our luggage in a room that measured some 6 ft by 8 ft. - wonders it even had an attached bathroom!! Thank god for small mercies!.

Kama/ siddha ashrama – Bath at  the kund

We hurriedly picked up our bath bags with change of clothes (which we had been instructed to pack and keep the previous night itself). The thought of a nice clean bath was enough to charge up all of us and we trundled out to the bus in a hurry  to go for our bath at Siddha ashram. 
The first sight of the Kama Ashrama was a beautiful huge tank. The small peaceful ashram of Vishwamitra is currently in the village of Baliya. It is  called Kama ashram as it also signifies the place  where Shiva burnt Kama Deva to ashes – so local folk lore say. It is also called Siddha ashrama as tapas done  here  was successful. Hence, this place had a lot of rishis who came here to do tapas. They all also came to see Rama, who felt so happy to take their blessings that he decided that he must visit again. Some say that is why he went to vanavasam.

From the perspective of Ramayana, it is the place where  Rama & Lakshmana stayed for the 2nd nite when they they travelled with Vishwamitra, to his ashrama. The entire journey from Ayodhya to Vishwamitra’s ashrama took 15 days. In  the Ramayana, Valmiki has given vivid descriptions of landmarks, rivers, forests and water points to mark the locations where the princes went. Though these have been mapped very accurately by the pilot team of Kinchithkaram trust, today these markers have either moved or changed by the ravage of time and nature. For example, the courses of some of these rivers have changed  and it is now quite far from its original loaction.  A lot of folk lore is going around and its hard to be otherwise certain of the exact location. The trust has hence used technology and science to arrive at the exact and authentic location of these places.

Coming back to the ashram, its very large tank has water that is clean, very sweet and quite cold. As we enter the ashram, there is a large shiva temple, an anjaneya sannidhi, a sannidhi of Rama’s footprints. And also a bhavani sannidhi. There are trees all around and we seem to be the only bunch of people out to destroy the tranquility of this place.

After bath we had a very interesting Upanyasam and parayanam of parts of the Balakandam. We there asked to board the bus which then took us back to Buxar for an early lunch at a dharamshala.

Vamana Ashrama 

Strangely, this ashram is an enclosed compound with in the local buxar jail compound wall! However, The surroundings were nothing like being inside a jail. The passage from the gate to the temple is lush green and beautiful like a forest area. Suddenly we come to a beautiful enclosure with a huge banyan tree under which is this small temple.

This is the place where Vamana Perumal created a Shivalingam and did pooja to Shiva before proceeding to conquer Bali and retrieve the 3 worlds from him. Hence when Vishwamitra crossed this place on the 2nd day along with Rama-Lakshamana,  he told Him, “This was your purva ashramam hence please do puja here”.  So the lore goes that Rama prayed to Shiva here, after which He dragged a line with his bow to the Ganges flowing close by. The ghat there, is therefore called Ram Rekha ghat.  The ashram also has the Shiva linga that Vamana created. It also has Rama’s padukas and a small baby bed where they put the lord to sleep every night.

Temple at Ram Rekha Ghat

The Ram Rekha ghat is very close to Vamana Ashram. However, in as much the Vamana ashram was tranquil and green, one has to go through a busy market place  to reach it. However before we reach the ghat, we find a small temple at Ram Rekha Ghat.  With the hubbub of the marketplace and all its colours, smells and sounds, one comes to this temple suddenly – It is an enclosure with sannidhis all around.  The 1st sannidhi on the left is that of Vishwakarma. It is again an enclosed place within this compound. Further there is a sannidhi for Rama, Lakshmana & Sita. Then one goes further down underground to a flight of stairs, where there is a sannidhi of 4 faced Brahma. This seems like a very old vigraham and the features are not clearly defined. The  darkness of the room compounds the whole effect.  The next sannidhi just above at ground level, is that of Vishwamitra. As we do a pradakshina of the temple, one can see the Ganges and its from this temple.

Ram Rekha Ghat

As we proceed to the ghat from the temple through the churning market place, the expanse of the Ganges makes  one gasp with surprise. It doesn’t matter how many times we see her - the sheer power, beauty and serenity of the Ganges is awe inspiring every time. Swami Aravindalochanan gave a very interesting discourse on how the Ganges came down to earth and the reason for her being revered in India. Hearts filled with worship and respect for this great life giving mighty river, we left the ghat for our next halt- Tataka Vanam. We had to rush since at 7 pm all Buxar would be plunged into a power cut for the most of the night.  It would be impossible to see the temple in darkness.

Tataka Vanam

This is a very important place and event in the Ramayana. It is the place where Rama tests his prowess with the bow and arrow for the first time after leaving Vashishta’s gurukul. That too on a woman !! He hesitated at this, but then Vishwamitra reassured him that it was necessary to kill this rakshasi as she was creating havoc for the rishis and sadhus in the forest. The exact spot where Tataka was killed is just a few kilometers away from Buxar city. The temple is built strangely in south Indian style with the idols also styled like ours. Behind the temple is the Tataka vanam  where the terrible rakshasi was killed by Rama. It is a yard behind the temple and has small enclosures with figurines in multiple scenarios depicting the events leading upto the death of Tataka. There is even a huge Tataka with a shocked expression, at the end of the yard, falling down to the arrow of Rama. The area also has a small live deer running free on a tether. Of course the poor thing was sacred out of its wits to suddenly find excited old young people sharing its tranquil space. It was hard to imagine that this busy populated place was once a dense forest in which even light feared entering.

With thoughts of the how a young Rama killed this feared demoness, we ventured back to the temple courtyard where Swamigal  was about to begin the upanyasam and parayanam of Tataka vadham from Balakandam at the temple. As the upanyasam progressed, I discovered a beautiful glass enclosure with beautiful engravings of Rama & Krishna. With the upanyasam coming to an end, we all went back to the Chaurasia Lodge to rest for the night. We were to leave early in the morning for Sita Marhi. 

Click here  for photos of Buxar @ Rama Anu Yatra 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Journeying through The Ramayana Day 4 @ Nandigram


This was one of the most emotional experiences of the trip. This is a small township about 40 kms from Ayodhya. The significance of this place is that this is where -
     bharatha came and did paduka pattabhishekam.  
     hanuman came just in time to stop bharatha from entering the fire. As he realized what a great rama devotee hanuman was , and how much he had helped rama, Bharatha  spontaneously hugged him.

     sri ramabiran came back from exile and was received by all - specially bharatha. Then it was here he shed his hermit clothes  after 14 years and took on  his royal robes, on route to his coronation.

The temple is a small one  but it vibrates with the bhakthi of Bharatha and Rama’s abiding faith and love for him. As you enter the temple, across a round hall, right in front is the main vigraham of Bharatha hugging Hanuman for bringing him glad tidings of Rama’s return to ayodhya.  The tearful joy of Bharatha is only matched by the humility and affectionate servitude of Hanuman. The expressions are so real and the figures so life like that for a moment one is transported back to witness that moment in Time. And Time stands still and I stop to catch my breath!

Then we go underground by a small narrow flight of steps to cone into a similar round hall. Here, there is a bharatha sannidhi on one side which is looking with great affection and respect at the Paduka he received from Rama which is kept in the opposite sannidhi. 

There is also a  sannidhi for hanuman here.

Dazed at the monumental significance of this place, we blundered our way out to witness another beautiful sight - that of the archakas having decked up therezhendur perumal, as Rama with Sita at the woods with Bharatha at their feet receiving the Paduka. It was a beautiful sight. 

Swamigal  gave a very moving speech on what was the difference between bhakthi of lakshmnana & bharatha – former showing seshathvam & the latter, paratantrayam. Lakshmana’s bhakthi of  seshathvam was such that he would not leave Rama even for a minute – He could never bear the separation. He would do anything it takes to be with him even if it meant going against the will of Rama. He believed that he was there to be of service to Rama. Whereas, Bharatha’s Paratantrayam, was about always being there to fulfil Rama’s wish – no  matter what he wanted personally or what hardships he would have to undergo to ful fill them. His will or desires just did not exist away from Rama’s. Swamigal also spoke of the few moments before Hanuman arrived at Nandigram. In those critical moments, Bharatha asked Shatrugna to light  a funeral pyre for Him since it seemed that Rama had forsaken him. On hearing this, Shatrugna breaks down and asks if this is what he was born for, to lose two brothers to the exile and help the last one immolate himself. Did Bharatha not have any mercy on him? The entire discourse was such a moving experience that I don’t think there were many of us who were not weeping .In fact swamigal himself was moved in delivering this discourse.

Anyhow, we all trooped back into the buses with a happy heart that now that Rama had returned to Aodhya, all was finally well with the princes and Rama would begin his Ramarajyam. 

To view photos of Nandigram in Rama Anu Yatra click on:

Journeying through The Ramayana Day 3 & 4 @ Ayodhya

Day 3

Sarayu Snanam at Ram Ghat

Ayodhya - City that cannot be won over in war. Though it was early days into the yatra, to me reaching Ayodhya was THE most important point of the yatra. Imagining that Rama and Sita would have walked these very places that we were in, was enough to make this stop a momentous one. 

We reached Ayodhya around 4.30 am tired from the long journey. But the excitement of  reaching this punya bhoomi got us on our feet in a jiffy and we soon got ready to leave for Sarayu snanam. As we approached the Ram Ghat, we found that the water was as calm as the Ganga of yesterday was turbulent. She seemed to have the calmness and shantham of Rama himself. Only it was clayey and slippery. As I entered the cool waters of Sarayu,  I thought of Rama’s pain and sorrow on being separated from Sita in the Uttarakanda. It was as if the waters were muddy and unclear since the Lord's heart itself was lost in the agony of separation. Anyhow, we went in for a quick dip. The water was cool and felt nice despite the clayeyness of the water and the sinking feet, which I felt would soon get set there itself as the clay took hold of it!

We got ready in a hurry and then waited for swamis upanyasam which was announced at Ram Ghat. But search as we might, we couldn't find it and missed it due to some miscommunication. We went back to our rooms for breakfast and then proceeded to see Rama Janma bhoomi. 

Rama Janma Bhoomi

We all assembled at the lobby for instructions. It was like getting prepared for entering a high security prison. There is heavy security everywhere and all of us prepared to get ready for it. Chains, pins, paper, purse – even the clips on our tags were removed and kept. There were some emotional moments when the women were asked to remove even their mangalasutras. We all point blank refused and said that we didn’t wish to see Rama in that case. Anyhow, all that apart, dust soon settled and we were on our way.

Aravindalochanan Swamigal on the previous night had mentioned how, before the Babri Masjid incident, Muslims were not using the mosque and that Pooja and all the essentials for Rama  were happening. However, thanks to the unnecessary action, today Rama is sitting under the tarpaulin and all his bhakthas cannot even bring him any Prasad to offer nor can they bring any prayer book or papers.  

Anyhow, coming back to our visit, there is heavy security with checking at about 5 points. The army is everywhere with uniform and guns. We pass through a maze of caged passages. My thought went  back to my 

visit to
 Mathura - wasnt it strange that at  the place where the Lord was born free as a prince, we were coming to see him in cages. And in Mathura where he was born in a prison with his parents chained and caged, we visited him as princes. Right royally! Back at Ayodhya, we were even told not to make noise - but as we chanted his bhajans in low voices, the guard outside the cage asked us why were not singing loudly. When we told hm that we were told to not make noise, he told us, "Who can stop you from chanting His name? What are you afraid of? Sing loudly!!"  Overjoyed, we all sang His name loudly and a nama fever set into the line as the tempo picked up! After a long winding walk through caged paths, we finally reach the sanctum. Despite the tents, security, guns and the grilled fences, when we reached the exact spot, it was an emotional moment. All of us were loudly singing bhajans and namavali of the Lord. When we reached the sanctum, we were asked to move on but not rushed at that point -  I  stood there tearfuly, imagining Dasaratha and Kausalya  and their joy in holding in their arms the much awaited  son born to them after 60,000 years. I strained to see the idol of the Lord through my tears - It was black and quite small. And before I knew it , we were past the sanctum. We began our walk back and all along to our surprise we found the gaurds very encouraging and friendly. One of them even showed us the well from which sita drew water. He was a tamilian ; another smiled at us and responded as he was a malayali. Just steping on that exact soil where Rama was born made me very emotional. The Lord took all this trouble and pain in a life time to come down from His comfort just for us!!!? How much He cares and how eager He is to bring us into His fold! As I looked back on the tarpaulin sheets, I also felt a twinge of agony that thanks to our small measly egos, the Lord has been sitting under a tarpaulin sheet imprisoned away from his devotees, exposed to the very elements that He has created. I came out of the Ramjanmabhoomi enclosure preoccupied and sad. 

Hanuman Gaddi

We came out of the rama Janma Bhoomi and made our way to Hanuman Gaddi. This is a very  old temple on top of a small hillock. It’s a small but cute. We have to climb steep steps. The Hanuman here is supposed to be very powerful and it is one of the important temples in Ayodhya

Dasharath Bhavan

We walked for a late afternoon upanyasam at Dasharath Bhavan. This is quite close to Hanuman Gaddi. This temple was originally the Durbar for Raja Dasarath.  This is where  the children were brought along with their newly wedded wives.  It has a beautiful sannadhi with all the 4 kids and their wives. The late afternoon aarati is an elaborate affair with bhajans. We all joined in with our own songs and nama sankirtan. 

Lakshman ghat

The visit to this place happened around late afternoon. It was a beautiful ghat on the banks of Sarayu, with a small temple for Rama Lakshmana & Sita on the top. The Sarayu flows here with full force  and but is peaceful. It looks as if it is catching the sad mood of the moment when at this very place, Lakshmana entered the Sarayu to go to Vaikuntham.. He must have been so sad to leave Rama behind; he had never in his life ever been separated from Him. The Ramayana mentions that when the princes were born and put into separate cradles, lakshmana cried all the time till he was put in the same cradle as Rama. Such was his closeness. Imagine the  pain he would have felt when Rama asked him to stay away from him, since that is equal to death for Lakshmana! The visit to this ghat made me pensive yet gave a sense that I was experiencing the finishing line of the Ramayana.

Guptar ghat

This is one of the most important temples at Ayodhya on the banks of Sarayu. The Sarayu is very expansive here and seems almost like ganges. Except that  she is a lot more serene and calm. There is majesty to her here that I didn't experience at any other ghat of Sarayu. Probably because it signifies the exact place that Rama discarded all his robes, took on maravoli and sent every single soul in ayodhya to vaikuntam. He then followed all of them, himself . So desolate was the city that Luv & Kush  had to bring people from outside to re establish ayodhya as a city. The beautifully mesmerising sunset at the ghat, added to the whole melancholy of the moment. 
On the banks of such a beautiful  ghat, is a majestic temple of Rama. The temple houses beautiful images of Rama with Sita with many saligrama murthies. The sanctum is on a huge marble platform. With large steps in front of the sanctum, leading to a huge marble courtyard, the place has a tremendous sense of space and peace. 

Kanaka Bhavan
This was the last stop for the day. In the days of Rama, this was a palace made completely of gold. They say here, that it is the palace that Dasaratha built for Sita and Rama soon after their wedding.  It was their Antahapuram -private chanmbers so to say. Today only the main mandapam is made of gold. It houses 4 pairs of rama-sita.  It is clearly visible even from the main entrance as we enter the temple. In order to reach the mandapam, however, one has to walk across  a beautifully engraved, very large marble courtyard. The sense of space is immense and a stillness enters the soul as we move towards the mandapa; this, despite the noise and hub of people milling around the courtyard. The deities are beautifully decorated and it is hard to take your eyes off them.    
What is even more endearing is the cute hanuman. He looks tucked into his dress and hands that bless. The mandapam has in its middle a small mandapam with rama’s foot print in marble.

Hanuman Bagh

This is a dharamashala with a lovely Hanuman sannidhi, tucked away in one of the by lanes. It is also the place where the  food was served on both days. There is a beautiful Hanuman seated here. A huge courtyard with a huge marble hall came in very handy for meals. There was also a sense of peace in the place that wanted one to stay with the plate a little longer. 

Day 4

Vashisht kund

The day started with a visit to the Vashisht Kund. This  is a beautiful temple which signifies the place where the 4 princes came to do gurukula vasam. That is,  the 4 princes stayed here, at the Vashisht hermitage, to study. In fact so did all the kings before rama.  The temple has lovely images of Vasishisht and young Rama and his brothers which are almost life like. Looking at them one can actually imagine the 4 princes sitting around their Guru and learning. They look so eager to get on with their learning. At the basement of the main sannidhi are multiple sannadhis of Saptarishi, Vasisht with his wife Arundhathi, Bhuma devi as a cow, Hanuman, etc. When you come out of this undergorund sannadhi into an open courtyard, there are steps that go further down to  a water tank. The miracle is that the water level in this tank changes with the water inflow into the  Sarayu. There is no direct visible connection to the river yet the tank is influenced by how much water the Sarayu carries. This small tank which can be seen from the top.  It is a very serene and calm place. 

Valmiki Bhavan

Though we saw Valmiki Ashram at Bittoor, according to the Uttara Kanda of Ramayana, when Rama was done with listening to Luv and Kush singing teh Ramayana, he wanted to honour their Guru who had taught them all this. So he asked them to bring their Guru to the court; which they did in a very short time. It seems to indicate that Valmiki must haev moved in closer to Ayodhya in order to be with teh boys  and hence there is valmiki’s ashram near the erstwhile ayodhya which now is in the heart of the city. 

The temple is magnificient marble structure. It is beautifully engraved with paintings on marble. It also has all the 24000 slokas of valmiki Ramayana etched in marble on the walls. The entire temple is a large hall with pillars with the slokas just surrounding you. Its like the Ramayana has come to life with its author standing majestically in the centre with the 2 lovely cherubic boys Luv & Kush. Its an amazing sight - almost as if the boys have just returned triumphantly with their Guru to present before Rama! 

Ammaji Mandir

A strange sight! A sense of home! A beautiful small south indian styled temple, right in the middle of Ayodhya! It was unbleievable! This temple, close to Sarayu,  is more than a 100 years old; it was constructed by  Yogi Sri Parthasarathy Ayyangar at the very spot where the Ikshavaku kings had the Ranganatha shrine . He was a great scholar on theology, traditions etc. The main shrine he constructed was that of Sri sita, Rama with Lakshmana. There are also separate shrines for Sri Ranganatha, Hanuman, Sri Satagopa, Sri Ramanuja and Sri Manavala Mamunigal.  Sri Yogi soon created a trust by name Sri Sarasvathi Bhandar and donated all his wealth to the Trust for the purpose of maintaining this Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Even today, this temple is run on the income derived from the properties left over by the Yogi. 

It is said that Smt. Singaramma, the wife of Sri Yogi, had a dream of the Uthsava Vigrahas of Sri Rama and Seetha being buried in a dilapidated temple in the village of Thiruppullani(Dharbasayanam). When the couple went there they found the dilapidated temple as well as the Sri moorthys. With the permission of the King of Ramanathapuram they took the Vigrahas with them to Ayodhya and built a temple for Sri Rama. With  the passing away of Yogi within  a few years after moving into Ayodhyahis wife took up the responsibility of completing the temple and organizing 

Nithya Aradhanams, Uthsavams etc, the shrine itself is popularly known as AMMAJI MANDIR. There is also a stone inscription in the temple proclaiming the temple as SETHU RAMA MANDIR identifying its origins.

Vanamamalai jeeyar  

A bonus on the Ayodhya visit, was the darshan of Vanamamalai Jeer swamigal who was on a chathurmasa vratham at Ayodhya. He was quite unwell, yet he took the time off to bless all of us and give us mantrakshadai. He also gave a discourse on the importance of Ayodhya and its mahima. The archakas had also given us a feast for our eyes by creating a beautful visual of Ram-Lala with Kausalya.    

This ended the Ayodhya visit. We got ready to 

move on to  Nandigram.

For photos of Ayodhya in  Rama Anu Yatra click on