The Encycloindia is an effort to make everyone well informed about India. When we talk about India, its culture is the most important aspect. The culture of India is incomplete without Lord Ram.
Ram resides in every particle of India. We know that he was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He had come to establish righteousness on earth. Lord Ram resides everywhere but there are places which are considered as the sacred places associated with Ram.
Let’s take a journey to those sacred places.
Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram. In Ramayana, Ayodhya was the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom. It is one of the seven most important pilgrimages sites for Hindus. This place saw the birth and childhood of Lord Ram. Ayodhya was the place who saw the love of brothers and also celebrated the return of Lord Ram after defeating the demon Ravana. This place was blessed enough to be ruled under Lord Ram.
In the mediaeval period, a temple at the birth spot of Ram was demolished by the Mughal emperor Babur, who built a mosque at the exact place. The later dispute led to the demolition of the Baburi Masjid (Mosque). After several years of judicial struggle, the land was transferred to Ram Bhakts to build a great temple and return the place to its former glory. On 5 August 2020, Prime Minister Of India, Narendra Modi, led the foundation of the temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Lord Ram is incomplete without Goddess Sita. So the journey of Ram is incomplete without the birthplace of Goddess Sita. In Ramayana it is stated that Goddess Sita was born from mother earth. She was the incarnation of goddess Laxmi, the wife of Lord Vishnu. Lord Ram entered in the swayamvar- a ritual of kings in which their daughters chose their husbands themselves. King Janak made a vow that whoever will hook the bowstring on Shiva’s bow, will be the only one capable of marrying Sita. Many powerful kings tried but no one was even capable of lifting the bow. At last Rama lifted the bow and tried to hook the bow string but Shiva’s bow broke. After that, Rama married Sita and took her to Ayodhya.
Today, Janakpur resides in Nepal, and in the middle of Janakpur resides the Janaki Temple. It is one of the biggest temples in Nepal. Just adjacent to it resides the Ram Sita Vivaah Mandir, which marks the event in which Rama and Sita were married.
The journey of Rama life cannot be completed until we reach the chapter of 14 years in exile. He went to 14 years in exile to keep his fathers promise. This is the quality of god, where a big and great kingdom is nothing more than a promise of a father. He left Ayodhya and left towards Chitrakoot to spend 14 years. Before that they reached the bank of River Ganga at Prayagraj. They met Nishadraj- The King of Fishermen and stayed at the place for sometime.
Lord Rama was offered by Nishadraj to rule his kingdom but Lord Rama refused as he had to spend his life in exile.
Prayag means “Place Of Purification”, is one of the most religious places in India. It hosts the largest religious gathering on the planet- “The MahaKumbh” at Triveni Sangam. It is considered as the holiest of all pilgrimages.
The Chitrakoot witnessed the love and respect of a younger brother to his elder brother. The place where Rama performed the last rites of his father Dashrath, who died after the departure of his beloved son Rama. In the epic Ramayana, when Bharata knew about the sudden death of his father, Dashrath and the evil plot of his mother, Kaikeyi to send Rama in 14 years of exile. So that Bharata can be the King of Kosala Kingdom. He immediately relinquished the throne and set out to meet Rama. He reached Chitrakoot and asked Rama to come back and take the throne of Ayodhya.
Rama refused his proposal and said that he will live in exile for 14 years as promised. Bharata took Rama’s “Charan Paduka” and returned to Ayodhya and he made a vow that until Rama returns to the kingdom he will lead the kingdom as his shadow. He also said to Rama that if he will be delayed even one second in returning to Ayodhya after 14 years he will self-immolate himself. This is what we call brotherhood. Bharata also lived his life in exile for 14 years outside the kingdom and refused to return to the kingdom where his brother was absent.
Chitrakoot was the home of many ancient Indian sages, including Atri Muni, Rishi Agatsya, and Sage Sarbhanga who meditated in the forest of Chitrakoot. The Word Chitrakoot means “Hills of Many Wonders”.
Dandakaranya was a cursed forest where deadly creatures like ghouls, goblins, demons, pisachas. It was also the home of many prominent sages and many ashrams were built there.
Dandakaranya was the place where Rama was residing with Mata Sita and Laxman. They moved from Chitrakoot to this dense forest. This forest was the place where they met Surpanakha- sister of Ravana. When Surpanakha saw Rama she immediately asked him to marry her but Rama refused her proposal as he was already married and vowed to never do a second marriage. She was filled with rage after the refusal, and tried to kill Sita, but Laxman saved Mata Sita and cut the nose of Surpanakha. She went to her brother after this disrespect. Ravana immediately sent his demons (Rakshas) to kill them but they were killed by Rama.
Ravana himself came to the forest and abducted Mata Sita through maya (illusion). After that Rama and Laxmana started searching for Sita and during that time they met Sabri, a devotee of Rama. They also visited a number of Ashrams, where they met Agatsya Muni who gave Rama 3 powerful weapons for his fight against Ravana.
The forest was the witness of the kidnapping of Mata Sita. Ravana took Mata Sita to his kingdom- Lanka, City of Gold.
The place is called panchvati because it is believed that there were 5 banyan trees (Vat Vriksh).
Panchvati was the place where Ram, Sita and Laxman resided. Panchvati was a part of Dandakaranya where Rama met Surpanakha and refused her marriage proposal. This site witnessed the kidnapping of Mata Sita. This site witnessed the glory of Jatayu, who died trying to stop Ravana from this evil deed. Jatayu fell on rocks when Ravana cut off his wings and died after narrating the whole incident to Rama and Laxman.
There is a temple named Sundarnarayan in Panchvati. The temple has three black coloured statues of Lord Narayana in the centre and Laxmi around it. The speciality of the temple is that on every March 20 or 21, the rays of sun fall on the feet of the statues.
There is a Sita cave too where the statues of Lord Rama, Laxman and Sita are kept. It is believed that Mata Sita stayed in the cave while passing through Dandakaranya kshetra.
Rishyamukha Hills witnessed the meeting when a devotee met his God. This holy place was the place where Lord Rama met his biggest and greatest devotee Lord Hanuman.
After Ravana kidnapped Sita and took her to Lanka. Rama and Laxman started a journey to find Sita. On their journey they reached Rishyamukha mountain, Hanuman disguised himself as a monk but Lord Rama identified him. Hanuman took Rama to meet Sugriva- the king living in exile. Sugriva told them that he saw a Rakshas (Demon) taking a woman and flying through the skies in his flying chariot. Lord Rama befriended Sugriva and asked him the reason for his life in exile. Sugriva told him all the story of how his brother Bali enslaved Sugriva’s wife and chased him away to this mountain.
Lord Rama promised to Sugriva that he will help him in getting his position back in Kishkindha.
The kingdom ruled by King Bali was Kishkindha. Bali was a very powerful king, who had a boon (Vardaan) that whoever would come to fight him, half of his opponents power would automatically be absorbed by Bali. This blessing made him undefeatable, in a part it is also written that Bali defeated Ravana in the fight and grabbed his neck in his arms for 6 months.
Rama advised Sugriva to fight Bali and also said that he will kill Bali by the arrow from the bushes. Sugriva did the same but Rama didn’t attack Bali during the fight and Sugriva had to flee from Bali. When he asked Ram about it, he said it was difficult for him to know who Bali was in the battle as they both are identical. Rama advised him to wear a garland in his next fight so that he could tell the difference. After that Rama killed Bali from the bushes.
But do you know why Rama killed Bali instead of befriending him ?
Rama was Maryada Purushottam and was incarnated to defeat evil. The evil deeds of Bali took his life, he enslaved his own sister-in-law and tried to kill his brother for the throne.
But he was lucky enough to get salvation from the hands of god.
Rameshwaram was the place where Rama built Ramsetu across the sea to Lanka. After Hanuman confirms the locations of Mata Sita, a problem arises: How will the army march towards Lanka ? The whole distance is covered with sea water. Then Rama built the Rama setu with the help of his army of Vanars. When the Ramsetu was completed, Rama’s army marched towards Lanka. After a fierce battle between the armies, Ravana was annihilated by the hands of Rama. Goddess Sita went back to Lord Rama with full dignity and respect and her wait was over. When they returned back to the seashore, Rama established a Jyotirlinga to worship Lord Shiva and named it Rameshwaram. Rama told the meaning of Rameshwaram to be,“ Rama ke Ishwar”. Rama took the “Pushpak viman” (Flying Chariot) of Ravana to get back to Ayodhya.
The place which witnessed the sadness of Mata Sita was Ashok Vatika. Ravana kidnapped Sita but he was unable to break her will on Rama. She was determined that Lord Ram will come to save her. She refused to live in the castle made of gold, and refused to marry him. Ravana was furious, he sent his demons, his wife Mandodari to convince her but she never even looked at them. Vishwakarma himself made Ashok Vatika- a garden located in the kingdom of Lanka.
Ashok Vatika witnessed the first meeting of Lord Hanuman and Goddess Sita in Sundara Kanda. In Sundara Kanda, it is written that Lord Hanuman destroyed Ashok Vatika to eat fruits, and wreaked havoc on the whole place. He defeated many Rakshas (Demons) serving Ravana. After that he burnt down Lanka when Ravana set fire on the tale of Lord Hanuman.
The place that witnessed the birth of the new generation of Raghukul was Valmiki Ashram. After Rama, Sita and Laxman reached Ayodhya, Rama was crowned as the king of Ayodhya.
During Ram Rajya, a washerman berated his wife saying that he is not like Rama who took his wife even when she stayed a long time in the presence of another man. As a king, Rama had to satisfy his people so with a heavy heart he sent Mata Sita in another exile. He ordered his younger brother to send Sita in the forest outside Ayodhya. Sita reached Valmiki Ashram where she was given a place to live. She gave birth to twins named Luv and Kush. Valmiki Ashram was the place where the future of Raghukul spent their childhood, gaining knowledge from Bhagwaan Valmiki.
They both tried to unite their parents but at the end Mata Sita went back to Mother Earth from where she was originated.