‘Chitra’ means beautiful as a painting and ‘Koot’ means mountain. Chitrakoot is a tranquil pilgrimage place and considered as the abode of gods. With its sylvan surroundings, for me it is a place that is beautiful yet astounding with innumerable temples dedicated to Ancient Hindu Gods that hold very important mythological connections. All these help one trace back the steps of the Divine presence on this land.
It was here that the great sages Atri Muni, Rishi Agastya and Sage Sharbhanga choose to meditate and gained extraordinary divine powers. On the other side the forests of Chitrakoot and Dandakaranya were also home to demons (Rakshasa) and where brothers of Rava (the demon King) also lived. And it was here that Viragh, a demon tried to stop Lord Ram’s path but was killed and got freed from his curse in return.
Lying on the edge of the Vindhyachal Ranges along the bank of Mandakini river, Chitrakoot is where the Epic ‘Ramayana’ was retold by Sage Tulsidas. He is also considered to be the composer of the Hanuman Chalisa. Chitrakoot is also the place where Ram, Sita and Laskhman are believed to have spent more than 11 years out of their 14 year long exile (Vanvaas) period. Legend also states that this is the scared place where Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh took most of their incarnations and hence the place holds great religious importance in all the Ancient Vedas.
|| Chitrakoot Ke Ghaat Par, Bhai Santan Kee Bheer Tulseedaas Chandan Ghisen, Tilak Det Raghubeer ||
“…Amidst the large crowd of holy men in Chitrakut, while Tulsidas grinds the sandalwood to turn it into paste, Raghubeer (Lord Ram) appeared before him asking the paste to be smeared on his forehead…”
Located along the Mandakini River, Chitrakoot has been a special destination for me and I have been lucky to visit this sacred place and have spend few weeks here as my Dad was posted here as part of his deputation at NCC (National Cadet Camps) before he moved on to Rewa, another historical town in Madhya Pradesh.
Yes that was a couple of years back and a lot has changed in terms of geography, its people and the city has rapidly adapted the modern world. But Chitrakoot still has a kind of magical fascination for those who visit it and the place somewhat still holds something secretive within. So let’s try to explore Chitrakoot.
Please Note: Mandakini Ganga in Chitrakoot is not to be confused with Mandakini, a tributary of Ganga on the Kedarnath and Chopta route in the Himalayas. As legend goes, here at Chitrakoot, Maa Sati Anusuya had asked Ganga to come as ‘Mandakini’ to save the village from drought.
Places of Interest In and Around Chitrakoot
Ram Ghat: This is the first place to be visited as it is considered holy and sacred with thousands of pilgrims and tourist coming here every year to take a holy dip in the waters of River Mandakini.
The evening Aarti is a mesmerizing experience with earthen diyas floating in the calm waters and holy chants filling up the air.
Mattagajendreshwar Temple at Ram Ghat is also a must visit as this is the place where Lord Brahma offered penance in the Satyug and founded a Shivlinga. Lord Rama visited thisd place many decades later and did Rudrabhishek here after bathing here in the River Payaswini.
You must take a boat ride that takes you along the other ghats and visit the Raghav-Prayag ghat, where a confluence of the Mandakini, Payaswini, and Gayatra (or Savitri) Rivers happens, but not visible to the eyes! There’s also a separate Janki Kund (where Sita bathed) and a Lakshman Ghat.
Ram Ghat is also popular for offering Pitra Puja or Pitra Tarpan which is performed to offer and get blessings from our ancestors. Lord Rama performed Pitra Tarpan here for his father King Dasaratha and since then Ram Ghat has been frequently visited for the same.
Source of River Mandakini: approx. 50 kms from Ram Ghat, there is an ancient gorge, which is believed to have been the original source of River Mandakini.
Kamad Giri Hill: It is after the holy dip at Ram Ghat that the pilgrims go for the Parikrama (or circumambulate the hill) of the Kamad Giri Hill, located kms.
The Parikrama starts with first seeking blessings from Lord Kamtanath at the temple devoted to him.
The word ‘Kamad Giri’ in the Sanskrit language means ‘a mountain hill that fulfills desires and wishes’. So people of all caste and community come over here to seek blessings from the sacred hill and go through the entire Parikrama (approx. 5 Kms) by different ways. While most prefer to walk barefoot, there are many who cover this long stretch of 5 kms by rolling their body on the ground or even measuring their own body to cover the land. The entire route is quite well made and smooth, so the journey is comfortable and can be completed within 1.5 hours.
Here I’d like to mention that the place has plenty of monkeys who follow you and can snatch away belongings in a fraction of seconds (I remember a camera, food packet and even fruits vanish!) so need to be very careful and leave everything back in your hotel rooms or cars.
IMPORTANT: Please carry enough food to feed monkeys as they are going to be everywhere!
Along the entire route there are numerous temples and shrines, mostly dedicated to the local deities and few important ones which may be visited.
Visit ‘Bharat Milap Mandir‘ where it is believed that Bharat had met his elder brothers Ram and Lakshman after performing his father’s Lord Dasharatha’s last rites and had asked Ram to return back to Ayodhya to take over the rightful throne. But Lord Ram asked him to return back and let him continue the exile period.
There are evident footprints of Lord Ram and his brothers here that are worshiped.
Sati Anusuya Ashram: It was here that Sage Atri Muni, his wife Sati Anusuya with their three sons, who were the three incarnations of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva lived and meditated. It is approx 16 kms from the main town of Chitrakoot and the Ashram is set amidst a dense forest located along the river Mandakini.
Lord Ram, Sita and Laskhman had first visited the Ashram of Sage Atri Muni and Sati Anusuya, who then guided them to spend few years at Chitrakoot but stay guarded towards the Demons that lived there and at Dandkaranya.
Sati Anasuya is the wife of the Sage Atri Muni , who is one of the Sapta Rishis. She is said to be the most chaste among women and is one of the many daughters of Daksha. It was Maa Sati Anusuya who explained Sita the importance of Satitva and blessed Sita for having courage for the exile and also gave her a sari, which would never fade or get dirty and an ointment that made her stay beautiful for years!
There’s also a small museum here which has some beautiful painting work and few articles which were used for cooking and other household work. According to Veda’s it is here that River Mandakini first originated although the ancient gorge maybe the first source, that is located near Ram Ghat. The ancient ashram of Rishi Atri is above the temple. Please note that Maa Sati Anusuya and Atri Muni with one of their trinity sons ‘Dattreya’ also lived in the upper Northern Himalayan hills at Gopeshwar near Chamoli, Uttarakhand for a few years.
It was Atri Muni who guided Lord Ram towards the Dandkaranya Forest, the biggest forest in ancient India. (Dandak Forest refers to the abode of the demon Dandak as mentioned in the Ramayana and today includes parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh states with a a total dimension of more than 320 kms!)
Gupt Godavari: It is located at a distance of 8 kms from Sati Anusuya Ashram and has 2 caves dating back over 100,000 years back! I remember this place for its unique ancient appeal.
While walking inside the cave, you are walking in water which keeps increasing and literally reaches your back. At the end of the caves, there is a throne like rock, where Ram and Lakshman might have lived or performed some kind of holy rites.
Another attraction is the Panchmukhi Shiva idol located just outside the cave area.
Legend believes that the water is a stream of River Godavari that had come here to witness Lord Ram and Maa Sita and then just vanished beyond the caves. (The original source of River Godavari is at Trimbakeshwar at Nashik, Maharastra.) The mystery of Gupt Godavari is still something that is still not resolved……
Another thing I remember seeing was a massive black rock in the middle of the cave and our guide mentioned that this was actually the dead remains of a Demon ‘Mayanka’ which first tried to harm and abduct Sita. Lakshman knew this and killed him and as he tried to flew and got stuck between the walls of the caves! It makes quite a fascinating sight. Trust me.
Janaki Kund: is a serene calm place located near a river bank and it is here that Maa Sita bathed and spend some quite time. Janaki Kund is as sacred as Ram Ghat and many come here to offers their blessings.
Spattik Shilla: The place is visited for a huge boulder (reddish white in color) called ‘Spattik Shilla’ and is located on the banks of River Mandakini.
According to legend it is here the Lord Ram and Sita usually sat to talk and spend some quite moments together.
People believe the huge foot like prints belong to them and hence offer thier blessings here. As for me, yes I remember seeing the footprints but they were definitely quite big for a man’s foot! This place is about 1 km from Janaki Kund.
Hanuman Dhara: Now this is one place I’ll never forget because of the fun my family had climbing up over 600 odd stairs leading to a temple in the upper hill that is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Interestingly this is also the only place in the entire region where Langurs were found instead of the usual red-faced monkeys! The temple has a small waterfall and a kund made by Lord Ram’s bow on request of Lord Hanuman. It is here that legend states that Lord Hanuman came right after alighting fire at Lanka and asked Lord Ram to put off the fire. It was these water which relieved him of his hardships.
The Temple has a beautiful idol of Lord Hanuman and as the spring water falls directly on the idol it creates a kund making it look surreal.
I remember the place so clearly and the Langurs made is so interesting. The climb was not at all treacherous and it offered lovely views of the surrounding hills and green valleys. There is Narsingh dhara, panchmukhi hanuman mandir, under hanuman dhara. There’s also a ‘Sita Rasoi‘ which then had an old stone mould which may have been used for cooking or grinding.
Bharat Koop: This place is situated at a village called Bharatpur and is about 30 kms from Ram Ghat. Here there is an ancient well that may look filthy and dirty but has crystal clear water. Not sure about the condition now but 20 years back my mom got few bottles of the water and they still look and taste as clear and hygienic it did then!
So this place is basically the area where Bharat had camped when he came down to persuade Lord Ram to return back to Ayodhya and got waters from all the sacred Rivers of India to bathe and take his brother’s blessing before returning back.
Ram Darshan Mandir: showcases the many facets of the life led by Lord Rama and Sita in a Museum. Located amidst a garden, the place makes for a good visit.
Sharbhanga Ashram: is located some 30 kms from Chitrakoot and is situated right in the middle of a forested area. This place has been home to many who come here for meditation and achieve salvation. Legend goes that Lord Indra himself came down to take Sage Sharbhanga to Brahmlok, but as Lord Ram was visiting him in his Ashram, Sage Sharbhanga refused his invitation and mentioned that all his world is in Lord Ram’s feet, so he will himself come to Brahmalok after worshiping Lord Ram for a while and asked Lord Indra to return back. They say that Sage Sharbhanga had asked Lord Ram to free him and looking at Ram’s eyes, he used his divine powers to became a flame and returned back to Brahmalok and so achieved salvation.
What’s interesting here are the ancient ruins of a temple structure which has inscriptions which have still not been deciphered by historians and archaeologists. All they know is that the temple was demolished during the rein of Mughal Ruler – Aurangzeb. There is a Ganga Kund, a Shiva Temple and 108 small Yagna Kunds which are still used for performing rituals.
Shabari Fall: is located around 8 kms from a village called Markundi and is situated near Jamunihai village. This is believed to be the origin of the River Payaswini and has a beautiful waterfall with a huge reservoir known as Mandakini Kund.
Shabari Falls were a recent discovery by the District Magistrate of Chitrakoot, Mr. Jagannath Singh who happened to see it on one of his tours on July 31,1998. Not many know about this place except the nearby villagers and it is indeed a must visit.
See the original copy of Ayodhya Kand: at Rajapur you can get to see the handwritten copy of Ayodhya Kand for Ramcharitramanas written by Tulsidas ji himself.
Dharkudi: is another place of historical significance and is located 50 kms from Chitrakoot. It has natural sulphur springs that cure many illness and skin diseases.
The place has been mentioned in Mahabharata when Yudhistra was summoned by Daksha in relation to Bhima getting married to the demon queen Hadimba. I still have to research on this one…. so stay posted.
Situated in the middle of a forest and located on top of a hill the place offers a scenic view and soulful environment. The place has a Paramahansa Ashram, where devotees can stay and learn the art of meditation. Food offered is pure satvic and interestingly whatever the sages and gurus eat are procured directly form the forest vegetation and the ones they inside the premises of the ashram land. (Please note that a strict code of conduct and time table need to be followed to maintain the discipline of the ashram)
It will be nice to have more inputs on this religious place that’s really not much traveled but holds such important significance in history.
Accommodation Options at Chitrakoot
MPTDC Tourist Bungalow: The MPTDC (Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation runs a tourist bungalow in Chitrakoot that offers comfortable rooms for your stay in this holy city.
During my fathers posting, I too had a chance to make this place home for a while and it was really nice. You can even visit the River Mandakini that flows nearby and spend some relaxing time in the waters. Booking Links: MPTDC, Chitrakoot or visit Cleartrip Link HERE
Chitrakoot Rahi Tourist Bungalow (UPTDC): Chitrakoot lies in the border of UP and MP, so there’s also a Chitrakoot Rahi Tourist Bungalow by the Uttar Pradesh Tourism. For Bookings CLICK HERE
The Town of Chitrakoot may not have luxury hotels but offers decent stay options in all kinds of budgets and comfortable rooms are available starting from 300, 500 onwards. Here’s a List of Some Decent Hotels. Besides these the place has numerous dharamshala’s and guest house that cater to most of your daily needs with decent clean rooms.
Railways: Karvi Dham is the nearest Rail head for reaching Chitrakoot. Karvi Dham railway station is located at a distance of 8 kms from the main town of Chitrakoot and has number of transportation options to reach Chitrakoot or nearby places of interests.
Airport: Khajuraho is the nearest airport and is located at 185 kms from Chitrakoot. Another option is to reach Varanasi (260 Kms) and then travel by road to Chitrakoot.
Roadways: Chitrakoot is well connected to cities like Allahabad, Satna, Lucknow, Jhansi etc.
- Satna – 100 km
- Khajuraho – 200 km
- Allahabad – 150 km
- Bandhavgarh – 240 km
- Varanasi – 260 km
NOTE: Most of the images used have been sourced from Google, Flickr & TripAdvisor while some excerpts along with images are from a personal blog of Mr. Vishal Rathod – www.ghumakkar.com