Holy Places

Guruvayur | Manikarnika Ghat | Udupi | Holy Places In Ramayana

Guruvayur: Where Heaven Meets Earth
Jagatguru Swami (BTG January '86)

Many factors contribute to the popularity of India's major temples. Sri Rangam, situated on the Kaveri River, is popular because of its antiquity. Badarinatha, high in the Himalayas, is famous for its geographical location. Konark, the sun temple in Orissa, is known for its unique architecture, and Vyenkatesvara, in the South Indian hill town of Tirumala, owes much of its fame to the Deity's reputation for fulfilling the requests of His worshipers. All these factors combine at Guruvayur, in the South Indian state of Kerala. Guruvayur is one of the most enchanting and glorious temples in all of India.

There are no movie theaters in the town of Guruvayur. No liquor stores nor night clubs. Guruvayur is a holy city, where people come to make spiritual advancement. In an atmosphere of devotion to Krsna, visitors immediately feel they have risen above this earthly world to the divine. Appropriately, Guruvayur is known as Bhuloka Vaikuntha: "where heaven meets earth."

A visit to Guruvayur, though common to devotees in India, is something very few Westerners have experienced. To witness the thousands of devoted pilgrims who come to worship Krsna every day is astounding. The faith of the pilgrims who visit Guruvayur is expressed in their earnest and sincere faces as they enter the temple. While sitting in the large open-air corridor outside the Deity's chamber, pilgrims hear priests tell about the many miracles performed at Guruvayur. With palms joined in awe and reverence, the devotees pray that they too might receive the blessings of Lord Krsna.

The temple schedule begins at 3 AM with darsana (seeing the Deity), followed by abhiseka (bathing the Deity) and continues until 10 PM, when the Deity takes rest for the night. Throughout the day the elaborate worship of the Deity of Lord Krsna engages the temple priests and thousands of visitors in activities of Krsna consciousness. Accompanied by music and singing, the devotees daily offer hundreds of vegetarian dishes, colorful silks and other items of opulent clothing, jeweled ornaments, garlands of flowers, and even elephants as gifts to the Deity.

During the mid-morning hours many wedding ceremonies take place, one after another. Devoted couples, believing that being married at the Guruvayur temple is a great blessing, come here from all over South India.

In the evening, varieties of classical dance, such as Bharata-natyam and Kathakali, are performed for the public. The dancers combine dance and drama to depict the pastimes of Lord Krsna. These dance traditions have existed in South India for thousands of years, and no temple function is complete without them.

The evening also brings the main event of the day: a Deity procession led by jewel and gold bedecked elephants. The beauty of the Deity and the grandeur of the elephants draws thousands of pilgrims to witness the procession each evening. Before the arrival of the Deity, elaborate preparations are made. Then, as the enthusiastic crowd stands expectant, a devotee blows three blasts on a conchshell. The priests quickly emerge from the Deity's chamber bearing Lord Krsna on a golden throne, which is placed on the lead elephant. Surrounded by priests bearing multicolored umbrellas and varieties of fans, by musicians playing drums, cymbals, gongs, and trumpets, and by exuberant devotees chanting the names of the Lord, the Deity is carried around the temple compound, now illuminated by ten thousand oil lamps.

After about one hour, with the circumambulation completed, the elephants return to the starting point and stand motionless while the Deity is removed from the golden throne and returned to His chamber. It is now 10 PM and the temple closes for the night.

Because the elephant procession is held every night of the year, the Guruvayur temple owns an elephant ranch, where thirty-six elephants are trained to perform ceremonial functions. In the history of the temple several elephants stand out as special. One of the most famous was Kesava, also known as Gajaraja, or "king of the elephants."

Kesava's unique devotion for his service at Guruvayur will not soon be forgotten. When Kesava became the leading elephant in the temple herd, he would no longer tolerate another elephant's carrying the Deity. Once, when another elephant was selected to carry the Deity in procession, Kesava became so disturbed that he attacked the other elephant and chased him away. Whenever Kesava was to carry the Deity, he would demonstrate his great eagerness to perform his service by pulling at the chains bound his feet.

For more than fifty years Kesava served Lord Krsna at Guruvayur. During one festival, however, he became ill, just at the time of the Deity procession. His huge body began to tremble, and he was removed from the procession and taken to a nearby stable, where he fasted throughout the night. The next evening when the conchshell blew to announce the appearance of the Deity, Kesava bowed before the temple, and amid thousands of devotees chanting and playing on musical instruments, his soul departed from his body to attain the eternal realm of Vaikuntha.

When pilgrims arrive at Guruvayur, they are reminded of Kesava by his tusks and portrait displayed above the main entrance to the Deity chamber. And throughout the city many shops sell colorful paintings of Kesava.

At Guruvayur, whether on the days of great festivals or in the moments before the evening procession, when then thousand oil lamps are being lit, or while hearing about Kesava, the king of the elephants, the pilgrim naturally feels a growing desire to glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna.

Manikarnika Ghat

Seeing all the miseries of mankind, Lord Siva, the eternally compassionate one, cried tears of supreme sorrow. Rudra decided to perform penance and ask Lord Vishnu how to help the helpless of this world. Lord Madhava is the only one who can grant liberation - hence Rudra decided to call upon Him to find an answer for the liberation of all the souls of this world.

So fierce was the penance of Lord Siva that Lord Narayana came in person to grant a boon to Isvara. The Lord of Vaikuntha asked Lord Siva to open His eyes, desist from this penance and ask for any boon he desired. Seeing the Lord before him, Siva bowed and asked for but one thing, "Please grant an easy route for salvation to all the creatures of this world. Their sorrows, caused by ceaseless cycles of birth, death and karmic entanglements this incurs, grieves me much. Please find an easy, fool-proof route so that they may be liberated with ease from this cycle of constant rebirths."

Smiling His charming smile, Lord Hiranyagarbha said, "Thou art the most compassionate being in this universe. It behooves you to think thus. This sacred land where you have performed such severe penance for the good of the world is so hallowed by your association that from this day forth, anyone who comes here, will attain liberation. This I grant for your sake and give you exclusive powers to liberate all creatures who come to you here."

Knowing the capricious nature of souls enmeshed in the quagmire of samsara Lord Siva desired to extend the terms of the boon. "Lord, please grant such a boon so that even if the creature that comes here is dead, their soul should attain liberation."

Moved by Rudra's infinite compassion, the Lord Kesava shook His head in admiration and said, "Thou art compassion incarnate. I will grant you a boon so that anyone who comes here, dead or alive, will attain your grace. Even if a creature dies here; or is cremated here, having died elsewhere; thou hast the power to grant them liberation." When the Lord shook His head in admiration for Pasupatinath's compassion for all jivas, one of His gem-encrusted earrings fell to the ground, near the kund (pond/ lake) where Lord Siva was meditating. The hallowed spot where Lord Siva performed his penance and where the Lord's jeweled earring fell, is the current Manikarnika ghat (mani = jewel, karnika = earring, ghat = bathing place).

Later, when the heavenly river Ganges descended to the earth and purified the souls of Sagar's sons, She decided to pay homage to Lord Visvanath's penance and came to flow past this spot, transforming the ghat of a small kund (pond, lake) into a ghat (bathing steps) on its own mighty banks.

From time immemorial, the burning ghat at Manikarnika in Varanasi have attracted those seeking salvation. At a time when travel was neigh impossible and pilgrimage across the vast subcontinent a major achievement of its own, people used to commit ritual suicide at this ghat so that they may die and be liberated. In those days, travel was a dangerous adventure and having once achieved the goal of reaching Kasi, some visitors felt that it was best to seek salvation here and now, rather than risk being killed by bandits on the way back, or dying of illness back home.

Currently, this is the busiest burning ghat at Kasi, and indeed probably the whole world. As a result, most corpses do not get enough time to burn properly and are often unceremoniously dumped half burnt into the sacred river. A constant stream of corpses come to this ghat to be burnt, day and night. Between this and the Hariscandra ghat, the other famous burning ghat in Kasi, the holy city hums with its own eternal life.

Udupi

When the time comes to go on a pilgrimage to the places of intense interest for Madhvas, Udupi is the place to use as home base. There are seven famous centres of pilgrimage in the North and South Kanara districts known as Tulunad.

raupyapiiTham kumaaraadriH kumbhaasii cha dhvajeshvaraH kruuDagokarNamuukaambaaH saptaitaa mokshadaayikaaH

raupya piiTha (Udupi), kumaaraadri (Subrahmanya), kumbhaasi (Kumbhasi), dhvajeshvara (Koteswar), kruuDa (Shankaranarayana), gokarNa (Gokarna) and muukaambaa (Kollur) are the seven givers-of-mukti (holy places).

From Gokarna in the north of Tulunad to Subrahmanya in the south is a distance of some 200 miles. Gokarna is in North Kanara while Udupi, Subrahmanya, Kumbhasi, Koteswar, Shankaranarayana and Kollur are in South Kanara. Gokarna is in the region of one hundred miles to the north of Udupi and Subrahmanya approximately one hundred miles to the south.

The meaning and origin of the word `Udupi':

Udupi is known as oDipu in the Tulu language. Narayana Panditacharya in his notes called Bhaava Prakasha on the Sumadhva Vijaya records thus:

rajatapiiThapurasya oDipu ityapabhrashhTa saMGYaa

The modern name Udupi must have developed from this ancient folk name.

A different etymology is provided by certain other scholars, but there is not too much credence given to it. According to them the original Sanskrit name is derived from uDupa (uDu 'star' + pa 'lord') - lord of the stars, namely, the moon. Udupi then refers to Shiva, who bears the moon on his head. Since there is the ancient temple of Chandramaulishvara in Udupi, the place may have been known by the name Udupi, after its ancient deity.

It is quite evident that this idea developed very recently. The author of the Sumadhva Vijaya opines that the word is of Tulu origin. The word `Udupi' also does not seem to have been associated with Shiva anywhere else in the Sanskrit literature.

Even if the word is to be considered to be originating from a Sanskrit root, one can provide a better explanation and etymology. `Udupi' also means boat or raft in Sanskrit:

uDupaM tu plavaH kolaH

The word `Udupi' can then mean a place to which Lord Krishna came (from Dwaarakaa) by boat.

The Tulu word oDipu can also be associated with a more or less similar meaning. There is a temple at Malpe which is known as oDabhaaNDiishvara. There appears to be some kind of relationship between the words oDabhaaNDa and oDipu. Its Kannada version is `Udupa'. The root element of all these words is oDepu, meaning "cracking," or "breaking." Until the secret of this word is cracked, the origin of the modern word Udupi will remain shrouded in mystery.

This temple at Malpe is well worth a visit and appears to be of great vintage. It is only a short distance to the beach from the temple and so it is possible to walk to where Sri Madhva saved the ship carrying the icon of Sri Krishna from being wrecked during a storm.

The beach itself is quite pleasant to walk along. At one time cargo ships that had been decommissioned were drawn up on the beach and cut up for scrap. This was some distance to the south but was very interesting to watch.

Shivaruupya - Shivalli

The original name of the village of Udupi is Shivalli. Later on an attempt was made to Sanskritize this name into Shivaruupya because Shiva dwelt there. The author of the (Su)Madhva Vijaya refers to this name:

vedaadrisad.h rajatapiiThapureshvaraabhyaam.h
graamo vibhuushitataraH shivaruupyanaamaa

(S.V. II-10)

"The village stretching up to Indrali Hills in the East (present day Manipal) and presided over by Lord Ananteshvara is known as Shivaruupya."

There is a popular legend which tells us how this ancient village became Shiva's village in ancient times:

King Raamabhoja decided to perform a sacrifice and so began to plough the land in preparation. A serpent was hit by the plough and died on the spot. To atone for this sin the king constructed four shrines in the four corners of the village.

The four serpent shrines are known as muchchilkoDu, maangoDu, arikoDu and taangoDu. Actually these are Skanda shrines. About two miles to the South-East on the way to Alevoor is the muchchilkoDu shrine near KukkikaTTe. This shrine which is under the jurisdiction of Sri Pejawar Mutt has been renovated beautifully and the area looks like a peaceful hermitage. Another Skanda shrine is located at maangoDu about three miles to the South West of Udupi. This is also renovated nicely. About three miles to the North-East of Udupi by the side of Puttur temple on the National Highway is the arikoDu shrine. This is in very bad condition as the walls have collapsed. Also, there is no approach road.

The place known as taangoDu which is supposed to be in the North-East corner of the village has not yet been located. It needs to be identified and renovated. In the middle of the village King Raamabhoja worshiped Lord Parashuraama in the form of a Shivalinga on a silver seat. This temple is now known to us as Ananteshvara.

Ananteshvara

When Lord Vishnu took the incarnation of Parashuraama on this Earth he was "trained" by Shiva in the art of archery. To commemorate this student-teacher drama, Lord Vishnu wanted to get himself identified with the linga so that both the teacher and the student were worshiped simultaneously by the devotees. Sriman Narayana, reclining on a serpent, came down to this temple and stayed in the linga. This is a rather unusual incident and the concept of Ananteshvara came to vogue as a result of this.

Sri Vaadiraaja Tiirtha in his masterpiece Tiirtha Prabandha extols Ananteshvara in this way:

ivaantaryaamitaaM sviiyaaM priyaan.h prati nibodhayan.h
dayaavaarinidhiH shaiviiM shilaamaashritya shobhate
iiSasyaahiiSapadaviim bhaasayanniva bhaaviniim.h
adhyaaste sheshashayanaH snigdhaaM liN^gashilaam.h

(T. P. I.14-15)

'The Almighty Lord got himself merged in this Shivalinga to proclaim to the devotees that He rests in the soul of Shiva also. To prove this cosmic truth Vishnu rests in this Shivalinga.'

Before the birth of Sri Madhva, his father, Nadillaaya (a.k.a. Madhya-geha BhaTTa), had worshiped this Deity to beget a male child. It is believed that he used to pray to Lord Bhujangashayana enshrined in this idol. Narayana Pandita makes a reference to this in his commentary Bhaava Prakaashika on the Sumadhva Vijaya:

svadarshanoruvratine nishiite
praaptaaya bhogiindragato hariH prabhuH
svaM darshayitvaa khalu kuJNjamaadhava
dvijaaya tadvat.h pratimaaM vyadhaapayat.h

Even now the Deity is known as Ananteshvara, Anantaasana and Anantapadmanaabha. `Ananta' means the serpent Shesha. Hence Ananteshvara means the Lord Narayana reclining on a serpent. Ananta is also another name of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu enshrined in the Shivalinga came to be designated as Ananteshvara.

Ananteshvara was a famous temple and pilgrim centre of this region. It was also a centre of Vedantic philosophy and formed a suitable background for the advent of Sriman Madhvacharya.

It was because of this temple that the place was ranked as foremost among the seven centres of pilgrimage. One should not forget that the Nadillaya couple could beget an illustrious son who was destined to be the great Achaarya only because of their twelve years of worship at the foot of this Deity Bhujangashayana ("the one who reclines on a serpent"). Hence this temple has great historic significance.

Sri Madhva used to sit in the Ananteshvara temple and teach his disciples. Even today the place where he used to sit is considered to be a holy shrine. The plank where he used to sit is still there but there is no icon of Sri Madhva. At one time a beautiful icon had been prepared to be installed here, but when the time of installation came around, Sri Madhva appeared in a dream and ordered, 'Please do not put any stone on me,' thus indicating that he was always and already present there. To this day the stone icon is kept outside and the devotees offer worship to the seat itself.

This shrine is very difficult for the devotee to see. One is not allowed to enter inside the temple itself, and the only way to see this place is through a small window on the southern side of the outer enclosure of the temple.

The Ananteshvara temple is an amazing place. As one enters from the street, one can see the huge linga which is deep inside the temple and lit by oil lamps. Inside the temple, but closer to the front, there is a small icon of Ganapati. To come here and pay respects to Lord Ananteshvara is a very calming experience and it is very easy for the hours to simply slip by without one noticing it.

When you step back and take in the view at the temple you can only marvel at the huge slabs of granite which make up the roof. It is the largest temple in this region in both its shape and its historic significance.

Chandramaulishvara

To the east of the Ananteshvara temple stands a smaller temple wherein presides Shiva, known as Chandramaulishvara. Because the temple is a very ancient one, precious little is known about its history.

This temple of Chandramaulishvara is smaller than that of Ananteshvara. To enter this temple one has to descend steps. It appears that originally there must have been a tank in that place which was later filled up with mud and a temple built on top of the fill.

We read in the Madhva Vijaya that the temple was originally known as muuDu devaalaya (mahendra digaalaya). Since it was on the Eastern side of the chief temple Ananteshvara, it came to be referred to as the Eastern temple.

There is a special tradition the devotees participate in before entering the shrine of Lord Krishna. First they must visit Chandramaulishvara and then they go on to Ananteshvara. From there they proceed to Sri Krishna Mutt. Sri Vishvapati Tiirtha in his commentary on the Madhva Vijaya records this custom:

rajatapiiThapure amaraalayadvayaM vartate
tatra puurvaalayasthaH prathamato namyaH
pashchimaalayasthaH pashchaannamya iti
sampradaaya niyamaH

II.14

'There are two temples, the Eastern one and the Western one. One must first salute Lord Shiva at the Eastern temple and then go to Lord Ananteshvara in the Western temple. This is the custom followed here.'

Even now the Udupi ashhTa-maTha Swamijis visit the temple in this order before they ceremoniously take charge of the management of Sri Krishna Mutt during the paryaaya festival.

Holy Places In Ramayana
M.P. Bhattathiry

In Kerala Ramayana month begins on 1st karadakam (17th July 2003). In almost all Hindu families one will read the holy Ramayana and other members will listen. The climate during the period is almost rainy and many people will not have any work and it is also considered as a month for preventive treatment. Elaborate arrangements will be made in the temples to read Ramayana and preach the message.

The Ramayana (The Journey of Rama) belongs among the world's oldest literature. Cherished throughout India and Asia for millennia, it has been faithfully preserved and passed on in varied forms of popular expression - epic poems, folk tales, music, dance, drama, puppet shows, sculpture, painting and even films and comic books. Its story and characters have captured the hearts and minds of countless generations.

Despite its huge popularity in Eastern cultures and even though it is recognized by many Western scholars as a literary masterpiece, most people in the West have never heard of Ramayana.

The story of Lord Rama is both a spellbinding adventure and a work of profound philosophy, offering answers to life's deepest questions. It tells of another time when gods and heroes walked among us, facing supernatural forces of evil and guided by powerful mystics and sages.

Revered throughout the ages for it's moral and spiritual wisdom, it is a beautiful and uplifting tale of romance and high adventure, recounting the odyssey of Rama, a great king of ancient India. Rama, along with his beautiful wife, Sita, and faithful brother Laksmana, is exiled to the forest for fourteen years, where Sita is kidnapped by the powerful demon Ravana. Along with his brother Laksmana and a fantastic army of supernatural creatures, Rama embarks on a perilous quest to find his beloved Sita.

The Lord Himself says in Ramayana, "If one surrenders unto Me sincerely, saying, `My Lord, from this day I am fully surrendered unto You,' I always give him protection. That is My vow." Since the ultimate benefit of hearing the Ramayana is increased faith in Lord Rama, everyone will want to read this important book.

Ayodhya

Lord Rama was born and had many of His pastimes here. It is a very holy city and is an important pilgrimage site. It is said to have once had the perimeter of 96 miles and was the capital of Kosala. It is on the banks of the Gogra (Sarayu) River, bathing in which is supposed to destroy even the sin of killing a brahmana.

Rama Janmabhumi

At Rama Janmabhumi Lord Rama have taken birth. There is a small Lord Rama temple here. At this location there used to be the Babri Mosque, constructed in the 15th century by the Moghuls. The mosque was destroyed in 1992 and at the present time there are plans to build a grand Rama temple here.

Guptar Ghat

At Guptar Ghat there are some nice temples and nearby there is a nice park. Gupta means disappearance. It is said that Lord Rama disappeared at this spot. The three temples in the area are called Gupta Harji, Chakra Harji Visnu and the Raja Mandir. In the Cakra Harji Visnu temple there is an imprint of Lord Rama's feet.

Other Places to See

There are over 100 temples in Ayodhya. At Janma Sthana Lord Rama have been brought up.

There is a popular temple dedicated to Hanuman called Hanuman-gadhi. It is located right by the main road where the tempos from Faizabad stop. Kanak Bhavan, which is an interesting temple, and Kala Rama temple, by the river, have both Deities of Sita-Rama.

There is a nice area by the river surrounding Laksmana Ghat. Laksmana, the younger brother of Rama, is said to have bathed at Laksmana Ghat.

Vasistha Kund is a temple with a small round kund (pond) like a well.

Rama is said to have performed a yajna (sacrifice) at Treta Ka Mandir. There are Sita-Rama Deities in this temple.

Kausalya, the mother of Rama, is said to have established the Ksiresvara Natha temple for Sita.

Bharata Kund, at Nandigram, 20 km from Ayodhya, is the place where Bharata ruled while Rama was in exile for 14 years.

One half km north of Janmabhumi is Svarga Dvara or Rama Ghat, which is an important bathing ghat.

Ramesvaram

There are four dhamas - Badrinath, Jagannath Puri, Ramesvaram and Dvaraka. Ramesvaram is located at the southeastern end of the Indian Peninsula. Ramesvaram is on an island, which is the shape of a conch shell, in the Gulf of Mannar. The island is sanctified by the footprints of Lord Rama. It is said that Lord Rama bathed at Dhanushkodi, where the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean meet.

There is a major Lord Siva temple here called the Ramanathasvami temple. This name indicates that Lord Siva is a great personality, whose worshipable Deity is Lord Rama. This temple is very popular.

Temple Story

It is said that the Siva-linga in the the Ramanathasvami temple was installed by Sri Rama on His return to the mainland from the island of Lanka, after killing Ravana. Rama wanted to install a Siva-linga in Ramesvaram to absolve Himself of the sin of killing Ravana, who was a brahmana. Rama sent Hanuman to Mount Kailas to get the linga. Since Hanuman was late when the auspicious time for installation neared, Sita made a Siva-linga out of sand. This linga was then installed by Rama and is known as the Rama-linga, because it was installed by Lord Rama.

At the time Hanuman came with the Siva-linga from Mount Kailas, he was disappointed to find a linga already installed. Rama told Hanuman that he could remove the linga made by Sita and install the one He brought in its place. Hanuman took hold of the linga with his hands but could not move it. He then wrapped his tail around it and tried to pull the linga out, but it did not move. The linga is said to still have the marks of Hanuman's tail on it. To pacify Hanuman, Rama had the linga he brought, the Visva-linga, installed alongside the Rama-linga. He ordered that puja (worship) be performed first to the Visva-linga, which is still being done today.

Gandhamadhana Parvata

This two-story temple is on a small hilltop, about 2.5 km northwest of the Ramanathasvami Temple. There is a set of Lord Rama's footprints on a cakra here and the small Ramjharoka temple. There is a good view of the island from here. The place is called Vedaranyam. It is said that Hanuman made his great leap to Lanka from here.

Kothandaramsvami Temple

There are Deities of Sri Rama, Sita, Laksmana, Hanuman and Vibhisana here. It is said that Vibhisana, Ravana's brother, surrendered to Lord Rama at this place. A series of paintings inside the temple tells the story. In 1964 a cyclone wiped out everything in the surrounding area. The only thing left was the temple. It is located about 8 km from the southernmost tip of the island going toward Dhanushkodi.

Dhanushkodi

This is the place where the bay meets the ocean. Pilgrims are supposed to bathe in the small lagoon here called Ratnakara. This is a place to offer sraddha to the ancestors. It is especially auspicious to bathe here in May.

Dhanushkodi is about 20 km southeast of Ramesvaram. It is said that Lord Ramacandra destroyed a small bridge with His bow here due to the request of Vibhisana.

Darbha Sayanam and Adi Jagannatha Temple

At Darbha Sayanam (Tirupallani, Pullanranyam) Sri Rama observed penance, lying on darbha grass here for three days. It is said that Adi Jagannatha appeared before Him, gave him the weapon called Divya Chapa, and blessed Him with success.

5 km south of Darbha Sayanam at Adi Setu is the Adi Jagannatha Temple. The Deity of Sri Visnu here is in a reclining posture on Sesa Naga. It is said that King Dasaratha, the father of Rama, came here to pray for a child, when all his wives were childless. Hindu couples still visit this temple to pray for children. The place where Lord Rama built His bridge is not far from here.

It is said that at the coastal town of Devi Patnam (Navapasanam) Lord Rama put nine stones standing upright in the shallow bay. They are supposed to represent the nine planets that He worshiped for success.

Other Places

There are many pastime places connected with the Ramayana in the area. There is a temple near the bridge that you cross to enter Ramesvaram with a floating rock inside. When Lord Rama went to Lanka with the monkey army, they crossed the ocean on a bridge of floating rocks. Near this temple, close to the bridge, is Laksmana Tirtha and Rama Tirtha. Lord Rama is said to have bathed in these two tanks. Kodi Tirtha is supposed to be a spring that Lord Rama created by shooting an arrow into the ground. It is said that at Jata Tirtha, Sri Rama washed His hair to get rid of any sins that He might have incurred in the battle at Lanka.

Hampi (Vijayanagara)

Hampi was once the capital of the powerful Vijayanagar empire, which for two centuries was one of the most powerful empires in Indian history. Vijayanagara means "the city of victory". It was considered at one time greater than Rome and "the best provided city in the world". At its height half a million people lived in the city, and the Vijayanagara empire had an army of over one million.

At this place Lord Rama first met Hanuman. It is also said to be the spot where Parvati (known as Hampi) met and married Lord Siva.

Kiskindha

The town of Anegundi, about 5 km from Hampi, is situated on the north bank of the Tungabhadra River. Local people believe this to be the ancient place known as Kiskindha where Rama met Hanuman and Sugriva. By Hampi is also the Rsimukha Mountain mentioned in the Ramayana.

The ancient place, Kiskindha, was ruled by two monkey-chiefs, brothers Sugriva and Vali. After a quarrel with Vali, Sugriva along with Hanuman were driven out. They then went to stay at Matanga-parvata Hill. You can get a good view of the surrounding area from the top of this hill. While searching for Sita, who had been kidnapped by Ravana, Rama and Laksmana came south and met Sugriva and Hanuman. Rama killed Vali and restored the kingdom to Sugriva. While Hanuman went to search for Sita, it is said that Rama stayed at Malyavanta Hill, which is on the road to Kampili, about 6 km east of the Virupaksa temple. There is a Ranganatha temple there with a large Deity of Lord Rama.

On the way between Virupaksa temple and Vitthala temple there is a cave on the bank of the Tungabhadra where Sugriva is said to have hidden Sita's jewels for safety. There are marks and streaks on the rocks, which are said to have been made by Sita's garments.

There is a huge mound of scorched ash in the nearby village of Nimbapuram that is said to be the cremated remains of Vali. The birthplace of Hanuman is said to be a little to the northwest.

Other Places to See

The Hazara Rama temple ("one thousand Ramas") is believed to have been a private temple for the royal family and was originally called Hajana Rama, which in Telegu means the "palace temple". It was originally dedicated to Lord Rama in the 15th century and contains many interesting sculptures of scenes from the Ramayana on the walls. It is no longer active.

From the Virupaksa temple of Lord Siva along the path on the river bank toward the Vitthala temple, there is a natural cavern marked with painted stripes where Sugriva have hidden the jewels that Sita dropped after Ravana abducted her.

At the Kodandaram ("bow-bearing Rama") temple there are large Deities of Sita Rama and Laksmana. It is opposite the bathing ghat. Here Rama crowned Sugriva as the monkey king.

The very ornate 16th century Vitthala temple is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, after the Deity in Pandharpur. It is on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra. It has musical pillars, which make different sounds when struck. It is considered to be the most outstanding temple in Hampi.

The Virabhadra temple is at Matanga Hill, where Lord Rama have stayed.

Nasik

Nasik is a holy city located about 5 hours northeast of Bombay (187 km). Lord Rama stayed here for some time during His exile and Sita was carried off by Ravana from this place. Nasik is on the banks of the Godavari river, which flows to the bay of Bengal. Laksmana cut off the nose of Surpanakha, the younger sister of Ravana, here. That is why this place got the name Nasik. Kumbha Mela takes place here every 12 years. Sri Caitanya visited here.

The Rama Kunda area is the main pilgrimage place in Nasik. Here Rama and Sita used to bathe, so the tank is considered especially sacred. It is also called Asthi Vilaya Tirtha ("bone immersion tank") because bones dropped here dissolve. In recent years the following people's bones were dropped in the Tirtha after they died: Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and many other famous people. Lord Rama is said to have performed funeral rites in memory of His father, King Dasaratha.

Citrakuta

Lord Rama and Sita are said to have stayed in the forest here during Their 14 year exile. Citrakuta is by the border of Uttarpradesh and Madhyapradesh, due south of Lucknow. It is 132 km south of Allahabad.

Lord Rama and Sita lived here for 11 years of Their 14 year exile. Citra literally means "beautiful" and kuta means "mountain".

Bharat, the brother of Rama, came to Citrakuta and begged Rama to return to Ayodhya, but Rama would not disobey His father's order. Rama stayed on Kamadgiri ("the hill which can fulfill all desires").

Lord Rama would daily bathe in the river here. Sita's footprints are on the rocks at Janaki Kund, where Sita took bath.

Related links:

Vedic Links - Travel
Pilgrimage to Damodar kund, Himalayas