Sacred Places connected with the Ramayana
By M.P. Bhattathiri
There are many pastime places connected with the Ramayana in Rameswaram. There is a temple near the bridge that one crosses to enter Rameswaram with a floating rock inside. When Shri 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 Lakshmana Tirtha and Rama Tirtha. Shri Rama is said to have bathed in these two tanks. Kodi Tirtha is supposed to be a spring that Shri Rama created by shooting an arrow into the ground. It is said that at Jata Tirtha, Shri Rama washed His hair to get rid of any sin that He might have incurred in the battle at Lanka.
Hampi was once the capital of the powerful Vijayanagar empire, which for two centuries was one of the most powerful empires in Indian history. Vijayanagar 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 Vijayanagar empire had an army of over one million. At this place Shri Rama first met Hanuman. It is also said to be the spot where Parvati (known as Hampi) met and married Lord Shiva.
The town of Anegundi, about 5 km from Hampi, is situated on the north bank of the Tungbhadra River. Local people believe this to be the ancient place known as Kishkindha where Rama met Hanuman and Sugriva. The Rishmukh mountain mentioned in the Ramayana is also near Hampi.
The ancient place, Kishkindha, was ruled by Sugriva and Bali. After a quarrel with Bali, Sugriva was driven out. He then went to stay at Matanga-parvata Hill. One 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 Lakshmana went south and met Sugriva and Hanuman. Rama killed Bali 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 Shri Rama.
On the way between Virupaksa temple and Vitthala temple there is a cave on the bank of the Tungbhadra river 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 ornaments.
There is a huge mound of scorched ash in the nearby village of Nimbapuram that is said to be the cremated remains of Bali. The birthplace of Hanuman is said to be a little to the northwest.
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 Shri 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 Shiva along the path on the river bank towards 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 Lakshmana. 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 had stayed.
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. Lakshmana 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. Shri Chaitanya 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 bones of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Rajendra
Prasad and many other famous people were dropped here after their death. Lord Rama is said to have performed funeral rites in memory of His father, King Dasaratha.
Shri Rama and Sita are said to have stayed in the forest here during Their 14 year exile. Chitrakuta is near the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, due south of Lucknow. It is 132 km south of Allahabad. Shri Rama and Sita lived here for 11 years of Their 14 year exile. 'Chitra' literally means "beautiful" and 'kuta' means "mountain".
Bharata, the brother of Rama, came to Chitrakuta and begged Rama to return to Ayodhya, but He would not disobey His father's order. Rama stayed on Kamadgiri (the hill which can fulfill all desires).