Impressions of Hanuman dhara, Chitrakoot

Anisha Sharma
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Caught in a sudden summer shower, Chitrakoot's landscape turned from dusty green to a freshly washed red and green one, all against a blue-grey sky. We saw the transformation on our way to Hanuman dhara, a hill, five km from Ram ghat. Babool and bel trees danced merrily. Tulsidas the classic litterateur who gave us our favourite Ram Charit Manas, spent some time in Chitrakoot while he wrote it.

Chitrakoot is at its best in the rainy season, I was told. Though I was here quite unwittingly in early June, the summer storm and rain salvaged my trip by showing off the really clean and green Chitrakoot, especially the suburbs - hidden by Sal, babool, neem, bel and sundry other trees and bushes, which bounced with energy as the rains came down.

Traditional Baoli - step-well

Hanuman dhara was close, the auto driver informed us, pulling us out of a reverie. The hill rose up straight ahead, and our auto came to a halt. But there was a Baoli, an old step-well to be seen before we started the ascend. This was my first experience of a step-well, one you could walk down into and come out! Scary, nonetheless. And this was huge, a very big one, or may be they are all made to these proportions to accommodate the steps and other diktats of architectural design and utility. We noticed several shops selling jasmine oil and sindoor as an offering for the deity in the temple.

From the isolated heights of Hanuman dhara hill, Chitrakoot looked even lovelier - red and green, washed by the recent rain.

Sindoori tribute

Hanuman ji is traditionally offered sindoor. A story goes that when he saw Sita ji decorate the parting in her hair with vermilion sindoor as a symbol of Ram's love for her. Hanuman ji took the symbol quite literally and smeared himself all over with vermilion sindoor so that his master and beloved Ram would be pleased. Since sindoor is a powder, on adding jasmine oil, a paste is formed, which can then be smeared on easily.

Colours of nature

The rain-drenched earth was red. Vermilion sindoor was again a shade of red. And, now came the red bottomed monkeys... They didn't come close enough for danger though. They stayed with family and friends on trees, chewing lime-green leaves off them. Ocassionally, black-faced langoor monkeys were also seen engaged in much the same twig gnawing. Only the langoors seemed quieter when placed side by side the red macaques - jumpy, frisky things. The langoors moved slowly, almost regally.

As the climb got steeper, it was imperative to wait and catch one's breath - a must really to take in the scenic views. Reminded me of the view from Ladli ji temple at Barsana which is similarly upon a hilltop.

Langur monkeys at Hanuman dhara, Chitrakut

Security check :-)

When we did reach the top after enjoying the climb, we were greeted by three guards at the narrow, if ancient gateway to the temple. These guards in black were adult langoors. They had an honest job there; to make of you a more benevolent soul if you weren't already. Each one of them took over a visitor, scanning for eatables. To my surprise, the langoor who had taken it upon himself to bring out my generous side, gingerly picked up the Parle Googly sweets from my hand. The feel of this langoor's long-nailed fingers on my palm was gentle if firm. The nails, claws really, did no harm whatsoever!

At this gateway itself, a jamun-seller sold sweet jamuns with a dash of rock salt, and another hawker sold roasted grams, both at Rs. five for a generous helping.

Red bottomed monkeys took over from langoors as we reached the temple. Spring water from the hill which first passed over the deity in the temple collected in a pool outside the temple. Monkeys loved this cool getaway. Drinking from it and lying on its edges, to keep themselves cool.

Reason to smile

The deity here, Hanuman ji has a blissful smile! And for obvious reasons, the pujaris assured me, "Hanuman ji came to rest here after burning Lanka." So he is obviously enjoying the cool spring water gushing over him. A devotee sat nearby singing verses from Vinay Patrika, poems addressed to Ram by Goswami Tulsidas, who also wrote the famous Ramcharitmanas. Tulsidas's birth place, Rajapur on the banks of River Yamuna is another 40 km from Chitrakoot.

From the isolated heights of Hanuman dhara hill, Chitrakoot looked even lovelier - red and green, washed by the recent rain.




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