Exploring Chitrakoot, Photo journal
Chitrakoot Parvat Mala's attractions include Kamad Giri, Hanumaan Dhara, Janki Kund, Lakshman pahari, Atri-Anusuya ashram, Gupt Godavari and Sphathik shila.
We reached Chitrakoot railway station at 2.00 am, having boarded the Chitrakoot Express from Lucknow (NE) at 5.30 pm. We were a group of six women (all ages) on an adventure trip despite the odd hours. We took a tempo to Chitrakoot's ghats, and reached there while it was still night, and as luck would have it, there was a power cut too.
Bharat Mandir on the banks of Mandakini Ganga
By 5 am. we checked into Bharat mandir, bang opposite Ram ghat, where Tulsidas had met Rama and Laxman, with Hanuman reciting the now famous couplet: चित्रकूट के घाट पै भई संतन की भीर । तुलसीदास चंदन घिसे तिलक देत रघुवीर ।। Chitrakoot ke ghaat pai bhai santan ki bheer, Tulsidas chandan ghise tilak det Raghubeer.
Bharat mandir ashram on Ramghat proved quite a surprise, with the mahant (the head) being a sanyasi and a college professor in Dungarpur, Rajasthan! He assigned a young priest to show us our rooms, which were behind the temple around a courtyard. The temple had protective netting to keep monkeys away. The meals were delicious here, prasad really. This was like being at home.
Mandakini Ganga in Chitrakoot is not to be confused with Mandakini, a tributary of Ganga on the Kedarnath and Chopta route in the Himalayas.
I sat on the stairs leading to the temple, taking in the morning life at Ramghat. Sadhus, sadhaks, beggars and visitors all took dips on the same ghat, and a local family was down for their daily bath too, with kids being srubbed by older siblings. I noticed that no soap was used here.
The same ghat has evening arti of Mandakini Ganga (not to confused with Mandakini, a tributary of Ganga on the Kedarnath and Chopta route in the Himalayas), which looked quite tame in the morning, a shade different from the bouncy, starlit body we saw at night.
Bharat milap mandir being the main shrine here, we took the entire parikrama lasting a few hours. It was an interesting walk.
Janaki Kund, upstream from Ramghat is where Sita is said to have bathed.
Atri Anusuya Ashram: the birthplace of Mandakini Ganga
Chitra means beautiful as a painting and koot means mountain.
Sati Anusuya ashrama is 16 km from Ramghat, and upstream from Janaki kund. The place has a mountain for a backdrop, where Mandakini river is born. The river is lined by trees, probably wild almond and others, and the place is a perfect picnic spot, with fish playing around one's ankles. This is the holy site where Atri muni and Anusuya lived.
We reached Sphatik shila in the midst of heavy rain, which added to the wild beauty of the place. It is not far from Janaki Kund. There is boulder here, which bears Rama's footprint and this is where Sita pecked at by a crow, Jayant.
The pair of caves at Gupt-Godavari are about 18 km from Ramghat. We sang bhajans here which resonated beautifully. The spring water here is said to be connected underground to river Godavari and so it gets the name Gupt Godavari. Panchmukhi Shiva outside the caves was quite interesting.
After a rickety auto ride on the red rain-drenched earth, we got off for a climb up to Trek to Hanuman dhara. Jasmine oil bottles and vermillion powder packs were up for sale as offerings for Hanuman ji. A step-well baoli intrigued us, but we resisted the temptation to step down into it and continued the climb. Black faced langoor monkeys appear quite at home on this hill. They check visitors' pockets for food items.
The smiling deity of Hanuman at the hilltop temple has a spring gushing over one arm. This spring is a gift from Rama and commemorates Hanuman's return after burning Lanka, and to cool his body.
Sita Rasoi is next to the Hanuman dhara temple.
Bharat Koop is at some distance from Karwi. There is an ancient well here where Bharat poured the water that he had taken with him from several holy rivers and places.
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How to reach Chitrakoot
Chitrakoot is at the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, 132km south of Allahabad.
By Air: The nearest airports are Khajuraho (175km) and Varanasi (260km).
By Train: Chitrakoot railway station is on the Jhansi-Manikpur main line about 10km from Ramghat. It is connected with Allahabad, Delhi, Lucknow, Mathura and Varanasi.
By Road: There are many buses going to Chitrakoot from Allahabad, Satna, Mahoba, and Jhansi.
[Photo credits: Webshots and Fickr]