Chitrakoot Yatra

Chitrakoot Dhama Yatra

In the Holy Footsteps of Lord Ramacandra’s Forest Home

One of India's great pilgrimage sites, the Holy Dhama of Chitrakoot is remotely located amidst the dense forests of Bundelkhand, on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, far-away from any major city. In the deep forests of Chitrakoot (Chitrakuta), Lord Sri Ramacandra, Sita and Lakshmana spent 11-and-a-half years of Their 14 years of exile. Lord Rama exhibited many wonderful pastimes here. He especially bestowed mercy upon great sages through His personal association who had been praying and eagerly waiting for His arrival for a very long time, as described in the Valmiki Ramayana! The dense Dandakaranya forest adjoins Chitrakoot.

Chitrakoot means "delightful asrama". Though exiled from His kingdom, Ayodhya, Lord Rama lived happily in this beautiful holy place. The entire area, which is widespread, is very pleasant and picturesque even today! When Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana sojourned on Their journey to exile, after crossing the Triveni sangam at Prayagraj, They arrived at Bharadvaja Muni’s ashram. The great sage Bharadvaja insisted Lord Rama spend His exile period in his asrama. However, Lord Rama expressed that since residents of Ayodhya are close by to this place, they can appear there in search of Him. Lord Rama inquired about another place where They should stay. Bharadvaja Muni suggested the Lord go to the forest of Chitrakoot.

Chitrakoot has long been a place of devotion and austerity. The hills and forests have many caves, providing shelter for the sages. Great sage Atri, Sati Anasuya, Sarbhanga, Sutikshna and various other devotees meditated here. Lord Rama Himself sang the praises of Chitrakoot. In particular, Janaki-kunda, Sphatik Shila, Rama-Shaiyya, Sarbhanga Ashram, Sati Anasuya asrama and Kalanjara are among important places to visit and are exquisitely beautiful! The atmosphere in Chitrakoot is serene and soaks with devotion to Lord Rama. The people in general are simple and modern day urban advancement has largely untouched Chitrakoot. Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana went on, wandering from asrama to asrama in the Dandakaranya forest, meeting the great sages. They would stay at each hermitage for a week, a month or longer, sometimes even a year.

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 7 chapter 14 verses 30-33, Canto 5 chapter 19 verse 16 and chapter 20 verse 15 describe the glories of Chitrakoot. Valmiki Ramayana describes in detail the pastimes of Lord Rama in Chitrakoot.

Kamadagiri Hill is in Chitrakoot town and is of prime significance. It is venerated as the holy embodiment of Lord Ramacandra. Lord Rama spent a lot of time in this area. Parikrama Marg around Kamadagiri stretches 5 km long and the entire tract is easy to circumambulate. Shape of this lush green Kamadagiri hill resembles a great bow when viewed from any direction in Chitrakoot. Base of Kamadagiri is encircled by a chain of temples and asramas. Another of Lord Rama's names is Kamtanath. Lord Kamtanath is the principal Deity not only of Kamadgiri, but of the whole of Chitrakoot region. There are four Lord Kamtanath (Rama) temples on the four corners of this hill. Besides, there are many important ancient temples of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Nrsimhadeva and a temple of Lord Jagannatha along the Parikrama route that are important to visit.

Sri Bharata Milap Temple is on the Kamadagiri Parikrama marg. At this spot, Lord Rama and His brother Bharata met when Bharata had come along with His entourage to persuade the Lord to quit His exile and return to Ayodhya. Bharata piteously repented for the decision made by His mother, Kaikeyi, to banish the Lord to 14 years of exile. So much devotion and loving affection flowed between the parties when they met here, that even the stones melted. In the big courtyard of this temple, there are two mandaps where one can have the darshans of lotus footprints of Lord Rama, Bharata and mother Kausalya.

Janaki-kunda is 3 km from Chitrakoot and is picturesque. Here Sita would bathe. Mandakini River flows here between a series of white-coloured rocks that are marked with the worshipable footprints of Lord Rama and Sita. Along both the sides of the river stream the entire area is exquisitely beautiful and serene. On a steep escarpment that rises above the river, is a cave shrine known as Sita Kunda. The waters of Sita Kunda come from the Godavari River. Near the kunda is a havan bedi, where Sita used to perform havan, the fire sacrifice, after taking a bath. The havan bedi was built by Sita herself and local priests come here every day to recite Ramayana.

Sphatik Shila is a few kilometres from Janaki Kunda in a densely forested area along the bank of river Mandakini. Lord Rama and Sita came here often and feasted Their eyes on the beauty of Chitrakoot. Natural beauty of this place is mesmerizing. There are two unique reddish-white boulders called Sphatik Shila. They resemble a crystal and have Lord Rama and Sita's footprints. Once, Jayant, the son of King Indra, took the form of a crow and pecked at the feet of Sita Devi, wishing to test the might of Lord Rama. Sri Rama shot an arrow in his direction. With no one else to take shelter from, Jayant sought the protection of Rama Himself. Although Rama took out one of Jayant's eyes, He then pardoned him for his sinful act.

Bharata Koop is where Bharata emptied the entire water which He carried for Lord Rama's abhishek in Chitrakoot. With His great desire that Lord Rama return to Ayodhya, Bharata wanted to do the Rajya-abhisheka, the coronation of Lord Rama at Chitrakoot. He collected water from all the holy places and brought it in huge containers to Chitrakoot. When Lord Rama refused to be crowned and continued to honour the promise to His father, Dasaratha, Bharata, upon the advice of sages present, poured the holy waters in a deep well at this place, Bharata Koop. It is 11 km from Chitrakoot. There is a large well with sweet water that one can honour as a Prasadam. Also, there is a unique temple of Sri Bharata gracing on the altar with His wife, Mandavai.

Rama-ghata is at the centre of the Chitrakoot town on the banks of Mandakini River. Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Sita bathed here. A series of Lord Rama temples are there on both the banks of river. Every evening a wonderful Arati ceremony takes place that is attended by many pilgrims.

Sati Anusuya Asrama is 16 km upstream from Chitrakoot. Deep in the thick forest, the great sage Atri Muni and his wife Anusuya lived here, along with their three sons, Duttatreya, Durvasa, and Chandra. Sati Anusuya was the daughter of Kardama Muni and Devahuti. She had nine sisters and one brother, Lord Kapila. Lord Brahma performed the marriage of Sati Anusuya with Atri Muni. At one point, this place was suffering greatly because of drought and people experienced terrible famine. Neither the people, animals nor birds had adequate food or water. Sati Anusuya performed severe austerities that brought the River Mandakini to manifest and this area was thus replenished. Lord Rama and Sita also visited this place to meet Atri Muni and Sati Anusuya. Dense forests of Dandakaranya begin from here, near the asrama, and grow outwards. At one time, this area was ruled by Ravana, who put in charge his rakshasa representatives, Khara and Viradha. They ruled with a hard hand, inflicting a lot of anxiety upon the people of Chitrakoot.

Viradha Kunda is situated deep inside the thick Dandakaranya forest. After spending some time at Sati Anusuya Asrama, Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana proceeded to Dandakaranya forest. As they walked along, a gigantic raksasa, Virada, cladded with bloodstained tiger skin, sunken eyes, long sharp teeth, jagged jaw, a large round belly with his spear dangled with the heads of three lions, four tigers, two wolves, ten spotted deer and an elephant, all dripping with blood appeared. He roared ferociously and tried catching hold of Sita. He said that Brahma benedicted him to become immune from all weapons. He advised Lord Rama and Lakshmana to run away and leave Sita for him. Otherwise he would be forced to kill Them. Rama and Lakshmana took up Their swords. However, even though They severely hacked his body, Viradha picked Them in his arms and began carrying Them away deep into the forest. Upon seeing this, Sita cried out piteously. Exhibiting divine prowess, Rama and Lakshmana decide to kill him and cut off his two arms. As Viradha fell on the ground, bereft of his senses, Rama and Lakshmana continued to beat him. In spite of this, Viradha did not die. Seeing this, Rama said, “Since this demon cannot be slain in battle, let Us bury him alive.” As Lakshmana dug, Viradha regained consciousness and said, “I now recognize you. In truth, I am Gandharva, Tumburu. Because of lusting after the apsara, Rambha, I was cursed by Kuvera to become raksasa until the time that I would be delivered by You. Please bury me in this hole to release me from my curse. Thereafter, please go to meet the great rsi Sarbhanga who resides 12 miles from here and is waiting to receive You. Lord Rama kept His foot on Viradha while Lakshmana continued digging the hole. When Lakshmana had finished, Rama threw him into the hole and quickly covered him up with large stones. Thus, Viradha was delivered.

Viradha Kunda is 6 km from the Shabari Fall near Jamunihai village and at the meeting point of Bambiha and Tikariya villages on the Amrawati Ashram road. Here there is a vast reservoir of water. This kunda was Viradha’s place of shelter where he would disappear from using his mystic powers.

Sarbhanga Asrama is 20 km from Sati Anusuya Asrama amid Dandakaranya forest. Lord Rama gave darshan here to the great sage Sarbhanga. Nearby the Sarbhanga Asrama there is a Ganga-kund. Sarbhanga Asrama sits on a hill, at the foot of which are 108 Yajna-vedikas or sacred seats alongside the place of yajya.

Sutikshna Rsi Asrama is one of the most beautiful and charming sites situated 4 km from Sarbhanga Asrama. Lord Rama personally appeared before the great sage Sutikshna here to fulfil his intense desire to have the Lord’s darshan and serve Him. Simple-hearted Sutikshna was the disciple of the great sage Agastya Muni. He had an unwavering devotion to Lord Sri Ramacandra. Sutikshna was so intelligent that within a short time he completed his education from sage Agastya. Agastya was astonished by this. Sutikshna asked Agastya what Guru daksina he wanted. Sage Agastya told Sutikshna that he did not want anything from him as teaching such a student in itself was an honour. But Sutikshna was adamant and he requested sage Agastya to accept some kind of Guru daksina. Agastya, through his divine vision, foresaw that one day, Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana would come to meet Sutikshna at his hermitage. Agastya asked Sutikshna to arrange a meeting between him and Lord Rama, and that would be his Guru daksina. Sutikshna was very pleased. However, thinking himself to be unqualified to have the darshans and receive Lord Rama, Sutikshna mediated for a very long time and incessantly chanting the names of Lord Rama. This incident happened before Lord Rama had descended to the earthly realm. He continued his meditation through the seasons. Years passed by and now he was lean and thin and people could count his bones.

Single-minded focus of Sutikshna baffled people. Some thought he was a fool to wait for someone this long. Many people attempted to talk him out of his meditation. They pointed out that it was worthless to waste life in pursuit of meeting a person. But nothing deviated Sutikshna. He continued with his unwavering devotion. Finally, one day, when Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana reached Sutikshna’s hermitage, They saw him chanting with intense devotion, being oblivious of anything. Lord Rama and Lakshmana stood under a tree and waited for Sutikshna. They called out Sutikshna’s name, but Sutikshna was unmoved. Understanding this, Lord Rama disappeared from the core of the heart of Sutikshna. Extremely perturbed, Sutikshna immediately opened his eyes and was transcendentally elated to have the personal darshans of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. 

Meeting of Sutikshna and Lord Rama is unexplainable. Both cried and embraced each other. Lord Rama told Sutikshna that He knew that his mind was completely fixed on Him. Sutikshna had nothing else in his mind other than Rama. This is the reason why Lord Rama came to meet him.

Ram-Shaiyya is 3 km from Kamadagiri Mountain near Bihara village. At this place there is a large flat-bedrock that has the body markings of both Rama and Sita and Lord Rama’s bow between the two. About 100 meters away from here, across the road, and overlooking it there is another rock which is known as Lakshmana-Chowki. Lakshmana used to be on guard here to protect Sri Rama and Sita. This beautiful rock bears a mark resembling the head side of a bed. It also has imprints of Lakshmana sitting down with his bow by the side.

Lakshmana Pahadi, where Lakshmana guarded Sri Rama and Sita, is on a hill at the offset of Kamadagiri on the Parikrama marg. A ropeway connects to this place and one can see spectacular views of the entire Chitrakoot. On this hill there is the exact spot where Lakshmana guarded. The deities of Lakshmana and Lord Rama grace the main temple altar.

Kalanjara is 78 km from Chitrakoot. Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 5, chapter 8, verse 30 describes Kalanjara Mountain in relation to Bharata Maharaja's pastimes when he became a deer in his next life.

"Although Bharata Maharaja received the body of a deer, by constant repentance he became completely detached from all material things. He did not disclose these things to anyone, but he left his mother deer in a place known as Kalanjara Mountain, where he was born. He again went to the forest of Salagrama and to the asrama of Pulastya and Pulaha."

The stunning panorama of Kalanjara is marked by the famous temple of Neelkantha, Sita Sej, Mragadhara, Patal-ganga, Ram Katora lake and ancient medieval structures.

Sri Matyagajendra Nath Temple is a famous temple situated on the Rama-ghat. Lord Brahma performed penance here in the Satya-yuga and installed the Siva-linga here as Kshetrapal as the protector of the dhama.

International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has a preaching centre at Chitrakoot.

Deity of Kshirachora Gopinath at Remuna has a connection with Chitrakoot as this deity was carved by Lord Rama at Chitrakoot when He reminisced His future pastimes in Dvapara-yuga as Lord Krishna. Sita worshipped this deity until she was in Chitrakoot. Thereafter, Lord Brahma undertook the worship. In the 13th century, King Langula Narasimhadeva of Orissa brought this deity to Remuna. (Ref: A Glimpse of Lord Khirachora Gopinatha, published in 2004 by the Khirachora Gopinatha Temple in Remuna.)

Chitrakoot Dhama is situated 131 km, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Prayagraj. Prayagraj is connected by direct flights from Delhi. Chitrakoot has a railway station by name Chitrakoot Dham (station code CKTD) and is connected by train from many parts of India. Chitrakoot airport is under-construction with the aim of promoting pilgrimage. Also, Khajuraho airport is 159 km from Chitrakoot.

Places to visit in and around Chitrakoot:

1. Sri Kamadgiri Hill

2. Janaki Kunda

3. Sphatik Shila

4. Sati Anusuya Asrama

5. Sarbhanga Asrama

6. Sutikshna Rsi Asrama

7. Sri Bharata Milap Temple

8. Bharata Koop

9. Rama-ghata

10. Ram-Shaiyya

11. Gupt Godavari

12. Kalanjara

13. Temples around Kamadgiri Parikrama Marg

14. Hanuman Dhara Temple

14. Viradha Kunda

16. Sri Matta Gajendranath Temple

17. ISKCON Chitrakoot Temple

1. Sri Kamadgiri Hill

Sri Kamadgiri Hill is venerated as the holy embodiment of Lord Ramacandra and the shape is like a bow. Lord Rama spent a lot of time in this area. Another of Lord Rama's names is Kamtanath. Lord Kamtanath is the principal Deity not only of Kamadgiri, but of the whole of Chitrakoot region. Lord Kamtanath's consort, Sita, resides here in the form of Kamadgiri Devi. There are four Lord Kamtanath (Rama) temples on the four corners of this hill. 

Parikrama marg around Kamadagiri stretches 5 km long and comprises all the holy tirthas, which co-exist here. It was built by Pratap Kunwari, the Queen of the Bundela King, Maharaja Chatrasal, in 1725. Besides, there are many important ancient temples of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Nrsimhadeva and a temple of Lord Jagannatha along the Parikrama route that are important to visit.
Welcome to Chitrakoot Dhama
Sri Kamadgiri Hill
Parikrama Marg of Kamadgiri Hill stretches for 5 km with numerous ancient temples and asramas along the way.
Sri Kamtanath Temple
Sri Kamtanath Temple
Lord Kamtanath
Lord Kamtanath, the second deity at second Sri Kamtanath Temple on the Parikrama Marg
Lord Kamtanath, the third deity at third Sri Kamtanath Temple on the Parikrama Marg

2. Janaki Kunda

Janaki-kunda is 3 km from Chitrakoot and is picturesque. Here Sita would bathe. Janaki refers to the daughter of Maharaja Janaka, and is another name of Sita. Mandakini River flows here between a series of white coloured rocks that are marked with the worshipable footprints of Lord Rama and Sita. Along both the sides of the river stream the entire area is exquisitely beautiful and serene.
Worshipable footprints of Sita at Janaki-kunda
Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshmana at the ancient temple in Janaki-kunda

3. Sphatik Shila

Sphatik Shila is a few kilometres from Janaki Kunda in a densely forested area along the bank of river Mandakini. Lord Rama and Sita came here often and feasted Their eyes on the beauty of Chitrakoot. Here there is a unique reddish-white boulder called Sphatik Shila that resembles a crystal. This has Lord Rama and Sita's footprints. Devotees climb up onto Sphatik Shila to have the darshans of Lord Rama and Sita's footprints. The local pujari is present at this spot, who can explain in detail the footprints on the boulder. Kanda moola, the forest fruit that Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana used to have while They were in exile, is also available here.
Picturesque views at Sphatik Shila
Lotus footprints of Sita and Rama at Sphatik Shila
Kanda mool – forest fruits that Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshmana used to partake during Their exile period

4. Sati Anusuya Asrama

Pastimes of Sati Anusuya are memorialized at the Sati Anusuya asrama, which is situated in a beautiful and peaceful spot near the confluence of the Mandakini and several other streams. The temple is cut into a cliff face that rises straight up from a road along the riverbanks. In the asrama there are murtis of Anasuya, her husband Atri, their sons Duttatreya, Durvasa and Chandra, and various dioramas of pastimes of Lord Rama, Atri Muni and Sati Anusuya.
Stunning views of Mandakini River at Sati Anusuya Asrama
Stunning views of Mandakini River at Sati Anusuya Asrama
Beautiful views of Mandakini River at Sati Anusuya Asrama
Sati Anusuya Asrama