Chitrakoot Dhama - Part 1


BY: SUN STAFF - 3.5 2023

Bharata meets Rama in Chitrakoot
c. 1740-50

A serial exploration of the Holy Dhama of Chitrakoot.

Across the border of Uttar Pradesh from Lucknow, outside of Naimisharanya, and about 350 kilometers due south in Madhya Pradesh is another of India's great pilgrimage sites – the Holy Dhama of Chitrakoot. This small town is in the Satna district of Bundelkhand region, which is a rich area of spiritual influence for the Vaisnavas.

In the deep forests of Chitrakoot (Chitrakuta), Lord Rama, Sita and Laksman spent eleven and half years of their fourteen years in exile. Many great sages and devotees have come to Chitrakoot to meditate and perform austerities, including Atri, Sati Anusuya, Dattatreya, Markandeya, Sarbhanga, and Sutikshna. Brahma, Visnu and Shiva have all incarnated at Chitrakoot at one time or another over the ages.

In this age, Chitrakoot is most famous for being associated with the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra. All the demigods assembled here when Rama performed shraddha for his father, and they took part in the shuddhi feast traditionally given to family and friends on the 13th day after a death in the family.

Chitrakoot Dhama

In sastra, the first mention we find of Chitrakoot is in Valmiki's Ramayana, which describes the place as the abode of many great sages, with an abundance of monkeys and bears living in the lush forests. Both Valmiki and the sage Bharadwaja glorified Chitrakoot, encouraging Rama to take shelter there during his exile. Lord Rama himself sang the praises of Chitrakoot.

In the Ramopakhyana and Mahabharata, Chitrakoot is favourably described among the many tirthas. The Adhyatma Ramayana and Brihat Ramayana testify to Chitrakoot's great beauty, and many saintly poets have recited its praises. Kalidas praised it in his epic Raghuvansha, calling it Ramgiri because of the tirtha's association with Ramacandra.

The great beauty, purity and potency of Chitrakoot was glorified by the poet Tulsidas in his numerous Hindi works, Ramcharit Manas, Kavitawali, Dohawali, and Vinaya Patrika, the latter of which establishes Tulsidas' great personal love for Chitrakoot Dhama, where he spent many years worshipping Lord Rama and praying to get His darshan.

Today, Chitrakoot Dhama draws throngs of pilgrims, particularly on large festival days. Ramanavami, Makar Sankranti, Amavasya, Dipvali, Sharad-purnima, and Somwati Amavasyas are some of the most popular holy festivals. Devotees take bath at a number of ghats and tanks, visit the temples and shrines, and take darshan of the many beautiful Deities who reside in this holy place, many of which we will feature in this series.

View from Kamadgiri Hill