Chitrakoot means the ‘Hill of many wonders’. Chitrakoot falls in the northern Vindhya range of mountains spread over the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Chitrakuta region is included in the District Chitrakuta of Uttar Pradesh and the District Satna of Madhya Pradesh.Chitrakoot Parvat Mala includes Kamad Giri, Hanumaan Dhara, Janki Kund, Lakshman pahari, and Devangana famous Religious mountains.
Chitrakuta’s spiritual legacy stretches back to legendary ages: It was in these deep forests that Rama, Sita and his brother Lakshmana spent eleven and half years of their fourteen years of exile; the great sage Atri, Sati Anusuya, Dattatreya,
Maharshi Markandeya, Sarbhanga, Sutikshna and various other sages, seers, devotees and thinkers meditated; and here the principal trinity of the Hindu pantheon, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, took their incarnations.
It is said that all the gods and goddesses came to Chitrakuta when Rama performed the Shraddha ceremony of his father to partake of the shuddhi (i.e. a feast given to all the relatives and friends on the thirteenth day of the a death in the family). The first known mention of the place is in the Valmiki Ramayana, which is believed to be the first ever Mahakavya composed by the first ever poet. As Valmiki is said to be contemporaneous with (or even earlier than) Rama and is believed to have composed the Ramayana before the birth of Rama, the antiquity of its fame can well be gauged.
Valmiki speaks of Chitrakuta as an eminently holy place inhabited by the great sages, abounding in monkeys, bears and various other kinds of fauna and flora. Both the sages Bharadwaja and Valmiki speak of Chitrakuta in glowing terms and advise Rama to make it his abode during the period of his exile. Lord Rama himself admits this bewitching impact of this place. In the ‘Ramopakhyana’ and descriptions of teerthas at various places in the Mahabharata, Chitrakuta finds a favoured place. In ‘Adhyatma Ramayana’ and ‘Brihat Ramayana’ testify to the throbbing spiritually and natural beauty of Chitrakuta. Various Sanskrit and Hindi poets also have paid similar tributes to Chitrakuta. Mahakavi Kalidas has described this place beautifully in his epic ‘Raghuvansha’. He was so much impressed with its charms that he made Chitrakuta (which he calls Ramgiri because of its time-honoured associations with lord Rama) the place of exile of his yaksha in Meghdoot.
Tulsidas, the saint-poet of Hindi has spoken very reverently of this place in all his major works-Ramcharit Manas, Kavitawali, Dohawali and Vinaya Patrika. The last-mentioned work contains many verses which show a deep personal bond between Tulsidas and Chitrakuta. He spent quite some part of his life here worshipping Rama and craving his darshan. It was here that he had what he must have considered the crowning moment of his achievements-i.e. the darshan of his beloved deity Lord Ram at the intercession of Hanumanji. His eminent friend, the noted Hindi poet Rahim (i.e. Abdur Rahim Khankhana, the soldier-statesmen-saint-scholar-poet who was among the Nav-Ratnas of Akbar) also spent some time here, when he had fallen from favour with Akbar’s son Emperor Jahangir.
Rama left Chitrakuta
When Bharata was asked by his ministers to take his seat upon the throne of Ayodhya, he refused and came to Chitrakuta to meet Lord Rama. Here at place called Bharat Milap, Bharata met Lord Rama and requested him to return to Ayodhya and rule; but Lord Rama would not. Then Bharata returned back to Ayodhya and installed the sandals on the throne, and, living in retirement, carried on the government as their minister. Now Lord Rama decided for two reasons to leave Chitrakuta: first, inasmuch as hosts of rakshasas, out of hatred of him, annoyed the hermits of that place; and, secondly, because the host of men from Ayodhya had tampled and defiled the place; and, moreover, it reminded him too sharply of brother’s grief and the citizens’ and queen-mothers’. He went, therefore, with Sita and Lakshmana toward Dandaka forest.
Places of tourist importance
The ghats that line the Mandakini river are called Ramghat. Here, amidst the chanting hymns and the sweet fragrance of incense, holy men in saffron sit in silent meditation or offer the solace of their wisdom to the countless pilgrims who converge here. The evening arti here witnesses a deep and abiding faith in the sanctity of Chitrakuta. During the exile period Rama, Lakshmana and Sita took bath here and believed to have appeared before the poet Tulsidas. Tulsidas has expressed that historical and religious incidence in the following metre in Hindi.
Kamadgiri, the original Chitrakuta, is a place of prime religious significance. A forested hill, it is skirted all along its base by a chain of temples and is venerated today as the holy embodiment of Rama. Lord Rama is also known as Kamadnathji which literally means fulfiller of all wishes.
Bharat Milap temple is located here, marking the spot where Bharata is said to have met Rama to persuaded him to return to the throne of Ayodhya. It is said that the meeting of four brother was so emotional that even the rocks and mountains of chitrakut melted . Foot prints of Lord Rama and his brothers were imprinted on these rocks and are still present today and seen in Bharat Milap Mandir.
Janaki Kund is situated upstream the Ramghat where it is said that Sita would bath in the crystal clear waters of Mandakini river during the years of her exile with Rama.
Sati Anusuya ashrama
Sati Anusuya ashrama is located further upstream, 16 km from the town, set amidst thick forests that round to the melody of birdsong all day. It was here that Atri muni, his wife Anusuya and their three sons (who were the three incarnations of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh), lived and are said to have meditated.
As per description of Valmiki at one time there was no rain in Chitrakuta for ten years. There was a severe famine and nothing was left to eat or drink for animals and birds. Sati Anusuya performed hard and intensive austerities and got the river Mandakini down on earth. This led to the greenery and forests to grow which removed the sufferings of all sages and the animals.
Sati Anusuya ashrama at present is a very peaceful place where various streams from the hills converge and form the Mandakini River. It is said that Rama along with Sita had visited this place to meet Maharishi Atri and Sati Anusuya. It is here Sati Anusuya explained to Sita the grandeur and importance of satitva. The dense forests of Dandaka start from this place. It was ruled by Ravana. Ravana had appointed strong rakshasas like Khara and Viradha as its rulers. The place was infected by the terror of rakshasas.
A few kilometres beyond Janaki Kund is another densely forested area on the banks of the Mandakini. One can climb up to the boulder, which bears the Rama’s footprint and Sita. It is said that Lord Rama with his own hands did Shringar of his wife Sita and where Sita was pecked at by Jayant in the form of crow.
Gupt-Godavari is situated at a distance of 18 km from town. Here is a pair of caves, one high and wide with an entrance through which one can barely pass, and the other long and narrow with stream of water running along its base. It is believed that Rama and Lakshmana held court in latter cave, which has two natural throne-like rocks.
Located on a rock-face several hundred feet up a steep hillside is a spring, said to have been created by Rama to assuage Hanuman when the latter returned after setting Lanka afire. A couple of temples commemorate this spot, which offers a panoramic view of Chitrakuta.
Bharat Koop is where Bharata stored holy water collected from all the places of pilgrimage in India. It is small, isolated spot a few kilometres from the town.