Ram Van Gaman Path: An amalgam of Ramayana with modern-age tourism sector, that will help unveil the mystery behind Lord Rama’s link with Chhattisgarh.
Situated at the heart of India with its rich biodiversity and distinct culture, Chhattisgarh has always stood out as an appealing option for the tourism sector. The ninth largest state of India with a plethora of mythological tales and epics, archaeological and heritage sites dating back to the era of Kalchuris and the unique tribal relevance in the state, has always created a special place for Chhattisgarh, as a religious, cultural and an incredible tourism destination of historical importance. A divine state in tune with its old age traditions and a state of prosperity amidst the toughest times. A land blessed with the presence of Gods and Goddesses and their epic tales.
Chhattisgarh: A land blessed with mythological tales dating back to the era of Ramayana and Mahabharata
The mythological tales date back to the period of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The state is renowned for its significant role in the life of Lord Rama. Chhattisgarh used to be the Maternal Home of Lord Rama and the birthplace of her Mother, Mata Kaushalya.
Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and younger brother Lakshaman had started their exile in the Dandakaranya region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh. It is also said, that they spent more than 10 years of their 14-year exile period, in Chhattisgarh itself.
A multidimensional approach: Development of forest dwellers from remote regions of the state
The Bhupesh Baghel-led state government is forging a new pathway for tourism development in Chhattisgarh with a fresh vision and strategy for a state blessed with an abundance of raw and unexplored potential.
This new roadmap of tourism development passes through areas which were neglected and left unexplored despite being, a junction of nature’s beauty and cultural wealth. The major objective behind this multi-dimensional project is to bring the development of forest dwellers residing in remote regions of the state, into the centre of the economy with the promotion and development of tourism sector in these regions.
Therefore, the state government is linking the cultural development of the state with its tourism development. The project of Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit was chalked out to highlight the mythological and historical background of Chhattisgarh and its close association with the life of Lord Rama. It not only emphasizes on the places which are associated with the exile period of Rama, but will additionally aid in the development of areas surrounding the sites.
Tourism rally organised on 14 December to promote the objectives behind Ram Van Gaman Path
To promote the objective behind the Ram Van Gaman Path, a tourism chariot and a vehicle rally are being organised from 14 December. The rally will commence from two belts simultaneously, from Koriya in the North Chhattisgarh belt and Sukma in the South Chhattisgarh belt. The two sides will come together on 17 December at Chandkuri near Raipur. Chandkuri is the residence of Mata Kaushalya, creating it a place of maternal importance for Lord Rama. Saplings will be planted to mark the spirit of the occasion, and the celebration will also underline the completion of two years of Bhupesh Baghel led state government.The Cultural Values linked with Lord Rama
Spending 10 years of his exile period in Chhattisgarh itself, an entire range of ancient relics can be connected from Sarguja in the north of Chhattisgarh to Sukma in the south belt, which has been a source of cultural values in the state. The Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit is an ambitious project which aims at the development of such places by connecting them. 75 places linked with Lord Ram have been identified in Chhattisgarh. Out of these, nine locations are being developed and beautified in the first phase of the project, with a budget provision of Rs 137 crore 45 lakh.
Nine places to be developed in the first phase
In the first phase of this project, Seemamarhi-Harchauka District Koriya, Ramgarh District Sarguja, Shivrinarayan District Janjgir Champa, Turturiya District Balodabazar, Chandkhuri District Raipur, Rajim District Gariyaband, Sihawa-Saptarishi Ashram District Dhamtari, Jagdalpur District Bastar and Ramaram District Sukma have been selected. Let’s unveil the mystery behind the association of Lord Rama with these nine locations specifically.
SITAMARHI-HARCHAUKA: The Divine Rasoi of Sita Maiya, Lordess Sita
Lord Rama made his appearance into Chhattisgarh from Koriya District. The Sitamarhi-Harchauka, which is located in Janakpur of Bharatpur tehsil, is renowned as his first stop. The Sitamarhi-Harchauka’s cave, which is located on the banks of Mawai River, has 17 chambers inside it. This auspicious place is widely renowned as Sita’s kitchen. The inscription with the footprint of Lord Rama is of utmost mythological importance.
The cave situated on the banks of the Mawai River has been divided and split into 17 chambers, with a Shivaling. This place is known as the Harchauka (kitchen). Lord Rama arrived at the Sitamarhi-Ghaghra on the banks of river Rapa from Harchauka. A Shivalinga is nestled in the middle of the four chambers of the cave at a height of 20 feet.
RAMGARH: a site of relevance in Meghdootam of the great poet Kalidasa
Progressing further with his journey, Ram left Ghaghra and reached Kotgarh via Ramgarh hills in Sarguja district, which is located at the Ambikapur-Bilaspur road, known as Ramgiri. Scenes from this location have found a special mention in Meghdootam of the great poet Kalidasa.
Lord Rama spent a few days of his exile period along with Lakshmana and Sita here, which lead to the caves being renowned by their names. With the ascetic disguise of Rama, one cave was named Jogimara, the other is profoundly known as the Sita Bengra and the Laxman Cave.
SHIVRINARAYAN: The unforgettable tale of Shabari feeding sweet plums to Rama
Shivrinarayan is situated at the Triveni Sangam (or the intersection of 3 rivers), Shivnath, Jonk and Mahanadi in the Janjgir Champa district. The word Shivrinarayan is an amalgam of two words: Shabri and Narayana. This is the same place known for its pure unconditional love, with Mata Shabari being an epitome of Motherhood and simplicity. She handpicked the plums and tasted them one by one, to feed the sweetest ones to Lord Rama, and the tale has never lost its emotional sync since then. The Nar-Narayana and Mata Shabari temple with a Vat tree adjoining them, have a peculiar feature with its leaves naturally occurring in the shape of a bowl.
TURTURIYA: The Birthplace of Luv, Kush & the Saga of Struggle, Pain and Heroism
Turturiya is a small village, situated on the banks of the Balamdevi River surrounded by dense forests in the Balodabazar district. Maharishi Balmiki’s ashram has been believed to be in existence here and therefore is renowned as the Birthplace of Luv and Kush. The water streaming through the river makes a Tutur sound and therefore this place was named as Turturiya. The state government has drafted a project outline, concerning the development of the Balmiki Ashram of Turturiya as a tourist-pilgrimage.
CHANDKURI: Birthplace of Mata Kaushalya- Mother of Lord Ram
Chandkuri, a small village from Raipur derives its name from Chandrapuri, ruled by the Chandravanshi kings in the ancient times. This is the home of Lord Ram’s mother- Mata Kaushalya. Keeping the authenticity of the ancient Mata Kaushalya temple situated near Raipur alive, the task of beautification of the entire complex is undertaken, with a budget provision of Rs 15 crore 75 lakh. The task of beautification and campus development of the Chandkuri temple will be completed in two phases. Rs 6 crore 70 lakh are allocated for the first phase, while Rs 9 crore 8 lakh will be allocated in the second phase. To establish Chandkuri as a tourist-pilgrimage destination, civic amenities will be developed along with the traditional task of Temple beautification. The pond will undergo beautification, with the organisation of the temple present in the middle of the pond. The architecture of the entire complex has been designed in a manner to highlight Chandkhuri’s mythological connection. Additionally, a bridge will be constructed for the devotees to arrive at the pond temple. Ghats and four circumambulation paths will be built across the pond. Parking facilities and beautiful lighting will be ensured.
PRAYAGRAJ: Lord Rama spent some time of his exile period in the ashram of Lomash Rishi
Due to its strategic location at the confluence of the Rajim Mahanadi, Sondhur and Pari rivers identified under the Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit, the place is widely acknowledged as Prayagraj. In ancient times, it was renowned as Kamal Kshetra Padiamavatipura. Lord Rama spent some time of his exile period in the ashram of Lomash Rishi situated here and made his trip to Panchakoshi to worship Kuleshwar Mahadev along with Mata Sita and Lakshman.
SIHAWA: The Sacred place of Shringya Rishi
Sihawa is a sacred unexplored place surrounded by dense forests and hills, located 65 km away from the district headquarters of Dhamtari. Sihawa is the place of origin of the Divine Mahanadi river, which is considered sacred in Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The Ashram of Shringya Rishi is situated here and therefore the place derives its name as Sihawa. King Dasharatha had called Shringya Rishi to Ayodhya to perform the Putraeshti Yagya to possess sons from his three queens. As a result of this sacrifice, Lord Rama was born.
CHITRAKOOT: The Divine place where Lord Rama met Lord Shiva
Chitrakoot is considered to be a major site of historical and religious importance of Ram Van Gaman in the Bastar region. The scenic beauty of Chitrakoot with its magnificent waterfalls of River Indravati make it a tourist delight. As the tales depict, Lord Shiva and Parvati arrived from the Himgiri mountain to meet Lord Ram at this place only. Rampal is another place near Jagdalpur, linked with Lord Rama. It is believed that Lord Rama had installed a Shivalinga and performed prayers at Rampal to mark his arrival from North to South India, just like he performed prayers in Rameshwaram by installing the Shivalinga before the Lanka battle.
SUKMA: Ramaram houses the footprints of Lord Rama
There is a popular belief among the folk of South Bastar, that Ramaram in the Sukma district, houses the footprints of Lord Rama. He worshipped Bhumi Devi here itself. Ramaram houses the famous Chittamittin temple. Villagers celebrate the birthday of Lord Ramchandra with great enthusiasm. A mega fair flocks the place on the occasion of Ramnavami.
The Ram Van Gaman circuit will be a tourists’ delight
The Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit to be commenced from Koriya district till Sukma district will be filled with the essence of Lord Rama in every step. Special emphasis is laid on the beautification of doors of pilgrimage and tourist places, lamp-posts and benches in the action plan prepared by the Chhattisgarh Government. The devotees and tourists will be able to witness the presence of Lord Ram on every foot-step, during their journey of Ram Van Gaman Path. The total length of the subways, including the main route of the Path, is approximately 2260 km. Additionally, display boards with information about a particular region and its mythological importance will be stated and one can watch and hear stories of Lord Rama’s Exile at these places of pilgrimage. Different species of plants are being cultivated on both sides of the pathway, generating a feeling of Lord Ram’s Vanvas in the minds and hearts of devotees. The fragrance of flowers surrounding the beautiful gardens will seize the tourists into a zone of complete mindfulness. The Forest Department has been enforced with the responsibility to plant more than one and a half lakh saplings on both sides of the 528 km route of the path. The department has already accomplished 90 percent of its work, even before the work on the original project started.