Ramayana is a pan-India epic. What is India without its geography, its huge mountains, sprawling rivers, bustling cities and holy sites? Ramayana aptly represents the geography of India, one which every region of India can connect.
The capital of Raja Dashratha and birth place of Sri Rama, it is located on the banks of Sarayu river. It is the holiest site for Indians, a cradle for Indian civilization and a site of historical importance. Be it Benaras or Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh is at the center of Hindu religion
2. Janakpur/ Mithila
Sita, the avatar of Goddess Laxmi, spent her childhood in Mithila kingdom. It is split today between Nepal and Bihar in India, with today’s Janakpur in Nepal. A prosperous province with perennial rivers and forests, no wonder Sita herself represented prosperity and victory. Ramayana mentions how young Rama and Laxmana accompanied sage Vishwamitra from Sarayu till Magadha kingdom, crossed the Ganga and went to Mithila kingdom in northern Bihar.
Rama’s step mother Kaikeyi hailed from Kekaya kingdom. Ramayana mentions that Kekaya was located beyond the Vipasa (Beas) river. Its capital Girivraja is located in the doab of Chenab and Ravi. Northwestern India, including today’s Pakistan has civilizational links to Ayodhya through Kaikeyi.
4. Bringing Back Bharata to Ayodhya
When Dasharatha departed the world, Bharata was at his grandfather’s place in Kekaya. Messengers were sent to recall back Bharata. Ramayana mentions the messengers travelled west up to Hastinapura in modern day Indraprastha. They crossed Ganga and arrived at Kurukshetra in modern day Haryana. They further travelled west crossing Vipasa river (Beas) and reached Kekaya.
Located near Prayag, it is here when Rama, Sita and Laxmana crossed the Ganga and began travelling south. Ramayana mentions how they travelled through Kosala kingdom and reached the hermitage of sage Bharadvaja at Sringaverapura and crossed the river Ganga and proceeded towards Chitrakoot.
Located in Madhya Pradesh around the scenic Vindhya ranges, this place saw Sri Rama, Sita and Laxmana spend 11 years of their exile. This was where seers like Atri resided. When Rama was at Chitrakoot, his brother Bharata visited him giving the news of demise of Dasharatha. A place called Bharat Milap exists today here.
Literally named as a “forest of the punished”, the forest today lies in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra. Here, Sri Rama and Laxmana are said to have killed Viradha, a rakshasa tormenting the seers.
After crossing Dandakaranya, Sri Rama went to the ashram of sage Agastya near Ramtek in today’s Maharashtra. The trio rested there for a few days. It is said that in the hills of Ramtek, Kalidasa composed his Meghadoota in later times. A temple of Sri Rama is built at Ramtek, a place that became holy due to the lotus feet of Sri Rama.
Located in Nasik district of Maharashtra around the Godavari river, Panchavati is considered the best period of Rama’s exile given the beautiful forest. It is here that Laxmana cut the nose of Surpanakha (hence the place is called Nasik). Maricha disguised himself as a gold deer and lured Sri Rama in the forest. The famous Laxman Rekha was marked here. But Ravana managed to kidnap Sita from Panchavati
10. Pampa Sarovar
Sri Rama set out in the search of Sita. Travelling south, he reached Pampa Sarovar, one of the five sacred lakes in Hinduism located near Hampi in Karnataka. Here, he found Shabari waiting for his blessings and attain Moksha. Upon listening to Sri Rama, Shabari advised them to seek help from Sugriva, whose kingdom lay south of Pampa Sarovar.
Located in Karnataka, Kishkindha was the forested kingdom of Sugriva. He was exiled by Vali and was living at Rishyamukha mountain along with Hanuman. Sri Rama met Sugriva and Hanuman and promised to win back Kishkindha. It is in the surrounding region lies the Anjaneya Parvat, the birth place of Lord Hanuman. Karnataka is thus the land where Sri Rama met his most trusted supporters
12. Vanaras Set Out in All Directions
In the Kishkindha Kanda of Ramayana, Sugriva now asks Vanaras to set out in all directions in search of Sita. The places he asks the Vanaras to visit shows the extent of Indian civilization of those days.
- Vanaras were asked to search near river Sarasvati which used to flow in today’s Haryana and Rajasthan.
- They were asked to go up till river Sindhu i.e Indus which flows from Himalayas to Sindh
- He mentions river Mahi that flows from Madhya Pradesh to Gujarat to meet the Arabian Sea
- He asks Vanaras to search kingdoms like Pundra and Anga, both are located in modern day West Bengal and Bangladesh
13. Malyavat Mountains
Hanuman set south in search of Sita. He is said to have crossed the Malyavat mountains located in southern Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Sri Rama also later came to these mountains in his quest to reach Lanka
14. Jatayu’s Death
Jatayu, the giant vulture, tried to save Sita from the clutches of Ravana. He followed them for a long time but was ultimately slain by Ravana. Jatayu fell on ground at a place in Kerala called Chadayamangalam. Sri Rama is said to have visited Jatayu when he got to know the entire episode. He even performed the last rites of Jatayu. A massive statue of Jatayu is erected today at the hilltop.
After obtaining confirmed information that Sita was in Lanka, Sri Rama arrived at the tip of the coast at Rameshwaram. He saw the sea and prayed there for a solution. It is here that that the sea god blessed him and said any object with Rama’s name will float on water. The Ramsetu begins from here. After returning from Lanka, Sri Rama also prayed to Lord Shiva. He built a Lingam near the coast which is today’s Ramanathaswamy temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Shiva.
While at war in Lanka, Laxmana was injured by Indrajeet, the son of Ravana. Hanuman was asked to fetch the Sanjeevani herb from Dronagiri mountains. The mountain is today called Dunagiri, located in Uttarakhand.
Ramayana underscores the sacred geography of India. No wonder it is said that any village you visit in India, the common thing to be found is the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. That is the appeal of Lord Ram!