Madhya Pradesh Trip-3: Visit to Chitrakoot
Overview: I first heard about Chitrakoot while watching the TV series Ramayan in the 1980s. Then later read several books and heard from different people how important Chitrakoot is in Indian history.
I reached Chitrakoot from Gwalior at around 4am in the morning, and I had booked the Retiring room at Chitrakoot Railway station for my accomodation. But unfortunately after reaching ChitrakootDham railway station, I found the Retiring room in a shabby conditon and in complete darkness. People were sleeping on the platform and there was nobody to guide me on the retiring room. So finally I decided to move out of the station and look for accomodation. I managed to get a single room just opposite the Railway station for Rs 800. There are several options for stay near the railway station, and since I had my next train past midnight, I preferred some place quite close so that I can just walk to the train station.
I got freshened up and at around 7:30am, I ventured out of my hotel. I enquired about the places to visit and how to go and the hotel manager helped me with the logistics. I took a shared autorickshaw from the Railway station gate for Rs 20 to reach Ramghat, the central point at Chitrakoot, around 5km from the Railway station.
At Ramghat I hired another autorickshaw who agreed to take me around Chitrakoot for Rs 500. The early morning breeze was blowing on my face and it was a pleasant experience.
Devi Anusuya Ashram
The firt place I visited was Anusuya Mandir, which is the source of river Mandakini as well. This is also the place where Sati Anusuya by her spiritual power turned Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh into infants. This is also the place where she preached Sita Mata about the lessons of loyalty to husband. It was the spiritual power of Sati Anusuya that gave birth to the river Mandakini-Ganga.
We can still see the 3 'Kund' or ponds which represent Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. There are stalls all along the way to the temple where we can buy food for the fish in the river. The early morning view of the river was very pleasing with turquoise coloured waters. The Anusuya Mandir is also beautiful with the stories about her depicted and narrated beautifully inside the temple. It takes around 15-20 mins to visit the temple. I had my breakfast of Samosa and Poha near the temple, which is a staple food in this region.
From the Ashram, we proceeded to Gupt Godavari temple, a series of caves and a source of a river. The first cave has an idol of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman and a Shiva Linga too. These are natural caves with water dropping from the top giving rise to stalactites and stalagmites. Its a sacred feeling to be inside the cave, however, one thing to complain about the place is the priests demanding money from the devotees as donation. I feel the devotees should themselves donate money as dakshina as per their will and financial capability and not demanded by the priests. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the devotees.
The next cave is an even better one, with a deep dark chamber where we can walk through knee-deep waters to reach a Shivalinga. This place is the actual Gupt Godavari as its not certain about the origins of the waters. There is a Chaturmukha Shivalinga outside this cave. Once we are out of this cave, we reach the market area where we can buy food and souvenirs. I had Rabadi or Basundi here and it was delicious.
This is more of a museum showcasing the life of Sri Rama and how he upheld the Dharma. There is an entry ticket of Rs 20 and we would need to deposit our phones and cameras in the locker. There are several artifacts from this place and paintings and sculptures from the Ramayana. At the end of the museum is a lifesize image of Rama and Sita as the King and Queen of Ayodhya which is beautiful. Outside the museum is a massive sculpture of Hanuman.
This is the place on the banks of the river Mandakini where Mata Sita did her makeup. As per the legend, this is the place where Indra's son Jayant came in a crow's disguise and pecked Sita Mata on her foot. Opposite the Sphatika Shila is a temple dedicated to Sri Rama and also Shivalinga.
This is a place quite close to the Ramghat, and normally covered after covering all the main places. This is believed to be the place where Sri Rama helped Hanuman pacify his anger after setting Lanka on fire. There is a temple on the top dedicated to Hanuman and there is a Narasimha Cave also next to the Hanuman temple. There is a source of a river as well at the top and hence the name Hanuman Dhara. The temple at the top can be reached by climbing around 500 steps which are quite steep, and the route is kept busy by monkeys. So if you are carrying any food then better be careful, and its good if you carry some extra food for the monkeys too. Alternately, the temple at the top can also be reached by a ropeway, which I didn't take.
The centre point of Chitrakoot is the Ramghat, which is a beautiful ghat on the river Mandakini. This place feels like Varanasi or Haridwar to me. There are boating services here as well which would take the tourists across the town overlooking all the temples for around Rs 300. There is scope for bargaining at almost everything in these places. There is a Shiva temple too on the Ghat and restaurants are also available to have food with an amazing view of the Ramghat.
After having lunch, I took a shared autorickshaw back to the hotel near the Railway Station. I relaxed through the afternoon and had dinner near the hotel. There are several restaurant serving great food and chat items. I had my train to Khajuraho at 1:30am past midnight, which was delayed by 3 hours. However I checked out from my hotel at 12am and spent time at the Railway station in the cold until the train arrived.
How to reach
There are trains to ChitrakootDham from major cities like Delhi and Mumbai which go towards Prayagraj. ChitrakootDham Railway station is in Uttar Pradesh while the major tourist destinations in Chitrakoot are in Madhya Pradesh.
Accomodation: One can stay near the Railway station or near the Ramghat too for all budgets.