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Mid week holidays are always a bliss from monotonous medical school life and after a regular breakfast with parathas and boiled eggs, I got ready for my road trip to Chitrakoot, 130 km drive from Allahabad. It was 10 a.m. and the December wind was tolerable in a bright sunny day. I crossed Naini bridge and speeded along national highway towards Rewa. Since I had planned to take a long route through rural areas, I bypassed the Banda road and took the road from Naribari towards Shivpuri. The stretch was not in very good condition, some portions were bumpy and muddy. I had stopped by the lotus pond to interact with some locals and to photograph the rural areas. My actions confused them as the locals could not understand the reason for my immense interest.Some were even afraid that I may ask for money in return for taking their pictures. After giving a little assurance, I had a long chat about their lifestyle, regular activities followed by tea, sitting at the porch of one of the mud huts. The memorable short break was followed up with a dusty bumpy ride to Shipuri from where I took the Banda road and headed towards Chitrakoot. After a few photo stops and lunch at a local dhaba, I finally reached my destination at 3.30 p.m.

 

Evening arati’s (offerings and prayers to the God) was a major attraction in Chitrakoot. So I hired a boat after a small bargain and headed to the Hanuman temple on the other side of river. The arati had already started there. I could see that while riding. The boat also took me to other spots where separate arati’s were performed subsequently. Sound of the chants in loudspeakers filled the air with an auspicious vibe. Devotees from all over the country were crowding around the place of  the arati. Chitrakoot has a  mythological significance because it is here that lord Ram, Laxman and Sita had spent 11 years of their exile in nearby forests.Many sages,saints and their devotees have meditated in this famous destination since the ancient times.I dumped my backpack in Madhya Pradesh tourism resort and headed to Ramghat, a few hundred metres away. Late in the afternoon it was cramped with devotees. The river Mandakini flowed through the small town with ashrams and temples situated along its banks.

 

 

 

Late in the evening I took a stroll along the alleys of the city and tasted local street food (Golgappas and Chats) headed to hotel after dinner and retired for the night.The dormitory where I stayed had four other members. We had a long chat about the history and mythological significance of the area and exchanged our plans ahead.

Early next morning, I packed my stuff and headed for the Ghats (bank of river). It was crowded as people were taking holy dip in the Mandakini to wash away their sins, local people busy selling incense, flowers and all kinds of offerings possible. After visiting a local ashram it was time for some breakfast with poha and jalebis.
I visited Janki Kund where Sita had taken a dip in the pure waters of Mandakini river, Sphatic Shila (where Lord Ram had placed his foot on a giant monolithic stone). Then I headed on to the Gupt Godavari Caves about 18 km from the city. There was already a huge gathering of pilgrims in the area as I had to took off my shoes and moved inside.There are 2 group of caves, one where lord Ram and his brother lord Laxman were worshipped as they had lived there during their exile for 14 years.The second group of caves was adventurous as it had an entrance through a small gap on the rocks in knee level ice cold water. It was believed that this was Gupt Godavari river. Through the small opening in rock, one has to walk for 50 metres inside into the small cave where Lord Ram and Sita were worshipped. Cramped for space, I had to offer my prayers in a flash and head out following a very long queue. On the way out, the electricity went off and the crowd went bizarre, started shouting and chanting, all at the same time. It did return in a minute or so as we headed outside the caves. The local sweets which tasted were Gulab Jamun and Kheer, they gave me enough boost to continue my journey ahead to Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh.


 

Morning view from the boat stand . Even a tiger is enjoying the early morning rays :-P

 

 

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Exploring Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh
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