Travelogue: Srirangam To Mukthinath: Part 7 Chitrakoot-Triveni Sangam-Varanasi

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Continuation from Part 6….

Chitrakoot, Triveni Sangam, Varanasi and back to Srirangam

On 23.09.2013 we crossed Nepal and were on Indian territory.  We switched on our mobiles immediately and did all the talking possible. Night halt was in Swami Narayan temple where the dormitory accommodation was comfortable. On 24.09.2013, after coffee we left in jeeps for Chitrakoot at about 7.30 a.m.  Chitrakoot is located on the border of Uttar-Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, 132kms South of Allahabad. “Chitra” means beautiful and “koot “ means mountain and is located in the Vindhyas.  Chitrakoot is where Sri Rama , Seetha and Lakshmana spent 11 years of their Vanavasam.

Our jeep crossed a river (Ram ghat) where we expected to stop to bathe but we went on further and stopped at Madhya Pradesh Guest House. Here we were served a breakfast of Pongal-gothsu. We did feel bad to eat without a bath and some men took a quick bath at the guest house and did Sandhya before eating. We were told that our destination was Ahalya temple which we would visit after bathing in The Mandakini . This distance was covered in about  2 hours. Our jeep stopped near Sati Anusuya Sthal and we had to walk past shops selling an array of stuff ranging from glass bangles to CDs.   We could see and hear the Anusuya-Atri story on computer screens. Accompanying us were many many monkeys and we held on to our bags and secured our spectacles. We reached Mandakini ghat and had our holy dip holding on to a big rock It was Anusuya’s austerities during a famine that brought Mandakini to this spot.  It was a refreshing dip in the holy water  in the morning heat. After offering prayers on the banks of Mandakini we visited Anusuya  temple. Anusuya means one without jealousy. In the Ramayana  Seetha and Rama visit various rishi ashrams. Seetha Rama’s and Lakshmana’s visit to  Atri-Anusuya ashram is beautifully narrated by Valmiki. While Sage Atri and Rama are conversing, Anusuya and Seetha meet.  Anusuya asks Seetha about how Rama broke the bow and married her. We get to hear Seetha Kalyanam from Seetha’s mouth.  Anusuya talks to Seetha about Pathivratha dharma and hands over herbal cosmetics and oils to her. Anusuya was the mother of Datthareya a combination of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who she changed to babies in order to feed them in the nude. We felt good to visit this holy place purified by the couple and were glad to get bangles and kumkuma prasadam. There were statues of several Sati Strees like Savithri, Ahalya, Sukanya, Malavathi and others. The story of Ramayana was depicted through statues and there was a model of a cave which instructed us to enter so we had a look around and went out to board our jeep to leave for our next destination –Sphatika Shila.

Sphatika Shila, is a raised platform of soft stone where a panditji was seated. He made all of us sit and narrated the greatness of this hallowed spot. He used a lot of Tamil words. It was the spot where Rama and Seetha spent many moments in privacy. It is of great significance to us Sri Vaishnavas as this was the spot where Kakasura incident happened. This incident is narrated in Sundara Kandam by Seetha Piratti to Hanuman to be told to SriRama as an incident that happened in their privacy. Seetha Piratti narrated how Rama applied a tilakam using Manashila. In the end She gives Choodamani and tells Hanuman that on hearing these incidents and seeing Choodamani Sri Rama would believe that Hanuman had met Seetha. During Bharanyasam acharyas remind us of this incident to tell Perumal that if Kakasura who wronged Piratti could be forgiven why not us? Footsteps of Perumal, Piratti and kakasuran could be seen and we did pradakshinam of Perumal and Thayar’s footprints and Lakshmana’s. The panditji said no pradakshinam of kakasuran. There is a temple behind the sphatika shila and the Mandakini before the Sphatika Shila  was crystal clear.

From here we went to Gupth Godavari. Gupt means hidden .How come Godhavari and Mandakini in the same place we wonder? As the name suggests Godavari came in secret to have darshan of the Divya Dampatis.  We ascended the steps and made our way into the cave which was damp and had divya mangala vigrahas of Sri Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana. There was a water body inside which was Godavari whose water was given by the Panditji for prokshanam.  After descending there was another cave in which Lord Shiva is said to reside .The place was scenic and the thought that we had the fortune of being in this Holy Spot was great.

There were shops selling wooden items like Salagram boxes and wooden trays in plenty and plenty of shopping was done before we boarded our jeeps and returned to the tourism guest house.  We were served proper sappadu with kesari sponsored by a pilgrim whose birthday it was on that day. After drying our clothes on the lawns and folding them, we left for Allahabad ,stopping on the way to drink coffee supplied by the organizers.We reached Swami Narayan temple by late evening. We were allotted rooms 5 persons in a room which had proper beds and bathrooms. That night we had visitors Mrs and Mr. Chaturvedi who were shishyas of 45th Srimadh Azhagiasingar. We had met Mr Chaturvedi in SriRangam when he came to SriRangam for 45th Srimadh Azhagiasingar’s Charama kainkaryam. They talked for more than an hour of how they became HH’s shishyas and how they were recipients of His grace. They had taken His Ashrayam 18 years back when HH visited Allahabad and had taken Samashrayanam and Bharanyasam from HH.  Mr Chaturvedi did not miss a single Chaturmasyam or Tirunakshatram in these 18 years and their personal experiences would need a separate write-up.  It was our bhagiam to meet these SriVaishnavas. That night we were late for dinner but the organizers waited and served sappadu.  Next morning we were to take a dip in the Triveni Sangam.

25.09.2013 – We had bath at Swami Narayan Athithi Bhavan and did our morning prayers there. After breakfast of Usili and coffee we were taken by bus to Sangam. The Yamuna Bridge which we crossed while returning from Chitrakoot is the longest cable stayed bridge in India and was completed in 2004. Allahabad’s original name was PrayagRaj. The world renowned Kumbha Mela took place this year in February.  Our bus stopped near Ashoka’s fort and we made our way to the confluence of three holy rivers. We were instructed not to accept milk etc given by strangers. 8 people per boat were boarded and after offering flowers and Deepam to the holy river our boatman took us to the spot where Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi (hidden) join. After sankalpam and bath we changed to dry clothes and most people gave away the wet clothes either to the boatman or to the beggars lining the banks. While getting back we saw a boat in which Radha-Krishna vigrahas were perched and we offered our pranams and our mite.

After disembarking we visited Hanuman temple and Balaji mandir at Shankara Math. After this we were to taken to see Anand Bhavan the house where Jawaharlal Nehru lived.  There is also a planetarium housed in the complex.

Incidentally Allahabad is called the city of Prime ministers as a majority of India’s prime ministers hailed from this place.  From here we returned to Swami Narayan temple. We had a proper meal where sakkarai pongal was served, packed up and left for Varanasi looking forward to shopping there but our bus was delayed by rain and the traffic was chaotic. We reached the outskirts of Varanasi and the luggage was transferred from the bus to autos without touching the wet, muddy ground. By the time we checked into Shankara Matam it was late night and so crowded was the place that bringing in our luggage was a challenge. Those who were booked for Gaya did not check into rooms and waited. At 11.30p.m. we were served wheat rava  upma which we had with Banarasi-curds which we bought at the nearby shop. This was all we could shop in Varanasi as we had to board our jeeps for Gaya. After completing Gaya Srardham we joined the rest of our group at Varanasi station on 26.09.2013 to board The Ganga-Kaveri express which is a misnomer for it terminated at Chennai itself  on 27.09.2013 at 14.25 hours. We could see Kaveri only on the morning of 28.09.2013 when the Rockfort Express stopped at Sri Rangam  and after offering our Pranamams at The Rajagopuram to Ranganatha and Ranganachiyar and our acharya Mukkur Srimadh Azhagiasingar, Villivallam Srimadh Azhagiasingar and Prakrutham Srimadh Azhagiasingar we reached home to a rousing welcome by our neighbours.

This yatra was conducted by Sri A Khannan who can be contacted at khannan_srihari@yahoo.co.in. There were 45 pilgrims in the group

Inputs and reminders have been supplemented by Smt. Hema and Sri VenkataRamani who are included wherever We is used. We carried dried rations like murrukus, ladoos and bought fruits and raw vegetables for salads. Since there is constant travelling these snacks were helpful and the salads kept us well hydrated. And of course we   kept drinking water.  For 18 days we were like a family sharing jokes and making plans and passing comments.  Special thanks to Sri Khannan, Sri Devarajan for their planning and management and to Sri Narayanan, Sri Sethu, Sri Gopi, and Sri Sundararajan for their cooking and  serving us hungry pilgrims for almost 18days.

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Courtesy: Vyjayanthi and Sundararajan

For previous parts of this travelogue visit the following link:

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