Sadhu Prof. V. Rangarajan
Founder & Spiritual Head, Sri Bharatamata Gurukula Ashram &
Yogi Ramsuratkumar Indological Research Centre,
Sister Nivedita Academy, Sri Bharatamata Mandir
Srinivasanagar, Krishnarajapuram, BANGALORE 560 036
Phone: 080-25610935 /25613716, Cell: 09448275935
Is Rama God or human being? Rama himself answers in Valmiki Ramayana, “Aatmaanam maanusham manye“–“I am only a human being”. Hinduism is a way of life, which enables a man, who is in the pinnacle of evolution, to further, ascend to the state of a Divine. Thus Rama and Krishna, the heroes of the Indian epics have elevated themselves through their conduct in life to the status of God or ‘Bhagavan‘, the Enlightened Being, just as in the modern period, noble and saintly souls like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsaa and Ramana Maharshi have reached the state of ‘Bhagavan‘.
Epics, unlike mythologies, are historical narratives and the events depicted in them are actual occurrences in history. Historians of East as well as West have successfully fixed the dates of Rama and Krishna and have also identified the places associated with them. Dismissing the contention that Ramayana is only a literary piece or an allegory woven out of the imagination of a poet, Griffith asks, ” How could an Epic so dear in India to the memory of the people, so deeply rooted for many centuries in the minds of all, so propagated and diffused through all the dialects and languages of those regions, which had become the source of many dramas, which are still represented in India, which is itself represented with such magnificence year after year and to such crowds of people in the neighbourhood of Ayodhya, a poem which at its very birth was welcomed with such fervour as the legend relates, that the recitation of it by the first wandering rhapsodists, has consecrated and made famous all the places visited by them, and where Rama made a longer or shorter stay, how I ask, could such an Epic have been purely allegorical?”. Gorressio thinks that, some events must have happened in the distant past the memory of which has so impressed itself indelibly on the fancies of the Hindus that there is no possibility of the story ever dying until some geological alterations of the features of the country come to pass. Pargitter says that ‘the geographical knowledge revealed in the Epic could hardly have been obtained except by actual visit to these places by some persons.’ Monnier Williams among his many tributes he pays to the Epic, ranks the Ramayana as the beautiful composition that has ever appeared at any period or any country. Swami Vivekannda proclaims, “In fact the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the encyclopaedias of ancient Aryan life and wisdom, portraying an ideal civilization which humanity has to aspire after.” Macdonall says, “Probably no work of world literature, secular in its origin has ever produced so profound an influence on the life and thought of a people as the Ramayana.” Valmiki, the author of Ramayana, was a contemporary of Rama and in fact, Sita, the wife of Rama, gave birth to Lava and Kusa in the Ashrama of Valmiki. Valmiki’s ashrama is shown at a site in Bithoor which is about thirty miles north of Kanpur and one hundred and ten miles off Ayodhya, on the west bank of River Ganges.
Renowned historians have traced on the modern geographical map of India the locations of various places mentioned in the Epic. On the occasion of the All India Seminar on Ramayanam held at Trivandrum in 1973, Sri V.D. Ramswami had brought out a book on “Sri Rama Pada Yatra” covering the places visited by Rama during his itineraries, with maps illustrating his trek in the forests. Rama had undertaken two padayatras or long walks in his lifetime. The first one was when he along with his brother, Lakshmana, accompanied his Master, Rishi Vishwamitra, into the forest to protect the sacrificial rites conducted by Rishis in the hermitages, from the onslaught of Rakshasas. The second and longest march that Rama undertook was during the Vanavasa to keep up the promise that Dasaratha made to Kaikeyi and to fulfil the wishes of his step mother that he should go into the forest for fourteen years, leaving the throne to her son, Bharata. In this second Paada yaatra, Rama was accompanied by his faithful wife, Sita and brother, Lakshmana. The people of Ayodhya, not willing to leave him, chased his chariot up to the northern bank of River Tamasa (R. Tons). Here, in the night, Rama gave a slip to the people who were tired and had fallen asleep, and reached Sringiberapura on the banks of Ganges, where Guha received him, his wife and brother. This place is identified as Singour of modern times. Next morning, Guha got ready a boat for the party to cross the river. Taking leave of Guha, Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana started their long trek to the south. The spot on which Rama crossed River Yamuna to reach Chitrakoota is Kosum, which Cunningham identifies with the ancient town of Kousambi, capital of Vatsa Desha (the Doab). The modern town of Chitrakoota is situated in the district of Banda which is about five miles from the railway station of Karvi. The small hill of Chitrakoota is a part of the Binthachal range and is about five hundred feet high. Pilgrims walk round the hill which is never climbed because people believe Rama is still there. Nearby is the town of Sitapur with its numerous bathing ghats dedicated to the memory of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana and Hanuman. An important factor that lends support to identify the Bundelkand Hill with Chitrakoota is that the description of the fauna and flora given by Valmiki agrees with what prevails today in the area. Mallinatha identifies Kalidasa’s Rama Giri of Meghadhoota with ancient Chitrakoota. However, some scholars consider Ram Tek, which is eighteen miles north of Nagpur, as Rama Giri.
Entering Dandakaaranya, Rama reached Panchavati where an abode was set up by Lakshmana for the three to stay and it was here Sita was abducted by Ravana. While some historians identify Panchavati with modern Nasik, there are others who hold the view that it must be the modern Badrachalam in Andhra Pradesh. After a long trek through dense forests in search of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana reached Sabari Ashrama which was located on the west bank of Pampa Saras. The district map of Bellary shows a Pampa Sagar on the north bank of Tungabadra. According to Professor Wilson, there is a Pampas Lake and also a river of the same name North of Tungabadra, the Pampa River starting from the Rishyamooka Hill joins the main river. Sabari received the brothers here. From there the brothers proceeded to Kishkinda. To the west of the town of Bellary on the south bank of Tungabadra is the small village of Hampi where the ancient Kishkinda is placed on general agreement by scholars. Longhurst on Hampi says Pampa Saras or Pampa Tirtha is on the Nizam’s side near the village Anegundi. Pampa is said to be the puranic name of River Thungabadra. Such is the story of the Ramayana that the names of several localities around Hampi are identical with those in the Epic. Griffith also thinks that the semi-civilized state of Kishkinda included a great part of the Deccan.
Rama and Lakshmana accompanied by the Vanara Sena under the leadership of Sugriva and Hanuman marched towards the south and walked through the area now known as Chitaldroog District of Karnataka before reaching the Sahya Parvata or the Western Ghats. Trekking along the eastern slopes of this mountain, they should have crossed the river kaveri near its source, the Coorg Hills. Rice in the gazetteer of Mysore says, “it is generally believed that Rama crossed the Kaveri west of Srirangapatam near its junction with the River Lakshmana Teertha.” From there they reached Mahendragiri from where Hanuman took his leap to Lanka.
Major Forbes in his book titled ‘Eleven Years in Ceylon” gives a good account of the various sites in this island whose names are connected with those in the Epic. The three prominent peaks in the Kandyan Hills are identified with the Trikuta Parvata and the barren area above Halaghatta with the gardens of Ravana that were burnt down by Hanuman. Sita Talava, the place where Sita was kept confined, Nikumbha where Indrajit did his penance, the Suvela Parvata and several other places connected with the Epic are shown and their respective locations appear to agree so closely with what is stated in the Epic.
Dr. Ram Avatar ji in his book in Hindi titled “Jahan jahan Ram chalee jahan” traces the footprints of Lord Rama in the various places that he visited, especially on his trek to the south from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka. At a time when ignoramuses proclaiming themselves as scholars question the very existence of Sri Rama and the bridge, now known as Rama Setu, that he built across the southern ocean to cross over to Sri Lanka from the mainland, a thorough research study of all the places connected to the life and times of Rama is really the need of the hour. The original book in Hindi, embellished with more than two hundred and fourteen photographs of the places of Rama’s visit in his travels, has been translated into Kannada by Sri K.S. Nagaraj and its English rendering is now being made available to readers all over the country and abroad. It is hoped that the translation of the book in other regional languages will also come soon. A nation that is proud of its ancient history and heritage will ever survive the onslaughts of time and live for ever inspiring the posterity.