|Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)|
The town lies in the historical Chiktrakoot region, which is divided between the present-day Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Chitrakoot Parvat Mala includes Kamada Giri, Hanumaan Dhara, Janki Kund, Lakshman pahari, and Devangana famous Religious mountains.
Chitrakuta’s spiritual legacy stretches back to legendary ages: It was in these deep forests that Rama, Sita and his brother Lakshmana spent eleven and half years of their fourteen years of exile; the great sage Atri, Sati Anusuya, Dattatreya, Maharshi Markandeya, Sarbhanga, Sutikshna and various other sages, seers, devotees and thinkers meditated; and here the principal trinity of the Hindu pantheon, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, took their incarnations.
The first known mention of the place is in the Valmiki Ramayana, which is believed to be the first ever Mahakavya composed by the first ever poet. As Valmiki is said to be contemporaneous with (or even earlier than) Rama and is believed to have composed the Ramayana before the birth of Rama.
When Bharata was asked by his ministers to take his seat upon the throne of Ayodhya, he refused and came to Chitrakuta to meet Lord Rama. Here at place called Bharat Milap, Bharata met Lord Rama and requested him to return to Ayodhya and rule; but Lord Rama would not. Then Bharata returned to Ayodhya and installed the sandals on the throne, and, living in retirement, carried on the government as their minister. Now Lord Rama decided for two reasons to leave Chitrakuta: first, inasmuch as hosts of rakshasas, out of hatred of him, annoyed the hermits of that place; and, secondly, because the host of men from Ayodhya had tampled and defiled the place; and, moreover, it reminded him too sharply of brother's grief and the citizens' and queen-mothers'. He went, therefore, with Sita and Lakshmana toward Dandaka forest.
Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 83 mentions the tirthas:
There in that tirtha is the mountain known over the whole world and called
- Kalanjara (कालंजर) (III.83.53). Bathing in the celestial lake that is there, one acquires the merit of giving away a thousand kine. He that, O king, after a bath, offereth oblations (to the gods and the Pitris) (p. 194) on the Kalanjara mountain, is, without doubt, regarded in heaven. Proceeding next, O monarch, to the river
- Mandakini (मन्दाकिनी) (III.83.55) capable of destroying all sins and which is on that best of mountains called
- Chitrakuta (चित्रकूट) (III.83.55), he that bathes there and worships the gods and the Pitris, obtains the merit of the horse-sacrifice and attains to an exalted state.
- ततः कालंजरं गत्वा पर्वतं लॊकविश्रुतम
- तत्र देव हरदे सनात्वा गॊसहस्रफलं लभेत (Mahabharata:III.83.53)
- आत्मानं साधयेत तत्र गिरौ कालंजरे नृप
- सवर्गलॊके महीयेत नरॊ नास्त्य अत्र संशयः(Mahabharata:III.83.54)
- ततॊ गिरिवरश्रेष्ठे चित्रकूटे विशां पते
- मन्दाकिनीं समासाद्य नदीं पापप्रमॊचिनीम (Mahabharata:III.83.55)
- Ramghat: The ghats that line the Mandakini river are called Ramghat.
- Kamadgiri: Kamadgiri, the original Chitrakuta, is a place of prime religious significance. A forested hill, it is skirted all along its base by a chain of temples and is venerated today as the holy embodiment of Rama.
- Janaki Kund: Janaki Kund is situated upstream of the Ramghat where it is believed that Sita bathed in the crystal clear waters of Mandakini river during the years of her exile with Rama.
- Sati Anasuya ashrama: Sati Anasuya ashrama is located further upstream, 16 km from the town, set amidst thick forests that round to the melody of birdsong all day. It was here that Atri muni, his wife Anasuya and their three sons (who were the three incarnations of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh), lived and are said to have meditated. Sati Anasuya ashrama at present is a very peaceful place where various streams from the hills converge and form the Mandakini River.
- Gupt-Godavari: Gupt-Godavari is situated at a distance of 18 km from town. Here is a pair of caves, one high and wide with an entrance through which one can barely pass, and the other long and narrow with stream of water running along its base. It is believed that Rama and Lakshmana held court in latter cave, which has two natural throne-like rocks.
- Pampapur: It is situated in the valley of Devangana. Here we find sacred caves. Sacred caves related to Lord Rama.
- Bharata Kupa: Bharat Koop is where Bharata stored holy water collected from all the places of pilgrimage in India. It is small, isolated spot a few kilometres from the town.