Ram Van Gaman Path: On Lord Ram's Trail Through Chhattisgarh

In certain renditions of the Ramayana, it is believed that Kaushalya hailed from Dakshin Kosala, a region closely aligned with what is now known as Chhattisgarh
Chitrakote Waterfall near Jagdalpur
Chitrakote Waterfall near JagdalpurShutterstock

The many names of Lord Ram pay homage to his many traits. Some call him Jaitra, the one who symbolises victory; others know him as Dhanurdhara, the one with a bow. Yet others call him Rajeevalochana or lotus-eyed.

In Chhattisgarh, though, he is known as bhanja Ram—a beloved nephew. Many believe that Chandkhuri, near Raipur, was the parental home of Queen Kaushalya, Ram's mother and King Dasharath's wife. According to some versions of the Ramayana, Kaushalya was the daughter of King Bhanumant of Dakshin Kosala—a region that more or less coincides with Chhattisgarh. Then known as Princess Bhanumati, she was called Kaushalya, or the daughter of Kosala, after her marriage to Dasharath. Kaushalya is so revered in this region that on Diwali, people light a lamp in a temple dedicated to her before illuminating their homes.

The Kaushalya temple is a part of an ambitious plan that the state government has launched for a pilgrimage-cum-tourism path that marks the epic's links with the region.

A New 'Path'

After being sent on vanvaas, Ram, Sita, and Lakshman left Ayodhya and traversed many territories before entering the former principality of Dakshin Kosala, at a place now known as Bharatpur in Chhattisgarh's Koriya district. They crossed the Mawai River and entered Dandakaranya or the Dandak Forest, travelling through the woods before moving to the south. The Dandak forest stretched from the shores of the Ganga to the Godavari. While locally popular, these sites have not been a part of India's pilgrimage and tourist map, mainly because of inadequate infrastructure.

In 2019, the Chhattisgarh government decided to develop the sites as a Ramayana circuit. Ram is believed to have travelled through 75 locations in the state and stayed at 51 of them. In 2020, the government launched the Ram Van Gaman Path (RVGP) project—mapping a circuit that covers parts of the route that Ram, Sita, and Lakshman followed. The destinations in the project pass through hills and forests, rivers and lakes, caves and temples.

Nine sites were identified for the first phase of the project. These are Sitamadhi Harchowka (Koriya), Ramgarh (Sarguja), Shivrinarayan-Kharod (Janjgir-Champa), Turturiya (Balodabazar), Chandkhuri (Raipur), Rajim (Gariaband), Saptarishi Ashram-Sihawa-Nagari (Dhamtari), Jagdalpur (Dalpat Sagar, Chitrakote, Tirathgarh, Bastar) and Ramaram (Sukma).

Here's what you can expect when you visit these destinations along the Ram Van Gaman Path.

Chandkhuri

Work on the temple dedicated to Queen Kaushalya started in December 2021. While a sound-and-light show was on the anvil at that time, a new bridge was also supposed to enable visitors to reach the temple on a small island within a lake where a 51-foot-high statue of Ram had been installed.

Shivrinarayan-Kharod

The story of Shabari, a tribal devotee of Ram, is an endearing narration of true devotion. According to Ramayana, Shivrinarayan in the Janjgir-Champa district is the place where Shabari fed Ram berries after first tasting them. A temple dedicated to Shabari, said to have been built in the 8th century, has been renovated under the project, along with a Ramayana Interpretation Centre that has been constructed.

Ramgad

Located in the Sarguja district, Ramgad is believed to be the Ramgiri region mentioned in ancient texts. It contains two caves—Sitabengra and Jogimara. The former is where Sita and Ram are believed to have lived together, lending the place its name, which translates to Sita's residence. The Jogimara Gupha is known for prehistoric drawings on its walls.

Stone sculptures near Turturiya
Stone sculptures near TurturiyaShutterstock

Turturiya

A picturesque village surrounded by hills and forests, Turturiya, in the Balodabazar district, is believed to have been the place where Sita gave birth to her sons, Lav and Kush, in an ashram where the author of the Ramayana, Maharshi Valmiki, lived.

A procession of sadhus in Rajim, the Prayag of Chhattisgarh
A procession of sadhus in Rajim, the Prayag of ChhattisgarhShutterstock

Rajim

Rajim, at the confluence of the Mahanadi, Sondur and Pairi rivers, is also known as Kamal Kshetra or Padmavathipura. The present name comes from the Rajeevlochan Vishnu Temple, believed to have been constructed in the 7th century. According to the epic, Ram reached Kamal Kshetra via the Mahanadi River after passing through Arang (a temple town to the east of Raipur), Fingeshwar and Champaranya.

Jagdalpur

This popular town in Chhattisgarh is the gateway to the Chitrakote Waterfall, from where Ram, Sita and Lakshman reach Narayanpal. They followed the Indravati River and reached Jagdalpur. They visited the Dalpat Sagar Lake and then proceeded towards Dantewada, via Gidam, on the banks of the rivers Shankhini and Dankini. They followed a path by the Kanger River and reached Tirathgarh, which is also famous for its waterfall. They then proceeded towards Kutumsar, also known as Koti Maheshwar. According to the ancient texts, Ram worshipped Shiva there. Visitors flock to the area to see natural formations that appear like shivling.

Sitamadhi Harchowka

Located in the Koriya district, on the banks of the Mawai River, Sitamadhi Harchowka is said to be the spot from where Ram, Sita, and Lakshman entered Dandakaranya. The circuit includes a hill cave with 17 units, each cell possessing a shivling. Local people call it Sita ki Rasoi—Sita's Kitchen.

Sihawa

The Mahanadi rises in the forested hills surrounding Sihawa, about 65km from Dhamtari. As per Ramayana, this was the hermitage of Rishi Shringi, who was invited to Ayodhya by King Dasharath to preside over a special yagna so that his three wives could beget sons.

Ramaram

As the trio travelled southwards, they crossed Sukma and arrived at a place which later came to be named after Ram. Ramaram is around 80km from Dantewada, where legend says that Ram worshipped Bhudevi, and his footprints can be seen in the forested hills. The region is known for its gala Ramnavami festival.

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