Situated on the east bank of the River Sarayu, and the birthplace of Lord Ram and the backdrop of the epic Ramayana, Ayodhya has tremendous mythological and spiritual significance.
According to the Ramayana, the ancient city was the capital of the Surya dynasty, in which Lord Ram was born. It is also believed to have been the early capital of the kingdom of Kosala, which finds references in ancient Indian literature.
Among the places to visit here is Treta Ke Thakur, where the Ashwamedha Yagna is thought to have been conducted by Ram. In Kaleram Ka Mandir, the idols of Ram, Sita, and Lakshman are said to have been carved out of a single block of black sandstone. Hanuman Garhi is a temple resembling a four-sided fort with circular bastions at each corner. Kanak Bhawan, located near Hanuman Garhi, has depictions of Ram and Sita wearing gold crowns, due to which the place is also known as Sone ka Ghar. Lakshman Ghat, on the banks of the Sarayu river, is where Lakshman is said to have voluntarily given up his life. Visit Ram ki Paidi early morning or at sunset. It is a series of ghats on the bank of the River Sarayu.
One of the best times to visit Ayodhya is during Deepotsav. Held during Diwali, it is a visual treat. Thousands of illuminated lamps (diyas) are lit at the ghats of Sarayu river while priests chant hymns. The experience is as mesmerising as it is spiritual.
In the next few years, the government plans to improve the tourism infrastructure in Ayodhya, focusing on theme-based, sustainable and religious tourism. The proposed projects include a sound-and-light show a city centre observatory a digital museum and a ropeway scheme. Also on the anvil is a 251-metre statue of Ram on the banks of the Sarayu.
Chitrakoot translates to "the hill of many wonders". Chitrakoot town is in Madhya Pradesh bordering Chitrakoot district of Uttar Pradesh. Located on the banks of the river Mandakini, Chitrakoot is considered the abode of the gods. The holy trinity of Hinduism&mdashLord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva&mdash have a presence here. It is said that after Ram was exiled from the kingdom of Ayodhya for 14 years along with his wife and brother, he took refuge in the forests of Chitrakoot, and the trio spent 12 years in these beautiful woods, home to many hermits. The Lakshman is said to have built a cottage on a hill here - the Param Kutir - where they stayed for 12 years.
The Param Kutir is said to have been built on the site of the cottage that Lakshman constructed. What exists today in place of the original wooden structure is a domed shrine with a pillared verandah.
Kamadgiri Hill is an important part of the spiritual landscape of the region. Situated in the southern part of the state, it is considered to be among the holiest places in Chitrakoot Dham. Lord Brahma is said to have performed the first yagna before the creation of life at this spot. A walking path at the base of the hill is used by pilgrims who do a circumambulation to seek the divine blessings of Lord Kamadnath &ndash the fulfiller of wishes.
Ram, Sita, and Lakshman are said to have lived in the caves at Gupt Godavari for many years. The Puranas declare that the Devas fashioned these caves in advance, knowing that in the Treta Yuga, Ram would dwell here. The higher cave is accessed through a narrow passage that allows only one person at a time. It opens up to a wide cavern and a pool of spring water called the Dhanushkund. Outside this cave is the entrance to a lower cave.
The Ram Ghats are thought to have been Ram, Sita, and Lakshman's preferred bathing location. They form a border around the River Mandakini, Chitrakoot's constant water source. Every morning, numerous worshippers congregate at the ghats to perform the suryanamaskar, a salutation to the sun. Throughout the day, you can see a bustle of religious activity taking place amid non-stop chants and the scent of incense. In the evening, as the sun sets, devotees gather once again to perform aarti and offer flowers.
The Hanuman Dhara hill is dotted with shrines dedicated to Hanuman &ndash from the base of the hill, in little pavilions en route, and carved on rocks. And they are all painted a bright orange.
If you visit Janaki Kund, you may find a scholar reading the Ramayana in khari boli, the local dialect, at a pavilion nearby that is on the banks of the Mandakini. This spot is also believed to have been a private bathing space for Sita, who was also known as Janaki, the daughter of Janak, king of Mithila.
Located 45km from Prayagraj, Shringverpur is mentioned in the epic Ramayana, where it is described as the capital of the kingdom of Nishadraj (or the "King of Fishermen"). According to legend, Ram, Sita, and Lakshman crossed the Ganges at Shringaverpur on their way to exile. Take time out to visit the Sringi Rishi temple here.
Located on the northern side of the River Sarayu, Makhaudha Dham is where Lord Dasharath conducted the Putra-Kameshthi yagna. A small temple and surrounding structure represent
the site of the yagna, which is said to have taken place in the Treta Yuga, the second of the four yugas in a yuga cycle. King Dasharatha had asked the sage Rishyasringa to do the yagna. The location of his ashram, known as Shringinari, is nearby.
Ram Van Gaman Marg
The route that Ram, Sita, and Lakshman travelled on during their years of exile is known as the Ram Van Gaman Path. It begins in Ayodhya and concludes in Sri Lanka. The state government plans to construct a 210-km Ram Van Gaman Marg in Uttar Pradesh, which will seek to retrace the route. The proposed route will connect Ayodhya to Chitrakoot via Faizabad, Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Jethwara, Shringverpur, Manjhanpur, and Rajapur in Uttar Pradesh.