Chitrakote-A Historic Pilgrimage Town Steeped in Legends

Chitrakote or Chitrakotin Satna district of Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh, Indiais a historic pilgrimage center associated with Lord Ram’s exile.According to legend; Ram, Sita and Lakshman spent around 11-yearsof their exile here. The town’s name that means 'Hill of Many Wonders' holds immense religious, mythologicaland cultural importance for people worshiping Ram.The townsurrounded by forest and valleyson the edge of northern Vindhyamountains, has placeswith temples like Kamad Giri, Hanumaan Dhara, Devangana valley, Lakshman Pahari and Janki Kund that find mention in Ramayana and other Hindu scriptures.Parikrama or circumnavigation of Kamad giri is considered holy ritual by many. Legend says Ram performed his father’s Shraddh ceremony after his death here and also met his brother Bharat, when hetried to persuade him to return from exile.

Significance of Chitrakote,a small townin ancient hindu mythologyscriptures is massive,as it’s not just associated with exile of Ram; but other great figures. Legend says great sageslike Sati Anusuya, Atri, Dattatreya, Valmiki, Sutikshna, Sarbhanga, Markandeya, andothers livedand meditated here.Another legend saysit is here that the holy trinity of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu came together for embodimentof sage Dattatreya; the triad or Trimurti in one body.Closer to modern times; noted poets like Tulsidas and Abdur Rahim Khankhana, a navratna of Emperor Akbar also lived here.Mandakini river is the city’s lifeline and main attraction during festivals and special occasions. The pilgrimage town bears festive look during Makar Sankranti, Amavasya. Deepawali, Somwati Amavasyas, Sharad-Poornima, Mahashivratri,and Ramanavami;and registers massive pilgrim influx. Several fairs are organized on different occasions and festivals throughout the year.

Best time to visit Chitrakote is from October to March. However, tourists prefer to visit during festivals like Dussehra, Navratri, Diwali, and Holi.Staging of Ram Lila,a festival based on Ramayana isheld in last week of February also draws tourists.During diwali tourist and pilgrims speciallycome to watch or perform deep daan pooja. Init devotees celebrating Ram’s return from exile offer lamp, incense, flowers, and food in a container;then float it on Mandakini river, creating a mesmerizing sight.There are numerous places of worship in the city and its vicinity that can be reached within a few hours’ drive.Tourists and pilgrims can visit places like Kamad Giri, Kamtanath temple, Bharat Milap temple, Janaki Kund, Sati Anasuya ashram, Sita Rasoi, Sphatic Shila, Mrig Dhara, Gupt-Godavari caves, Pampapur caves, Devangana valley, Hanuman Dhara spring, Bharat Koop, and Ram Shaiya.

Well connected by air, road and rail with major cities in the country;the pilgrimage circuit of townalso includes villages of Sitapur, Khohi, Nayagaon, Karvi, and Kamta.Tourists and pilgrims are well advised to make advance booking for stay in hotels. Ideally suited for 3 to 4-day holiday trip, tourist can plan a trip to the town only or a longer tour by merging it with wildlife and heritage tourism. Heritage, wildlife enthusiasts can visit Bndhavgarh National Park, Panna National Park and Khajuraho temple complex; all of which are within a 4 to 6-hour drive from the town. Tourists can visit Ganesh Bagh gardens built by Peshwa King Vinayak Rao,which is known for its beautiful carvings and structural work.Worth visiting are ruins of Kalinjara Fort built by Chandela dynasty around 1000 AD. The fort has several temples and a museum in the palace.Marpha known for its natural beauty, temples and ruins of Chandel Fort, is also worth visiting.

Ramghat, is the main hub of the town with numerous eateries that serve vegetarian thali and snacks. Samosa, a snack hereis very famous.There are several low-cost dharamshala, lodges and budget hotels for tourists to stay mostly at Ramghat. Being pilgrimage town there are no bars or non-vegetarian eateries.Tourist can also go on boating trips on the river from Ramghat.Daily aarti of Mandakini river is also performed at Ramghat. Tourist can visit Arogyadham ayurved and yoga center to rejuvenate themselves.The city is home to Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University, the world’s only university specially designed for differently-abled. Overall Chitrakoot presents a unique blend of mythologywith beauty.

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