The Chhattisgarh Tourism Board has lofty plans for its Ram Van Gaman Tourism Circuit. It will give travellers the chance to visit all the beautiful places he went to before his triumphant return to Ayodhya, which we now celebrate as Diwali.
If you’ve always been intrigued by the travels of Lord Ram, Chattisgarh might just be where you want to head to retrace his footsteps. Like the beautiful forests in the Bastar region that went by the name of Dandakaranya, the state contains many marvellous places that Lord Ram halted at along with Sita Mata and his brother Lord Lakshman during their 14-year exile. The Chhattisgarh Tourism Board has identified 75 such places and is starting to develop nine of the most important ones as part of its Ram Van Gaman Tourism Circuit. Improving the roads and infrastructure will also be part of the first phase which is reportedly being carried out with a budget of over ₹130 crore.
“Lord Ram spent most of his time in Chhattisgarh during his exile from Ayodhya. To preserve the memories linked to Lord Ram and Mata Kaushalya, the government has envisioned this project where the devotees and tourists will be able to feel the essence of divinity with every step they take on the Ram Van Path Gaman Tourism Circuit,” said Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announcing the initiative.
Locals believe that the trio entered Chhattisgarh (known at the time as Dakshin Kaushal) through Sitamadi-Harchauka, which is about 400 kms north of Raipur and left the area via Sukma in the south. The inaugural site of the Ram Van Gaman Paryatan Paripath in Chandkhuri, a small village 25 kms from Raipur, is the birthplace of Mata Kaushalya, Lord Ram’s mother. The newly renovated temple here is the only temple in the world dedicated to her and a big draw for pilgrims and historians alike.
The adorable idol depicting her with the baby Ram is believed to have been created naturally around the eighth century. Apart from Chandkhuri, the other places on the Ram trail are Sitamadi-Harchauka, Ramgarh in Ambikapur, Shivrinarayan in Janjgir-Champa, Turturiya in Balodabazar, Rajim in Gariaband, Sihava-Saptrishi Ashram in Dhamtari, Jagdalpur in Bastar, and Ramaram in Sukma.
The 17-chambered caves at Sitamadi-Harchauka, colloquially called Sita ki Rasoi (Sita’s kitchen) will also see restoration under this ambitious project, as this is believed to be the trio’s first stop in the state. Ramgarh, where poet Kalidas is said to have composed his famous Meghadootam, is also interesting for one of the world’s oldest rock theatres, with the caves of Sitabengra and Jogimara bearing murals and inscriptions in Brahmi from as far back as the third century BC.
A smart way to generate employment and revenue through tourism for the state, the project saw a glittering three-day launch presided over by the CM with performances by major musical talents like Shankar Mahadevan, Indian Ocean and Kabir Cafe. Baghel said, “It was imperative that the tourists visiting Chhattisgarh from India and abroad should be made aware of the ancient religious heritage of the state in which we take absolute pride.” According to him, this initiative will give a new shape to religious tourism in Chhattisgarh, showcase the rich traditions of the state to the world and also generate new opportunities of income for the local people.