In the previous episode we witnessed that Rama, Sita and Lakshmana leave Guha’s place and commence their long and adventurous journey towards the forest. They cross over the river Ganges and on the southern bank of the river was Sage Bharadwaaja’s ashram. The three of them are about to enter Sage Bharadwaja’s ashram now.
Once they enter the ashram, Rama pays all the due respects to Sage Bharadwaaja and further asks him for a good location around this area to reside happily along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. Sage Bharadwaaja replies, “Oh Rama! If you walk a small distance from here, you’ll reach the banks of the river Mandaahini and there is a beautiful place called Chithrakoota. It’s a very picturesque and a serene place! All three of you can go to that place and can reside happily and spend the rest of your fourteen years, if God desires!” Thus Sage Bharadwaja replies to Rama and the moment Rama hears the phrase “If God desires!” he knew somewhere within himself that he’s not going to live there for long! Thus according to the instructions given by Sage Bharadwaaja, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana set out to walk towards Chithrakoota.
At this point, Valmiki Maharishi gives a very important note. It is said in the Valmiki Ramayana that Rama, just before entering Chithrakoota, asks directions to Valmiki Maharishi before finding a good place to reside! What does this mean? It simply means that Valmiki Maharishi’s ashram was situated near Chithrakoota at this point in time. You might ask me how is that possible?
I had explained during my earlier episodes regarding the location of Valmiki Maharishi’s ashram – We initially saw that his ashram was situated at Bittur, close to the present day city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, India. We might have a doubt now! Where was Valmiki Maharishi’s ashram exactly? The present location that we are talking about – Chithrakoota is situated along the border of the present-day Indian states of Uttar-Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. This location is far south-eastwards from Kanpur. Then how does the argument of Valmiki Maharishi’s ashram hold any water?
From my understanding, it can be inferred that Valmiki Maharishi, before authoring the Ramayana text was residing at Chithrakoota only – The place wherein Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are currently going to! During the period when he authored the Ramayana text, he had moved to Bittur near Kanpur. Thus, Valmiki Maharishi has resided in two places.
The story doesn’t end here. He has gone to the third place too – You might remember another story that I had told you – Wherein, Rama’s twin sons Lava and Kusha start singing the Ramayana, after Valmiki Maharishi teaches it to them. Rama himself gets to hear the story sung by these two children after a few days. At one point, he becomes so impressed that he wants to see the mother and the teacher of these two wonderful kids! He asks Bharata to go and bring them to him. Thus Bharata immediately goes and fetches Sita and Valmiki Maharishi – This story was explained somewhere during Episodes 29 & 30, if you might remember.
It should also be remembered by the readers that at that time, all these happenings were taking place at a place called “Naimishaaranyam”. This Naimishaaranyam is a bit too far from Kanpur and thus there is no much possibility that Bharata could have “immediately” brought Sita and Valmiki Maharishi there! Thus, it can be learnt from this episode that, Valmiki Maharishi has been shifting his ashram from one place to the other as the children go around singing the Ramayana story and finally reach Naimishaaranyam wherein the children get the golden opportunity to sing it in front of Lord Rama himself!
Thus as a summary, it can be learnt that Valmiki Maharishi, before authoring the Ramayana text was residing at Chithrakoota. While writing the Ramayana text, he was at Bittur (Near Kanpur) – This is the place where Lord Brahma comes and blesses him to write the Ramayana text. After writing the text and after teaching it to Lava and Kusha, he moved his place to Naimishaaranyam! Thus, Valmiki Maharishi has lived at three important places. Even today if we visit the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, we can worship all the three ashrams of Valmiki Maharishi – Chithrakoota, Bittur (Around 50 kilometers from Kanpur city) and also at Naimishaaranyam!
I’m narrating all these just to avoid confusion and making things a bit more clear. Moreover, many people might just skip all these intricate details while just overlooking it as a story! Our ancestors and forefathers have taken all the pains to explain all these intricate things in much detail and protect the significance of each of the places! Hence it’s out duty to appreciate all this in minute detail.
Thus, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana enter Chithrakoota according to the directions given by Valmiki Maharishi and start to live happily at the banks of the river Mandaahini. This is one side of the story! There is another side to the story as well. What is that? What happened to King Dasharata after the departure of Rama? Did Bharata and Shathrugna come back to Ayodhya? There are many such questions to answer! Let’s wait till the next episode to answer them! 🙂