Chitrakoot, meaning the ‘Hill of many wonders’ is an important center identified under the Ramayana Circuit by the central government, because of its religious, cultural, historical and archaeological significance. The region is situated in the northern Vindhya range of mountains spread across the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
The part of the Chitrakoot region that falls in Madhya Pradesh is in the Satna district; i.e., the Chitrakoot town administered by a Nagar panchayat covering an area of 83 sq.km. The panchayath has a population of 23,316, according to the 2011 census.
The portion of the region in Uther Pradesh is the Chitrakoot Dham (Karwi) in the revenue district of Chitrakoot formed in 1998. This area has a population of 48,853. Population in the entire Chitrakoot district was 991,730, according to the 2011 census.
Revered spiritual mountains
By its close connection with the epic Ramayana, the entire Chitrakoot region is a sacred place for Hindus, attracting many pilgrims throughout the year. According to Ramayana, Lord Ram along with Sita and Lakshmana spent more than 11 years in Chitrakoot during their 14-year exile.
The hill ranges including Kamad Giri, Hanuman Dhara, Janki Kund and Lakshman Pahari are all popular spiritual mountains flocked by devotees in large numbers throughout the year.
People celebrate the grace of Lord Ram by hosting fairs and festivals in his praise all round the year. Large number of devotees visit the place during Diwali. Other occasions such as Amavasyas, Sharad-Poornima, Makar Sankranti and Ramanavami also experience huge flows of pilgrims. The holy town is on the banks of the river Mandakini, also known as the river Payaswini.
An Ideal Site for Nature Lovers
Chitrakoot remains a fascinating spot for nature lovers as well. This region is gifted with bountiful natural beauty, providing a picturesque panorama of shimmering rivers, gleaming water streams, tranquil forests, soggy caves, and temples all over the place.
Visitors usually take a boat ride in the rippling waters of the Mandakini river providing an enchanting view of the region. A ride in the boat will help you complete the sightseeing of the entire region fast and with ease.
How to reach Chitrakoot
Chitrakoot is well connected with major cities by road, rail and air. National Highway 76 is passing through Chitrakoot. Public and private buses conduct regular services from Chitrakoot to various cities. This includes Banda (71km), Satna (92 km), Allahabad (125 km), Khajuraho (185 km), Chhatarpur (195 km), Kanpur (201km), Ayodhya(217km), Varanasi (248 km), Jhansi (274km) etc.
The nearest railway station in Chitrakoot is Chitrakoot Dham (Karwi), which is in the heart of the city. For local travel, you can easily get buses, taxis or rickshaws.
Allahabad and Khajuraho are the nearest airports.
Climate in Chitrakoot
Winter season lasts until early March from December, during which the average temperature reaches 10°C. Summer season begins from March to June. May-June months are peak summer time when temperature reaches 40 to 47°C. Usually, Monsoon comes by July and lasts until September.
Best Time to visit Chitrakoot
Chitrakoot is open for tourists in all season; means arrivals of pilgrim is a regular feature all throughout the year. However, October and November are considered ideal for visiting Chitrakoot as you can be a part of the celebrations of festivals such as Diwali and Dussehra falling in these months. These are very important festivals in Chitrakoot as they are related to Lord Rama.
Places to visit in Chitrakoot
Following are some of the important places in Chitrakoot you can’t miss visiting both for their spiritual significance and tourist attraction.
Kamadgiri in Sanskrit means the mountain which fulfills all the wishes and desires. It is a forested hill where Lord Ram along with Sita and Lakshmana is believed to have built their abode while in exile.
Therefore, the hill is a very sacred place for Hindus, and you can see today a chain of temples built all around its base. It is believed that Lord Ram used to offer prayers to Lord Kamtanath for his blessings before fighting the demons in the forest.
Today, there is a temple dedicated to Lord Kamtanath. Devotees offer prayers at this temple and perform parikrama (circumambulate) along the 5km-long pilgrimage path around this hill bare footed.
You can also see here the Bharat Milap temple. This temple is built at a place, where Bharat is believed to have pursued Lord Ram in vain to return to Ayodhya to take over the rein of the kingdom.
Chitrakoot is also home for several other holy sites such as Lakshman Pahari, the hill where Lakshman was said to be staying while in exile. The hill is situated about mid-way on the Kamadgiri parikrama route.
Ramghat is situated on the banks of river Mandakini, which is also known as river Payaswini. This is believed to be the spot where Lord Ram used to take bath when he was staying in exile in Chitrakoot.
According to Ramayana, Lord Ram performed the Shraddha ceremony of his father, King Dasaratha at Chitrakoot, when heard about the death of his father.
Therefore, devotees consider the sacred waters of the Mandakini the ideal place to take bath and pay homage to their ancestors by performing Shraddha ceremony.
There are many temples in Ramghat and devotees offer prayers at these temples and perform parikrama around the shrines. Another major attraction at Ramghat is the evening Arti performed by the priests with numerous burning lamps, denoting the joy and auspiciousness of the occasion.
You can also see many ashrams around the place, where holy men in saffron clothes meditate and interact with pilgrims or engaged in chanting hymns in Sanskrit in praise of Lord Ram.
Hanuman Dhara in Chitrakoot is the name of the spring, sprouted from a rock flowing down upon the deity of Lord Hanuman installed top of a mountain. The spring then fills the nearby kund. The site has 700 stairs through the hills.
According to Ramayana, the spring was created by Lord Ram by shooting an arrow at the mountain to assuage an enraged Hanuman with the stream. Hanuman was returning to this place to extinguish the fire that was caught in his tail while burning Lanka. There are a couple of temples built around this place to commemorate this event.
Janaki Kund is believed to be the spot on the Mandakini river, where Sita used to take bath. The spot with crystal clear water is located about 2 km upstream from Ramghat. You can see here Ram Janaki Raghuvir mandir and Sankat mochan mandir.
Near Sita Kund, you can also visit Sphatik Shila on the banks of river Mandakini, which is believed to be the resting place of Lord Ram and Sita. Sphatik Shila is a huge rock; looking like a white crystal rock and feels extremely soft. Devotees visit the place to offer prayers, where the rock bears the footprints believed to be of Lord Ram.
Sati Anusuya Mandir
Sati Anusuya Mandir is in the middle of the thick forest about 16 km from the Chitrakoot town. This mandir is dedicated to Sati Anusuya. According to Ramayana, Sati Anusuya was the wife of Maharishi Atri, who along with their three sons meditated here.
The river Mandakini is believed to have originated out of Sati Anusuya’s prolonged meditation. Thus, she saved the entire region from drought and famine it suffered due to the absence of rains for a very long time. It is said that Lord Ram along with Sita had visited this place to meet Maharishi Atri and Sati Anusuya.
Gupt – Godavari
Gupt Godavari Caves are situated about18 km from Chitrakoot town upside the hills. It is a pair of caves, one is big and wide, with very narrow entrance, while the other is long and narrow with a stream of water running along its base. The cave also features two throne-like rocks. It is believed that Lord Ram and Lakshmana held court here during the period of their exile.
According to the legend, the stream emerging from the rocks deep inside this cave is Godavari river. After falling on to another cave below, the stream disappears in the mountain.
At the entrance of the cave, you can see a beautifully carved sculpture of Trinities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Fairs and Festivals in Chitrakoot
People celebrates almost all Hindu festivals in Chitrakoot. Fairs and festivals related to Lord Ram are celebrated with special zeal and enthusiasm. Some of the popular festivals that draw large crowds here include the Ramayana Mela, Diwali, Navratri, and Ramanavami.
Ramayana Mela is an important festival in Chitrakoot held in the month of February or March, which continues to be a huge draw of devotees every year. The fair has also become a huge tourist event of the region.
During the festival, hundreds of Hindu saints, seers, religious and spiritual leaders assemble here and indulge in a variety of religious activities. They interact with devotees on various religious topics and give interpretation of religious text and practices. Devotees offer special prayers and yagnas on the occasion at various temples of Chitrakoot.
Staging Rama Leela , that unfolds the story of Lord Ram and other events of the epic Ramayana is a major attraction for the visitors during Ramayana Mela.
Diwali in Chitrakoot
Diwali is celebrated all over the country, but its festivity at Chitrakoot deserves a special mentioning. Since Diwali is directly related to the life of Lord Ram, it is celebrated with lot of pomp and splendor in Chitrakoot.
A sea of faithfuls flock the banks of the Mandakani river on the occasion. Devotees occupy every nook and cranny of Chitrakoot for their camping. Millions of followers take a dip in the holy Mandakini river.
On the Diwali day, they perform the ‘deepdaan’ pooja (offering of lamps), which is an important part of various rituals of the day. They also do ‘parikrama’ (circumambulate) of the sacred Kamadgiri mountain, believed to be the place where Lord Ram resided along with Matha Sita and Lakshmana.
Nearby Tourist Attractions
Chitrakoot is surrounded by many tourist destinations you will be interested to visit. Thus, Chitrakoot will give you an opportunity to discover other nearby places of religious, mythical and historic importance in the vicinity.
A trip to pilgrim centers such as Allahabad and Varanasi can be linked with the visit to Chitrakoot. The world-famous tourist center, the Khajuraho temples are situated around 185 km from here. If you are interested in exploring some wildlife sanctuaries, the Panna national park is located some 180 kms from here.
Panna National Park
Madhya Pradesh is gifted with vast areas of forests and wildlife settings. The state has a total 5 Tiger reserves. Panna National Park in the Chhatarpur district was declared as 22nd Tiger reserve in India in 1994. It covers an area of 542.67 sq.km.
The park is open to the public from October to June. It is relatively less crowded; means, the visitors can do a Jangle Safari around any place, inside the park without observing the route system. Safari booking can also be done online.
Besides tigers, you can see a whole lot of wild animals and birds including deer, antelope, vultures, wolf, chinkara, cheetal and a variety of flora and fauna. The park is home for more than 200 species of bird, including several migratory birds.
The Ken river passing through the Panna hills will give you an opportunity to watch the species of crocodiles such as mugger and long snout gharial unique to Indian subcontinent. The park has colourful sandstone and granite, particularly on the bank of the Ken river. Many varieties of reptiles like pythons, king cobras are also present in the park.
The forest of Panna is featured in the epic Mahabharata , where Pandavas are believed to have spent in exile for a long time. There is a 100ft. waterfall known as Pandav Falls in the park which is running all throughout the year.
How to Reach
The Panna National Park is connected to Khajuraho, Satna and many other places in Madhya Pradesh by a good road network. Satna is the nearest railway station which has connectivity from all major cities in the central and western India. The nearest airport is Khajuraho Airport which is about 45km from the park.
During February to March is the ideal time to visit the park. Because, the temperature then remains at around 32 °C to 35 °C with a clear sky, providing for a better stay and sighting of wild animals.
Nearest tourist centers
The UNESCO World Heritage site Khajuraho Temples is situated at 35km from Panna National Park. This provides also an option to take an excursion tour to Khajuraho, while staying in a resort at Panna National Park.
Khajuraho may not be an ideal family destination; nevertheless, it remains a definite tourist place to explore India’s traditional artwork and architecture.
Khajuraho temples were built by the Rajput dynasty, Chandelas, during the period 950 to 1100 CE. It was a chain of 85 temples originally, of which only 22 have survived today. These are a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the Archaeological survey of India.
Khajuraho temples are the splendid examples of Hindu architecture and sculpture, unique in style, unlike the temple models of medieval period. The temples represent one of the world’s great artistic wonders depicting beautiful, intricate and expressive sculptures and art work.
Each of these temples are built on a masonry platform with a marked upward direction in the structure full of sculptures in different forms from meditation to most blissful postures of males and females.
Most of the temples were built completely of sandstones, while a few others were constructed partly of granite and partly of sandstone.
Geographically these temples are grouped in three divisions, Western, Eastern and Southern. Large crowd from all over the world visit the Khajuraho Group of Monuments throughout the year
Khajuraho Dance Festival
The Khajuraho Dance Festival is the celebration of the traditional dance forms conducted every year in Khajuraho since 2002. The event represents a fascinating display of art and traditions of India in dance forms.
The dance festival is organized by the Kala Parishad under the Madhya Pradesh government, as a tribute to classical dance, music and art of India. The event is held at open air auditoriums in two of the most popular temples of Khajuraho, the Chitragupta and Vishwanatha Temple. The event normally falls in the month of February.
Almost all known traditional dance forms in India are presented in the festival. This includes Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, and Kathakali.
The event is also an occasion to pay homage to the numerous unnamed artisans, who put their efforts in bringing to life the widely acclaimed carvings of Khajuraho monuments.
Spectators from all over the world attend the display of art through a variety of traditional dance forms prevalent in different parts of the country.
How to Reach Khajuraho
Khajuraho Airport conducts regular services to Delhi, Bhopal, Raipur and Mumbai. Khajuraho Railway Station is 5 kms away from the Khajuraho Group of Monuments. Other nearest railway stations are Harpalpur (99 km) and Satna (120km). The city is well connected by road to various major Indian cities.