Friday, March 27, 2015

Sita Gufa @ Panchavati!

The Sita Gufa at Panchavati (Photo Courtesy: Sita Gufa Trust)

Panchavati is situated on the banks of the River Godavari, in Nashik, Maharashtra. It is believed that Rama during his period of exile, had built a hermitage within the forest of Dandakaranya, close to a cluster of five banyan trees. Banyan trees are known as "Vat Vriksh"in Marathi and since there were five Vat Vriksh there, the place came to be known as Panchavati.

Even today, Panchavati bears a lot of sights and scenes that are reminiscent of the times of Ramayana. There are a number of places that one can visit in Panchavati, mostly by foot, or auto-rickshaws. People prefer to walk through the streets of Panchavati, for two reasons - one, it is easier to cover the different temples that are close to one another and more importantly, since it is the land that Rama walked on, people feel it is more appropriate to walk rather than take a vehicle. Those who find it difficult to walk can hire autorickshaws.

The moment you enter the parking near Ramakund, the place where the three rivers, Aruna, Varuna and Godavari converge, and where Rama is believed to have performed the last rites of his father, Dasaratha,
you are surrounded by tourist guides. Hiring a guide helps you to quickly move from shrine to shrine by foot. They normally charge around Rs.200/-

Ramakund in Panchavati
There are a number of temples like the Kapaleswar Shiva temple, where Brahma occupies the place where Nandi is usually found, the Kala Ram and Gora Ram Mandirs, Godavari Matha Mandir, Hanuman and Saibaba Temples, Karthikeya Temple etc. But the most significant and probably the one with the best vibration is the Sita Gufa.

The Banyan (Vat) Trees outside the cave (Photo Courtesy: Holy Darshan - Nashik)
Unfortunately photography is not permitted inside the cave complex and hence I had to leave my camera in the car and only use my mobile and pictures from the temple, so apologies for the poor quality of pictures.

The cave has a queuing area and a hall inside where books and photographs of the idols in the cave are sold.  The queuing area also has signage which say that anyone suffering from TB, Asthma or other respiratory diseases should not attempt to go down the cave.

The cave has a low entrance - say about four feet and one has to really stoop to go down the first level. It further reduces as the level goes down deep into the cave.

The entrance to the Sita Gufa
One has to either stoop fully or sit and move down. At the third and lowest level, are the idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. This is said to be the place where Lakshmana had asked Sita to stay while he went looking for his brother Rama, who had been cunningly led away by Maricha, in the form of a golden deer.

Sita sees Maricha in the form of a golden deer and asks Rama to catch it for her
There is a sense of tranquility that prevails inside the cave. The atmosphere is cool and one cannot draw their eyes away from the serene idols in front of them. There is also a wooden Paduka here (claimed to be Rama Paduka from his time at Panchavati) which the priest allows one to touch and worship.
The idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshmana as found in the Sita Gufa (Photo
courtesy: Sita Gufa)
The way out from the cave also has two further levels, where one has to stoop and move forward. On the first level, one can find the Shivalinga said to have been worshipped by Sita. The vibration here is excellent and on a quiet, less crowded day, one can even sit down for a few minutes and meditate in front of the magnificient Shiva.

Shiva Linga worshipped by Sita Devi, inside the Gufa (Photo Courtesy: Holy Darshan - Nashik)
There is a third level higher than the second. This is where Sita Devi is said to have ventured in order to provide food to Ravana, who had come in the guise of a hermit and it is from here that Ravana had abducted Sita. There is a Koorma Peetam at the place from where Ravana is said to have lifted her up and carried her away.

Ravana appearing as a hermit and Sita coming out to give him food
Across the road from the Sita Gufa is the path through which Maricha is said to have led Rama forty miles into the forest. This place has been converted into a mini museum with idols depicting different scenes from Ramayana pertaining to the Aranya Kandam. An entrance fee of Re.1 is charged to visit this museum.

Rama and Lakshmana meeting an wounded Jatayu who tells them that Ravana had carried Sita away
A few feet away from the Sita Gufa is a chariot that is claimed to be the Jatayu Vimana in which Jatayu had tried to intercept Ravana while he was carrying away Sita. This vimana is used during the Rama Navami celebrations to depict the Apaharan of Sita.

Jatayu Vimana
About four kms away from Sita Gufa, is a place called Tapovan, which is supposed to be where Lakshmana cut off Surpanaka's nose, thereby leading to the abduction of Sita. A number of autorickshaws ply to Tapovan from Panchavati and pilgrims also visit there to complete their tour of Panchavati.

Lakshmana cutting Surpanaka's nose
If you happen to be in this part of the world, do not miss visiting Panchavati and Sita Gufa! Happy Ram Navami wishes to one and all!


  1. Good informative and also impressive article..sivayanamaha

  2. Your historic and religious trip has opened my eyes up to such a beautiful blog. The pictures you have posted are so natural and real. I have never been to Panchvati or Sita Gufa but I plan to go after I read this wonderful article!