On the bank of Mahanadi, Shivrinarayan town as well as the entire state hopes to attract tourists in the coming days as Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is set to inaugurate his government’s ambitious ‘Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit’ project’s first Phase works here on Sunday– coinciding on the occasion of Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama.
Almost the entire Baghel government’s cabinet is likely to be present in the grand three-day ceremony which was kickstarted on Saturday with the beginning of a Ramayan recital contest– a first of its kind event organised by any government earlier in the state at this level.
For the purpose of conserving and beautifying the cultural heritage, traditions and relics of the Ramayana period in Chhattisgarh, the work of infrastructure development, restoration and beautification is being done at nine places under ‘Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit’. The 8th Century old Shivrinarayan temple in Shivrinarayan town, a prominent pilgrimage centre, where Lord Ram had stayed for nearly 12 years of his 14-year exile in the Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh, is among the nine places whose works will be inaugurated by Chhattisgarh CM on Sunday.
The tourism department has identified 75 sites of Ram Van Gaman Path in Chhattisgarh based on various research papers and ancient beliefs after discussion with historians. All the sites echo the stories of Ram, Laxman and Sita living in exile in the forests of Chhattisgarh. As per the legend, in Treta Yug Chhattisgarh was known as Dakshin Kosal and Dandkaranya. Lord Rama travelled all the way from North India to Chhattisgarh, and after spending nearly four months at various places of Chhattisgarh, he moved to South India. Lord Rama had entered Chhattisgarh from a place named Harchauka Sitamadi via the Gawai river of the Koriya district.
In the first phase of this project, the plan is to develop the nine spots that fall on the forested route that Lord Ram traversed. These sites include Sitamarhi Harchauka (Korea), Ramgarh (Sarguja), Shivrinarayan (Janjgir-Champa), Turturiya (Balodabazar), Chandkuri (Raipur), Rajim (Gariaband), Sihawa Saptarishi Ashram (Dhamtari), Jagdalpur (Bastar) and Ramaram (Sukma). Last year, on the occasion of Ram Navami, Chhattisgarh CM had inaugurated and renovated the Kaushalya Mata temple in Chandhkhuri.
According to Hindu mythology from the age of Ramayana, Sabari Ashram is situated here. The temple of Shivarinarayan is a great piece of work by Vaishnav Shaili by the Vaishnav community. During Magh Purnima a grand fate is being organized here. It is a place of worth watching for tourists. Mahant Ram Sundar Das, Shivrinarayan Temple Mathadhees, told ANI that the place has the pride of being the birthplace of Mata Shivri.
“This place has the distinction of being one of oldest religious places. There is a confluence of three rivers– Mahanadi, Jivnath river and Jonk river– at this place. Situated on the banks of these rivers, this is Shivrinarayan Nagar, where Shivrinarayan temple is situated.” Projecting the benefits of the works being done under the ‘Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit’, Das said, “Till now, we were not able to spread the importance of this temple. I congratulate Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel for raising the issue in his cabinet to develop 75 places where Lord Rama is stated to be visited during his 14-years exile.
“A total of 75 such places have been identified and Shivrinarayan has been set as the main centre point in the development and renovation work. In the first phase, mother Kaushalya’s birthplace in Chandrakhuri has been developed, and the Shivrinarayan area is among those nine ‘Ram Gaman tourist circuit’ places which will be developed under this project.” Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel will inaugurate all the works done under the ‘Ram Van Gaman Tourism Circuit’ project’s first phase on the event of Ram Navmi– the birthday of Lord Rama, he said.
Das said Chhattisgarh CM has organised a first-ever state-level Ramayana mela in which participants of various districts are taking participation in a Ramayana recital competition. “The winners will be awarded by CM. The first winner will be provided Rs 5 lakh, the second Rs 3 lakh and the third Rs 2 lakh as a reward.”
Giving details about Shivrinarayan temple, Das said the temple is “one of oldest religious places and historians mention that it was constructed anytime in the 8th century”. “This is one the tallest temple among all other temples constructed in Chhattisgarh so far. The carvings done on the stones of this temple seem to have been done on wood. The speciality of this temple is that Lord Shivrinarayan is seated here.”
This town is named as Shivrinarayan in the name of this temple, said Das, adding, “all schools and colleges being opened here are named in the name of Lord Shivrinarayan”. Chhattisgarh CM and his cabinet have done the work of expanding the pride of the state not only in India but on the world stage, Das mentioned
Asked about the benefit to the tourism sector due to ‘Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit’ project, Das said, “The tourists of foreign countries will come here and they will get a chance to see the places of Lord Shivrinarayan. The tourists will also get acquainted with the culture and rituals of Shivrinarayan.” “Chhattisgarh CM’s vision is to increase the income of people residing in Shivrinarayan and other places in Chhattisgarh by attracting tourism through renovation and development work on ‘Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit’,” said Das.
“Shivrinarayan is already accounted in one of the business regions but the development work being done in the region will certainly lead to an increase in income and source of business, and people will get benefits,” he added. Shivrinarayan, a land of mythology and spirituality, lies on the banks of Mahanadi in Janjgir Champa district, around 130 kilometres from Raipur. This is the place where Shabari, a character in Ramayana, is believed to have offered Lord Rama the berries that she tasted first to ensure he got only the sweetest ones.
The inauguration of the first phase of works at nine places of the ‘Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit’ project is significant in terms of attracting more tourism to the state.