Saying ‘Panchavati’ is near Nasik is a travesty of truth

Saying ‘Panchavati’ is near Nasik is a travesty of truth

Addressing devotees after the ‘Consecration Ceremony’ at Ayodhya Ram Temple, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to Lord Sri Rama’s Sojourn in Forests, slightly but strikingly deviating from Valmiki Sanskrit Ramayana version, and also the version in Telugu verse-by-verse transcreation by ‘Andhra Valmiki’ Vavilikolanu Subba Rau (Vasudasa Swamy).

Addressing devotees after the ‘Consecration Ceremony’ at Ayodhya Ram Temple, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to Lord Sri Rama’s Sojourn in Forests, slightly but strikingly deviating from Valmiki Sanskrit Ramayana version, and also the version in Telugu verse-by-verse transcreation by ‘Andhra Valmiki’ Vavilikolanu Subba Rau (Vasudasa Swamy).

An unambiguous narration of places Sri Rama sequentially sojourned in, with topographical evidences, is mentioned in ‘Andhra Valmiki Ramayana,’ the one and only authentic version of Valmiki Sanskrit Ramayana in Telugu. Incidentally, Vasudasa Swamy’s 162nd birth anniversary falls on February 13, 2023 (Magha Shuddha Chaviti).

According to Modi, Sri Rama during ‘Vana Vasa’ went first to ‘Bharadwaj Ashram’ in PrayagRaj in Uttar Pradesh, ‘Chitrakoota’ in Madhya Pradesh, ‘Panchavati’ near Nasik in Maharashtra, ‘Lepakshi’ in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, ‘Kishkindha’ in Karnataka, and ‘Rameshwaram’ in Tamil Nadu and to ‘Sri Lanka’ finally. He said that ‘Panchavati’ is the place near Nasik. Conspicuously, no mention is made of ‘Panchavati’ and ‘Parnasala’ which are 30 km from Bhadrachalam, supposed to be the abode of Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana while in forests. Though not connected to ‘Vana Vasa,’ a mention could have been made to world famous ‘Southern Ayodhya’ Bhadrachalam Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple.’ Modi’s authenticity of sources may be right in its own way.

In Sanskrit, ‘Valmiki Ramayana’ and in Vasudasa Swamy’s ‘Andhra Valmiki Ramayana,’ Rama with Sita and Lakshmana, it is written that after leaving Ayodhya for forests, first reached River Tamasa, travelled North, touching Northern Kosala, River Veda Shruti, turned south to cross River Gomathi and pass through southern Kosala. They then reached ‘Shrungiberipuram’ at the bank of Ganges, took help from tribal king Guha to cross River Ganges. They reached ‘Bharadwaj Ashram’at the confluence of Rivers Yamuna and Ganga, near Allahabad or Prayag Raj in Uttar Pradesh.

From there they travelled west along the southern direction of River Yamuna flow, and at a convenient place crossed the River, where they saw the ‘Tree Shyamam.’ On further travelling two miles through ‘Nilavanam’, they reached ‘Chitrakoota’ near the banks of Mandakinini-Sarayu Rivers and had an audience with Maharshi Valmiki. After Bharata came there and left, Sri Rama decided to shift from ‘Chitrakoota’ to a faraway place from Ayodhya. They went to ‘Atri Ashram,’ and later trekked from Chitrakoota region to the massive Dandakaranya forest into the wilderness.

In Dandakaranya, after killing ‘Viradha,’ Sita, Rama and Lakshmana reached ‘Sarabhanga Ashram’ 12 miles away from the spot of Viradha’s death. On his direction, travelled west, in a river flowing towards east (opposite direction) to reach ‘Suteekshna Ashram.’ They saw a wonderful tank and ‘Manda Karni Ashram.’ There, and as well as in Ashramas of many other Sages, they stayed alternately for days, months and years, moving hither and thither, from north to south and back, east to west and back, sometimes to the same place multiple times, for over ten years.

Later, Sita Rama Lakshmana stayed for a while in ‘Suteekshna Ashram’ before travelling south for about 60-70 miles (8 Yojanas) to stay in the Ashram of ‘Sudarshana,’ the brother of ‘Agastya’ overnight. Next day, travelling south for about 8 miles, reached ‘Agastya Ashram’, and received from him ‘Vaishnava Weaponry’ which Sri Rama used during his war with Ravana. Agastya suggested to them to proceed further, to stay in a pleasant place called ‘Panchavati,’ surrounded by flowered forests, with abundant fruits, water, and trees, 16 miles from his place, and guided them the way. While travelling towards ‘Panchavati’ they met ‘Jatayuvu,’ Dasaratha’s friend, on a Banyan tree, and heard his story. Then they went to ‘Panchavati,’ not near Nasik Godavari but near Bhadrachalam Godavari.

On reaching ‘Panchavati’ Lakshmana built ‘Parnasala,’ a spacious cozy straw cottage, giving an Ashram look, levelling and raising the clay for raised floor of the cottage, strongly pillared with long bamboos. Thereupon on those pillars, excellent beams are made, and the branches of Shamii trees are spread out, twined firmly with twines of jute features, and with the cross-laid bamboos for thatching. Over the blades of Kusha grass, leaves are spread and well over-covered for the roof. The trio entered it after formal ritual like housewarming. This and this alone is the ‘Parnasala’ in ‘Panchavati’ 30 km away from Bhadrachalam, since the times of Lord Rama ‘Vana Vasa’ which even now attracts thousands of pilgrims and devotees every day – and not the one near Nasik.

Notwithstanding what PM Modi mentioned about the topography of ‘Panchavati,’ as the one near Nasik, a disagreement has been in circulation for some time whether it is the one near Nasik or near Bhadrachalam. ‘Valmiki Ramayana’ and Vasudasa Swamy’s ‘Andhra Valmiki Ramayana,’ unequivocally with evidence-based topographical narration, confirm that ‘Panchavati and Parnasala’ are near ‘Bhadrachalam Godavari.’ Going by events that followed Sita’s abduction by Ravana, Godavari at ‘Panchavati’ shall be flowing from North to South, as we see at Bhadrachalam. This may be confirmed by the fact that, in search of Sita at the hint from forest animals and birds, Rama and Lakshmana along the River Godavari travelled towards South-West first and then towards South.

Yet another evidence is that they saw the place where Jatayuvu fell with serious injuries following his fight with Ravana, along the Godavari Coast, justifying that the river was flowing towards south. From there Rama and Lakshmana as suggested by Jatayuvu proceeded towards South-West for six miles, and towards east to find the southern way. This then means that Rama and Lakshmana were going towards South of Godavari near Bhadrachalam, suggesting that there was no need for them to cross river. This also explicitly confirms that ‘Panchavati’ was on the southern coast of Godavari. Had it been on the east, they would have to cross the river, which in fact was not.

Undoubtedly, it is in all probabilities, either the present ‘Parnasala and Panchavati’ was where Sita, Rama and Lakshmana stayed – or somewhere a few yards this way or that way. The argument that ‘Panchavati’ was the one near Nasik is a travesty of truth and contrary to the essence of Ramayana scripture. Evidences like placing Ravana’s chariot opposite (nearby) ‘Parnasala’ at ‘Ratha Gutta’ during Sita’s abduction, to briskly take her from there immediately, prove that, ‘Panchavati’ is on the west of Godavari. Had it been placed on the other side of river, leaving the place of abduction would have been delayed.

Similarly, nearby, there is a huge mountain referred to as ‘Sita Guttalu’ (Sita Mountains) supposed to be the place where Sita and Lakshmana stayed back when Rama fought with Khara at the instance of Shoorphanaka. Close by, towards west there is spacious open place, where Rama fought with fourteen thousand Rakshasas at a time. Valmiki Ramayana recorded the existence of ‘Padma Lake’ near ‘Panchavati’ and towards south of ‘Parnasala’ along River Godavari, on the way to Bhadrachalam, a village known as ‘Doomagudem’ or ‘Dummagudem’ which is still there. It is said that, on the other side of this village, near a small hillock, fight between Jatayuvu and Ravana took place.

Had Sita, Rama and Lakshmana stayed in ‘Panchavati’ near Nasik, as claimed by some, they might have crossed Vindhya Mountains, Rivers Narmada and Tapatiand travelled through Vidarbha, for which there is no evidence in Sanskrit ‘Valmiki Ramayana.’ While searching for Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana passed through ‘Krauncha Forest, Matanga Forest, Rushyamook Hill’ travelling southward. Irrespective of the sojourn, it shall be indisputable that he and Sita and Lakshmana must have taken the shortest way to reach Ayodhya. They did not touch Nasik at all. These are a few topographical evidences. And hence, ‘Panchavati and Parnasala’ cannot be near Nasik but only near Bhadrachalam, come what may.

(Source: Vasudasa Swamy’s ‘Andhra Valmiki Ramayana’)

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