The 14 Kos Parikrama commences on Ekadashi in the month of Phalguna from the holy Janaki kund at Maharshi Valmiki ashram. Pilgrims carry bamboo sticks while making their way to Bithoor on the Pariyar road. This circumambulation is completed in three days and is done for the progress of one’s lineage. Interestingly, pilgrims offer prayers at the important temples on the Bithoor Parikrama and finally immerse the bamboo stick in the Ganga.
According to the Hindu scriptures, the reason that people start this journey from Maharshi Valmiki ashram is because this is the place where Sita Mata sought refuge after being forsaken by Prabhu Shri Rama. This sacred place was a dense forest in the olden times and is also where Luv and Kush were born and where they received their formal education from Maharshi Valmiki.
Both were exponents of Advaita and highly accomplished in every kala known to the universe (there are totally 64 kalas in the universe – chatushasti kala) at an early age and it is believed that their radiance transformed the ashram into a celestial garden filled with fruits, sweet-smelling flowers, birds and animals.
The ashram of Adikavi Valmiki is situated atop a hillock and offers a panoramic view of Bithoor. There is a temple of Sita Mata in the complex along with a Sita Rasoi where Sita Mata is said to have cooked the meals for the residents of the ashram. The vessels seen here are said to be of the Treta Yuga. There is a Sita Kund where Sita Mata used to draw water.
The reunion of Prabhu Shri Rama with his sons and wife took place in this ashram. After Luv and Kush caught the sacrificial horse of the Ashwamedha Yagna, Lakshmana and Lord Hanuman battled with Luv and Kush only to be imprisoned by them. When Prabhu Shri Rama did not hear of their victorious return to Ayodhya, he came in search of them and arrived at the ashram.
The famous incident of Sita Bhumi Pravesh has occurred here wherein Mother Sita entered Mother Earth in her physical body, a rare event that is testimony to her virtue and chastity. This place is deemed to be the samadhi sthala of Mother Sita.
There is a south-facing Hanuman shrine within the complex. The trees seen in the ashram are believed to be hundreds of years old. One tree in particular is venerated by all as the tree under which Valmiki Maharshi imparted the scriptural truths to Luv and Kush.
Nana Saheb Peshwa II is credited with building the renowned Swarg Naseni of 49 steps that is commonly known as the stairway to heaven. Peshwa also built the impressive Deep Malika where 365 lamps can be lit. The temple with the ancient black stone Shiva Linga which has an idol of Harihar that appears to be of great antiquity and of Valmiki Maharshi seated in padmasana holding a pen in his right hand was also built by him.
The locals say that this is where the Ramayana was composed. There is also a Ramayana Sthamb in the premises. There are several old idols of Prabhu Shri Rama, Sita Mata, Lakshmana, Sugreeva and Luv and Kush.
Thousands of devotees throng this ashram on the auspicious occasion of Maharshi Valmiki Jayanti on Ashwin Purnima.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)