Tracing evidence of Lord Ram and his times
Report: Rahul Sinha
Adapted by: Deepak Nagpal
We have told you about the evidence of Ramayana which we found in Chitrakoot. We now take our journey further – into Sri Lanka.
Across The Sea
As the team reached the coast of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, what we saw around was the blue sea – the same sea which Lord Ram and his vaanar sena (army of monkeys) crossed to reach Ravan’s Lanka, to rescue Sita. Ravan’s Lanka is now known as Sri Lanka – India’s neighbour in the south.
But as we set our foot on Sri Lanka’s soil, several questions came to our mind – Is this really Ravan’s Lanka? Is this the place where ‘Lanka Naresh’ Ravan brought Sita after abducting her? Is this the same place which Hanuman set on fire with his burning tail? Questions were many, the place unknown and nobody around to answer them. But we had a hope – a hope to find some evidence of Ram’s existence.
In Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, we didn’t find too many people around who knew about either Ram or Ravan. But we were asked to visit nearby Norliya if really wanted to find something concrete.
In Norliya, we met a Delhi-based Indian named Harinder Sikka at a popular golf course. We were on cloud nine when we came to know that Sikka himself had been doing research on Ramayana for years. It was the most unexpected thing we had ever imagined that would happen to us. It was a real breakthrough in our search for Ram.
Sikka’s love for golf had brought him to Sri Lanka and it was during his interaction with local friends on the epic Ramayana that he decided to do a research on the topic.
Ashok Vatika Discovered
We were left surprised when Sikka told us that barely five kilometres from where we were standing now, was located one of the most important places mentioned in Ramayana – the Ashok Vatika. This is the place where Sita stayed after Ravan abducted her from India.
In Sri Lanka, Ashok Vatika is known as Sita Ella.
The place had statues of Lord Ram, his brother Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman. By their look, the statues seemed to be hundreds of years old. However, a local resident, named Romilla, corrected us, saying the statues were nearly 5,500 years old. The statues seemed to have been carved out of nearby rocks.
When we enquired about the ‘Ashok Vriksh’, Romilla told us that the famous tree was no more. But standing in its place was a hundreds of years old tree.
It is believed that Hanuman first met Sita at this place.
At Ashok Vatika
Not many people in Sri Lanka know the significance behind Ashok Vatika and treat it like any other picnic spot. However, several Indians have come together and are now turning this place into a temple. Also, paintings have been put up there to help locals understand the Ramayana-related events that took place at Ashok Vatika.
We, along with Romilla, also went to a stream called Sita Jharna that flows right under Ashok Vatika. It is believed that Sita used to bathe here during her captivity at Ashok Vatika.
The stream is surrounded by huge and dense mountains. Nobody knows where water in the stream comes from and disappears after accumulating in a ‘kund’. What’s fascinating is the fact that water level in the kund remains same throughout the year.
The disappearing of water at Sita Jharna in Ashok Vatika, and at Sita Kund and Hanuman Dhara in Chitrakoot hints at some form of connection between the three – and also makes one believe that something miraculous is happening at all three places.
Romilla next took us to that part of Ashok Vatika where, it is believed, a giant footmark of Hanuman is imprinted. According to beliefs, Hanuman appeared in his gigantic form before Sita for the first time here. This footmark was formed then.
Sri Lankan government’s archaeological department has conducted a survey and found that the marks, located on a rock near Sita Jharna, are around 6,000 years old.
If viewed from a distance, the footmark resembles that of a huge monkey. It is believed that Hanuman appeared in his gigantic form before Sita to make her believe that Ram’s vaanar sena had the strength and capability to fight Ravan’s army.
The next place we visited in our search for Ram literally left us stunned.
Not far away from Ashok Vatika is a place where it is believed Hanuman is resting in his giant form. The place is close to Chinmaya Temple. After reaching the temple, what we saw could make any atheist start believing in God.
Hanuman was sleeping in front of our eyes – in his giant form.
Anybody coming to Chinmaya Temple can see a faraway mountain structure which resembles a sleeping Hanuman in his giant form. It is not difficult to make out the head and face of the giant body, along with the chest and huge legs.
Those who question everything can raise doubts over the footmarks of Hanuman, Ram, Lakshman and Sita which we saw in our journey so far. But it will be difficult for even those people to refute the fact that the mountain structure in front of our eyes resembled a sleeping Hanuman.
Built inside the Chinmaya Temple is a huge, 16 feet granite statue of Hanuman where hundreds come everyday to offer prayers. These include not just expatriate Indians but also Buddhist Sri Lankans in large numbers. The statue is a copy of the mountain structure. The only difference is the fact that it is placed in a vertical position inside the temple.
We have made two important discoveries in Sri Lanka – Ashok Vatika and sleeping Hanuman in his giant form. We now take our journey further to discover a legacy left behind by Hanuman, but only in the next and last part of the series.