Ramayana Express, which was launched by the Indian Railways on 14th November from Delhi and 22nd November from Jaipur last year, is all set to make a comeback. The train will depart from Safdarjung Station in Delhi on 3rd November and cover all the destinations associated with Lord Rama and Ramayana in 16 days. During the course of this journey, devotees will be able to visit all the places that occupy an important place in the life of Lord Rama. There will be adequate security arrangements on the train, along with a tour manager & guide who will provide every kind of information to the passengers onboard. Out of the total 800 passengers onboard, 40 will also be visiting Sri Lanka during the course of the journey. The train is run and managed by IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation), a subsidiary of the Indian Railways.
The journey of the Ramayana Express will be covered in two parts, one in India and the other in Sri Lanka. Facilities for flying from India to Sri Lanka are also provided in this journey. The entire journey will be covered in 16 days and will consist of 800 passengers onboard. Out of these, 40 will be travelling only till Sri Lanka.
In India, the Ramayana Express will cover the following places: Ayodhya, Nandigram, Janakpur, Varanasi, Prayag (Allahabad), Shringverpur, Chitrakoot, Nasik, Hampi and Rameshwaram. In Sri Lanka, the train will cover Colombo, Candy and Nuwara Eliya.
The fares for the Ramayana Express are not available yet. Last year, the fare for the Indian part of the journey was 15,120 INR, while for the Sri Lanka part it was 36,970 INR. The fares are expected to remain almost the same this year.
Lord Ram holds a special significance in Hindu mythology, with Lord Ram being one of the most worshipped gods in Hindu religion. The mythology states that when Lord Ram was sent on an exile along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman, he traveled all across India before finally reaching Lanka (current Sri Lanka) to rescue his wife from the evil Ravana. Many temples have been constructed across the country, marking the presence of Lord Rama during his journey. IRCTC, in order to cater to the needs of devotees of Lord Ram, launched Shri Ramayana Express that will cover most of the important destinations associated with Lord Rama. The tour will also cover destinations in Sri Lanka.
The Ramayana Express will depart on 3rd November from Safdarjung Railway Station and then go on to cover various destinations in India and Sri Lanka. In the Indian part of the journey, devotees will be able to visit Ayodhya, Nandigram, Janakpur, Varanasi, Prayag (Allahabad), Shringverpur, Chitrakoot, Nasik, Hampi and Rameshwaram.
Ayodhya – Ayodhya, the ancient city, is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram and setting of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Lord Rama was born in this city and many temples were built in the city to worship Lord Ram, who was known as a man of honour. The ancient city was the capital of the Kosala Kingdom and is one of the seven most important Hindu pilgrimage destinations in India. It is believed that the birthplace of Lord Ram was marked by a temple and was known as Ram Janambhoomi which was believed to be demolished by Mughal Emperor Babur. He erupted a mosque on the site. The city is located just 8km from the city of Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh and is situated on the banks of the river Saryu.
Nandigram – Just 14km away from the holy city of Ayodhya lies the town Nandigram where Bharat, Lord Ram’s brother, lived while Lord Ram was on exile. Bharat wasn’t present in the kingdom when Lord Rama was exiled and when Bharat returned he was informed that he is the new king of Kosala kingdom. Greatly hurt by the news, Bharat travelled to Chitrakut to convince Lord Ram to return to the kingdom and rule. Despite Bharat’s multiple requests, Lord Ram refused to return to the kingdom. Then Bharat asked Lord Ram to give him his wooden sandals and told that he would worship Lord Ram’s sandals and rule the kingdom on his behalf but he won’t live the luxury of the king. It was in Nandigram that the Bharat lived for the next 14 years and worshipped the sandals of Lord Ram. Upon Lord Ram’s return from exile, Bharat welcomed him to the kingdom where Lord Ram was coronated as king. There is a temple in Nandigram which reflects the devotion of Bharat and his love for Lord Ram.
Janakpur – A beautiful city in Nepal, close to the Indian border, Janakpur is believed to the birthplace of Sita and the place where Sita got married to Lord Ram. Janakpur was the capital city of King Janak’s kingdom. The city is famous for the Janaki temple which is believed to be more than 500 years old and is a major Hindu pilgrimage destination. The city is a perfect example of the blend of Indian and Nepalese culture. The city was the capital of the Mithila Kingdom. The city exhibits ancient artistic traditions associated with Mother Sita and Lord Ram and plenty such spots can be observed throughout the city. Nepal is a Hindu country and their devotion to Sita can be easily observed in numerous paintings and wall murals depicting the grand marriage of Sita with Lord Ram. Every street in the city has one or two temples dedicated to Hindu gods and the ancient land of gods now serve as a museum for Hindu devotion. Janaki temple is the largest temple dedicated to Sita and one of the most important Hindu temples after Ayodhya. There are also various important Hindu temples like Mahadev temple and Dulaha temple which serve as major tourist attraction spots in the city.
Varanasi – One of the oldest cities in India and an important Hindu pilgrimage destination in the country, Varanasi is also one of the major tourist attractions in India. Also known as Kashi, the city is sacred to Jains and Hindus. The oldest settlement is Kashi can be traced back to 11th century. In Hindu religion, it is believed that the city of Varanasi is the road to salvation and many people take refuge in the city in their dying days to seek salvation once they die. An abode of Hindu God Shiva, Varanasi’s beauty and divinity if further amplified by the presence of River Ganges. A sacred river, Ganges is believed to have the power to wash of all human sins. The famous temple of Kashi Vishwanath, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the major tourist attractions in Varanasi. The temple is made of gold and is one of the holiest temples in India. Other major attractions are Sankat Mochan temple which is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, Tulsi Manas temple is a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, Sita and Laxman.
Allahabad – One of the most sacred and ancient cities in India, Allahabad is the city of steeped mythology, culture, history and religion. Also known as Prayag, Allahabad is famous for its confluence of three holy rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. In the epic Ramayana, the city of Prayagraj is mentioned as the town where Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman spent some days before proceeding to Chitrakoot. In the epic, the town is mentioned to have just a few huts for rishi huts at the confluence of the rivers. The town is one of the four sites of the famous Kumbh Mela. Organised once every 12 years, Kumbh Mela is the record holder of the largest religious gathering. The confluence of rivers also known as Sangam is believed to be a sacred site and dip into the Sangam can wash off all human sins. Lord Rama stayed in Prayag on the request of Sage Bharadwaj.
Shringverpur – A picturesque tourist destination in Uttar Pradesh, Shringverpur is believed to the town where Lord along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman crossed the River Ganga while on his way to exile. A relatively quaint village has gained popularity as the time passes with having its mention in details in the epic Ramayana. The town is mentioned as the Kingdom of Nishadraj and the excavation of the town unearthed the remains of a temple dedicated to Shringi Rishi. It is believed that Lord Rama took shelter in the city for a night after the request of Kind Nishadraj before leaving for jungles. The famous tourist spots in Shringverpur are the Ram Chaura, Shanta Devi temple and Shringi Rishi Samadhi.
Chitrakoot – A village of religious importance, Chitrakoot is situated on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, sharing the area with both the states. It is the same town where Bharat, the brother of Lord Ram, followed Lord Ram and tried persuading Lord Ram into returning back to the kingdom. Lord Ram also got to know about his father’s death in the same town and he performed King Dashrath’s last rites in presence of all the goddess and gods.
Nasik – During his exile, Lord Ram moved to Panchvati in Dandaka Forests from Chitrakoot. Today the Panchvati is identifies as a region in Nasik. Situated on the banks of river Godavari, Nasik is a pilgrimage destination with numerous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Ram. Nasik is also home to the world’s only Lakshman temple and a cave named after Sita, where Lord Ram, Lakshman and Sita are believed to have prayed to Lord Shiva. Near the cave lies the Lakshman Rekha, where Ravana abducted Sita. The name Panchvati traces its origin from the presence of 5 banyan trees when Lord Ram arrived. Even the name of the town Nasik is derived from the site where Lakshman cut the nose of Surpanakha.
Hampi – Hampi is a major tourist attraction in South India. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Hampi exhibits numerous Hindu temples. The capital of the Vijayanagar empire, Hampi was a town of glory in its prime. The city of Hampi holds special mention in the epic Ramayana. Believed to be the town where Lord Ram and Lakshman met Lord Hanuman while in his search for his wife Sita. Many of the places mentioned in the epics can be found here in Hampi. Hampi is known for its grand style of architecture dating back to the Vijayanagar Empire. Hampi is believed to the mythical kingdom of monkeys. The Anjaneya Hills across the river is believed to be the holy site where Anjana gave birth to Lord Hanuman. The place where Hanuman first met Lord Ram is known as Rishimukh Island and is considered to be a holy place in Hindu religion. Sugreeva’s cave can be spotted on the banks of the river while approaching Vittala temple. Hampi is home to many such tales of mythology.
Rameshwaram – A town in the state of Tamil Nadu, Rameshwaram is located on the Pamban Island, separated by the Pamban Channel from the mainland India. It is 50 km from Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. Rameshwaram is the terminus of the Shri Ramayan Express Tour, the Sri Lanka tour starts from taking a flight from Chennai to Sri Lanka. Together with Kashi, Rameshwaram is considered to be the holiest places in Hindu religion and it is also part of the holy Char Dham Yatra. In Ramayana, it is said that Lord Ram and his army arrived at the shores of Rameshwaram seeing a route across the sea to reach the kingdom of Ravana, Lanka. Hanuman was the first to discover this place and it is believed that he, being the son of the wind god, had taken a giant leap across the sea to Lanka. Rameshwaram is the place where Lord Ram decided to build a sea bridge across the sea. It is also the place where Ravan’s brother Vibhishan abandoned his brother to join Lord Ram’s army. The Shiva Lingam in the temple Ramanathaswamy is believed to be one of the 12 sacred Jyotirlingams.
Taking a ride on the Ramayana Express is the best and most efficient way of visiting all the destinations related to Lord Rama and those that played an important role in the Ramayana. Although the fares have not been announced yet, don’t forget to book your tickets when they are announced. There are other ways of visiting these destinations, but this train lets you visit all of them in one journey. Now that’s something you wouldn’t want to miss.