Hanuman reached Pathala (netherworld) in search of Rama’s ring, but he found a plate full of rings there. A surprised Hanuman asked the keeper of Pathala about it, and he was told: “All these rings belong to Rama. As there are several Ramas, so are the rings.”
Similarly, there are numerous versions of Ramayana stories. Each land has its own Ramayana legend, myth as well as characters. But they offer the same message to the world.
Even then, the background and places related to the stories offer a new experience. Let us take a trip to learn and feel Wayanad’s version of the Ramayana legend.
The Sitateertham at Ponkuzhi
We are accompanied on our voyage by writer and researcher Dr Azeez Taruvana. “As there are several written versions of the Ramayana, there are again numerous oral tales related to the legend. All these contribute to the massive body of Ramayana literature,” he said.
The trip was planned in such a way that it touched spots easily accessible to travellers and closely related to episodes in the Ramayana. “Let us start our journey from Muthanga, where Sitatheertham is located,” said Azeez.
The trip takes you past Sulthan Bathery to the greenery of Muthanga. It offers striking scenery. All along the way, monkeys engage in frolic. When the dark clouds gather, the scene becomes more otherworldly. After passing the check-post, we reached Ponkuzhi. Right on the side of the path is the Sita Devi temple. Adjacent to it is a pond covered with moss and wild growth. “This is Sitatheertham. According to legend, this pond was formed when Sita Devi’s tears fell at this spot,” said Azeez.
He then related the tale. “When people began to spread canards about Sita, Rama decided to abandon her in the forest. A carrying Sita was left alone in the deep forest beyond the boundaries of Rama’s kingdom. This was that spot. A disconsolate Sita could not control her tears and wept. Her tears gathered at this spot and turned into this pond.” Azeez cast a magical spell with a trip to the past.
Sage Valmiki’s disciples saw a pregnant Sita weeping alone in the forest. They informed the sage of the matter and as instructed by him, Sita was taken to Valmiki’s hermitage.
The vehicle passed a junction named Asramamkolli at Pulpalli and reached a climb. “This is Valmiki’s hermitage, where Sita later lived,” Azeez pointed out a structure thatched with grass. It was below a mandaram (Bauhinia acuminata) tree. The scene was exactly as in the story. The floor of the hermitage was paved with mud and there were several lamps and flowers offered during rituals. It is believed that Sita gave birth to Lava and Kusa here.
There was a path in front of the hermitage which led to Munikkallu – a rock – where Valmiki conducted penance, according to the legend. Local people have believed that one could hear the chanting of Rama’s name from the rock, which is now covered with peepal (Sacred fig) branches. In the mandaram tree, there will always be two flowers blooming – to adorn Sita Devi’s hair.
The Sita Lava-Kusa temple at Pulpally
Lava and Kusa grew up at Valmiki’s hermitage along with their mother. Valmiki was their Guru and imparted training in weaponry and use of divine armaments. The youngsters soon became experts in martial arts.
One day, Vedarajan (the king of hunters) met Valmiki, Sita and the twins. He offered his respects to Sita Devi and built a new place of residence for them. The spot where they shifted to is now the Sita Devi Lava-Kusa temple at Pulpally.
Sree Rama decided to conduct the Aswamedha Yaga. The horse started its journey as part of the yaga accompanied by Hanuman. He was its protector and was tasked with fighting anyone who stopped the horse. Nobody had the courage to do so. But when the horse entered the Wayanad area, two youngsters tethered the horse to a vadavrisha (big banyan tree) near Ponkuzhi. The two kids were Lava and Kusa. At the spot where the horse’s passage was stopped, the Lava-Kusa temple has come up. Every year, on the eighth and ninth day of the Malayalam month of Kumbham, a festival is celebrated here.
Hanuman, who was accompanying the horse, was also made captive by the twins and taken to Sita’s presence. She recognised Hanuman and asked Lava and Kusa to set him free. However, the news had already reached Ayodhya and Rama set out with his army to release the horse. Rama soon reached the spot, but a battle was not necessary as he recognized Sita as well as Lava and Kusa. He invited them back to Ayodhya.
But, Sita refused the offer and said that she would never return to the land which had humiliated and hurt her. She, instead, prayed with all her heart to Bhoomi Devi to accept her. A chasm soon developed on the earth and Sita descended into it.
While Sita was falling into the gap, Rama grabbed her hair. Though he could not prevent Sita’s passage, Rama was left with Sita’s mane, which had torn off.
Our next stop was Jadayattakavu, the place where Sita is believed to have joined Bhoomi Devi. There is a temple here which is surrounded by a thick growth of trees. The spot got its name thanks to jada, meaning mane, which remained with Rama after Sita left. The deity at the temple is Sita Devi in the form Chedattilamma.
Our journey touching the places related to Ramayana began from the site where Sita Devi shed her tears. It ended at the spot where she descended into the deep earth. During the return trip, dark clouds gathered and a downpour soon followed. Thunder could be heard, as if Lava and Kusa had set out on a hunting expedition in the hills.