Nashik [Nasik] an excellent and sanctified place is on the western edge of the Deccan peninsula and is surrounded by the Western Ghats making it picturesque and pleasant. The city is just 185 Kms from Mumbai. The city is on the banks of Godavari River which is originating from a nearby place called Trimbakeshwar. The climate of the city is very pleasant and the stay here will bring peace to the mind. The kumbha mela festival which is held once in twelve years in this city makes this city a sanctified city and a holy place. This city gets its name Nashik after the event in epic Ramayana which took place in Panchavati. During the exile of Rama, Surpanakha the sister of the Ravana tried to seduce Rama. Angered, Rama ordered Lakshmana to cut off Shoorpanakha's nose (nasika).
The city on the northern part of the river Godavari is called Panchavati. This place gets its name Panchavati because a group of five banyan trees are seen together, pancha is Sanskrit is five and vat means banyan tree, hence Panchavati. It is seen from Sri Valmiki Ramayan that Sri Rama had visited Agastya rishi just after varsha ruthu of his thirteenth year of exile and during sarath ruthu settled in Panchavati. Lakshmana constructs a hut with the wood and grass for Sri Rama’s stay at Panchavati. It is in this place that the event of cutting of the nose of Surpanakha took place.
There are different sects of sadhus whose dwelling places are known as ‘Akhada’. Each of the akhadas has its own set of rules and regulations and the sadhus follow them very strictly. Sri Niranjani , Sri Junadatta (Bhairav), Sri Mahanirvani, Sri Avahana, Sri Pancha Agni, Sri Nathpanthi Gorakhnath, Sri Vaishnav Bairagi, Sri Nagpanthi are of the names of the few Akhadas.
Kumbh Mela is a festival which is held in the holy places on the bank of Holy Rivers and it occurs once in twelve years. The main function is to take bath in the Holy River at the appointed time. The sadhus of the Akhadas attend the Kumbh Mela held at different places in Bharat and take holy bath in the river in the predetermined sequence. During the festival, preference is given to the Sadhus to take bath over the others. In Maharastra there are two places where Kumbh Melas are held namely Trimbakeshwar and Nashik.
Long ago ancestors of Sri Nagpanthi Sadhus were camping in the banks of river Godavari in the holy place of Panchavati. While taking bath in the river Godavari they chanced upon the sculpture of Sri Rama, Sri Sita and Sri Lakshman from the river. The place from where Sri Rama statue was taken is now known as Ram Kunt. The sculptures of these deities were so exquisite that the Sadhus were mesmerized. Since the Sculpturer of this murthis is unknown and that the Lord Himself had wished come to Panchavati the deities were considered as ‘Swaim prakat’ or ‘Swamimbhu’.
The Sadhus then built a ‘paranasala’ [a dwelling made of wood and grass] exclusively for Sri Rama, Sri Sita and Sri Lakshmana. This made the hut an excellent mandir for their deities. Daily poojas were conducted as per their norms and customs. The superb beauty of these deities made a wave in the minds of the people who visit the mandir and the fame of Sri Rama started spreading in the region.
Later the region of Nasik came under the rule of Peshwas. Sri Ram Mandir of Panchvati drew the attention of Sri Gopikabai mother of Sri Madhava Rao Peshwa. She thought that a suitable temple should be built for these exquisite deities during her life time. Accordingly she called the chief of army Sardar Sri Ranga Raoji Odhekar and asked him to make suitable arrangements for building a wonderful temple for Sri Rama. On the very same night Odhekar had a dream in which there was a divine direction to build the temple at the very same place. He took it as a good omen and an order from Sri Rama Himself. He vowed to build the best possible temple at the same sanctified place.
As a first step for building the temple Sardar Sri Odhekar approached the Nagpanthis to help him realise the dream of building a new temple for Sri Rama. The Nagpanthis agreed to leave the holy place for building a new temple under certain conditions. Firstly they should be given an alternative place to dwell. Secondly the Paduka of Sri Dutt Maharaj under the peepal tree and Sri Maruti murti should not be disturbed from the place. Thirdly the murti of Sri Ganesh in the south should not be displaced from that place. Fourthly the dharmsalas in the complex of new temple will be left for the use of Nagpanthis during the Kumbh Mela time. Sardar Sri Odhekar agreed to all the conditions laid by Nagpanthis. It is to note that the dharmsalas around the temple are vacated for the use of Nagpanthi sadhus during Kumbh Mela.
Sardar Odhekar started the work of constructing a huge temple for Sri Rama and His parivar in the year 1778. He could complete the temple as late as 1790, it took almost twelve years for completing this mammoth all stone temple. The hard black stones used in the construction of the temple were brought from Ramshej hills which is about 20 Km from the temple. The total cost worked out to be Rupees twenty three lakhs. It is told when the funds were not coming from the royal treasurey Odhekar use to put in own money in construction of the temple. When there was shortage of money for purchase of gold plated kalash his wife came forward to sell her diamond nose wear called ‘nathni’. Odhekar’s commitment for construction of the temple for Sri Rama is enormous. Since Sri Rama himself had ordained him to build the temple at the very same place, Odhekar took all possible steps to complete the temple in a befitting manner for Sri Rama to dwell.
While it took twelve years for completion of the temple, the murtis of Sri Rama, Sri Sita and Sri Lakshmana were kept near the present western enterence under the care of Dikshits. They were performing the daily poojas for these deities. After completion of the temple these deities were to be taken inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Therefore Sri Ganesh vigraha was installed near the western enterence where Sri Rama had stayed for twelve years.But when the deities were to be shifted inside the temple from the western enterence, they refused to bulge an inch from their seat. Odhekar then brought the great saintly man of the time Sri Timyyaabuaa Gosaavi of Sri Balaji mandir to help them. The holy man came and touched the deities with his ‘dhand’ [a wooden stick of the sanyasi] and to the astonishment of all, the movement of deities to the sanctum sanctorum inside the temple was smooth. From that time onwards the wooden stick is kept besides Sri Rama vigraha. Even today one can see the wooden stick wraped in silver cover besides the main murthi.
There are four enterances to the temple complex. As one enters the temple from eastern gate one can see that the entire complex is surrounded by an arched portal varandah on all sides. First thing one can see is a big hall supported by many pillers where devotees are sitting and singing kirthans and bajans in praise of Lord. The hall may be around seventy by thirty feet. The kirthans from this hall can be heard in the main sanctum sanctorum. There is a statue of Sri Maruti in an enclosure in standing position at the eastern end of the hall facing the main sanctum sanctorum. One can notice that the eyes of this Das Maruti are in straight line with the lotus feet of the Lord Sri Rama in the sanctum sanctorum. ‘Surrender yourself to the lotus feet of the Lord to gain entry into the heart of the Lord’ signifies Das Maruti.
As one steps out of this hall on to the right side there is another small mandap with arched pillers. Here there is a statue of Sri Maruti in a standing position facing the east. This Maruti is known by the name Sharminda Maruti.
Then the main Sri Rama Mandir is seen. One has to step through the fourteen steps to enter the main temple. These fourteen steps signify the fourteen years of vana vasa Sri Ramachandra had. As we step up in these steps we surrender ourselves to the Lord and we could see the main deities from the distance. The eighty feet distance now is nothing as we focus on the deities and their lotus feet. We get immense pleasure of being near them in Panchavati.
All the three deities are seen in the black stone. Since Sri Rama is seen in black stone He is known as Kala Rama [kala in Hindi and Marathi means black]. Sri Rama here is in a unique posture, Lord is seen without bow and arrow. Lords right hand is seen on his left chest and the left hand is showing His lotus feet in ‘dharjani’ mudra. Devotee has to surrender to the Lords lotus feet and he will find a place in the heart of the Lord. Lord Sri Rama is flaged by Sri Sita and Sri Lakshmana on both the sides.
After having dharshan of Sri Rama, Sri Sita and Sri Lakshmana as one comes out of the sanctum sanctorum through southern enterance, one can see Sri Ganpathi mandir established by the Nagpanthis in the south western coner of the temple. After offering prayer at this sannadhi one can see Sri Ganpathi mandir near the western enterence. Offer your prayers to the Lord Sri Ganpathi here. Turn to north prakara and after a short distance one can see peepal trees lined up. Under the first peepal tree one can see the foot print of Sri Dutt Maharaj. Offer prayers to Sri Dutt Maharaj at his lotus feet.
Moving further in the northern prakara one comes across a small mandap with arched pillers. Here there is a statue of Sri Maruti in a standing position facing the east. This Maruti is known by the name Sharminda Maruti. This is the same mandap we have seen just before entering the main Sri Ram Mandir.
There is an interesting annotate to Sri Maruti being called Sharminda Maruti. This is the Sri Maruti statue and the foot print of Sri Dutt Maharaj which Nagpanthis told not to disturb while the new mandir for Sri Rama was being built.
Sri Rama’s presence at this mandir is confirmed by the fact that Sri Rama used to have discussions on Veda and dharma with Sri Dutt Maharaj who used to meditate under the ‘oudumber’ [peepal] tree. It is the same tree under which the foot print [paduka] of Sri Duttmaharaj is seen even today in the northern prakara of Mandir. This place is considered to be older than kala ram mandir. It is told that during the course of their discussion, Sri Hanumanji had entered the place. When Sri Hanumanji saw that his Lord is in deep discussion with Sri Dutt Maharaji, he felt embarassed. He felt that he should not have distrubed them and their discussion. He walked shying away from the place. Even today one can see Lord Hanumanji’s vigraha there, who is seen shying and his head is seen downward because of the embarassment he had caused to his Lord. It is also worth noting that there is no gadha or any other weapon in his hand. That is why this Maruti is known by the name ‘Sharminda Maruti’.
Come vist Sri Kala Ram Mandir where Sri Das Maruti and Sri Sharminda Maruti are seen fully armed with ‘Sri Rama nama’ to protect you and take you nearer to Sri Rama.
Ed [September 2012]
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