Sunday, February 4, 2024

Following the foot prints of Sita Matha in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka , Here I come 

Even as we were rejoicing at bringing the curtains down on 2023 with a memorable visit to the temples of our Kula Deivam and SriRangam, our earlier plan of visiting places in Sri Lanka that were connected to Ramayana was due and our thoughts soared into the blue sky along with Indigo as we waded through the sea of humanities made more detestable than the blue waters of Bengal below by the crowd (mis?) management of Chennai Airport. 

Off to Colombo
Even before we could review the schedule and Itinerary, the flight landed with a thud at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, as if to alert the dead Ravana about the new army of 43 to review, learn and also teach humanity as to how the misdeeds of one, however mighty he is , will not go unpunished even if he is an Asura with a frightening army separated by a mighty ocean.

Colombo welcomes

Welcomed with some mild showers, the group  moved merrily through the streets of Colombo to Negombo and in about an hour we checked into a not so appealing but with a better looking pleasant interiors and beach facing Hotel Beacon Beach.  As we unwound after a welcome drink and snacks and were ready to stroll to the staring beach, down came the showers which gave a good opportunity to put our feet up after a very early morning wakeup and people made use of this to network within the team.  

Pravachan in progress

The showers were followed by a torrent of a lecture on Ramayana Mahathmiyam by Shri Agrani Krishna Dasa, young and articulate CEO of our tour operating organization Tirtha Yatra ( that kept the audience spellbound for an hour. 

It is more because of this enchanting Sthala Purana at our every place of visit that we have embarked on a yatra with this tour operator for the seventh time since 2019 !

As if to make up for the simple looking rooms, the view from the seventh floor balcony was breath taking and the group had every reason to catch up with an early dinner, the hallmark of this tour operator and hit the sack.

Day-2 (21-Jan-2024)

Lanka waking up

Waking up at the crack of dawn to the sneaking sun rays to the rhythmic notes of the blue waves, the group did not lose much time simultaneously devouring the oceanic beauty with the breakfast as we set out for the first temple of the yatra namely 


Munneswarar  Temple

This popular temple is believed to have been established by Lord Ramachandra. Once Ravana requested Siva to send Parvathi to protect Lanka. Parvathi is believed to have agreed to protect,  but said will leave when once he insults a woman and Parvathi in the form of Kaali is believed to reside at Munneshwar. When Hanuman was entering Lanka he was met by Surasa, Lankini and then by Kaali who was in an angry form. Kaali said to Hanuman that he has to fight her to enter Lanka. Hanuman did not want to fight Kaali, who is the mother and so started praising her.

Kaali Amman Temple

As Hanuman’s parents had earlier worshipped all the Devis during Navarathri , when Hanuman started praising , Kaali’s aggression turned into one of Karunya. Kaali is believed to have said that she had wanted to leave Lanka earlier but as Sita was brought into Lanka she stayed back to protect her and now that he has come she will leave. Finally, when she left Lanka , the Linga she was protecting there so far, was damaged. This incident seem to have happened  around this place and hence this temple where Kaali was also present assumes importance. 


Manavaari Sivan Temple
The Siva Linga here was established by Lord Rama, immediately after killing Ravana. 

Then after an hour's drive, we walked into a heavily guarded white House at Anuradhapura to have lunch on the pool side.


After another tiring drive we stepped into the luxurious Hotel Jetwing Jaffna , to rest our aching heels and back.
Comfy hotel

Day:3 (22-Jan-2024)
The Aromatic fresh breakfast beckoned us to a new day.
     After devouring freshly baked pastries and a lavish breakfast, we proceeded to the next important temple around this place , which seems to have an interesting story.


It is believed that Saint Jamadagni , who was having the face of a mongoose (KEERI in Tamil) , got rid of that face and assumed normal face after taking a holy dip in the pond here. From then on it is called Keerimalai.

Keerimalai Temple

The Sthala Purana is captured in the below video for visitors:

Sthala Puranam
The holy pond


We then proceeded to the Neelavari Well in the northern province of Sri Lanka, where Lord Rama first entered and created this well to quench the thirst of the Vanara Sena.



The thirst of the Vanara Sena and the need to quench their thirst was immediately felt by us as we alighted from the bus in hot sun by around noon to have dharshan at 

Presiding deity Lord Muruga is in the form of a VEL here. The serene atmosphere was enhanced by the meliflous singing of some members in the group.


As the group moved towards lunch, the live telecast of the Praana Pradhishtai of Ramachandra at Ayodhya back in India was anxiously devoured by all. The picturesque hotel near Jaffna railway station provided the right ambience for the hungry yatris.
Post lunch we took the longest unexpected travel in a road that was bound on both sides by the sea water and at times the road was so narrow that only one way traffic was allowed. After 90 minutes of travel, we got into a motor boat that took us to the beautiful NAGA BHUSHANI AMMAN also known as INDRAKSHI AMMAN TEMPLE. Recalling the earlier lecture we could relate to one of the Devadas who encountered Hanumanji was this Ambal. As the Kumbabishekam was few days away there was a milling crowd and that day was more special as everyone was allowed to apply oil to the Ambal and pray. The flooring of the whole temple was strewn with wooden shavings so that devotees do not slip on the oil spilled.
Scary ride

Majestic Gopuram

Seeing the serpentine line, we had little hope of making it. But miraculously our tour operator spoke to the authorities and within 20 minutes we had a wonderful dharshan. Most interesting part is, the offer of some donation as mark of gratitude  was promptly directed to the nearby  hundial !

The happy bunch wound up the adventurous visit with a group photo while we enjoyed a hot cup of Chai at the shop where they spoke good Tamil and thanked us for the visit.
Happy Group at Indrakshi Amman Temple

Hot cup of Chai/ Joy 

Day:4 (23-Jan-2024)


The Siva Lingam in this temple is believed to have been installed by Mandothari , who brought the shila from Kasi. She prayed to this Sivan for a child and was blessed with Indrajith. Kethu came to this place and after worshipping the Linga here, got rid of his curse and hence it is known as Papa Vimochana Kshetram. If one has Kethu dosha , then it is recommened to visit this place once and seek His blessings to get rid of the dosha. The original Lingam at the back of the temple was submerged in mud and a swamiji who came to this place dug the Linga out, which one can see now. Sundaramurthy Nayanar and Tirugyana Sambandhar created songs about this Sivan even while staying at Rameshwaram and visualizing this Siva and the Pathigams are also found written here.     



After a short travel we reached Kanniya Hot wells , where there were about four wells which had hot water. Buckets were placed near the wells for the visitor to touch the water and feel the heat. We found that while in some wells the water was lukewarm, in one or two the water was really hot. Kanniya water wells was created by Ravana for the cremation of his mother, as per the information in the Thirukoneswaram temple, where we then proceeded to.

Kanniya Hot Water wells


A very important temple in Sri Lanka, this is one of the Pancha Easwara Ksethrams.  {Keteswaram, Muneeswaram, Theneswaram, Nagulavaram and Thirukoneswaram are the five kshetras of which Thenavaram has been destroyed}

Kona means mountain or peak and this is believed to be a part of SriSaila mountain. As it fell from the top, it is believed to be a part of Kailasa and so was also called as Aadhi Kailasam.

When once Mandothari fell ill, Ravana went to collect some medicines and as he passed through this hill he noticed that Koneswaram and Kailasa are in a straight line. When his mighty sword fell down on this place the mountain was cut in two.   The Swayambu linga  here is the Istha devatha of Rama and Agaysthya established this temple at the request of Lord Siva.    

Ravana's Cut
 Prior to this when during the war between Portuguese and Dutch, the king of Jaffna was asked to build a fort, which the king refused. Angered, the Portuguese army bombed the temple even from the nearby sea destroying the temple and the debris of the very huge temple fell in the sea. Later some archeologists found the Swayambu lingam and the temple was re established. During war, some devotees hid the Uthsavars and later it was established here after war.

Thirugyana Sambandar has written hymns about this kshetra and it is one of the 276 Paadal Petra Sthalams. It is also is known as Ashta Dasa Sakthi Peetam, mentioned by Adhi Guru Sankarachariya.

Rama when he came from Rameswarm, first landed at this place and when he saw the Lingam situated on top of a huge mountain, He prayed to Thrikoneswara to make his search for Sita successful. This is mentioned in Vaayu Purana, Mahabharatha and Skanda Purana. We were fortunate to witness the Pradhosha Kaala pooja at this holy Kshetra.

Physically drained and mentally filled, we retired to the nice 'looking' hotel in Trincomalee and despite the total darkness the roaring waves at the nearby sea promised a lot to the aching limbs.
Trincomalee Hotel

Day:5 (24-Jan-2024)

The suite facing the sea provided a panoramic view though their design of the interiors gave some anxious moments and by the crack of dawn, most of the group members were at the sea shore enjoying the beauty of the blue seas of Lanka. 

Captivating Dawn, Trinco


Trinco Hotel Lounge

After a hard travel, we wheeled into an Ayurvedhic garden , groomed by an educated local who walked everyone through the benefits of Ayurvedhic medicines and also made some impressive demonstration of the claims
Luck Grove, Ayurvedhic walk through

After a tiring journey of another two hours we reached KANDY, where people initially shopped (mostly window shopped) for some gems and by around 7 PM, reached DALADA MALAGAWA or also known as Tooth temple. This is the place where a tooth of Buddha is being preserved but it will be open for public only once in a year, we were told. It was a pleasant sight to see the colorful place, well decorated and equally well maintained but was pleasantly surprised that not only photography but even video shooting was allowed inside.

Budha's tooth place

Colorful temple


As if realizing our aching bones, Buddha was kind enough to offer rooms right opposite to the Tooth place at the Queens , a hotel established in 1844. Known for the stay of the queen here, the later day reporting by some of the members about the cleanliness made one wonder whether the hotel is struggling to maintain the ageing hotel!  Also, one look at the lift  reminded me of  reading Arthur  Hailey's novel HOTEL. Despite the state of the room
Rickety Lift
we could sleep well , perhaps more due to the travel !

Queens Hotel, Kandy

Day:6 (25-Jan-2024)

A sound sleep and a hot water bath brought the required freshness the next day and the breakfast added to the morning joy and was able to see a beaming Chef when I personally complimented him . 

Nice Breakfast


After some snaps at the better maintained staircase and lobby the team set out to one of the most anxiously awaited place namely Sita Kotuwa. Little realizing the state of travel before us, we travelled merrily chanting the usual Narasimha Sthuthi, Vishnu Sahasranamam and listening to the ever captivating sthala Puranam by Krishnaji, who beautifully narrated the five curses of Ravana, which led to his downfall and after 90 minutes we reached GURULU POTHA

From there the team has to trek some treacherous path which was pretty slippery with uneven surface and made more dangerous by the fallen leaves and soon we were inching ahead in a dense forest , cautiously holding each other's hand. 


As the majority of seniors were trekking ahead more with the tenacity to see the place where Sitha Matha set her lotus feet for the first time in Lanka, it was a miracle that no one complained of any discomfort and the group even enacted the scene of Sita's captivity , the moment we reached the place SITA KOTUWA.


It was at this place , where the palace of Mandothari was situated, that the wicked Ravana brought Sita matha first.  At the revered spot, it was very apt  to hear the importance of the place by the Yatra Director and young Gun, Agrani Krishna Dasa, whose skillful words describing the plight of Matha at this place, moved most to tears.

At the revered spot

Exact place where Sita Matha was seated

Ecstatic group

Contrary to expectations the return trek was done faster and soon the tired group was dozing as the bus sped through dense forest to a place for a not so good lunch. By around 5:30, we reached a place called RAMBODHA, a place of very great significance, we were told.

Story goes that Hanumanji, when he was searching for Sita Matha was frustrated at not finding her and sat at this place ruminating about the possibilities and also thought of killing Himself instead of going back without a positive note to Rama. While He was exploring possibilities of suicide, the thought of Rama appeared in His mind and as He prayed with Rama Nama, suddenly the Ashoka Vana dazzled before His eyes as if to say that you have not searched here.

Another version of the story is that it is from this place that Hanumanji set out with His Vanara sena towards Ravana's place.

Either way the place assumes importance as a solution giving spot and has been rightly identified so by Chinmaya Mission who have built a beautiful temple atop a small hill and the serenity of the place was wonderful with some breathtaking views from the top.




After a hectic day of trekking at Sita Kotuwa and a mild climbing at Rambodha, we retired to the luxurious Hotel at Nuwara Eliya, a hill station whose chill climate invited us with a warm soup. Made a mental note of preparation to my travelling note that one need to take the international adaptor while on such tours as the multi star boasting hotel declined to give an adaptor citing a strange excuse of other guests have taken more than one. Resigning to be at the receiving end of the hotel mismanagement, we settled into the spacious room , which was otherwise comfortable .


Day:7 (26-Jan-2024)

Grand Dining 

Braving the chill morning , after a lavish breakfast, we set out first to the nearby Gayathri Peetam, also known as RAVANESHWAR TEMPLE.

Here at the first temple for Gayathri in Sri Lanka, Indrajit, son of Ravana made a penance here when the Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Siva appeared and blessed him. Also this place is famous for the Nikumbala Yagam performed by Indrajit. The local person also explained that decades ago the 108 Lingas here were taken to Germany by someone and they are now recovered and efforts are under way to reinstall the 108 Lingas here now.  


Waiting to be installed


We then proceeded to the most sought after and wanting place namely ASHOKA VATIKA, where Sita Matha was kept imprisoned. Until the time I stepped down from the bus, I did not feel much but the moment I stepped into the precincts, I felt an electrical shock like feeling going through realizing that this is where the worst of the treatment to womanhood occurred , how the victim fought with greatest conviction and belief that dharma will prevail and wrong will be corrected establishing dharma and how the wrong doer however strong and mighty may be, will be humbled. 
Landing moment

As we stepped into the precincts as directed, we went to our right, past some construction work going on and got down to the flowing river and the immediate chillness made us shiver more until the body could observe the chillness and get acclimatized. 

Furious stream
Getting feet wet

But the pravachan related to the place  that followed was more chilling and we then crossed a small bridge over the gushing stream leading to the actual spot where Hanumanji landed in the Ashoka Vatika. 


The craters of different sizes, we were informed , were created by the foot prints of Hanumanji on his landing and the bigger ones were when He took a huge size and the smaller ones were the ones when He shrank his size to escape the attention of the guarding asuras.


At the foot print of Hanumanji

Not only our group but everyone around were also overwhelmed with the sanctity of the spot realizing how blessed we were to stand near and touch the spot where the holy feet of Rama Dhoothan was planted ! After praying and countless number of pictures, we moved reluctantly and were led to the temple at the entrance where we were shown a part of the tree which was actually 'the tree' under which Sita Matha was sitting but the real place where she was sitting was outside the temple where construction was going on and the tree branch has been moved inside to enable construction. 

Construction in progress
THE tree

While personally I was shocked as to how such a revered tree could be removed from the spot, for whatever reason, I could not help staring at the tree which was giving protective shade to the Matha! I was very conscious of the importance of the occasion and was trying to record and capture in my memory every second at the Vatika and am delighted that I could recollect the exact moment even now after a week of the visit, when I write this post. 

Still dazed by the magnitude of the place and the attached importance, we moved to another milestone puranically important place, namely



From the place of the sthal one could see a glimpse of the mountains called ISTHRIPURA, where Ravana's wife Madothari and other ladies lived , wherein Sita Matha also placed initially.


At the place where Hanumanji was installed over the bark of a tree , we were treated to a moving account of the circumstances that led to Matha's Agni Pariksha. The place was so reverebrating with sanctity that some of the group members were becoming emotional overwhelmed by the account of the travails the Matha had to undergo.

 The poojari at the sthal, with due reverence, requested the senior most lady member around to come forward and and after due prayers opened the room where Sita Mata and other paintings were placed and did an elaborate archana. 

At the revered spot

We were then led to the actual spot where the Agni  pariksha was undertaken . It was with some efforts the yatra director had to pull the group out of the sthal as the group remained static at the spot.

As the group was in still in a daze from the places witnessed in the morning, even the vile meal was gulped without much ado. While some of the members chose to visit the Ravana Caves, we decided to see the RAVANA ELLA (Falls) , which was more like any of the falls like Courtallam, very common in India.                                         
The waiting time at the falls enabled us to do a good bit of networking and as always happens the members were richer with friends on this tour also. The tiring group then retreated to the modest hotel in KATARAGAMA (a.k.a Kathirgamam) , the simplest of the hotels on this tour, where even the maintenance was left much to be desired. But then, we had so much to remember and celebrate, we decided to ignore and take things in the stride. The day ended happily with the group celebrating the birthday of a senior member.

Day:8 (27-Jan-2024)
As the tour was drawing to a close, the bondings were getting stronger , understanding better and there was happiness as well as a tinge of sadness.

One of the finer spots at the hotel

Kataragama Hotel Lounge

The trip to the popular Murugan temple at KATARAGAMA was not long and the walk through the sprawling real estate was a good morning exercise and was slightly overawed by the crowd. But, soon we realized that the crowd was more to the Buddhist temple , which is normally observed here as every spot we visited had to be gone through one such temple. With a moderate crowd, we could not only have a good dharshan of Murugan but the group also had time to recite Shashti kavacham, as the crowd managers never pushed the devotees and also permitted freely photos and videos. It was slightly disappointing to see painting of Murugan , as is the practice in southern India, than a statue.


Main deity at Kathirgamam


 Nevertheless, we all had a very good dharshan and then hopped on to a long two hour drive to USSANGODA. Enroute, there was a very passionate pravachan in the bus by Krishnaji and by the time we reached the place, it was over noon and was very hot. Ussangoda, we were told was one of the Airports of Ravana, which Hanuman destroyed. One could see a part of the ground still bears the black marks and around this place no vegetation grows as Hanumanji had completely burnt down the place.   
Partially burnt patches


After a short recital of the importance of the place and some photographs of the barren land, we moved on to the DONDRA VISHNU TEMPLE at the southern most tip of the Asian Continent. 


 Sugriva ,  has prayed and also done a Prana prathistai of Lord Vishnu at at this place before attacking Ravana from the southern side of Sri Lanka. During the Portuguese war earlier, the temple was completely destroyed and the original Vigraha was thrown into the sea. Later, some devotees have created a modern type temple, which is situated here.

Another popular temple here was the TENEVARAM SIVA TEMPLE, which is one of the Pancha Easwara Kshetra { Refer note under Thirukoneswaram on 23-Jan-2024 } . This was a very beautiful temple again destroyed by the Portuguese and it was never reconstructed. But, later some people managed to recover only some pillars which could be seen while entering the Siva Temple.

Keeping the already delayed lunch time in mind, we rushed through this temple but were further delayed by some defect in the bus. The situation was masterly handled and the group was in no time put in other vehicles and sent for a better tasting lunch at Galle. 

The local guide who also pitched in as the Sarathy for our vehicle, expertly maneuvered the van amongst the narrow streets of Galle leading to the RUMASALLA SANJEEVANI TEMPLE , on the way showing the landmarks of Galle also.

It is said that a piece of Sanjeevani Hill, that Hanumanji was carrying to treat Rama Lakshmana brothers was believed to have fallen at this place and it is to the surprise of all that the trees and plants at this place are no where else seen in Sri Lanka, confirming the fact the hill is in fact a part of the bigger mountain. The statues at the place and a replica of the cave in which Sita was imprisoned were very well depicted and the place was also kept neat and tidy despite many footfalls from visitors.
Welcome with Sanjeevani

The cave

Piece of mountain preserved

The most interesting and captivating part of this place is the statue of Buddha which appears to turn the face as and when you move.

With the day's schedule complete, the bus was winding its way to Colombo and the yatris were at their peak singing devotional songs and the expertise across was amazing. Some of the yatris also excelled in sharing stories from puranas related to the places we have visited and that made the yatra all the more memorable. By the time, we reached the shining Colombo hotel people have been sufficiently recharged as we retired to the impressive suites.

Day:9 (28-Jan-2024)
Morning weighed heavier as we woke up to the thought that it is the concluding day of this wonderful yatra. After many snaps at the impressive lounge and hugs to some who were parting from here, we proceeded for a short local sight seeing enroute to the last place of visit.

After winding through the streets of Colombo window shopping and also through the diplomatic areas of the Capital, we reached the last spot of visit namely


Situated inside a huge Buddhist shrine, there were many attractive paintings and sculptures which the time pressed group was finding hard to digest. 
Maha Vishnu

Thereafter the checking in with some duty free shop purchases were a breeze and after a smoothy we found ourselves comfortably on board the flight to Chennai and before we could even think of having forty winks landed smoothly at the gleaming Chennai International Airport, with the mind weighing heavier than all the checked in baggage which came on the carousel, rather reluctantly and after a delay.

Bye Lanka

Hi, Chennai

TIRTHA YATRA  . . . . . . AND 

Amazing Support

Efficient Sarathy 


NOTE: This is an attempt to recollect some of my thoughts, feelings and memories of the Nine days Ramayana places Yatra to Sri Lanka. In 2019, when I underwent a similar but 11 days Char Dham yatra, I could write a similar post, much faster. With four more years of age having rolled by, it is with some efforts that I have tried to recollect the stories and connect them to relevant pictures. It was not a small task trying to choose some 30 of the better pictures out of the total of around 1800 photographs and videos, all taken by me. If there are any incorrect entries, it is only due to my poor memory and if pointed, I will be only too willing to update the same- Kapaleeswaran, V