Come June 21, and you will be able to relive places and events from the life of Lord Rama aboard the Bharat Gaurav tourist train, the first of its kind to be run by the IRCTC. The train will cover the Ramayana Circuit featuring places not just in India but also in Nepal. The circuit has been identified under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, while the train itself is a part of the Indian government’s initiative, Dekho Apna Desh, to promote domestic tourism.
The 18-day tour, starting from New Delhi’s Safdarjung railway station, aims to take 600 tourists on a visit to the places, temples and monuments that have major significance to the Ramayana. The passengers will be able to enjoy the comfort of AC coaches, fully equipped with all amenities including a pantry car. Security guards, CCTV cameras and other surveillance features will also be featured.
Places to visit
The first stop will be at Ayodhya, where Lord Rama was born. Once there, people will be able to visit the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple (part of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra) and the Hanuman Garhi Temple. They will also visit the Bharat Mandir, dedicated to Rama’s brother, at Nandigram, some kilometres away from Ayodhya.
The tourists will then proceed to Buxar, where they will see Maharishi Vishwamitra’s hermitage as well as relax at the Ramrekha Ghat, on the banks of the Ganga.
Next up will be a stop at Sitamarhi, considered by many to be Sita’s birthplace. From there, people will travel by road to Janakpur in Nepal for a day’s halt. There, a visit to the famous Ram Janaki Temple is recommended.
The Indian leg of this mythological circuit continues in Varanasi, starting from Kashi. The Sita Samahit Sthal with a number of temples and Prayag are part of the itinerary here. Via road, two other places will be covered – Shringverpur and Chitrakoot. Overnight accommodation will be available at Varanasi, Prayag and Chitrakoot.
The route then veers towards the west and the south. From Nashik, travellers will be able to visit the famous Trimakeshwar Temple, home to one of the twelve jyotirlingas in the country, before moving on to Panchvati. The night will be spent at Nashik.
Kishkindha features majorly in the Ramayana, and it is an important halt on this journey as well. It is the kingdom of Sugriva and is believed by some to be the place where Hanuman was born (in the Anjeyanadri Hill, to be more precise). Several religious sites lay scattered in Kishkindha which will all be explored. Further down south, at Rameswaram, tourists will see the Ramanathaswamy Temple and Dhanushkodi.
The penultimate stop will be at Kanchipuram, one of India’s holiest cities called the City of a Thousand Temples. Several of its temples, such as Shiv Kanchi, Vishnu Kanchi and Kamakshi temples, will be covered in the course of a day-long sightseeing excursion. The journey will fittingly conclude at Bhadrachalam, the so-called ‘Ayodhya of the South’. Some of the most dramatic episodes of the Ramayana, including the kidnapping of Sita and Ravana’s slaying of Jatayu, are said to have happened in this vicinity. Today, Bhadrachalam, situated on the banks of the Godavari, has several Hindu temples and shrines devoted to Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. The train will complete this journey of 8,000 kilometres as it returns to Delhi on the 18th day.
Even though the Bharat Gaurav trip is a timely attempt to boost domestic tourism, the tickets will be quite costly, at ₹62,370 per head. The first 100 bookings will, however, receive a 10% discount.