Although travellers from various corners pass through Nagpur, not many visit Ramtek, lying about 50km to the north-east of Maharashtra’s City of Oranges. Yet this small town in the Vidarbha region, hemmed by low hill ranges, forests, and a lake, can be a pleasant getaway for the greater part of the year.
According to the legends, fascinated by the natural beauty of the place, Ram and Sita, accompanied by Lakshmana, had stayed here for some time during their days in exile. It was here that Ram had taken a vow (‘tek’ in local language) to annihilate all the demons who used to attack holy men and their abodes. Hence the name Ramtek.
Perched on the top of a hill range called Ramgiri, is a sprawling temple complex. It is said that the Yadava rulers (12th -14th century) initially built the shrines dedicated to Ram and Lakshmana. However, the present temple complex, which resembles a fort from the outside, was built in the 18th century by Raghuji Bhonsle, a Maratha ruler from Nagpur. Apart from the three main shrines dedicated to Ram, Lakshmana and the monkey god Hanuman, there are many other shrines within the complex, built at different times. There is a tower at the back of the main shrine from where you can catch a bird’s eye view of the town and the countryside.
According to some recent findings, the complex contains two temples – dedicated to Varaha and Tribikrama – which are older than the main shrines. According to media reports, a disclosure to the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court stated that these older temples were built between 420 AD and 450 AD during the Vakataka period. If you are not in a hurry, then do visit the Sindoor Baoli, an ancient step well. Its twin, the Karpoor Baoli, is located in the foothills.
Although the devout still climb the 700 steps on foot to reach the temple, cars go up to the base of the temple complex. From there, one has to ascend several flights of stairs interspersed with wide quadrangles to reach the main temples. The best time to visit the temple complex is early in the morning or late in the afternoon as the sun can be very strong in the afternoon. Two of the popular festivals celebrated here are Ram Navami and Kartik Utsav.
You have to leave your shoes behind before reaching the final tier of shrines. A word of caution: beware of monkeys who are prone to snatching.
There are many other temples in and around Ramtek, including the group of old temples scattered around the Ambala Lake and the Jain Shantinath Temple.
You may also visit the Kalidasa Memorial built in honour of the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa (4th-5th century). It is said that the natural beauty of Ramgiri during the monsoon inspired him to compose the lyrical epic poem Meghdoot, where the exiled protagonist (a Yaksha or nature spirit) is urging a cloud to carry his message of love to his wife residing in a distant hill.
But Ramtek is not only about pilgrimage and literature. It is also an upcoming adventure and water sports destination. Encouraged by Maharashtra Tourism, entrepreneurs are setting up camps among the verdant foothills, not far from the Khindsi Lake. These camps offer a variety of adventure sports and kayaking facilities along with food and accommodation. Some of the facilities offered by them include nature treks, paragliding, parasailing, rappelling, zip line, mountain biking.
Information: Ramtek is located in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. It is about 50km by road from Nagpur. It is also serviced by a small railway station connected with Nagpur. There are hotels to suit every pocket. However, if you are looking to indulge in adventure and water sports, it is best to book with the privately operated camps. Ramtek can be visited round the year except during peak summer. Winter is the best season for all activities while monsoon is the time to enjoy the natural beauty. For more details, write to Directorate of Tourism Divisional Office in Nagpur at email@example.com or call 0172-2533326.