Nestled in the Panna range of the Vindhya mountains is a serene spot called Gupt Godavari. Remarkable for its singular geology, it is a sight laden with tales of mythological significance. As with many places of interest around Chitrakoot, Gupt Godavari is also known for its connection with Lord Rama, who, along with Sita and Lakshman, is said to have lived in these caves for many years. The Puranas declare that the devas fashioned these caves in advance, knowing that in the Treta Yuga, Lord Rama would dwell here.
Praised by poet-storytellers Valmiki and Tulsi Das, these are actually a pair of caves: the higher one is accessed through a narrow passage that allows only one person at a time. It opens up to a wide cavern, and a pool of spring water called the Dhanushkund. There are many small shrines here, and each has a story attached: “that dark face is the accursed Asura Mayank” or “these two rocks were thrones on which Ram-Lakshman sat…”
As you step out of the cave, there is a remarkable Panchmukhi Shivalinga that features the holy trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The second cave has a wider entrance and at once, you step into a stream of water that trickles down from the cave above. As you wade through the rocky trail with your clothes hitched high, the water disappears into a crevice making its secret, underground way into the mountains. That explains ‘gupt’ or secret. But why Godavari? The river Godavari is born at Nashik in Maharashtra over 920km away. Then why did the ancients insist on naming these waters Godavari? Did the seers observe some quality about the water that was similar? Or do these waters indeed make their subterranean way across the peninsula to re-emerge there? No one knows. The legend, however, says that the Goddess Godavari came secretly to Chitrakoot – albeit briefly – to visit Lord Rama.
It’s fun to explore the long line of shops outside. Souvenirs, herbal oils, wooden artefacts, and of course, food. There are hot samosas on offer and do try the rabdi – perfectly sweetened and with a lovely smoky flavour.
Gupt Godavari is 19km south of Chitrakoot via MP SH 11
Entry Fees: INR10
Timings: 7am to 6pm; photography is not permitted