Ramtek – The Ramayana Footprint at Vidarbha

Ramtek near Nagpur in the Vidarbha district of Maharashtra has its roots in several eras.

Ramayana and Ramtek

It takes its name from Shri Rama of Ayodhya, who made a tek or vow here to rid the land of the asuras. It could also mean the place where he rested for a while during his journey south. Previously, this hill was called Tapogiri, which literally means the hill of tapas or the place where many sages perform tapas.

Agastya Muni Ashram

You might think why only this place? It was here that Agastya Muni had an ashram and Sri Ram visited him during his 14 years of exile. We know from the Ramayana that during his journey through the forests of India he killed many asuras. This brought relief to many sages and saints who used to have their own ashrams in the dense forests.

Entrance to Gadh Mandir

Dandakaranya, of which Ramtek is a part, was a dense forest. The asuras living here did not allow the sages to live in peace. So when Sri Ram visited Agastya Muni, he vowed to get rid of these asuras who were killing many rishis. He also performs the last rites or tarpana of the rishis killed by the asuras, inviting all the tirthas of India to Ambakunda Bhogavati, now known as Ambala Talav.

Lopamudra, the wife of Agastya Muni, was the daughter of King Vidarbha, who lies to the east of Ramtek.

Agastya Muni asked Sri Ram, Sita and Lakshman to remain on Tapogiri Hill in the form of Jyoti or light. The flame that can still be seen in the ashram of Agastya Muni is believed to be their form, burning since the Treta Yuga.

Second visit of Sri Ram

Shri Ram returned to Ramtek after he became king Ayodhya. They say that during Ram Rajya, not a single young man died before his elders. However, one day a man came to his court carrying the dead body of his son. The reason was Shambuka who practiced Tapasya next to Ramtek. Shri Ram again went to Ramtek to free Shambuka.

As a gift, Shambuk asked him to stay in his regal avatar on the hill along with Sitaji and Lakshman. He is obliged. During this trip, Hanuman ji also accompanied him and held his bow while he fought Shambuka with only his arrow. So, here is the temple where Hanuman holds the bow, perhaps the only place where he does it.

Temples on Ramtek Hill

Ramtek temple is commonly known as Gadh Mandir or fortress temple. It really is built like a fort on top of a hill, from where you can see everything around. Climbing up, you pass through the gate, reminiscent of the gates of the fort. Has it been reproduced Ayodhya here – maybe!

History of Ramtek

Historically I was told that there were only Ram Padukas in this place to mark the footprints of Shri Ram and Agastya Ashram. The Yadav rulers built the temple in 12-14 AD.th SE. The current temple was built by Raghu ji Bhosle of Nagpur in the 18th century.th SE. The story goes that Raguji Bhosle swore to build a temple here after winning the Battle of Deogarh.

Ceiling of Gokul Dwar at Gadh Mandir Ramtek
Ceiling of Gokul Dwar in Gadh Mandir

He commissioned murti of three deities made in Jaipur. However, he had a dream that the Murti were lying in the river Sur. Indeed, an ancient murti was found there, and the same one was installed in the temple. Those that came from Jaipur are still part of the temple property.

Raguji Bhosle also built fortifications around the temple. This was a time when temple invasions were common, so it’s not surprising that fortifications were needed.

Constructed of stone, it follows the local hemadpanti style with a high shikhara and a pillared mandapa.

Ganesha temple

There are many large and small temples in the main temple complex at the top of the hill.

Ashram of Agastya Muni and Dhuni in Ramtek
Agastya Muni Ashram

You enter through heavily carved Gokuldwar with a huge bell and ornate stone pillars. First you see the Agastya Ashram. The history of this place is written in red letters on a white wall.

Gadh Mandir or Sri Ram Mandir
Gadh Mandir or Sri Ram Mandir

Inside this ashram, the most important part is the Akhand Jyoti, or eternal flame, which is believed to have been burning ever since Shri Ram visited Ramtek. There is also a temple of Radha-Krishna, I think, built much later.

Lakshman Temple in Ramtek
Lakshman temple

Then you see a temple dedicated to Lakshman. He is usually seen with Shri Rama and Sita, but here his temple stands in front of theirs as if he is still guarding them in Dandakaranya.

Pavilion at Ramtek

Behind his temple is the main temple dedicated to Sita Ram. It is a small but beautiful temple with a round mandapa leading to Garbhagriha.

There is a Hanuman temple and a smaller Garuda temple ahead.

After Pushkar, this is the second place where I found Ekadashi Mata Mandir.

Trivikram Temple

This is an ancient temple located near the parking lot of the hill. You need to walk a bit on a dirt path to get to this temple. This is just an open-air pavilion, to which a staircase leads.

Ancient temple of Trivikrama in Ramtek
Ancient temple of Trivikrama

An ancient murti of Vishnu in the form of Trivikram stands on an open platform. It is broken in many places, but you can still see that the right leg of the figure is raised. At first glance it seems that this is a figure from Terracotta. However, it is a red colored sandstone found locally and I have seen it in many temples in and around Nagpur.

These temples date back to the beginning of the 5th century.th AD, which makes them one of the oldest temples in India.

Sindoor Bawadi

This is a huge step well located right where you park your cars. On one side of the Sindoor Bavadi, there is a pillared pavilion. It probably got its name from Sindoori, or the rusty-red color of the stone found here. I was also told that one of the hill’s names is also Shindoogiri.

Temple of Ugra Narsimha

Giant Narsimha Murti at Ugra Narsimha Temple
Giant Narsimha Murti at Ugra Narsimha Temple

This is another small red sandstone temple with stone columns inside. He has a gigantic Ugra Narsimha Murthy almost filling Garbhgriha. Ahead is a small mandapa.

There may have been other deities on either side of this murti, but there is no way to know.

Keval Narasimha Temple

This is a small temple complex with beautiful carvings on the outer walls. Various avatars of Vishnu are carved on the doorframe at the entrance. The temple is on a higher platform with a Narasimha Murthy almost two meters high. There are four carved stone pillars in front of the mandapa.

Temple of Keval Narsimha, 5th century CE
Temple of Keval Narsimha, 5th century CE

Next to this temple is an open-air Naga temple with a huge Trishul next to it.

In another small temple, which is usually a vahan temple, there is a similar Narasimha murti that is covered with Sindur, leading people to believe it is a Hanuman murti.

Varaha temple

Halfway to Gadh Mandir you will find a small temple in a large open area. On a platform with four columns stands a giant murti of Varaha.

Varaha Temple on Ramtek Hill
Varaha temple

It is widely believed that only virtuous people can pass under the womb of Varaha.

Festivals at Gadhmandir Ramtek

Ram Navami is obviously a big celebration in this temple.

Another important festival takes place on Kartik Chaturdashi, the day before Kartik Purnima, when Kartik Utsav takes place here. On this day, Tulasi is offered to Shiva and Bilva leaves are offered to Shri Ram, in a unique exchange that brings out the unity between them.

Kalidasa and Ramtek

Kalidasa, a poet in the court of Vikramaditya from Ujjain, was sent here because his daughter got married in Vidarbha. On this hill he wrote his famous Dut Kavya or sent poetry called Megduta. In the poem, the hill is mentioned in the very first verse.

Kalidasa Samarak
Kalidasa Samarak in memory of Megdut

Newly built Kalidasa Samarak or a memorial in memory of Kalidas and Megdut. Built in the shape of Om, it has a hall with paintings depicting the famous works of Kalidas. There is an open air theatre. The walls around it are painted with scenes from Megdut’s poem. All the verses of Megduta are engraved on the outer walls.

It could be a great tribute to the poet if this place survived and lived. It’s one of the dirtiest places I’ve seen, with grass growing and trash all over the place. What is the point of glorifying a poet in stone if his works cannot be seen in a bookstore, or in a drama, or in a feature film? Hope Maharashtra Tourism is taking note of this and is working to turn it into a living space.

Enough tourists come to Ramtek and a good atmosphere, restaurant or training activities will complete their experience.

Kapoor Bawadi

Karpur or Kapoor Bawadi is located at the foot of the hill. This is an ancient step well located next to the temple. The temple is collapsing, and visitors are almost not interested. I saw people climbing Shikhara in their shoes.

Karpur Bawadi
Karpur Bawadi at the foot of the hill

I couldn’t visit the temple because the water level in the stepwell was too high. Bavadi was full of lotus flowers. In the ponds, the cultivation of water chestnuts is common. This is done along with lotus flowers, which are used for offerings at various temples.

One person told me that the temple was dedicated to a Shiva named Karpureshwar, and another said that it was dedicated to the Saptamatrikas. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all present here as I can clearly see three separate temple Shikharas pointing to at least 3 temples.

There may have been more smaller temples in the three-sided corridor around the stepwell. In the broken parts of Amalaki, which is at the top of Shikhara, a few murtis just lie here and there.

I hope that ASI will take steps to preserve this temple as it can attract many more tourists and pilgrims. This is a beautiful step well.

The ancient temple of Shantinath Jain is located near Karpur Bawadi, but I did not manage to visit it.

You can visit Ramsagar Backwaters for fun adventures like kayaking.

Travel Tips

Ramtek is located about 50 kilometers from Nagpur, making it well connected by air, rail and road.

You will need at least 2-3 hours to visit this place. History lovers can spend a day or two here, exploring the many monuments of ancient heritage.

You can walk the 700+ steps to get up the hill or drive your car to the bottom of the hill. There are about 150 steps to climb from the parking lot.

From the parking lot to the temple entrance, there are many shops where you can buy food, flowers or souvenirs.

Photography is allowed outside the main temple and not allowed inside.

There are a lot of monkeys on the hill so be careful if you have any food.

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