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Ayodhya wali Diwali: The festive circuit

Deepawali is celebrated across India but Ayodhya wali Diwali is hard to match. The city is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama and later his kingdom. And to commemorate his return, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman, every year, the shores of river Sarayu, are lit with countless diyas (earthen lamps), a grand aarti (worship) is performed following which the diyas are set afloat on the river. Not just that, last year, a grand light and laser show was also held ahead of the Diwali celebrations.If you plan to travel around Diwali, the ancient city of Ayodhya is a must-visit. And to get a feel of the festive fervour, a Ramayana trail might be just what you need.

The journey begins in Ayodhya, situated in north-eastern Uttar Pradesh. Being Rama’s birthplace, it is the home of several religious tourism sites. Every year, Ram ki paidi, which is a series of ghats across the river Sarayu, is decked up with diyas, and lights and captures the true essence of the festive mood. While in Ayodhya, one must also visit the Hanuman Garhi temple, which, as the name suggests, is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, believed to be Rama’s most ardent follower. Situated just a kilometre away from the Ayodhya railway station, it is believed that here is where the Lord resides to stay guard of the city. Kanak Bhawan, too, is a must-visit. Legends say that this Bhawan was gifted to Goddess Sita by her mother-in-law queen Kaikeyi upon her marriage to Rama.

Towards Sita’s abode

India and Nepal share deep religious and cultural ties, a testament to which is Janakpur, or Janakpuri, situated in the southern Nepalese province of Madhesh. This is where Sita is believed to have been born and married to Rama. Hence, several religious sites here are dedicated to the two. One such is the Janaki Mandir (temple), dedicated to Goddess Sita. Although several pilgrims from Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka visit the site, it is especially abuzz during the festivals of Ram Navami, Dussehra, and Diwali, known as Tihar in Nepal. The site where Rama and Sita are believed to have gotten married is called the Vivah Mandap and is situated near the Janaki Mandir. Built in the classic pagoda-style architecture is the Ram temple, dedicated to Lord Rama, which also finds a place in the Ramayana trail. Furthering the Ramayana ties between India and Nepal, PM Narendra Modi and his former Nepalese counterpart, KP Sharma Oli, unveiled, in 2018, a direct bus service between Ayodhya and Janakpur. Earlier this year, the Indian Railways launched an 18-day Bharat Gaurav Tourist Train, which traces Ramayana sites in India and Nepal. Starting from Delhi, the train travels through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, before it enters Nepal. It then proceeds southward.In India, apart from Ayodhya, the train travels through sites such as Chitrakoot, Buxar (Bihar), Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh), Nashik (Maharashtra), Hampi (Karnataka), etc, before terminating at Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu), the overall trip costing around Rs 63,000.


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