In a year or so from now, all roads will lead to the land of Rama. When the mandir stands tall, the city that was once ruled by the epitome of Dharma will also look contrastingly different from what it did all these years.
Our visit last year to Ayodhya — the places around it, the various projects that are being undertaken to recreate an experience of the sanctity of the city of Rama — gave a glimpse into what is on the cards. But as one traverses the length and breadth of this "nagari" of Rama, one also wishes history came alive to tell the tales through time, space, and narrators.
Having encountered a Pandava cave and a Sita well at the premises of the Yogeshwar mutt in Kadri, Mangaluru, heard the tale of Rama‘s arrow having carved out the Banganga pond in Mumbai’s Walkeshwar, imagined the ancient Kishkinda and the vanar sena’s rendezvous with the Ayodhya scions as the sun set at the much-famed Anjanadri hill near Hampi, I had wished not just to do a Ramayana trail through the tales, but also through time and the varied telling.
To this end, the book In the Footsteps of Rama comes as an enlightening effort. For it embodies every inquisitive seeker’s curiosity to know the journey of Rama. But it also nudges one to take the effort to make the journey themselves and discover the legends, places, tales, tale tellers, and the truth that may or may not have been told.
From Ayodhya to Dandakaranya to Panchavati, Kishkinda, Rameshwaram, and Sri Lanka, the book by Vikrant Pande and Neelesh Kulkarni is a travelogue that equips one with the related folktales as well as valuable guide wisdom to take that trip down both the mythological memory lane and into the bylanes of various cities that may no longer bear his footsteps but wear the association as a badge of honour.
Taking off from the banishment and a visit to the village that the trio of Rama, Sita, and Lakshman spent their first night of exile, ‘Chakia Purva’ or ‘Gauraghat‘, as the authors ‘discover‘ it is now known, Pande and Kulkarni's efforts to blend current-day travel experiences with history and folklore seamlessly while keeping the language conversational makes the book a visual and breezy read.
Like well-known historian Sanjeev Sanyal writes reviewing the book, the authors have "set out to cover a journey that many Indians traverse in their imagination." It does nudge the reader to take the trip and relive the life and times of Sri Rama, through a subcontinent whose most parts have a thing or two to do with him.
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