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Thursday, August 11, 2022

A brief overview of Ramayana’s geography

Bharatiya epics have been depicted as ‘mythologies’ whereas, in reality, they are part of our history. We can identify ancient cities mentioned in Ramayana in states across the country and in Sri Lanka even today. There is even mention of Asian and South-East Asian nations such as Java (Yavadwipa), Borneo (Suvarnarupyaka), China (China), and Tibet (Padma China) among others.

Ramayana
PC: Ramayana: A study in ancient Indian Geography by Ram Kishore Shukla

A story that can be backed by archaeological and physical evidence should come under the ambit of history. That said, in this article, we intend to briefly explore the geography of Bharat’s Adikavya, and their importance, and corroborate them with their present-day locations.

Nandigrama: The place where Bharata resided during the exile of Prabhu Ram has been identified with Nandgaon which is situated about 12 to 14 kilometers south of Faizabad.

Ayodhya: It was the capital of the Kosala Janapada and was built by Vaivasvata Manu on the banks of the Sarayu River. It was a well-planned and protected city provided with all elements of town planning. The arched gateways had large door panels equipped with all kinds of catapults and weapons. It had four gateways and houses were constructed in a linear pattern.

“The present site of Ayodhya, confined to the northeast corner of the old site, is about two miles in length and three-quarters of a mile in breadth”, notes Shri RK Shukla.

Kishkinda: Bali’s capital was secured with arched gateways, a fortification wall, and surrounded by an unassailable moat. It has been located close to present-day Bellary by Pargiter and the Kishkinda Janapada is said to have included the region around Bellary as well.

Varanasi: Has been a living town since the Vedic times and has been mentioned as Kashi in the Vedic literature. The capital city of the Kashi Janapada derives its name on account of its location between the Varana River in the northeast and Asi in the southwest. In ancient times it was an important trade center located on a trade route.

Kaushambi: It is situated about 56 kilometers southwest of Prayagraj on the banks of River Yamuna and served as the capital of the Vatsa kingdom. The Ramayana says that the city was founded by Raja Kusamba, son of Kusa and the tenth descendent of Pururavas, who named the place after himself.

Madhura or Madhupuri: Identified with modern Mathura, it was the capital of the Surasena Janapada that served as the residence of Madhu. Madhu’s son Lavana was killed by Shatrughna. Shukla says that modern Mathura has moved north of the ancient site due to encroachment of the River Yamuna. Interestingly, Ramayana states that the city was built by Gods and mentions that foreign merchants resided here. Greek sources refer to it as Methora and Madaura (city of Gods).  

Giribbraja: It was the Magadhan capital that was also known as Vasumati since it was founded by Raja Vasu. Ramayana mentions River Sumagadhi flowing through the town. It has been identified with modern Rajgir.

Rajagriha: It was located on the eastern bank of River Vitasta (Jhelum). It served as the Kekaya capital ruled by Bharata’s maternal grandfather Ashvapati. Scholars have identified it with present-day Jalalpur in Pakistan.

Takshashila: It is one of the two cities founded by Bharata in Gandhara. It is located east of the Indus and has been identified as Taxila in what is now West Pakistan. Bharata’s son Taksha was crowned as the ruler of this place.

Pushkalavata: It was founded near the confluence of the Rivers Swat and Kabul and Bharata placed his son Pushkala as the king here. This is the same as Charsadda in today’s Pakistan.

Mahishmati: It served as Haihaya ruler Kartyavirya Arjuna’s capital and has been identified with modern Maheshwar about 64 kilometers south of Indore in present-day Madhya Pradesh.

Ramayana
PC: Ramayana: A study in ancient Indian Geography by Ram Kishore Shukla

Besides these capital cities, several other places have been mentioned in the Ramayana. The various kingdoms that find space in the Adikavya include Sindhu, Sauvira, Saurashtra, Dakshinapatha, Vanga, Anga, Magadha, Kashi, Mithila, Kosala, and Kekaya among others. It is also worth mentioning that the Adikavya makes mention of Pandya capital Kavata.

Similarly, one can come across a vivid account of the country traversed by Sri Ram and Lakshman when they accompanied Rishi Vishwamitra. Ramayana describes the geographical features of north-western Bharat in its descriptions of the journeys made by Rishi Vasishta’s messengers to fetch Bharata and Shatrughna as well as the latter’s journey from Kekaya to Ayodhya.

Exploring the journey of Prabhu Sri Ram from Ayodhya to Chitrakoot to Dandakaranya to Pampa, Kishkinda, and Lanka would make an interesting read of Bharat’s geography. A detailed delineation of Bharat’s rivers from Ganga to Tamraparni as well as North and South Bharatiya kingdoms is found in the Kishkinda Kanda when Sugriva sends out search parties to locate Maa Sita.  

We have merely explored a minuscule portion of the geographical locations mentioned by the Adikavya. In essence, Ramayana deals with the geography of practically the whole of Bharat as also the adjacent lands located beyond the Bharatiya sub-continent.

References:

  1. Srimad Ramayana by Maharishi Valmiki
  2. The Geography of the Puranas by SM Ali
  3. Ramayana: A study in ancient Indian Geography by Ram Kishore Shukla – Shodhganga/INFLIBNET (Source)

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Maitri
Maitri
A opinionated girl-next-door with an attitude. I'm certainly not afraid to call myself 'a proud Hindu' and am positively politically incorrect. A Bharatiya at heart who loves reading, music, sports and nature. Travelling and writing are my passions.

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