Panchavati, Parnakuti:During the 14 years of Vanvas Prabhu Shri Ramachandra, Sita and Lakshman stayed in this premises ‘Panchavati’ on the northern banks of river Godavari. Shri Kalaram Temple stands on the place which has become sacred with the footsteps and the presence of Lord Ram. The reference of Lord Ram’s stay in Panchavati mentioned in Ramayan is as follows: Lord Ram first came on the banks of River Tamasa. He crossed River Tamasa and came on banks of River Bhagirathi. There he crossed River Bhagirathi in the boat of Nishadraj Gruhak. Later they went to Trivarga Triveni Sangam in Prayag. After Prayag they went to Trivarg Bharadwaj Rishi’s Ashram. After greeting everyone at Bharadwaj Rishi’s ashram they reached Siddheshwar. From there they went to Mountain Chitrakut. There they built their Parnakuti and started dwelling. At Chitrakut Bharat met Lord Ram and took his footwear back with him. After that several Brahmins and Tapasvi’s staying around started talking about their anticipation that demons would come at night and kill the Brahmins and tapasvis dwelling in the area and out of the fear that they would be killed they along with wives and children greeted Lord Ram and Sita started leaving the place.
Lord Ram didn’t feel it appropriate that the Brahmins and tapsvis were leaving Chitrakut in this manner. Then Lord Ram along with Sita and Lakshman entered Triveni Dandakaranya. First they went to the ashram of Rishi Atri and took the blessings of rishi Atri and Anusuya. On their way in Dandakaranya they came across a huge demon named Viradh who was vanquished by lord Ram. Later they came to Rishi Sharabhanga’s ashram. After greeting Rishi Sharabhanga they came to the ashram of Rishi Sutisna. With an intention to meet the tapasvi munis of Dandakaranya they came to Pachchamar Tirtha and Mandakarni muni’s ashram. Later they started dwelling in the ashrams of various munis in the area. They would dwell at each ashram for about four months or six months or eight or ten months. In this manner ten years of vanvas got over. Then again they came to the ashram of Mahamuni Sutikshna. After staying at Mahamuni Sutikshna’s ashram for some days they went ot the ashram of Rishi Mahamati who was younger brother of Rishi Agasti.
According to the directions given by Rishi Mahamati they came to the ashram of Rishi Agasti. Lord Ram prayed to Rishi Agasti – “To fulfill the promise of my father we have come to the forest. Kindly guide us where should we dwell.” Agasti Rishi told them about sacred place Panchavati on the banks of River Godavari. Lord Ram came to the place built his parnakuti and made the place more sacred. Panchavati was the place in the forest of Dandakaranya (Danda Kingdom), where Rama built his home along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman during their period of exile in the wilderness. Lord Rama said to Lakshmana the following verse on seeing the beautiful hermitage built by Lakshmana.
bhaavaj~nena kritaj~nena dharmaj~nena ca laksmana
tvayaa putrena dharmaatmaa na samvrittah pitaa mama
Panchavati literally means "a garden of five banyan trees". These trees are said to have been there during the exile of Lord Rama.
The demigods are a very high race within the human species, they are often considered in fact above the human species because compared to the greatest powers that any human being can have, the demigods and the rakshashas are supernaturally powerful. Try to understand that within the universe of creation, Vayu has control over the wind and the air, Agni has control over all fire, Surya is presiding and controlling the sun planet. So when we read of how the demigods can do incredible and amazing things it should not surprise us. We cannot compare ourselves to such empowered beings. And often times the demigods, they are not necessarily pure devotees, but they are very pious beings with extremely pious karma by which they are given a birth with incredible facility and incredible opulence, but they still have their independence to behave according to their mind and sense desire. So it is very difficult to understand the activities of the demigods. But the Puranas explain many of their activities for several reasons – there are Puranas in the mode of ignorance to uplift one to the mode of passion, Puranas in the mode of passion to uplift one to the mode of goodness and those Puranas in Sattva guna which are meant to uplift us to the transcendental platform of pure unalloyed devotion. So there are various stories which are explained within the histories of the Vedas for different classes of people for different types of purposes.
So there is one beautiful story about Surya, the presiding deity of the sun planet, he had a beautiful and a chaste wife of the name Usha. And Usha had very difficult time with her husband because he had such a glaring effulgence around him, it was difficult for her to look at him. So she wanted perhaps to give her eyes rest for some time, so she came to the earth planet and began to live at the hermitage of Kanva Muni one of the great rishis of the Puranas meanwhile Surya was very much anxious to be in the company of his consort, so he came down to the earth. As he was approaching the hermitage of Kanva Muni, Usha saw him coming and so she wanted to escape, so she took the form of the female horse, and began to run away, so Surya took the form of a male horse and chased after her and he caught her, then they began to perform lovely pastimes together as horses. Now there were five Rishi kumaras and they happened to be watching this that the great demigod Surya and his queen Usha are playing pastimes in the form of horses, so they began to laugh , Ha !! Ha !!!!! .So Surya cursed them to become trees in that very spot, so the five Rishi kumaras became five Banyan trees at this very place. In fact right here we can see five Banyan trees, since that time this place is known as Panchvati – the place of the five Banyan trees.
The name Panchavati it got is from the five banyan tree present in the vicinity where Lord Ram and Sita spent their exile period. The name Nasik also has a legend, during exile period Laxman (brother of Shri Ram) cut off Shupernakha's Nose (In Sanskrit Nose means "Nasik") and throws it on other side of the river Godavari (Ganga) which then christened as "Nasik" or "Nashik". Thus on one side of the sacred river is known as Nasik while other side where five banyan tree is known as Panchavati.
A Banyan tree like other trees too starts out from a seed… little by little it grows… and one day stands before all as a giant. Can’t we all grow similarly…little by little… growing tiny ‘roots’ here and there? Trusting time to make us grow, our ‘little roots’ could be the love and support of the relationships we nurture over time. The tree’s branches continually shoot out new roots into the ground, seeking growth… shouldn't we also try to grow like the ‘roots’, forever progressing. Rooted to a spot (the idea of culture, family, morals) can’t we spread ourselves around?
Sita Gufa (Sita Cave):Just adjacent to KalaRam Temple is the Sita Cave, the cave which is believed to be where Devi Sita was stayed to hide herself from Demons. It was very unclear that how much the original cave differs from the today's structure. One has to literally crawl to reach the bottom of the cave (its not big though) where the three Idols of Lord Ram, Lakshman and Devi Sita is shrined (not possible for obese people). Cave (though very small, you enter from one side and get off the other). In the bottom which is enough for 6-8 peoples to stand is well illuminated by mini tube light. Passing this Idol while coming up from other side is Shivlingam. History say's that its the same lingam which Devi Sita used to worship. It is believed that Sita gufa is the place where Sita was kidnapped by Ravana. In reality Ravana had abducted Vedavati instead of Sita.
Vedavati is the daughter of Brahmarishi Kusadhvaja, who is the son of Brihaspati, Lord-Guru of the Devas, the Gods. Having spent his life chanting and studying the sacred Vedas, he names his daughter Vedavati, or Embodiment of the Vedas, born as the fruit of his bhakti and tapasya.
Story of Vedavati/Padmavathi & Sita: The fortune-teller was then taken to the presence of Princess Padmavathi. Eruka Sani then read the palm of Princess and said, Princess was in Love with Srinivasa and wishes to marry Him. Looking at her eyes, Eruka Sani assured Padmavathi of fruitful end to her love. The Queen got furious on the fortune teller for speaking against her wish and asked Padmavathi to leave the place. When Padmavthi left the place, the Queen Dharani Devi told Eruka Sani to stop telling false fortunes as she could not let her daughter marry a poor man like Srinivasa. Your daughter? When and where did you gave birth to her? Why you want to cheat yourselves? Doesn't She found in a Golden Lotus to the King Akasa Raja while he was ploughing as part of his Yagna? Asked Eruka Sani. The Queen was shocked over the facts revealed by Eruka Sani. She then advised the Queen to arrange the marriage of Princess Padmavathi with Lord Srinivasa, as their destiny was written in the Treta Yuga itself. Amused King and the Queen asked Eruka Sani to explain it more elaborately. Eruka Sani then narrated the story of Princess Pamavathi’s previous birth.
In Treta Yuga, Lakshmi, in the form of Vedavati, was staying in an ashram in the forests. At that time, Ravana, the lord of Lanka tried to tempt her. In anger, Vedavati cursed him saying that she would bring about his death.
To show how true her words were, Vedavati walked into the fire, but Agni, the Fire God rescued her. He took Vedavati to his house and entrusted her to his wife's care.
Some time later, When Ravana abducted Sita and was about to carry her away from Panchavati, in the absence of Rama and Lakshmana, Agni appeared and offered Vedavati to Ravana as the real Sita who was kept with him by Rama to evade Ravana. Ravana was tricked into thinking that Vedavati was the real Sita.
Ravana took Vedavati to Lanka thinking she was the real Sita, while Agni took Sita to his house and asked his wife Swahadevi to look after her.
After the destruction of Ravana, Rama learnt the lady in place of Sita was Vedavati. Feeling sorry and thanking Vedavathi for her Sacrifice, Rama asked her to seek any boon from him. She in turn, asked Rama to accept her as his Spouse. But Rama declined to fulfill her wish, as he was destined to live with the Philosophy of “One Woman, One Word & One Weapon” in this life. Since he cannot deviate from his word, he promised to fulfil her wish in his next Avatar in Kalyuga as Srinivasa. After that, Vedavathi walked in to fire and sacrificed herself.
Ending her Story, Eruka Sani told the Royal couple that Sri Rama in Treta Yuga was our Srinivasa and Vedavathi was our own Padmavathi. They were destined for each other. Therefore, obey my words and make arrangements for their grand alliance. Before leaving she also told the Queen, that a lady would approach her shortly on behalf of Lord Srinivasa, to formally request Padmavathi's hand for marriage. After the departure of the fortune-teller, Vakuladevi arrived at the palace, and was taken by the maidservants to the Queen. Vakula Devi surprised to get a Royal welcome to her in the Palace. She took a sigh of relief for a moment. She then informed the Queen that she had come on behalf Lord Srinivasa to request the hand of Padmavathi for marriage. The Royal couple politely accepted her proposal and informed her to make necessary arrangements of the marriage ceremony of Padmavathi and Srinivasa. A Happy Vakula Devi returned home to inform the good news to Srinivasa.