The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) has launched a pilgrimage tour to trace the journey of Lord Rama from Ayodhya to Nuwara Eliya, where Sita was held captive in Sri Lanka.
This is the first time that IRCTC, South Zone has embarked on the Lord Sita-Rama temples circuit. The 2,200-km tour is divided into two parts: the visit to Sri Lanka is by flight for five days and to Ayodhya by train for 11 days.
About 30 pilgrims, aged above 55 years, participated in the maiden Sri Ramayana Yatra (Sri Lanka) tour, in which six historical temples were showcased. It included Sita temple, Ravanan temple and cave, Gayathri Peedam and Bhakta Hanuman temple among others.
IRCTC officials said, “We are going to touch Ayodhya for the first time, in the trip that commences on May 11. It is a half-day tour to Ayodhya on the third day. We will start the tour from Chennai Central to Allahabad, via Kasi and Ayodhya and end in Nepal. An exclusive ‘AC tourist train’ with pantry car, tour escorts and security are part of the package. This train will accommodate about 200 persons”.
In Nepal, the pilgrims will also visit Pashupathinath temple in Kathmandu, the Manakamana temple, and go sightseeing in Pokhara and Kushinagar. On their way back to India, the pilgrims will get to see Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.
An IRCTC official said as they knew of the demand for the Ramayana trip among people in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, they decided to launch a similar circuit from the south zone.
R. Kasturi, a Coimbatore-based retired professor who took the trip with her friend, Gita Venkataraman, said, “There were some spots mentioned on a board near the Ravana falls. It is only a small fall and I have suggested that the tour should include the Buddha statues nearby. They are just 20km away so we should be able to make it”.
In their response sheet, visitors have sought inclusion of some other temples in Sri Lanka.
Vasanthi Rajiv, a resident of Chennai who took the trip, said, “If you include Kadirgamam, Tirukoneswaram in Trincomalee, Tirukeethiswaram in Mannar and Naguleswaram in Jaffna, the trip would be complete”.