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Chitrakoot District

  Akharas and mutts along the Mandakini

Chitrakoot district (approx. area: 3400 sq km; Census 2001 pop: 7.7 lakhs) of UP was carved out of the eastern and southeastern parts of Banda district bordering MP in 1997.

A large part of the district is a rocky, denuded forested upland called the Patha, which is inhabited by Kol tribals.

The district was first called Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar by the state government headed by dalit chief minister Mayawati. However, when a BJP-led government came to power in 1998, it changed the name to Chitrakoot.

There is in UP no town called Chitrakoot. The headquarters of the district, Karwi town with a population of around 50,000, is officially called Chitrakootdham Karwi.

'Karwi' is said to be derived from Karve, an official of the Pune Peshwa who helped build the town. A remnant of their rule is a temple complex near Karwi town, called Ganesh Baug, which has some erotic sculpture reminiscent of Khajurao.

Chitrakoot is the name given to a hill known as Kamta Nath, around 15 km from Karwi, and the surrounding locality with forested hills that have strong religious associations.

Ram, Lakshman and Sita are believed to have spent twelve years of their exile in the jungles in Chitrakoot.

There is no archaeological evidence in Chitrakoot from  Ramayan times and all the manmade structures here are plainly of fairly recent origin. However, a detailed geography based on faith has emerged.

Pointing to the top of Kamta Nath, the devout  say that is where Ram had his hut. Pointing to a hillock to the Kamta Nath's south, they say that is the place from where Laxman used to watch the hut.

A few kilometres away is a place where Sita is said to have bathed regularly.

Around 10 km away is a well in which Bharat is said to have poured water from all the holy rivers to celebrate the coronation of Ram.

Valmiki, who is considered the creator of the Ramayan, and believed to be contemporary of Ram, is said to lived in on a hill  at a distance of around 20 km from Kamta Nath.

Chitrakoot's biggest draw is the Kamadgiri temple on the banks of a stream locally known as Mandakini.  Devotees believe a dip in the waters and prayer at the temple leads to fulfillment of wishes. A fair held every Amavasya (new moon day) attracts thousands of people from surrounding villages and even far-away places.

There are several other places of religious interest nearby. Most of these places fall  in MP, as does the main urban settlement around Kamta Nath, Chitrakoot town (pop. around 23,000), which is part of Satna district.

Due to its Ramayan associations, Chitrakoot has attracted much philanthropic funding.

The Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust, an organisation founded by a religious leader, 'Param Pujya Gurudev' Ranchhoddasji Maharaj and supported by the Arvind Mafatlal group, has a large campus, where it runs a hospital and a training institute for para medicos.

With help of funds from the Tata group, and under the initiative of RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh, the Deendayal Research Institute has set up a swanky ayurvedic and naturopathy hospital and research centre called Arogyadham.

Around Kamta Nath, there are a large number of religious akharas and mutts.

Chitrakoot is the location of a large 'rural' university, called the Mahatma Gandhi Chitrakoot Gramodaya Vishwavidyalaya. Set up by the MP government in 1991, the university's primary role is to 'provide for education, research, extension and training for development of rural areas and people'. 

In the UP portion of Chitrakoot is a unique university, UP Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University, offering a variety of regular and technical courses, with free boarding facilities, for students with physical disabilities.

Notwithstanding these facilities, the presence of two railway junctions, at Karwi and Manikpur (pop: around 15,000), and rail connections to Delhi, Mumbai, Allahabad, Patna and Kolkatta, Chitrakoot is one of Bundelkhand's most backward districts, with lowest (less than 10%) urban population.

The hilly and forested Patha area includes many remote villages frequently occupied or looted by dacoits.

Cotton used to be grown in black soil areas near Karwi but is no longer a major crop; a ginning and pressing unit set up in the town has closed down.

There are some small chemical units and notable among other small and cottage industrial activities is manufacture of stone bangles.

Apart from Karwi and Manikpur (officially Manikpur  Sarhat), Chitrakoot has only one town: Rajapur (pop: around 13,000), said to be the birthplace of Tulsidas.

| Jhansi | Lalitpur | Datia | Jalaun | Hamirpur | Mahoba | Banda | Chitrakoot | Panna | Chhatarpur | Tikamgarh | Damoh | Sagar |

Tourist Guide
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