India and Sri Lanka bond over, similar traditions and backgrounds, dating back to roughly 2,500 years or more. However what really brings these two nations together is their shared legacy of Ramayana, cultural history and spoken synergies. Known to be the earliest democracy in South Asia, Sri Lanka was a British colony, similar to India, until it obtained independence in 1948. Although more than splitting the colonial past, what positively correlates both realms, is their mythological ring of the Epic Ramayana. Penned in Sanskrit, both Mahābhārata and Ramayana constitute the two principal sagas of ancient India. Ramayana, in particular, is based on the chronicles of two legendary kingdoms, establishing the Ceylon and Hindu Itihasa. Ramayana left both India and Sri Lanka sparked by the importance of art, values, literature, culture, and religious rituals. In Sri Lanka, it even took to the adaptation of Sinhalese Buddhist order.
I have so many memories connected with the legend of Ramayana, be it watching the Ravana effigies burn on Dussehra, or bringing in festivities by lighting Diyas on Diwali. But did you know that the world’s only Sita temple is situated, in the Golden Lanka? During my visit to the land of Ramayana’ antagonist, I chanced at staying in Nuwara Eliya for a few days. Almost, every other day of this misty hill station spins out to be as dreamy as you can imagine. On one such wonderful day, I stepped out to explore Nuwara Eliya’s local market, its cerulean-blue Gregory lake and Asia’s only Sita temple. While the local market on the Queen Elizabeth street was buzzing with crowds, pursuits and fiery humidity; mammoth clouds above my head were fashioning a soft-misty blanket. By the time I arrived at Gregory lake, skies were sketched with manifold cloudy icons, each mirroring its reflection in the lake. A few minutes later, it was mizzling steadily.
Had it not been for the rains, I would have walked to the Seetha Amman Temple, given its only 10-minutes around the corner. Instead, I drove to the destination. When I arrived, the temple was glistening with streaming rainwater. The main gate of the Seetha Amman Temple instantly drew my attention, as it was illuminating in deep-orange tones overlaid with golden trimmings. On the inside, this modest temple is cloaked in metallic tones, with gold and blue, being exceedingly visible. The domes and walls are tinted, and each of the hemispherical domes is ornamented, with colourful mythological statuettes. This site brings alive the chronicles of the late medieval period, rousing the ancient weight of the Ramayana on the contemporary South Asian lifestyles. The Ramayana narrates the pursuits of Lord Rama, including the abduction of his wife Sita by the King of Lanka, Ravana and the soldiery employed to rescue her.
One reason why ‘Ceylon,’ is ‘traditionally-labelled’ as Ramayana’s Lanka. Findings of Ramayana were ascertained, subsequent scientists, discovering a connecting bridge between both nations. In the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, Valmiki speaks of Setubandhanam, an ocean bridge connecting India with Sri Lanka. As per the ancient records, “Setubandhanam,” was a natural, 30 km long, man made bridge built with a string of limestone reefs, solely to rescue Sita. As per the records, Lord Ram’s ape army set this bridge, that connects Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu to Mannar Island in Sri Lanka. Old records at the Rameshwaram temple tell that “Setubandhanam,” was entirely beyond sea level, until, demolished by a 14th-century cyclone. Luckily, now we can fly in and explore the world’s only temple dedicated to Seetha Amman. Established in the Seetha Eliya village, Seetha Amman is a humble yet quivering temple, that is of immense importance to Hindus. As it’s here, that King Ravana kept Sita captive. It’s here, where Sita spent her jail time and prayed every day for Lord Rama to arrive and relieve her.
The abduction of Sita set forth, consequential, actions. Resulting in, Lord Hanuman travelling to Sri Lanka. Across the temple, on a rock over a stream, are the imprints of the footmarks of the Ape God. This stream tumbles of a hill, that once provisioned the essentials for Sita during her Ashok Vatika stay. About 100 years back, three, obscure statues, were found in the stream. These idols have since been placed, at a small shrine near the river bank. Whereas, the circular depressions on the rock, are believed to be the footsteps of Lord Hanuman, who assisted Lord Rama in persuading the operation rescue. Myth has it, that Sita meditated on this rock and also, cursed a particular point in the stream. Temple staff will tell you, “This is the spot she cursed. You cannot drink the water here, drink it further downstream.”
Prior berthing the entire capital on fire with his prolonged tail; Hanuman studied the site and warned Lord Rama that it might be challenging to tackle the city buildings as they were built-in pure gold. Including an unshakably, solid, draw-bridge edged by gold pillars. Encircling the city was also a wall built in gold. Following this wall, were concealed stocks of precious corals, gems and pearls. They say the soil is black in the Seetha Eliya village as Lord Hanuman blazed the entire realm before leaving Sri Lanka. To those not aware of Ramayana, temple staff graciously illustrates the pertinence of the location. They show you the places where Sita sat, washed, and prayed. When Lord Rama freed Sita following conquering King Ravana, they flew back to their home in Ayodhya, in the Pushpak Viman, the grand golden chariot.
With a history of over 5,000 years, this is one landmark you must assuredly visit while you are in Nuwara Eliya. The aforementioned-visit was an exceptional union, as ironically, I take my name Veidehi after Sita. And here I was, the modern-day Veidehi honouring the biblical Vedic goddess Sita. The temple is open 365 days with two puja timings. The morning Pooja takes place between 8 AM to 1 PM wherein the evening Pooja is scheduled to run between 2 PM to 6.30 PM. There is no entry fee for visiting the temple however a ticket is required to participate in the Pooja.