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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj of Ayodhya unveils ‘Ramayana Trail’ in Sri Lanka

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Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj, the treasurer of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, Ayodhya, arrived in Sri Lanka, to initiate a new era in the spiritual and cultural journey of the island country neighbouring India. He was accompanied by a team of top delegates from Shri Ram Mandir, Ayodhya.

The invitation was extended by former British MP and MEP of the European Parliament, and now Presidential Envoy of Sri Lanka, Honourable Niranjan Deva Aditya, on behalf of the President of Sri Lanka, His Excellency Ranil Wickremesinghe, to promote religious tourism between India and Sri Lanka. The meeting and the invitation were made possible because of the extraordinary bridge building undertaken to bring India and Sri Lanka closer together by the global Indian peace maker and icon, Muralidihran Murthy, whose enduring efforts to bring peace to conflict situations has made a huge difference to millions of people.

The visit was facilitated by R. M. Manivanan, Chairman of Supreme Global Holdings, and Rogan Muralidihran of IGS India, and was aimed at reconnecting and reviving the 7500-year-old relationship between Ayodhya’s Shri Ram Mandir and Mata Sita’s Amman Mandir in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.

The construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has ignited a renewed interest in the Ramayana’s sacred geography. However, to fully embrace the saga’s depth and breadth, one must also turn towards Sita Eliya: the other half of the story. Promoting this mandir goes beyond mere recognition; it is about integrating the sacred stories of Shri Ram and Mata Sita, celebrating their indomitable spirit together.

Just as Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir stands as a symbol of devotion and unity, so too can Sita Eliya Mandir represent the strength and resilience of Mata Sita. Together, they create a complete spiritual experience for devotees worldwide.

The Ramayana, the great epic that all Hindus have followed world over – underpins the foundation of South Asian civilisations and is a moral story of love and devotion, desire and greed, faithfulness and eternal loyalty, courage and determination and faith and hope. Bhagwan Rama’s love for Sita, King Ravana of Sri Lanka’s uncontrolled desire for her which caused him to abduct her to Sri Lanka, the courage of Shri Hanuman in rescuing her from a mountain top of Sri Lanka in Nuwara Eliya after searching for her in nine different locations on the island, and taking her to Bhagwan Rama in Ayodhya in North India, the war that ensued, and the vanquishing of Ravana by Shri Rama and his anointing of Vibhishana as the rightful King of Sri Lanka from whom all Kings descend – is a great moral saga.

Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj also emphasized the importance of King Vibhishana. Ramayana states that after the death of King Ravana, King Vibhishana was crowned by Lakshmana. Kelaniya ii is the place which had been ruled by Vibhishana as Shri Rama had to return to India to continue his self-exile of 14 years to honour the commitment to his father, King Dasarath of Ayodhya. King Vibhishana was considered a fair king, as he supported Shri Rama against his own brother’s injustice.

Many devotees that visit king Vibhishana’s shrine, pray to him asking his intervention to a fair recourse to their problems, even today. Vibhishana’s palace was said to be on the banks of the Kelani River. King Vibhishana is still considered as one of the four guardian deities of Sri Lanka, there can be seen many temples for King Vibhishana throughout Lanka. It is a fact that there is no temple for King Ravana where as many exist for King Vibhishana.

This goes on to prove that his stand towards Dharma and justice made him a god in Sri Lanka. Vibhishana is venerated by Sinhalese Buddhists as God, they believe him to be one of the main protectors of the island, especially in its western territories. In the temple of Kelaniya, a shrine of Vibhishana can be noticed even now. Murals of the crowning of king Vibhishana is also there, giving proof to the epic story of Ramayana and its importance in Sri Lanka.

The visit also saw the unveiling of the ‘Ramayana Trail – The Sacred Mission’, which is an ambitious project aimed at transforming nine key sites along Sri Lanka’s Ramayana Trail into world-class spiritual and cultural monuments. Noteworthy locations include Adam’s Bridge in Mannar Basin; Ashoka Vatika in Sita Eliya; Welimada Divurumpola; Ussangoda National Park; Rumassala in Galle; Koneswaram in Trincomalee; Manawari Temple in Chilaw; Ravana Cave in Ella; and the Kataragama Ramayana Trail.

From Adam’s Bridge to Sita Eliya, each site serves as a narrative canvas, recounting episodes of the Ramayana in a manner that is both tangible and transformative, offering visitors an opportunity for spiritual introspection and cultural immersion. This initiative seeks to correct historical oversights by creating tangible, immersive experiences that blend ancient spirituality with modern architectural marvels and cutting-edge technology such as AI, augmented reality, and virtual reality.

With the endorsement of Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj, the project is positioned to become a focal point for Hindu devotees worldwide, significantly boosting spiritual tourism and contributing to the economic revival of Sri Lanka.

Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust in India, entrusted with the task of erecting the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, oversees significant religious endeavours. Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj, hailing from Pune, is among the fifteen distinguished members constituting the trust. Born in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, in 1949, Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj has spread the teachings of the Ramayana both domestically and internationally, alongside other religious texts such as the Mahabharata. Under the guidance of his mentor, the esteemed spiritual Guru, Pandurang Shastri of Maharashtra, Swami Govind Giri Maharaj has contributed significantly to spiritual discourse.

Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj participated in the inaugural ceremony of the Ramayana Trail Project in Sri Lanka, where the project website was officially launched. With the delegation of Indian investors, the event underscored the collective commitment towards the project’s realization. The High Commissioner of India, was a prominent guest at the launch. The National Security Advisor, Hon. Sagala Ratnayaka, cricket icon Sanath Jayasuriya, and Hon. Karu Jayasuriya also lent their support, emphasizing the need for a robust framework for the project’s success and sustainability.

Hon. Deva Aditya profusely thanked Swamiji for accepting his invitation. Swamiji, in reply, said he felt guilty that he had not come earlier and thanked the Sri Lankans for their extraordinary warmth and hospitality.

Further engagements of the delegation included meetings with key spiritual Leaders including the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, and the Mahanayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter, visiting the Diyawadana Nilame of Sri Dalada Maligawa, to view the Holy Tooth Relic – under the patronage of the former Chief Minister of the Central Province, Sarath Ekanayke. Their discussions reflected upon the enduring historical, cultural, spiritual, and diplomatic ties between the two nations and their benefits for future generations.

The tumultuous joyful visits to the Hanuman Mandir organised by the trustees and the very important Sita Amman Mandir, hosted by Hon. Radhakrishna MP and trustees was a huge success where Swamiji conducted his own pooja. Meetings were held with the trustees on how to expand the facilities and services to enable greater number of pilgrims.

Following the very successful inspirational visits to Nuwara Eliya and Ramboda Swamiji, the Delegation led by Hon. Deva Aditya, Rogan Muralidihrum, R. Maninvanan and Zubin Mody, were received by HE the President the Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe, Hon Sagala Ratnayake, Theekshana Abeywardena, at the President’s Office for a discussion on promoting greater pilgrimages and tourism to both countries. This was followed by a lunch hosted by the Hon Vajira and Madam Abeywardena at their residence.

The Ramayana stands as one of the two principal Sanskrit epics of ancient India and a pivotal text within Hinduism. Sri Lanka boasts 52 sites connected to the Ramayana Trail. Beyond being a mere tourism venture, the ‘Shri Ramayana Trails’ embodies a spiritual odyssey that introduces the ancient epic saga of the Ramayana to the future and modern world.

The project aims to activate a mutual relationship between spirituality, tourism, and bilateral relations. By intertwining ancient narratives with contemporary experiences, the ‘Shri Ramayan Trails’ endeavour seeks to position Sri Lanka as a premier destination for spiritual seekers worldwide, including the massive Indian diaspora, thereby augmenting its cultural prominence and fostering cross-cultural understanding and collaboration, increasing the levels of tourism to greater heights hitherto not anticipated.

Sonakshi Datta
Sonakshi Datta
Journalist who wants to cover the truth which others look the other way from.

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