Nandigram or Nandi Gaon is a small village located on the outskirts of Ayodhya city. Even today it is outside the city limits. This is the place where Bharat, the younger brother of Sri Ram lived for 14 years when Sri Ram was in exile.
After Bharat learned that Sri Ram had to be in exile because his mother Kaikayee wanted him to be king. This led to the deep remorse in him. He refused to rule and let the Padukas of Sri Ram grace the throne of Ayodhya. He was just a caretaker of the kingdom, till Sri Ram returned.
As Sri Ram and Lakshman lived in the forest with matted hair, wearing simple clothes and sleeping on a bed of husk, so did Bharat at Nandigram.
Etymology of Nandigram
The story goes that Nandi, whom we better know as the vehicle of Shiva, once did a severe penance at this place. Shiva pleased with him, made him his chief Gana. He also asked him to ask for a boon. Like a true Bhakta, Nandi only wished that every wish asked here should be fulfilled. Shiva granted the wish.
Nandi established a Shivalinga here that is now known as Nandishwar Mahadev. This is how this village got the name – Nandigram, the village of Nandi.
Visiting Nandigram near Ayodhya
Nandigram is about 15 km south of the city of Ayodhya. It falls on the Ram Van Gaman Marg or the path through which Sri Ram went to the forest for his 14-year exile.
It is close to the Tamasa River which has many Rishi Ashrams on its banks. Now this river is more or less dry. Ayodhya Mahatmya has a lovely description of this area full of trees, vegetation, and birds.
As you step into Nandigram, the first place you see is Gaya Koop.
This is an ancient well where the pind dana for the ancestors is performed. In fact, I was visiting it during Pitri Paksha and saw many people performing these rites here.
Ayodhya Mahatmya mentions that doing rituals for ancestors here relieves them from Naraka and lets them enjoy Swarga. Somvati Amavasya or the new moon that falls on a Monday or any Monday is believed to be especially auspicious for these rituals.
This is a pond located close to Gaya Koop. You can see the ghats on it as you walk by it. A board here says that a daily Arti is performed here at Bharat Kund every evening. I did not witness it so cannot be sure if it indeed takes place every day.
It is said that Bharat took a bath in this very Kund for fourteen years of exile.
There are a few temples, each of which claims to be the place where Bharat lived for 14 years. They all show the Khadau or the footwear of Sri Ram adorning the throne while Bharat sleeps on the floor.
We would never know which one of these is real. All we can say based on Ramayana is that Bharat lived here in this area, outside the city limits of Ayodhya. It must have been a Vana or a forest then.
A small structure called Bharat Gufa takes you a little below the ground. It is believed to be the place where Bharat performed Tapa for 14 years.
At one of these temples, I saw the Bharat Arti written on the walls. Only at Nandigram can you see this.
Ram Janaki Mandir
Anywhere in Ayodhya or in Awadh you will find a Ram Janaki temple, so how can Nandigram be an exception? Sure enough, there is a small but beautiful temple of Sri Ram and Janaki.
Close to it is a small Shiva temple.
Beneath a tree is a small Hanuman temple along with a even smaller Vasishth temple.
Bharat Milap in Nandigram refers not to the famed meeting of Sri Ram and Bharat. Here it refers to the two meetings that Bharat and Hanuman had.
The first meeting happened when Hanuman was flying back carrying a part of Dronagiri mountain for Sanjeevani Booti to Sri Lanka for Lakshman. This is when Bharat spotted him, he stopped and informed him of his reason to fly with the mountain.
The second time, of course, Hanuman ji came to announce the return of Sri Ram, Sita, and Lakshman from Sri Lanka.
The embrace of Bharat and Hanuman can be seen in the temples here celebrating those moments.
There is another small temple that also celebrates Ram-Bharat Milan.
Rishi Mandavya Ashram
This place is also believed to be the Tapasthali or the ashram of Rishi Mandavya. His Murti can be seen and you can simply assume that he performed Tapa somewhere around this place.
Bharat Koop at Nandigram
Close to Rishi Mandavya Ashram is an ancient well called Bharat Koop. It is believed that the water of this well has water from 26 prominent Tirthas of India. They were brought here by Bharat when he returned from Sringaverpur after meeting Sri Ram.
Priests here tell us that the water of this well indeed never goes bad, just like the water of Ganga.
Jata Kund is located about 2-3 km away from Nandigram. It is a fairly large kund that we had to reach by passing through fields.
Jata Kund gets its name from the fact that Sri Ram, Lakshman, and Bharat gave up their Jata or matted hair here before entering Ayodhya after returning from the forest. It is like leaving the forest attire and adorning the ways of urban before entering the city. They gave up their Valkala or jungle clothes and wore fine clothes fit for the royal family.
Around the Jata Kund, I found the remains of an ancient stone temple. There were broken stone Murtis. I could not gather much about them except that temples stood here in ancient times.
Skand Puran tells us that taking a bath in this Kund will never let any Pishachas or evil spirits come close to you.
Other legends mention that Sri Ram and Lakshman took baths in this kund before entering Ayodhya on their return from Sri Lanka.
Putra Kamyeshti Yagna Sthan
On the way back to Ayodhya, we stopped at an old temple where it is believed Dashrath performed the Putra Kamyeshti Yagna. Remember at the beginning of the Ramayana story Dashratha performed a Yagna to beget sons.
You can see a temple with four pairs of footprints in marble. These are obviously not too old. However, they mark the place of an important Yagna in Ramayana. The royal symbol of twin fishes can be seen on the temple walls.
In a house located close to this temple, I found the most beautiful life-size Murti of Kaushalya feeding Ram Lalla.
Skanda Puran mentions five Hari Murtis in Ayodhya. Other literature and folklore mention seven of them. One of these Hari Murtis is the Bilvahari Murti. It used to be here. A small temple in pink and yellow marks this place.
There is a lovely Yagnashala close to this small temple.
Travel Tips for Nandigram Ayodhya
- You can easily do it as a detour from Ayodhya.
- The closest Railway station is Bharatkund Railway Station.
- 2-4 hours are enough to explore Nandigram and its surroundings, depending on your interest.
- There are no restaurants or other facilities for tourists, so plan accordingly.
It is best to stay in Ayodhya to visit Nandigram.