Chitrakoot Dhama, Part 3


BY: SUN STAFF - 3.5 2023

Sita Rasoi, Kamadgiri Hill, Chitrakoot

A serial exploration of the Holy Dhama of Chitrakoot.

At the Holy Dhama of Chitrakoot, we find a very interesting tirtha known as the Sita Rasoi, more commonly known as 'Sita's kitchen'. This shrine is said to mark the place where Sita cooked for her sons, Kusa and Lav, while they were at Valmiki's asrama. In fact, there are other Sita Rasoi tirthas elsewhere in India, including Ayodhya, Lalapur, Bithur, and elsewhere. Many such Sita Rasois have been surveyed by Indian ethnographers. Some are ancient, while others are more modern memorials to Sita Devi, the worshipable embodiment of womanhood.

In Ayodhya, Sita's Kitchen is the place where she cooked for Dasaratha and his family. There are several such tirthas in close proximity to places where she might have cooked for Rama, Laksman and her sons during her periods of exile in the forest (vanavas). In Ayodhya, the Sita Rasoi lies abandoned behind locked gates, being one of two kitchens that once existed in that place. Only one survived the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.

At Chitrakoot, as shown in the picture above, the Sita Rasoi is an imposing stone structure sitting prominently on top of a rise on Kamadgiri Hill. Nearby this Sita Rasoi, one can still see the path of a stream that once flowed there, no doubt making it an excellent site for a kitchen. At the shrine's entrance, there is a small altar with what appears to be Sita's grinding stone and a board for rolling dough. Inside the shrine there is a rolling pin, and sitting in a niche in the back wall there is a chulha (stove).

Written on the wall above the chulha are words to the effect of "mother of children" and "fruits of [or in] this kitchen (chaukasthan)", a phrase referring to Sita being the embodiment of motherhood, for which she is renowned.

The Sita Rasoi at Chitrakoot is situated about 100 feet from the Hanuman Dhara. Her kitchen tirtha is also known as Pramadgni Asrama. Shaded by several trees, the place where Sita is said to have cooked kandmools (root vegetables) is very beautiful and peaceful.

The cylindrical stone shrine sits atop the hill, near another local goddess temple, and adjacent to the Valmiki Asrama. The tirtha name, 'Sita Rasoi', is written on a rock outcropping, with a white arrow pointing towards the kitchen.

Sita, Rama and Laksman, Chitrakoot

The murtis of Sita, Kusa and Lav that were once installed here have since been stolen by dacoits, but new marble deities are now being installed, and regular worship will again commence here.

Across from the Rasoi is a small shrine dedicated to Sita and Rama. Sita's murti here is very beautiful, and it is decorated with bangle bracelets, which worshippers also offer.

In her recent article in Manushi, author Phyllis K. Herman gives the following description of the parikrama route around Kamadgiri Hill, which includes a stop at Sita's kitchen:

"The Mahatmya goes on to give routes for modern pilgrimages in and around Chitrakut. On the first day, the pilgrim (pujari) should circumambulate Kamadgiri Hill. On the second day, the pujari must climb another hill, east of the Kamadgiri, on which is situated the Hanuman Dhara Mandir. This Mandir is about halfway up the steep hill and, after puja there, he should continue to the top, to the Sita Rasoi. Along the way, the pilgrim should stop at the hill's many sites commemorating scenes from the Ramayanakatha, including several sets of Rama's footprints imbedded in the stones.

At the very top of the hill, commanding an incredible view of the Mandakini River and the land below, is the Sita Rasoi complex. At its entry is a life-size statue of Tulsidas and more footprints left by Rama. The signs instruct the pilgrim to have darshan of Rama's footprints and then proceed to the cottage that is the Sita Rasoi. This small structure, which is built of stone and [currently] painted white, commemorates Sita's cooking for Rama and Lakshmana, at Chitrakut, during the first vanavas."

View from Kamadgiri Hill