The general impression of location of danDakAraNya (danDaka forest) of the ramAyaNa period is:
North Andhra Pradesh, East Maharashtra, Chattisgadh, South West Orissa.
India of the vAlmiki rAmAyaNa days, was full of forests. Every village and town of yore, had forests outside its peripheries.
Sita was so much captivated by the beauty of the danDaka forest, that when rAma, in the post-coronation days, and just before her pregnancy, asked her to choose a boon, she asked her husband for a short sojourn in the danDaka forest.
Shri rAma fulfilled her desire, by sending her to danDaka forest again, of course as some sort of punishment. He asked brother LakshmaNa to leave the pregnant Sita in the forest. This was when, his intelligence sleuth revealed to him that a washer-man made fun of rAma by saying that he was not the foolish rAma who accepted Sita after she spent one year in Lanka.
We have to keep in mind that Sita, Rama, and LakshmaNa, moved most of the time on foot. I do not know whether there was a civilisation of wheel in the danDaka forest and the kiShkindha, the City of vAnarAsi.
Consequently, the distance which they can cover by foot will be limited. During all the thirteen years of their exile in the forest, Sita, Rama and Lakshmana were not walking. At one place, they stayed for nearly 12 years. (It is a different thing, that Lakshmana was running everyday, as a part of his regime of hunting deer). This issue of time spent on walking and distance covered, has been dealt with in a separate post.
what I wish to highlight here is, that owing to the need to cover distances by foot, most of the rAmAyaNa's events must have to be, by and large confined to the South Eastern Uttar Pradesh and bIhar. Extending them to South India, the southern tip of rAmeSwaram, tiruvanantapuram, etc. means that we stretch the story to horizons beyond the scope of practical realities and accept fantasies as facts.
I have already pointed out in a separate post, that our vindhyAcal is Mirzapur-vindhyAcal on the Eastern edge of U.P., and not the northern edge of nAgpur.
The danDakAraNya of our story should be further North of Mirzapur-Vindhyacal, because the south-bond Sita-searching vAnara batch had found vindhyAcal before them after being rescued from the cavity (cave or bilam) of svayamprabha.
I could not find such place to the North of Mirzapur-vindhyAcal, though it might have had forests in those days.
I found a place, which is approximately near to it, and which can be taken as danDakAraNya, the forest where the pregnant SIta was dropped by LakshmaNa.
It is on the path between Allahabad and vAraNasi. Here is a link which shows the location:
Care: We should not confuse between 'sitamarhi', the birth place of Sita in North Bihar, and this 'sitamardhi' which is 'said to be' the place where Sita entered the Mother Earth in the last scenes of uttara rAmAyaNa, after handing over lava and kuSa to Shri rAma. This place is supposed to be the hermitage of Sage vAlmiki. Sita was said to be under vAlmiki's protection, when she gave birth to her twins.
According to bhavbhUti's uttara rAma caritra, a 7th Century CE Sanskrit drama, Sita gave birth to her twins under river waters of Ganges, after being abandoned by rAma. When she came out of the Ganga river, she was rescued by vAlmiki.
Note: There are four more vAlmiki Ashrams.
1. at Amritsar, Punjab.
2. Kanpur - Bithoor. Amritsar, vAlmiki Ashram, does not stand the test of proximity. The claim of Bithoor we have to further search and analyse.
3. vAlmkinagar in West Champaran Dt. of North Bihar and NepAl.
I shall quote from http://bstdc.bih.nic.in/WildLife.htm
vAlmikinagar can be found on the top of the Bihar Map, I have uploaded. Map courtesy Bih.nic.in.
The place has the major religious and historical attraction of the Valmiki Ashram. Although it is located in Nepal, but one has to travel through the forests of Valmikinagar to reach the Ashram, and that is through India. Even the Nepalese have to travel through Valmikinagar, in India to reach the Ashram.
Valmiki Ashram is located at a distance of about 7 kms from Valmikinagar, the Gandak barrage, in the deep forest of Chitwan National Park in Nepal. Rishi Valmiki had written the great epic, “Ramayana”, here. Various points of interest around the ashram are: Birthplace of Luv & Kush (the two sons of Lord Ram and his divine wife- Sita); Sita’s ‘Falahar’ eating place; Meditation place of the great Sage-Valmiki; the place where the Ashwamedh horse was tied; Amrit Kuan; Vishnu Chakra; Gagristhan and the Hawan Kund.
iti SItA ca rAmAshcha
sItA-rAma-lakshmaNas crossed yamuna river. They walked up to CitrakUTa mountains in a day. rAma was captivated by the flora and fauna of the hill. He decided that they should have a resort there. Before building a leaf-hut, they visited vAlmiki's hermitage with folded hands.
What may be a distance which three persons with luggage of whom one delicate lady, can walk in a day? In my humble view it may be say 33 km. or 20 miles. CitrakUT is 133 km. away from the Yamuna bank of Allahabad. Obviously, it was not possible. The real ChitrakUt Hill must have been some other hill, which was very near to Ganga-Yamuna confluence of Allahabad, presumably on their right bank.
It is difficult to classify the vAlmikinagar of nEpal and West champAran as danDaka forest, which Sita longed to have a sojourn at. However, vAlmiki could have had two Ashrams, one at his native place and another between Ayodhya and Buxar, vAraNasi-Allahabad-MirzApur. This vAraNasi-Allhabad-Mirzapur belt we can classify as the Northern edge of the danDakAraNya.
The lava-kusa capturing rAma's sacrificial horse and tying it to a tree, in vAlmiki Ashram of nEpAl can also be accepted. But for that, we have re-write and re-build all the locations of vAlmiki rAmAyana. It is worth trying.
The problem with many historians is they want 100% conclusive evidence such as stone inscriptions, copper plates, carbon-dated earthenware etc. If we apply that test, we can never prove that valmIki rAmAyana's story could have ever happened. I am not making that type of attempt.
What I am trying to do: Remove the elements of fantasy such as pushpaka Aircraft, billions of monkeys, converting stones into humans etc. I am trying to work out a realistic story which must be possible to happen a few thousand years back with the road-paths, carts, foot-travel, bamboo-basket-boats, true boats, dense impenetrable forests, rama physically carrying Sita on his shoulders whenever she was unable to walk etc.
Thus, I wish to use a single parameter practicability-test and nothing else. From this point of view, we may have to deduce that entire vAlmiki rAmAyaNa might have taken place between janakpur-vAlmikinagar-sitamarhi on the North Bihar-nEpal border to buxar-gaya-patna-bhagalpur ganga river border in the South.
We may have to shift our ayOdhya from kanpur-lucknow-phaizabad of U.P. to ayOdhyaganj in katIhar District of Bihar. Our lanka has to be near bhagalpur. Our gOdavari has to be near gaya.
Another possibility which occurs to my small mind: there might have been two ayOdhyas. The birth ayOdhya of Shri rAma might have been the ayOdhyaganj of katIhar and samEli. After some years of rule, he might have built another ayOdhya in phaizabAd. In other words, he might have moved West-wards from bIhar and built his new Capital.
--added modification on 26.11.12 after some contemplation and meditation:
This ayOdhya ganj in bIhar quoted above, a local reader has clarified that it derived its name from a bihar-bengal native ruler by name 'ayOdhya singh'. It seems there are some places near dAmOdar river valley project near southeast bihar-jharkhand-bengal border. Hence, I am discarding this idea.
But, still, I entertain the idea, that there is a need to investigate the histories of villages with the name 'ayOdhya', in katihAr and surrounding districts of bIhar upto sItamarhi. But we should not go too north upto sItAmarhi. These 'ayodhya' name villages are important, because they are part of the vaishAli kingdom, which had ikshvAku dynasty. We can find the ancestral history of these bIhAr ikshvAkus in vAlmIki rAmAyan, bAlakAnDa. Context: viSvAmitra showed this place and showed the visitor ikshvAku king, to rAma and lakshmaNa. Narrated the bihAr-ikshvAku history. These ancestors are common between the ikshvAkus of phaizabad-UP-ayOdhya and the ikshvAkus of vaishali-bIhar ikshvAkus. One important question which emerges: Was the migration of original ikshvAku kingdom from bIhar to UP? Or from UP to bIhAr? We have a tertiary dimension also. We have ikshvAku rulers of 2nd C. circa in coastal Andhra Pradesh gOdAvari-krishnA area. Some historians felt that the A.P. ikshvAkus were lichchavi ikshvAkus. I, initially felt that they were the seeds of ayOdhya ikshvAkus, sown by rAma with the help of vibhIshaNa and sugrIva. This can hold good if rAvaNa lanka was in gautami-vaSishTha-vainatEya river islands or kAkinADa-narsApur sea islands. But rAma sowing his ikshvAku kingdom in godAvari-krishNa deltas, does not stand the test of physical strain involved in walking from U.P. to A.P. or from bIhar to A.P. If proximity test is to succeed our danDakAraNya should be in mirzApur, Eastern UP, and lanka should be in baksar-sasaram-gaya-hazipur-bhagalpur-ranchi area, everything on the left and right banks of river ganga.
--end of addition made on 26.11.2012.
When Rama had to dump Sita in forest, to ward himself against public criticism, he might have sent her to Allahabad-vAraNasi-mIrzApur belt and requested vAlmiki to take care of his pregnant wife.
It is how, we can accept the danDakAraNya as a forest-location between Allahabad and vAraNasi.