Parna means leaf and shala means shelter so Parnashala means a residence built with leaves or it simply means a hut. The Parnashala I am writing about is the name of the place along River Godavari in the dense Dhandakaranya forest where Lord Sri Rama along with Sita Devi and his brother Laxmana resided for several years of their 14 years of Vanavasam (banishment from Ayodhya / his kingdom). This is the place where Laxmana cut the nose and ears of Surpanaka, sister of Ravana the demon king of Lanka. This is the place where Mareecha a Rakshasa appeared in the disguise of a gold colored deer. And this is the place from where Ravana kidnapped Sita Devi. Parnashala is at a distance of 35 Kms. from the pilgrim town of Bhadrachalam and 360 Kms. from Hyderabad. At Parnashala, Lord Rama and Laxmana are addressed as Ramaswamy and Laxmanaswamy and Sita Devi as Sitamma.
As Ramaswamy, Sitamma and Laxmanaswamy were moving south during Vanavasam they rested for a day at the Ashram of Agasthya Maharshi. The Maharshi advised them to go further south and spend their Vanavasam at a beautiful place on the banks of river Godavari in the Dhandakaranya forest describing the place as most suitable for them and called it as Panchavati - a place with five different types of trees. And it is to this place that Ramaswamy went. They built the Parnashala at Pancahvati and resided there. The Ramayana describes that the combination of these five types of trees at this place have plentiful benefits like cool breeze with medicinal values to ensure good health, nutritious fruits for them and the birds that would give them company and that the trees would set about powerful vibrations to ward off evil forces and ensure clarity of thought and right way of thinking.
As their 14 year exile was coming to an end, Surpanaka the sister of Ravana saw Ramaswamy, fell in love with him and asked him to marry her. Ramaswamy told her that he is already married and as she persisted he asked her to approach his brother Laxmana. Laxmanaswamy also refused to marry her and Surpanaka angry with the rejections intended to kill Sitamma. Sensing her intentions Laxmanaswamy punished her by cutting off her nose and ears. Surpanaka returned to Lanka and complained to her brother Ravana of her insults and injuries and mentioned about beautiful Sitamma. This prompted Ravana to send Mareecha in the disguise of a gold colored deer to Parnashala. On Sitamma’s request Ramaswamy went to hunt for the deer and as the deer gave out a false alarm Laxmanaswamy drew the Laxmana rekha at Parnashala asking Sitamma not to cross it and went to find Ramaswamy. It is at this time that the demon king Ravana came to Parnashala as a Sanyasi (hermit) and sought food from Sitamma. He then kidnapped Sitamma from there by picking her up along with the soil on which she had fainted. This pit can still be seen there. As Ravana was taking away Sitamma on his Pushpaka Vimanam (flying chariot), a huge bird by the name Jattayu tried to stop Ravana. In the ensuing battle it lost a wing. It continued to fight and ultimately fell to the ground. When Ramaswamy came in that direction looking for Sitamma, Jattayu narrated about the abduction by Ravana and died. This place where the bird met Ramaswamy is called Jattayu paaka or Yetapaaka and the place where the bird’s wing had fallen is called Rekkapalli (a place named after the wing) and these places close to Parnashala have become big towns now.
Adjacent to Parnashala is a lake called Sita Vaagu where Sitamma used to bathe. One can find soft-stones of yellow and red color here which Sitamma has used as turmeric and kumkuma to adorn herself as per custom. And one can also see the imprint of her Saree and her foot prints here. On a hill on the other side of River Godavari, marks are visible which are said to be made by the Pushpaka Vimanam of Ravana while kidnapping Sitamma.
There is a big town called Dummugudem close by where Ramaswamy is said to have killed 14000 demons headed by Kharadeoshana. Dummu means dust and this place is called Dummugudem because it has come up on the ashes and remains of these demons. There are many such places around Parnashala that speak about the presence of Ramaswamy and Sitamma in this area for several years. There is a Temple of Ramaswamy at Parnashala where the deity is referred to as ‘Shokarama’ – meaning grieving Rama.
Today the entire scenario of Parnashala is recreated here, as it appeared ages ago. This can be understood from the above photographs of us at Parnashala. The entire area in and around Parnashala along River Godavari is very beautiful and it is a great feeling to be in the land of Lord Rama and Sita Devi.
P.S. You may click on the following link to reach several of my photo-articles / blog posts on Kothagudem, Singareni Collieries, Bhadrachalam, Godavari River, Parnashala, Kinnerasani and Papikondalu: