Tucked away in the remote corner of the city is a spiritual theme park, located close to Vizianagaram, Ramanarayanam is an ideal getaway when you seek an experience that is different yet invigorating.
When good thoughts become great intentions, and these intentions become a driving passion, marvels like the Ramanarayanam are created. Located 35 km off Vizag, this theme park has set a standard in many ways, attracting tourists not just from its vicinity but from across the globe. Raising the bar of what one can expect from a theme park, from a great epic and from a spiritual destination, the Ramnarayanam is as unique as it is special.
A unique theme park
Spread over 15 acres, taking over a decade for construction, using the skills of thousands of artisans from across the country and costing several crores of Rupees, this spiritual theme park is exceptional in more ways than one. Based on the great epic of Valmiki Ramayana, this theme park is the first-of-its-kind in the country having been built entirely without taking donations. It is uniquely built in the shape of a bow and arrow as a two-storey complex.
This park is also home to the most exotic spread of greenery, and the grand lawns offer lush open space where visitors can walk around. With many trees dotting the landscape, one section showcases the nine sacred trees of Raasi vanam, Nakshatra vanam, Saptarishi vanam, Navagraha vanam, Vinayaka vanam, Pancha bhoota vanam, Narayana vanam, Tulasi vanam and the Panchavati vanam. These rare trees have been a part of Indian scriptures and some of them were specially brought in from across the country as well.
While the park stays open from 9 AM onwards, it is best visited in the evenings. That is when the entire area is lit up in the colours of the rainbow. Beautiful mega fountains along the length of the bow transform the place into a beautiful dream-like destination, making a walk around the park a must-do. The cool breeze rejuvenates you with a fresh burst of oxygen. Also while you’re here, do stop by at the huge Natya mandapam where programs relevant to Indian performing arts take place on a regular basis. You could perhaps attend recitals such as the Bharata Natyam or Kuchipudi dance forms and also several religious discourses.
Created in order to give a memorable experience to people across age groups, battery operated cars are provided at the entrance for the old and disabled. Children have the spacious outdoors to play in, while Perla’s boutique restaurant with its completely vegetarian fare ensures that no one goes hungry. Inspired by Chennai’s famous Saravana Bhavan, the restaurant was inaugurated early this month and offers a delicious spread of South Indian delicacies in Chettinad styles.
A great epic
The entrance to the two-storied bow and arrow structure is from one end of the arrow, and visitors are soon inside a centrally air-conditioned complex depicting a series of sculptures from Ramayana. Vibrant in colour, rich in emotions and full of life, the seventy-two sculptures were created by thousands of artisans from different parts of the country. They depict 72 episodes from the Valmiki Ramayan with scenes right from the beginning of the epic, to Rama’s birth, the war with Demon Ravana and till Rama’s coronation as the king of Ayodhya. With messages elucidating the meaning of each scene, audio support in six different languages will soon be offered, so every visitor can have a personalised experience at the Ramnarayanam. One exits from the gallery at the tip of the arrow, where a colossal 85 feet statue of Hanuman stands tall.
A spiritual destination
While a traditional Vishnu temple is part of the complex, the Ramanarayanam is more a spiritual getaway than it is religious. In fact, right from the time when work on the park began, artisans from across religions and cities have been integral parts of the project.
The premises are home to a huge library with over one lakh spiritual books, where visitors can browse through the many texts and also attend the cultural events that regularly take place here. A meditation centre for channelling inner peace, three temples of Lord Ganesha, Lord Vishnu and Lord Rama with his consort Goddess Sita and 18 feet statues of Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati surrounded by exquisite colourful water fountains are some of the stops you should make on this trip. Also, look out for the seven special fountains that are shaped like the 7 asthras or weapons of Lord Rama.
A residential Veda Paatashaala adopted and run exclusively by the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD) imparts lessons on the four Vedas along with a regular curriculum. Approximately 150 children have already enrolled for this full-time 14-year course on the Vedas.
This is definitely a unique way of depicting the Ramayana, and the seed of the idea was planted two generations ago when Late Sri Narayanam Narasimha Murthy conceptualised the temple to be as such. Envisioned to be more than a traditional temple for people to offer prayers, the idea was to promote it as a spiritual centre where people could see the scenes from Ramayana and take away the essence of human values from the epic. Choosing just a few scenes from the large epic was a challenge and Sri Narayanam deepened his understanding of the Valmiki Ramayana, visited scholars on the subject across the nation and then chose 72 episodes of the story to be converted into sculptures. Artisans from across the nation were enlisted to carve the sculptures with intense detailing.
Carefully thought out, creatively crafted, the Ramanarayanam leaves an impression in everyone’s mind. The fact that this temple was constructed because of the passion of one person and is maintained entirely without donations is in itself a true marvel. Accessible by road, though the theme park has started functioning just one year ago, it sees a footfall of thousands of people each day. With a grand present, the future plans of the Ramanarayanam are as illustrious. These include expansion of current facilities to include musical fountains and entertainment options along the lines of Sentosa in Singapore. However, keeping in touch with ethnic roots as well, a Goshala is proposed to be set up too as a sanctuary for cows, calves and oxen. With so much to look forth to in Vizag’s landscape, this Spiritual getaway, Ramanarayanam is a traveller’s delight and if you haven’t visited it yet, then do plan soon.