People who know the story of Ramayana are familiar with the legend of the Gandamadana Parvatham. The story goes like something like this: in the great battle at Lanka between Ravana’s army and Rama’s vanar sena, Laxmana, brother of Rama, was injured with a poisoned arrow. The sanjeevani herb, which was the only antidote to the poison that might otherwise kill Laxmana, could be found only in the fall away Gandamadana Parvatham in the Himalayas, at the northern end of the Indian Subcontinent.
Jambavana, advisor and counselor to Rama, advised Hanumana to bring back the sanjeevani herb so that Laxmana’s life may be saved. Hanumana tirelessly flew all across the vast landmass of India to the Himalayas until he reached Gandamadana Parvatham. But once there, Hanumana could not identify the sanjeevani herb amidst all the other herbs on the hill. Knowing that it was the matter of life and death for Laxmana, Hanumana chanted his secret verses and grew in shape till he was bigger than the mountain itself. Then he dug his arms deep into the hill and lifted the entire mountain on his shoulders.
Hanumana flew to Lanka with the Gandamadana Parvatham on his shoulder to Lanka, passing over numerous regions of India, including modern day Odisha. When he reached Lanka, he set down the hill on the ground; the sanjeevani herb was given to Laxmana and his life was saved. The battle between Rama and Ravana continued, eventually ending in the destruction of Ravana and victory of Rama. Rama took his wife Sita back to his homeland of Ayodhya, where later he exiled Sita on suspicions and taking insult at the doubt on her virtue, Sita asked Mother Earth to take her back into the earth (Sita literally means she who is born at the plough). Rama saddened with this turn of events took his own life by jumping into the Sarayu River.
When Hanumana was flying over the continent with Gandamadana Parvatham on his shoulder, a piece of the hill fell to the ground in Odisha, which is now known as Gandamadana Hills between the districts of Balangir and Bargarh in Odisha. The hill has the famous Nrusinghanath Temple in the north and the Harishankar Temple on the southern slope. Even today, the Gandamadana Parvatham is famous for the myriad varieties of medicinal plants and herbs that can be found on its slopes.
The imprint of Lord Rama’s feet is placed on a chakra in the Ramjharoka Temple at the highest point of the Island of Rameswaram this makes Gandamadana Parvatham a major tourist attraction.. The name of the place literally means “where Rama waited”. It is supposed to be the first spot where Rama rested after his long expedition to Lanka where Ravana had gone after abducting his wife Sita. It is on this spot that Rama stopped and looked at the vast ocean that lay between him and his destination: the island of Lanka and the abode of Ravana. The area surrounding the spot is pristine and beautiful even though a temple has been erected on the spot to mark the spot. The region has many caves that can be explored by intrepid tourists.