There seem to be a two candidates for the location of Pampa, the area where Shri Rama performed his Aranya Kanda leelas.
One is in Karnataka, a very recent development. The other is in Kerala which has a custom since a very long time.
It is said that Kishkindha is in Hampi, Karnataka which has come to be associated with Ramayana due to the name of the place as Pampa Kshetra. This kshetra has since the time of the Vijayanagara empire and before, been famous for the Pampapati Virupaksha (Shiva) temple and association with Pampa (Devi Parvati).
Nowadays when one goes there one is shown:-
- The Pampa Sarovar a small pond, not even a kilometre in length (Adhyatma Ramayana described Pampa as 3 krosha or at least 9km) which can’t accommodate elaborate fauna.
- The Rishyamuka hill on the Tungabhadra river not mentioned in the Ramayana, the Anjaneya Hill having a recent temple to Hanumanji in North Indian style with a Northern pandit.
- The Ashrama of Shabari (a Vijayanagara building), Matanga Hill and a Rama temple.
Just like most other confusions, the association with Ramayana seems to have started from the colonial books about the region and much so as the things shows today are pretty modern North Indian (Hanumanji temple) or recent in nature.
On the contrary, Kerala seems to be qualifying many of the descriptions of the Pampa region of Ramayana and has a tradition since minimum 800-900 AD (the time of Arya Kerala Varma or Ayyappa). This region is the Sabrimala region, named as the hill of Shabari, where the Pamba river flows, on the route of the Ayyappa pilgrimage.
Here one can encounter the Sabaripeedam or the ashrama of Matanga where pilgrims have been making offerings since a very long time and the Sri Rama Padam - pampa tata Loka manoharam only possible with river abounding with creatures.
Besides the old tradition, below are some evidences from the Ramayana in favour of Sabarimala:
- The Pampa of Ramayana has been referred to a form of the river Mandakini (Ganga) (VR 4.1.94) and even the Pamba river of Kerala is venerated as such. In Kerala too they maybe referring to it as Pampa Saras.
- The Ramayana (VR 4.1) describes many birds (in number and variety) in the Pampa which are found/ possible to find in River Pamba of Kerala. The quantity as well as variety of birds cannot be found in a small little pond like in Karnataka.
- Sugriva mentions (VR 4.46.3) that the fight between Bali and the demon took place in the Malaya mountains, (another name for modern day Nilgiri, which leads to the Malayalis being called so).
Thus Kerala presents a more convincing candidate for the Shabari Ashrama and Kishkindha region.
Question Is there any further evidence in favour of any of the places in Ramayana or any other ancient text?
Especially for Kerala. Mostly the confusion is whether Pampa is a river or pond, which as per VR 4.1.94 is a river though called Saras, in all Ramayanas.
Note: The Kannada Pampa mahatmya doesn’t sound very authentic.