By Swami Harshananda
Pañcavati literally means ‘a grove of five trees’.
During the last phase of his sojourn through the Daṇḍakāraṇya forest, Rāma requested the sage Agastya to suggest a good place in the forest where he could build a nice cottage and live like a recluse performing his duties. The sage in his reply suggested a place called Pañcavaṭī near the Godāvarī river. Rāma, along with Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa, repaired to that place, built a beautiful cottage and started living there.
Here the lustful demoness Surpaṇakhā was deformed by Lakṣmaṇa and the demons Khara and Duṣaṇa along with their army were decimated by Rāma. Sītā was abducted by the demon-king Rāvaṇa from here. It was called Pañcavaṭī because it was a grove containing five banyan trees.
Pañcavati, Five Trees
As per another view, the five specific trees are:
- Aśvattha - It's scientific name is Ficus religiosa.
- Bilva - It's scientific name is Aegle marmelos.</ref>
- Vaṭa - It's scientific name is Ficus indica.
- Dhātrī - It's scientific name is Flacourtia cataphracta.
- Aśoka - It's scientific name is Saraca indica.
Pañcavati, Five Arrogant Youths
According to one legend, five arrogant gandharva youths once surrounded the sage Agastya and did not allow him to move. He then cursed them to become trees. On their repentance and begging for pardon, he assured them of liberation from that condition when Rāma would come and build his hermitage in their midst. Presently it is a place near Nāsik in Maharashtra on the bank of the river Godāvarī.
- Aranyakānda 13.13
- Five means pañca.
- Banyan means vaṭa.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore