Ayodhya - one of seven in the holy list of Hindu cities - where
history and legend merge seamlessly, where some arrive to purify
their souls while others plan hostile conflicts.
Ayodhya - which means 'that which cannot be subdued by war', where
the turbulence always subsides letting the city return to its original,
peaceful holy avataar. Ayodhya - a small, calm city where sadhus
mingle with pious pilgrims and the occasional tourist, where even
the sunset on the banks of the Sarayu river is good for the soul.
(Warning: The conflict at Ayodhya is far from over. Make sure you
check the newspapers before you set out on your journey.)
How to Reach
The closest airports are:
Amausi in Lucknow (134 km from Ayodhya)
Babatpur in Varanasi (209 km from Ayodhya).
Ayodhya is situated on the board gauge Northern Railway line on
the Mughal Sarai-Lucknow main route. Ayodhya and Faizabad are
connected to various parts of the country.
The National Highway (NH) 28 cuts through Ayodhya on its way from
Faizabad to Gorakhpur. Ayodhya is connected by road to several
major cities and towns including Lucknow (134 km), Gorakhpur (132
km), Jhansi (441 km), Allahabad (166 km), Sravasti (109 km), Varanasi
(209 km) and Gonda (51 km).
Sights to Visit
Ayodhya, the temple town, with a sacred site around every
street corner is best discovered at a leisurely pace. The only
way to get a true feel of the town is by wandering through it,
exploring the little alleyways and letting your mood decide which
route you want to take. It is not a tourist town and offers a
welcome break from the hotspots of India (unless, of course there
is another ugly religious controversy brewing). Among the innumerable
holy places there are also a few Buddhist and Jain shrines.
Babri Masjid and Ram Janmabhumi
The contentious site is south of the shrine known as Janam Sthana,
the birthplace where Rama is said to have spent most of his childhood.
The compound is surrounded by high fences and is heavily guarded
though it still attracts huge crowds. All visitors and worshippers
are thoroughly searched before being allowed to enter the site
(even ballpoint pens are confiscated before you enter the site).
The makeshift Hindu temple that has been erected in place of the
Babri masjid (now a heap of rubble) is basically a tent, with
a background of shimmering pink and green material. (Open daily
7 am to 10 am and 3 pm to 5 pm)
Also known as Sone-ka-Ghar (house of gold), this 19th century
temple is located in the center of Ayodhya and is devoted to Rama
and his wife Sita. Someone once said If you want to see the real
Ayodhya, go to Kanak Bhavan. It is a palatial temple where musicians
sit and perform in the black and white tiled courtyard. There
are three pairs of idols of Rama and Sita in the inner sanctum
and a plaque on the outer wall that claims there have been palaces
on this site since the Trety Yug (The age during which Lord Rama
ruled, by some estimates, one and a half million years ago). (Open
daily 8.30 am to 12.15 pm and 4.30 pm to 9 pm)
Stands on the ghats (bank) of the river, on the east side of town.
It is said to be built by Khush, Lord Rama's son. Legend has it
that he almost destroyed the water-living Nagas (semi-divine snake
people) because he suspected them of stealing his amulet. Only
Lord Shiva's intervention saved the semi-divine snakes. Khush
then established this temple showing the Nagas worshipping Lord
Shiva, his father's favourite deity. Another version of this legend
states that the lost amulet was found by a Nag-kanya (young girl
from the Naga tribe), who fell in love with him, and as she was
Lord Shiva's devotee he constructed this temple for her. (Open
daily 5 am to 11 am and 12 pm to 8 pm).
Treta ke Thakur
It is a temple that stands at the place where Rama is said to
have performed the Ashwamedha Yagna. The Raja of Kulu is said
to have built a new temple here about 300 years ago called Kaleram
ka Mandir, where the idols of Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Bharat
have reportedly been carved out of a single block of black sandstone.
These idols are supposed to be from the original Rama temple,
which once stood on the banks of the River Sarayu.
On the banks of the Sarayu river, this is where Rama's brother
Lakshman is said to have voluntarily given up his life-an act
called samadhi. Another version says that he gave up living after
he broke a vow.
A former Buddhist vihara (cave with cells) that became a Hindu
temple. It is dotted with little shrines and if you stand on the
topmost terrace you get a splendid view of Ayodhya, one that includes
a cluster of small white buildings at the base of the hill that
turns out to be a Muslim graveyard.
A steep climb (75 steps) leads to the temple fort of Hanuman -
monkey god and guardian of Ayodhya. Built within the thick white
walls of a fortress, it is one of Ayodhya's most important temples
and now a monastery as well. Embossed silver doorways lead to
several Hanuman shrines as well as one of Rama's wife - Sita.
The temple is supposed to mark the spot where Hanuman sat guard
in a cave overlooking Rama's birthplace which is why the idol's
eyes convey a piercing, alert look that is in keeping with the
warrior prowess of Lord Hanuman. Many watchful rhesus monkeys
have made this temple their home, and are quite skilled at snatching
prasad (holy offerings) away from unwary devotees.
Ancient history calls it one of India's holiest cities - where
the religious faiths of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Islam
converged together to create a place of monumental sacred importance.
Ayodhya was described in the Atharvaveda as a city built by gods
and being as prosperous as paradise itself. It was the ancient
capital of the powerful kingdom of Kosala and an important trade
centre in 600 BC. Historians have identified it as Saketa, an
important Buddhist centre in the 5th century BC (the Buddha is
said to have visited Ayodhya on many occasions) which it remained
until the 5th century AD.
In fact, the Chinese monk Fa-hien recorded a large number of
Buddhist monasteries he saw there. The town has a historical relevance
for the Jain community as well: two important Jain tirthankaras
were born there in the early centuries AD. Jain texts also record
the visit of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism to the city.
Then, by the 7th century AD the Chinese monk Xuan Zhang (Hiuen
Tsang) recorded seeing a number of Hindu temples in Ayodhya. In
the Sanskrit epic poem Ramayana, a city called Ayodhya is mentioned
as the birthplace of Lord Rama, a Hindu deity worshipped as the
seventh incarnation of the Lord Vishnu. Ayodhya became a pilgrimage
destination in the 1400's when Hindu mystic Ramananda founded
a devotional sect of Rama.
The 16th century saw a shift in power with Ayodhya becoming part
of the Mughal Empire. The Babri Masjid (Mosque of Babur), a three-storied
mosque, was built in 1528. It was said to have been constructed
on the site where an ancient Hindu temple marking Rama's birthplace
once stood. Ayodhya was annexed by the British in 1856 and between
1857 and 1859 it was one of the main centres of the first war
of Indian Independence, an almost nationwide revolt of the Indian
soldiers that started in Calcutta against the British East India
Ayodhya recently became the centre of a grim Babri Masjid Ramjanambhumi
controversy and the focus of intense political activity.
The small city of Ayodhya is located on the south bank of the
river Ghaghra or Sarayu (which is its sacred name). It has an
area of only 10.24 sq. km and lies to the east of Faizabad (6
km) and Lucknow (130 km).