Vijayraghav temple at Ayodhya
|• Body||Ayodhya Municipal Corporation|
|• Total||110 km2 (40 sq mi)|
|Elevation||93 m (305 ft)|
|• Density||4,600/km2 (12,000/sq mi)|
|• Official||Hindi, Awadhi, English|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
Ayodhya ( listen (help·info); IAST Ayodhyā), also known as Saket, is an ancient city of India, believed to be the birthplace of Rama and setting of the epic Ramayana. It is adjacent to Faizabad city in the central region of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya used to be the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom. It has an average elevation of 93 meters (305 feet).
Owing to the belief as the birthplace of Rama, Ayodhya (Awadh) has been regarded as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites (Saptapuri) for Hindus. It is believed that the birth spot of Rama was marked by a temple, which was demolished by the orders of the Mughal emperor Babur and a mosque erected in its place. The Ayodhya dispute concerns the activism by the Hindu groups to rebuild a Rama's temple at the site.
- 1 Etymology and names
- 2 History
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Geography and climate
- 5 Places of interest
- 6 Accessibility
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
Etymology and names
The word "Ayodhya" is of Sanskrit origin, and means "the one on which no attack is possible". Thus, it can be interpreted as "unconquerable" or "invincible". This meaning is attested by the Atharvaveda, which describes Ayodhya as a city that has never been subdued. The 9th century Jain poem Adi Purana also states that Ayodhya "does not exist by name alone but by the merit" of being unconquerable by enemies. Buddhaghosha's commentary on Pheṇāpiṇḍūpama Sutta also attests this meaning of the word "Ayodhya". Satyopakhyana interprets the word slightly differently, stating that it means "that which cannot be conquered by sins" (instead of enemies).
"Saketa" is another name for the city. The Adi Purana states that Ayodhya is called Saketa "because of its magnificient buildings whihc had significant banners as their arms". According to Vaman Shivram Apte, the word "Saketa" is derived from the Sanskrit words Saha (with) and Aketen (houses or buildings). According to Hans T. Bakker, the word may be derived from the roots sa and ketu ("with banner"), but Kishore Kunal does not find this theory satisfactory.
Ayodhya was the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom, and was also known as "Kosala". The Adi Purana states that Ayodhya is famous as su-kośala "because of its prosperity and good skill". It further states that the city was also known as "Vinita", because of the humility of its residents.
Description in ancient texts
The earliest reference to a city called Ayodhya occurs in the Atharvaveda, which describes it as "the city of gods" and the abode of Brahma. It mentions that the city has eight circles and nine portals. A verse in the Brahmanda Purana names Ayodhya among "the most sacred and foremost cities", the others being Mathura, Haridvara, Kashi, Kanchi and Avantika. This verse is also found in the other Puranas with sligh variations. In Garuda Purana, Ayodhya is said to be one of seven holiest places for Hindus in India, with Varanasi being the most sacrosanct.
The Ramayana famously mentions Ayodhya as the birthplace of Rama. Several other literary works based on the story of Rama also mention Ayodhyua. These include the Abhisheka and Pratimanataka by the poet Bhāsa (dated 2nd century CE or earlier), and the Raghuvamsha of Kalidasa (c. 5th century CE). The name "Ayodhya" appears as "Ayojjha" in Samyutta Nikaya and Ghata Jataka, where it is mentioned as the capital of King Kalasena. Buddhaghosha also refers to the construction of a vihara (monastery) in "Ayujjha-pura".
According to the Jain tradition, five tirthankaras were born at Ayodhya, including Rishabhanatha (first Tirthankara), Ajitanatha (second Tirthankara),Abhinandananatha (fourth Tirthankara), Sumatinatha (fifth Tirthankara), and Anantanatha (fourteenth Tirthankara).
Identification of ancient Ayodhya
Most scholars tend to identify the Ayodhya mentioned in the ancient texts with the present-day Ayodhya town, but this is theory is not universally accepted. In the 19th century, Alexander Cunningham of Archaeological Survey of India concluded that the two cities were same based on a purported verse from Ramayana, but this verse was fabricated by a Brahmin of Lucknow.
In 1990, in context of the Ayodhya dispute, a group of 25 historians from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) argued that the ancient Ayodhya mentioned in the Ramayana was a fictional city, and was not same as the present-day Ayodhya. Their arguments include the following:
- According to the archaeological evidence, the earliest possible settlements at Ayodhya can be dated to c. 8th century BCE, while the Ramayana is set much earlier.
- The Ramayana depicts suggests that the Ayodhya was an urban centre with palaces and buildings, while the excavations at present-day Ayodhya indicate a primitive life.
- Early Buddhist and Jain texts mention Shravasti and Saketa, not Ayodhya, as the major cities of the Kosala region. These texts do mention Ayodhya, but it is said to be located on the banks of Ganges (unlike modern Ayodhya, which is located on the banks of Sarayu). The later texts such as the Puranas, which mention Ayodhya as the capital of Kosala, simply follow the legendary Ramayana.
- The rise of the modern Ayodhya town as a centre of Rama worship is relatively recent, dating back to the 13th century, when the Ramanandi sect started gaining prominence. Several inscriptions dated between 5th and 8th centuries mention the town, but do not mention its association with Rama. The writings of Xuanzang (c. 602–664 CE) associate the town with Buddhism. It has also been a important Jain pilgrimage centre, and an ancient Jain figure (dated 4th-3rd century BCE) has been found here. The 11th century texts refer to Gopataru tirtha in Ayodhya, but do not refer to the birthplace of Rama.
- Contemporary sources such as Baburnama, Ain-i-Akbari and the writings of Tulsidas do not mention that the Muslim emperor Babur demolished the Rama temple at Ayodhya to constructed the Babri mosque there. This story appears to have been promoted by the colonial British scholars.
The JNU historians further theorized that Saketa was the ancient name of the city that is now known as Ayodhya: the 5th century emperor Skandagupta (who adopted the title Vikramditya) moved his residence to this city, and renamed it to Ayodhya, probably to associate himself with the legendary solar dynasty. This theory is based on a local legend, which claims that Ayodhya was lost after the Treta Yuga; several centuries later, the emperor Vikramaditya embarked upon a search for this lost city. On the advice of a sage, Vikramaditya determined that the site of ancient Ayodhya as the place where the milk would flow from the udder of a calf. According to the JNU historians, this myth of "re-discovery" seems to recognize that modern Ayodhya is not same as the ancient Ayodhya, and appears to be an attempt to impart the modern town a religious sanctity that it originally lacked.
The JNU historians agree that an ancient historical city called "Ayodhya" existed, but argue that it was not same as the modern Ayodhya. This theory is based on the fact that according to the ancient Buddhist texts, the ancient Ayodhya town was located on the banks of the river Ganga (Ganges), not Sarayu. For example, the Samyutta Nikaya (3.95) states "Once Lord Buddha was walking in Ayodhya on the bank of the Ganga river". However, Kishore Kunal rejects this theory, arguing that the word "Ganga" is also used as common noun for a holy river in Sanskrit. In his support, he presents another verse from Samyutta-nikaya (22.214.171.124), which states "Once Lord Buddha was walking in Kaushambi on the bank of the Ganga river". The ancient city of Kaushambi was actually located on the banks of the river Yamuna, not Ganga.
Kishore Kunal also rejects the theory that "Saketa" is an ancient name of the city, while "Ayodhya" is a later name. He points out that Kalidasa's Raghuvamsha (c. 5th century CE) clearly refers to the same city by the names "Saketa" and "Ayodhya", while narrating the legend of Rama. He further argues that there is no historical evidence to support the theory that Saketa was renamed as "Ayodhya" by Skandagupta. Gyanendra Pandey argues that Kalidasa's mention of "Saketa" and "Ayodhya" do not prove any connection between the present-day Ayodhya and the more ancient Ayodhya, since he lived in the Gupta period, presumably after the Guptas had changed the name of Saketa to "Ayodhya".
Historically, Saketa is known to have been an important city of Ancient India by the 6th century B.C.E. During the Buddha's time it was ruled by Pasenadi (Sanskrit: Prasenajit), whose capital was at Sravasti. Saketa continued its prominence during the Maurya rule and suffered an attack around 190 BCE by a Bactrian Greek expedition allied to Panchala and Mathura. After the fall of the Maurya and Shunga dynasties, the city came under the rule of Deva and Datta kings. An inscription found at Ayodhya refers to a king Dhanadeva, who claimed to be the sixth descendant of Pushyamitra Shunga.
Under the Gupta rulers, Ayodhya reached its highest political importance. The Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien visited the city in the 5th century CE, referring to it as "Sha-chi" (沙祗, Pinyin: Shāzhī). During the reign of Kumaragupta or Skandagupta, the capital of the empire was moved from Pataliputra to Ayodhya. The old name "Saketa" was replaced by "Ayodhya," and firmly identified as Rama's capital city. By the time of the visit of the Chinese pilgrim monk, Xuanzang, c. 636 CE, the city was known as Ayodhya.
After the Gupta empire was ravaged by the Huns, the political centre of North India shifted to Kanauj in the 6th century, and Ayodhya fell into relative oblivion. According to Indologist Hans T. Bakker, the only religious significance of Ayodhya in the first millennium CE was related to the Gopratara tirtha (now called Guptar Ghat). The legendary epic Mahabharata, which mentions Ayodhya as the capital of Ikshavaku kings, states that Rama and his followers ascended to heaven by entering the Sarayu river at the Goparatara.
Early medieval period
In the 11th century, the Gahadavala dynasty came to power in the region, and promoted Vaishnavism. They built several Vishnu temples in Ayodhya, five of which survived till the end of Aurangzeb's reign. Hans Bakker concludes that there might have been a temple at the supposed birth spot of Rama built by the Gahadavalas (see Vishnu Hari inscription). In subsequent years, the cult of Rama developed within Vaishnavism, with Rama being regarded as the foremost avatar of Vishnu. Consequently, Ayodhya's importance as a pilgrimage centre grew.
In 1226 CE, Ayodhya became the capital of the province of Awadh (or "Oudh") within the Delhi sultanate. Muslim historians state that the area was little more than wilderness prior to this. Pilgrimage was tolerated, but the tax on pilgrims ensured that the temples did not receive much income.
Mughal and British period
Under Mughal rule, the Babri mosque was constructed in Ayodhya. The city was the capital of the province of Awadh, which is also believed to be a variant of the name "Ayodhya." During the British Raj the city was known as Ajodhya or Ajodhia and was part of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. It was also the seat of a small 'talukdari' state.
After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 CE, the central Muslim rule weakened, and Awadh became virtually independent, with Ayodhya as its capital. However, the rulers became increasingly dependent on the local Hindu nobles, and control over the temples and pilgrimage centres was relaxed. Saadat Ali Khan, Nawab of Awadh, bestowed the riyasat (principality) of Ayodhya on his loyal Brahmin soldier Dwijdeo Mishra of the Kasyapa gotra, for quelling revenue rebels in Mehendauna in Eastern UP.
Ayodhya was annexed in 1856 by the British rulers. The rulers of Awadh were Shia, and the Sunni groups had already protested against the permissive attitude of the former government. The British intervened and crushed the Sunni resistance. In 1857, the British annexed Oudh (Awadh) and subsequently reorganised it into the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.
In the 1850s, a group of Hindus attacked the Babri mosque, on the grounds that it was built over the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama. To prevent further disputes, the British administators divided the mosque premises between Hindus and Muslims.
A movement was launched in 1984 by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party to reclaim the Babri mosque site for a Rama temple. In 1992, a right wing Hindu nationalist rally progressed into a riot, leading to the emolition of the Babri mosque. Now, there is a makeshift mandir at Ram Janmabhoomi with a Ram Lalla, representing Rama as a child, smiling over a blooming lotus. Under Indian government no one was permitted near the site for 200 yards, and the gate was locked to the outside. Hindu pilgrims, however, began entering through a side door to offer puja.
In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) carried out an excavation at the mosque site to determine if it was built over the ruins of a temple. The excavation uncovered a variety of objects, including a 12-foot (3.7 m) statue of Lord Hanuman and coins dating to early historic times and other historic objects. The ASI concluded that an ancient temple had been demolished or modified to create the Babri Mosque under Babur. Besides Hindus, the Buddhist and Jain representatives claimed that the their temples existed at the excavated site.
On 5 July 2005, five terrorists attacked the site of the makeshift Ramlalla temple in Ayodhya. All five were killed in the ensuing gunfight with security forces, and one civilian died in the bomb blast triggered as they attempted to breach the cordon wall.
On 30 September 2010, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court ruled that one-third of the disputed land should be given to the Sunni Muslim Central Board of Waqfs, one-third to the Nirmohi Akhara and one-third to the Hindu party for the shrine of "Ram Lalla" (infant Rama). The court further ruled that the area where the idols of Ram are present be given to Hindus in the final decree, while the rest of the land shall be divided equally by metes and bounds among the three parties.
Some South Koreans have identified the "Ayuta" mentioned in their ancient Samgungnyusa legend with Ayodhya. According to this legend, the ancient Korean princess Heo Hwang-ok came from Ayuta. In the 2000s, the local government of Ayodhya and South Korea acknowledged the connection and held a ceremony to raise a statue of the princess.
As of the 2001[update] India census, Ayodhya had a population of 49,593. Males constitute 59% of the population and females 41%. Ayodhya has an average literacy rate of 65%, higher than the national average of 59.5%; with 72% of the males and 62% of females literate. 12% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Geography and climate
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Ayodhya has a humid subtropical climate, typical of central India. Summers are long, dry and hot, lasting from late March to mid-June, with average daily temperatures near 32 °C (90 °F). They are followed by the monsoon season which lasts till October, with annual precipitation of approximately 1,067 mm (42.0 in) and average temperatures around 28 °C (82 °F). Winter starts in early November and lasts till the end of January, followed by a short spring in February and early March. Average temperatures are mild, near 16 °C (61 °F), but nights can be colder.
Places of interest
Hanuman Garhi, a massive four-sided fort with circular bastions at each corner and a temple of Hanuman inside, is the most popular shrine in Ayodhya. Situated in the center of town, it is approachable by a flight of 76 steps. Its legend is that Hanuman lived here in a cave and guarded the Janambhoomi, or Ramkot. The main temple contains the statue of Maa Anjani with Bal Hanuman seated on her lap. The faithful believe wishes are granted with a visit to the shrine. Kanak Bhawan is a temple said to have been given to Sita and Rama by Rama's stepmother Kaikeyi as a wedding gift, and only contains statues of Sita with her husband.
Ramkot is the main place of worship in Ayodhya, and the site of the ancient citadel of its namesake, standing on elevated ground in the western city. Although visited by pilgrims throughout the year, it attracts devotees from all over the world on "Ram Navami", the day of the birth of Rama. Ram Navami is celebrated with great pomp in the Hindu month of Chaitra, which falls between March and April. Swarg Dwar is believed to be the site of cremation of Rama. Mani Parbat and Sugriv Parbat are ancient earth mounds, the first identified by a stupa built by the emperor Ashoka, and the second is an ancient monastery. Treta ke Thaku is a temple standing at the site of the Ashvamedha Yajnya of Rama. Three centuries prior, the Raja of Kulu built a new temple here, which was improved by Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore in 1784, the same time the adjacent Ghats were built. The initial idols in black sandstone were recovered from Sarayu and placed in the new temple, which was known as Kaleram-ka-Mandir. Chhoti Devkali Mandir is the temple of goddess Ishani, or Durga, Kuldevi of Sita.
The temple of Nageshwarnath was established by Kush, son of Rama. Legend has it that Kush lost his armlet while bathing in the Sarayu, and it was retrieved by a Nag-Kanya who fell in love with him. As she was a devotee of Shiva, Kush built her this temple. It was the only temple to survive when Ayodhya was abandoned until the time of Vikramaditya. While the rest of city was in ruin and covered by dense forest, this temple allowed Vikramaditya to recognize the city. The festival of Shivratri is celebrated here with great splendor.
Chakravarti Mahraj Dashrath Mahal
Chakravarti Mahraj Dashrath Mahal, known as Bada Asthan and Badi Jagah, is at Ramkot Ayodhya Faizabad Uttar Pradesh. It open for public from 8 am to 12 noon and 4 pm to 10 pm. every day. Ram Vivah, Deepawali, Shravan Mela, Chaitra Ramnavami and Kartik Mela are special occasions when number of devotees increases manifold. Dotted with so many religious places and shrines, in Ayodhya is a venerated place that has been revered by all, fraction of Hindu religious. This holy place is associated with Lord Ram, the hero of the great epic Ramayana. All the places in Ayodhya is some how related to this legendary ruler who is regarded as an icon of virtue, truth and devotion.
Chakravarti Maharaja Dasrath Mahal is not an exception to this common phenomenon. It where Maharaja Dasharatha is believed to reside with his kith and kin. Now the place houses a temple, which depicts Ram, Sita and Lakshmana Bharat Shatrughan as the chief deities. Though the shrine is not much bigger in size, its environment provide such serene and tranquil feeling that the devotee would be able to sense the presence of the Lord Ram.
- Angad Tila
- Shri Rama Janaki Birla Temple
- Tulsi Smarak Bhawan
- Ram ki Paidi
- Kaleramji ka Mandir
- Datuvan Kund
- Janki Mahal
- Gurudwara Brahma Kund
- Rishabhadeo Jain Temple
- Brahma Kund
- Amawan Temple
- Tulsi Chaura
- Laxman Quila
- Ram Katha Museum
- Valmiki Ramayan Bhawan
- Mandir Sunder Sadan (in front of controversial site)
Ayodhya Ghaat on the bank Ghaghara river.
To reach Ayodhya, the nearest airports are Faizabad, 5 km away, Amausi in Lucknow, 134 km away, Allahabad, 166 km away. The city is on the broad gauge Northern Railway line on Mughal Sarai on the Lucknow main route with Ayodhya and Faizabad Railway Stations. 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).
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Ayodhya.|
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