The ancient city of Ayodhya is said to be the birth place of Lord Rama – the most eminent deity of Treta Yuga and seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The city is around 10 sq. km in area which stands along the banks of River Ghaghara or Sarayu. As per the Hindu epic Ramayana, the city was founded by Manu. Later in Treta Yuga, the rulers of Surya dynasty (Suryavansha) made Ayodhya their capital city. Lord Rama was the most illustrious king of this dynasty.
Famously known as ‘Kosaldesa’ in ancient times, the place has found its mention in Atharvaveda and has been vividly described in the text as a paradisaical city created by Hindu gods. It is called the epicenter of Hindu mythology and many historical episodes have occurred here.
Since ancient times, the place is a spiritual hub for performing various Hindu rituals especially fire sacrifices (Yajnas) including ‘Asvamedha Yajna’. However, soon after the epic and puranic ages, the glory of this city was on the brink of going astray before it flourished again, in the 6th century BC, during the times of Lord Buddha. Even the Skand Purana and some other Puranas have ranked Ayodhya as one of the seven holiest cities of India.
Situated just about 10 km from the district headquarters of Faizabad, the temple-city of Ayodhya is home to several religions. Many faiths have grown and thriven here at the same time over different periods of Indian history. For instance, as per the Jain chronicle, the five Tirthankaras, including the first Tirthankara Rishabhadeva, were all born at Ayodhya. Remnants of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam can still be traced here in Ayodhya.
Ayodhya City in History
As mentioned in the epic Ramayana, Ayodhya was originally discovered by the Hindu law-giver Manu. During ancient times, Ayodhya was better known as Kosaldesa. One of the most celebrated ruling dynasties of this region was the Aikhsvaka dynasty reigned by Ikshvaku of the solar clan (Suryavansha). The history of Ayodhya is enriched with the famous legends of Suryavansha kingdom. Some interesting facts about the birth and expansion of this kingdom in Ayodhya is mentioned in chronological order as follows –
· As per the historical records, it was the eldest son of Vaivasvata Manu, named Ikshvaku, who first set up his kingdom at Ayodhya. The 6thking in the line was King Prithu after whom the mother earth is believed to have taken her name ‘Prithvi’.
· A few generations down the line came Mandhatri and the great Raja Harischandra was 31st from the line of Mandhatri. Raja Harischandra was widely known for his honesty and truthfulness. Raja Sagar from the same clan performed the great Asvamedha Yajna while his great grandson Bhagiratha was the one who brought Ganga on earth by performing various sacrifices.
· Over a period of time, Aikhsvaka dynasty of the solar clan began to be known as Raghuvamsha. Raghu was the father of Aja, and grandfather of Dasaratha.
· Again, King Dasaratha was the well-known father of Lord Rama under whom the grandeur of the Kosaldesa reached its peak. The story of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, has been immortalized by an ancient harbinger-poet Valmiki in his great epic the Ramayana. It is one of the most famous epic of the Hindu religion and has been greatly revered by the Indian masses through centuries.
· As mentioned in the puranic literature, the 93rd generation from Ikshvaku and the 30th from Rama was Brihabdala. He is the known to be the last legendary king of Ayodhya’s Aikhsvaka dynasty. Brihabdala is an important figure in Indian mythology as his name is mentioned amongst those who were defeated or killed during the Mahabharata war.
· After Brihabdala, the Kosala kingdom was on the verge of extinction until it regained its fame during the times of Gautama Buddha, in the 6th century BC. The destiny of Kosala once regained its strength with Lord Buddha (563-483 BC), the founder of Buddhism. Buddha was known to be a Kosalan and King Pasenadi of Kosala was his ardent follower. Again, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, Lord Mahavira, is also said to have preached Jainism extensively in the land of Kosala.
Ayodhya is predominantly a temple-city of Hindus. However, besides Hindu shrines, there are other places of worship as well. Ayodhya has played a center stage in the past and has sheltered many religions spanning from puranic to modern era. Along with Hinduism, the place also nurtured Buddhism, Jainism and Islam (Babri Masjid built in 1528 AD). The five Tirthankaras of the Jain tradition were all born at Ayodhya, including the first Tirthankara Adinath (Rishabhadeva).
Raghunath Ji Ki Chhowni
Around 200 years ago, a spiritual abode for the saints was made for the first time in Ayodhya by Baba Raghunath Das Ji. The vast residence is famously known as Badi Chhowni. The saints who follow Lashkari Tilak reside here and they perform Puja and Bhajan on a daily basis.
Koshlesh Sadan is famous for its South Indian style puja rituals, particularly the Panchratragam System. This place is around 50 years old and from the initial period it has been sincerely following the Hindu philosophy of Vishishtadvaita Vedanta. Brahma, Jeev, and Maya are idolized together here.
Rama Janma Bhumi/Babri Masjid Complex
Shri Rama Janma Bhumi is located in Rama Kot ward of Ayodhya city. Puranic mythology assures that this holy city is the birth place of Lord Rama. Baby idols of Rama, Laxman, Bharata and Shatrughna are set up here. At present, the Union Government has acquired the area and a case is pending with the court along different parties.
Half a km north of Janmabhoomi is Swarg Dwar, or Rama Ghat, which is an important bathing ghat. Mythology refers to Laxman Kila as the cremation spot of Lord Rama. On the west of Swarg Dwar is situated Sahastradhara or the famous Laxmanghat. The temple of Shri Laxman, the avtar of Shesh Naag, is situated here. This place serves as a residence for pilgrims who visit Ayodhya to attend to various melas and festivals and is called Laxman Kila. There is a special significance of visiting this place on the day of Naag Panchmi. Devotees in thousands visit this place on this day to seek blessings of the Nag devta (Lord Snake), and cleanse their own body and soul.
Sita Ki Rasoi
Sita Ki Rasoi is situated near north-western corner of Rama Janma Bhumi in Rama Kot ward. In this temple, idols of four brothers Rama, Laxman, Bharat, Shatrughna along with their wives Sita, Urmila, Mandavi, and Shrutikirti respectively are established. After her marriage with Lord Rama, Sita cooked the first meal for her family at this very place. Symbolic kitchen utensils filled in the room is the major source of tourist attraction here.
This eminent palatial house is believed to be the residence of Lord Rama’s mother, Kaushlya.
A visit to the holy city of Ayodhya is incomplete without a visit to Kanak Bhawan. It is a grand temple situated in Rama Kot ward. Rama Priya, Queen Shri Vrishbhanu Kunwari of Orchha, constructed this building situated in the district of Tikamgarh over 200 years ago. In this temple, three idols of Ram, Sita and Laxman can be seen.
According to a popular story, this Gold covered Temple (Kanak Bhawan) was presented to Sita by her mother-in-law Kaikeyi during their first meeting. It is also believed that Lord Krishna reconstructed the temple and placed an idol of Rama and Janki (Sita).
After many years King Vikramaditya and thereafter Queen of Tikamgarh again reconstructed the temple. The birth-ceremony of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama is celebrated with huge enthusiasm in the temple on Vaishakh Shukla Navami and Chaitra Shukla Navami respectively every year. There is a well known as Sita-koop located at the yard of the temple. Many devotees drink the holy water of the well which is naturally extremely sweet. In an upstairs bedroom, there is a bedroom where the foot prints of all the four brothers are preserved on a thin silver leaf.
This is a meditation place, which was established by Baba Gomatidas. This place is well known for the service it renders to the saints.
Situated on the Brahmaghat, Brahmakund is one of the oldest Gurudwaras in India. In Hindu mythology, there is a story behind the name of the place. It is believed that Lord Brahma meditated here for 5,000 years making this place extremely pure and sacred in nature and henceforth the place came to be known as Brahmakund.
Again, the major Sikh gurus including Guru Nanak (the first Sikh Guru), Guru Tej Bahadur Singh (the ninth Guru) and Guru Govind Singh (the tenth), all meditated and preached the Sikh religion from Brahmakund.
Around half a decade ago, this mandir (temple) was constructed in order to propagate the Ravidassia religion amongst the followers. This temple is named after Saint Ravidas.
Rang Mahal is a popular temple of Hindu in Ayodhya built around 40 years ago. The temple is generally crowded with devotes in the time of Sawan (the Hindu month of monsoon) when the festival of Jhulanotsav is celebrated here with great enthusiasm.
Nishad Raj Temple
In remembrance of Shri Nishad Raj, this temple was built by the people of Nishad community. The temple construction commenced in the year of 1917 and it’s now around a century old heritage.
Jain Swetamber Mandir
The Swetamber sect of the Jain community built this temple for promoting its religion and providing residential services to the Jain tourists in the region.
Ayodhya is the birthplace of the main five Jain Tirthankars namely Rishabh Deo, Ajitnath, Abhinandannath, Anudnath and Sumitinath.
This ancient temple named Dharm Hari is situated near Rama ki Paidi. Stories abound of Maharaja Dharm Raj’s visit to Ayodhya who then felt in his heart that this Vishnupuri was a blessed city with unparalleled significance.
Lord Vishnu got so impressed with Dharm Raj’s devotion and philanthropic activities that he appeared before Dharm Raj and graced him a boon. Dharm Raj urged for the eternal existence of Lord Vishnu in Ayodhya and thus temple of Dharm Hari was established as a permanent abode of Lord Vishnu in Ayodhya. Ashadh Shukla Ekadashi is an extremely pious day in the Hindu religion to visit this place. A large congregation is witnessed here every year on this day when devotees come to wash away their sins.
The 65 feet mound has a famous legend associated with it. It is said that in the epic Ramayana when Sri Hunaman ji was carrying a hill bearing the herb Sanjeevani Booti for healing Laxman’s wounds, on his return to Lanka, the mound from the hill fell off on the land of Ayodhya. Some scholars also believe the mound to have been built under the auspices of the earliest Buddhist community.
Sursari Mandir is the major attraction of Ayodhya having a rich archeological and heritage value. The Raja of Sursari Estate constructed this shrine alongside Sitamani. This beautiful edifice was constructed during the British period and special marble stones were used in its making.
Digambar Jain mandir
This temple is located in the Raiganj ward of Ayodhya and is linked to the founder of Jainism Shri Rishabhdeoji. A 21 feet high marble statue of Rishabhdeoji is a major centre of attraction here. Alongside, there are five black-stone statues of other Jain Tirthankaras situated here.
As mentioned in AdiPuran, Shri Rishabhdeo, the first Jain Tirthankara also known as Adinath, became the first king of Ayodhya .
Kale Rama Mandir
Kale Rama Mandir is situated near Rama ki Paidi in Swarg Dwar ward of Ayodhya city. It is enumerated amongst the significant shrines of Ayodhya. Idol established here dates back to the period of Maharaj Vikramaditya.
Tulsi Smarak Bhawan
Tulsi Smarak Bhawan is located 300 meters to the east of National Highway, on the very famous Raiganj crossing. Goswami Tulsi Das initiated his famous work Rama Charit Manas at this holy place. Tulsi Smarak Bhawan is established in order to pay homage to this historical writer. It was build under the aegis of the former Uttar Pradesh Governor Shri Vishwanath Das who named it Tulsi Smarak Bhawan. In the year 1986, the dept. of culture Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan was established under the aegis of the government of U.P.
Books on varied interesting subjects including History, Philosophy, Mythology, and literatures relating to Goswami Tulsi Das, Rama Katha and many other subjects are preserved at Ayodhya Sodha Sansthan. The Sansthan is recognized as an institution which rigorously promotes the research and publication works.
Around 80-90 years ago, the temple was constructed by Pt. Shri Rama Ballabh Sharan Ji Maharaj and was known as Shri Rama Ballabh Kunj (Madhukar Niwas) where various offerings and services were made to God, Students, Saints, and even to Cows. Pt. Shri Rama Ballabh Sharan Ji Maharaj eventually rendered the temple’s exclusive authority to his favorite pupil Shri Rama Padarath Das Vedanti.
Uttar Totadri Math
Situated near Ayodhya Post Office, the temple was established by Swami Bal Bhadracharya. South Indian Toradri Math belonging to Ramanuja cult is associated with this temple. Tirupati Balaji Venkatesh Bhagawan is highly propitiated here and his icon present in the temple is considered highly sacred. Alongside the temple, a Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya has also been established by the temple authorities. The expenditure of the school is fully borne by this Math.
Best Time to Visit
The holy city of Ayodhya is visited by tourists all round the year. However, the city oozes with incomparable charm during the time of Dasara when the victory of the good over the evil is celebrated here. In conjunction with various temples and shrines, other nearby localities are also worth visiting as every nook and corner of the city exude special historical charm owing to its somber surroundings. The weather condition here is pleasant throughout the year; however, the best time to visit Ayodhya is between November and December, where one can join in the festivities.