Hindu Pilgrimage
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.)

Ayodhya History

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 Company.

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).

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)

Kanak Bhavan

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)

Nageshwarnath Temple

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.

Lakshmana Ghat

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.

Mani Parbat

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.

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