||Ganga bardi Godavri, tirath bardo Prayag, sabse bardi Ayodhya nagri, jahan ram leyo avtaar||
(Ganga is biggest river, Prayagraj [Allahabad] is the biggest pilgrimage, while Ayodhya is the holiest town, where Lord Rama was born)
Ayodhya also known as Saket, is an ancient city of India, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama and setting of the epic Ramayana. It is adjacent to Faizabad in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya was also the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom. It is on the right bank of the river Saryu. This town is closely associated with Lord Rama. The city of Ayodhya is 9,000 years old and was founded by Manu, the first man in the Vedas, and law-giver of the Hindus. Other sources hold that it was founded by and is named after, King Ayudh. It was said to be the capital of the Solar dynasty, of which Lord Rama was the most celebrated king. Skanda Purana and other Puranas list Ayodhya as one of the seven most sacred cities of India, as it has been the backdrop for much of Hindu scriptures. Today it is predominantly a religious city with its historical significance and sacred temples. The Atharva Veda described Ayodhya as “a city built by God and being prosperous as paradise itself”.
Several religions have prospered in Ayodhya simultaneously in different periods. Elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam can be found in the city till date. In Jainism, for example, five Tirthankaras were born here, including Adinath, the first Tirthankar, Ajitnath was the second, Tirthankar, Abhinandanath (fourth), while Sumatinath was the fifth Tirthankar and Anantnath was fourteenth Tirthankar in line. According to the belief in Jainism, Ayodhya is the second eternal city after Shikharji, and will never vanish during the changing epochs. Ayodhya like Lucknow, demonstrates a Ganga-Jamuni culture of secularism where as an evidence the Hanuman Garhi temple was built by Nawab of Awadh, Asif-ud-Daula.
Important Places in Ayodhya
Ram Janmbhoomi : The Ram Janambhoomi is the birthplace of Lord Rama, Lord Ram according to the Indian epic, Ramayana, was Lord Vishnu’s seventh manifestation was born and brought up in Ayodhya. Ram Janambhoomi temple has been under controversy for quite some time, till recently when the highest court gave its rights to Hindus and grand temple is now under construction at the site. Most sacred sport for Hindus is the Ram Janambhoomi.
Kanak Bhawan: Modern temple was constructed in 1891 lies towards the northeast corner of the Ram Janamabhoomi. This temple is also known as Sone-ka-Ghar, meaning house of gold. It is a holy site dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Rama and his wife, Goddess Sita. It is believed that this shrine was gifted to Rama and Sita by the former’s stepmother, Kaikeyi. Temple was erected during the reign of Vikramaditya at its present site and was then entirely revamped in Bundela-style by Vrish Bhanu Kunwari in 1891.
Hanumangarhi: Hanuman Garhi, is the most popular shrine in Ayodhya after Janambhoomi, a temple dedicated to the Hindu God, Hanuman. Since Hanuman was believed to be the protector of Ayodhya. The legend goes that Hanuman lived here in a cave and guarded the Janambhoomi from this hillock and later this temple was constructed at this spot in a fortified design. Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, which celebrate the birth of Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman respectively, attract thousands of devotees to the Hanuman Garhi. Built during the 10th century, this hilltop temple hones a 76-staircase pathway to the entrance. Housed within the panoramic view of the surrounding hills is a 6-inch-tall idol of Hanuman. The main temple cites an interior cave adorned with the numerous statues of Lord Hanuman along with his mother, Maa Anjani. Nawab Asif-ud-Daula had donated this land for the construction of the temple in its present form.
Sita Ki Rasoi: Sita ki Rasoi – not a kitchen as its name means, it is a temple in Ayodhya that has a symbolic kitchen where kitchenware such as the rolling plate or ‘chakla’ and the rolling pin or ‘belna’ is housed. It was a custom in those times that when the newly arrived daughters-in-law arrived she had to cook food for the entire family. The legend is that Mata Sita did not cook food for only her family but for the entire race of mankind, in a way similar to the legendary Goddess Annapurna. The Temple houses the idols of all the princes of the royal household – Rama, Lakshmana, Bharat, Shatrughan along with their wives Sita, Urmila, Mandvi and Shrutikriti.
Nageshwarnath Temple: Established in the name of the local deity, Lord Nageshwarnath, Nageshwarnath Temple is believed to have been set up by Kush or Kusha, Lord Rama’s son. Although this sacred site continued to be in good maintenance since 750 AD, the current temple is said to have been reconstructed in 1750 by Safdar Jung’s minister, Naval Rai. Legend has it that Kush came across a Shiva devotee called Naga Kanya when he happened to lose his armlet while bathing in the river Saryu. Upon learning that the latter had fallen in love with him, Kush made this Shiva temple for Naga Kanya. The Nageshwarnath Temple attracts numerous devotees during Mahashivaratri and Trayodashi, also known as Pradosh Vrat or Pradosh Vratam, in South India. The Shiva Barat or the procession of Lord Shiva is also a significant attraction here.