Ayodhya is one of the holiest cities of ancient India. Its atmosphere is full of spiritual splendour. Its air is dense with a trail of piety and virtue, propelling an eternal feel of divine love and fulfilment for the visitors.
Ayodhya saw the presence of several religions and faiths flourishing simultaneously in different periods of time. With numerous temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras and monasteries, and the thronging pilgrims at these sites round the year, Ayodhya is predominantly a religious city. And, it stands as an ancient testimony of India’s multi-religious co-existence over centuries.
Situated on the right bank of river Sarayu (Ghaghara) in Faizabad district of Uther Pradesh (UP), it lies 550 km east of New Delhi. It is also very close (6 kms) to the city of Faizabad, the district headquarters.
Ayodhya city covers an area of 250 km² (96 square miles) and have a population of 55, 890 according to the 2011 census. It is placed at 26.80 latitude and 82.20 longitude and at a height of 101 meters above sea level.
According to Skanda Purana and Brahmanda Purana, Ayodhya is one of the seven sacred places (Saptapuri) for Hindus; the others being Mathura, Dwarka, Haridwar, Kashi (Varanasi), Kanchipuram and Ujjain.
The city, also known as Saket was believed to be founded by the Hindu deity Manu, and it is more than 9,000 years old. The Atharva Veda describes Ayodhya a city built by gods and being as prosperous as paradise itself.
The grandeur and glory of Ayodhya is depicted vividly in the epic Ramayana. The region serves the setting for the epic, depicting the childhood of Lord Rama, his exile and return to become the most illustrious King of all time.
Ayodhya was the capital of the ancient Kosala (Kaushal) kingdom, ruled by King Dasaratha, the 63rd monarch of the Solar clan, descended from Vivaswan or the Sun God.
Lord Ram, who led his whole life by the rules of dharma was born in Ramkot in Ayodhya as the eldest son of King Dasaratha.
This region’s historical significance and sacred temples and other monuments make Ayodhya a predominantly Hindu pilgrim center. The city attracts thousands of devotees every year, especially during the festival of Ram Navami.
Hinduism flourished in Ayodhya with the rise of the Gupta Empire (320 to 550 C.E.), which covered northern India and modern Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Tibet. So did the fame of Ayodhya during that period.
Ayodhya is also believed to be an important centre for Buddhism during the rule of Ashoka the Great, who became a great promoter of Buddhism in the later years of his life. Ashoka established Buddhist temples, monuments and centers of learning throughout his empire. During the time of Gautama Buddha, the city was called Ayojjha (Pali).
For Jainism, Ayodhya is a sacred place, because it is believed to be the birthplace of five Tirthankaras. This included the first Tirthank, Shri Rishabh Dev (322–185 B.C.E.), who founded Jainism.
It was in Ayodhya that Bhagwan Swaminarayan, founder of the Swaminarayan Sect of Hinduism lived during his childhood. He is believed to have started a seven-year journey across India as Neelkanth from Ayodhya.
The 16th-century bhakti poet Goswami Tulsidas is said to have written his famous Shri Ramacharitmanas, an epic poem in Awadhi language, while living in Ayodhya.
The history of Islam in Ayodhya began with the invasions by the Ghaznavid Empire (975 to 1187 C.E.) and the Ghorid Empire (1148-1215 C.E.).
Several temples and shrines of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains were destroyed during the period. In place, erected Muslim monuments.
Ayodhya was annexed by the British in 1856. They named Ayodhya and the administrative area around the place as Oudh.
Today, Ayodhya has several temples and monuments providing the look of predominantly the ancient Hindu architecture. With a number of mosques and other memorials, Ayodhya also represents the influence of the Mughal architecture as well.
Population of the city is mostly Hindus, followed by Muslims, Jains and Buddhists.
Ayodhya has cold winters and hot summers, typical of central India. The summer season is long and dry lasting from late March to mid-June. The temperature in Ayodhya during summers ranges between 28 degrees Celsius to 37 degrees Celsius or even up to 42 degrees Celsius or more. Winters have an average temperature of near 16 °C, with colder nights.
September to March is the best time to visit Ayodhya.
How to reach
Ayodhya can be reached by road, rail and air. The city is well connected by road with cities including Lucknow (134 km), Gorakhpur (132 km), Jhansi (441 km), Allahabad (166 km), Sravasti (109 km), Varanasi (209 km) and Gonda (51 km).
Ayodhya and adjacent Faizabad railway stations are on the broad gauge Northern Railway line on Mughal Sarai route.
The major nearest airports are Lucknow (134 kms), and Allahabad (166Kms). There is also a small airport in Faizabad (5 kms away from Ayodhya)
Where to stay
There are a good many hotels in and around Ayodhya. Staying in Lucknow, a two hour-drive to the city is also preferred by many visitors.
Important places to visit in Ayodhya
Ramkot is in the western part of Ayodhya. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram, and therefore is the main place of worship in Ayodhya.
The structure includes an ancient citadel, standing on an elevated ground. It is believed that Lord Ram’s fort once existed at this site. There are so many temples and maths in and around this place.
The site is visited by pilgrims throughout the year. During Ram Navami (marked by the birth date of Lord Ram) in the Hindu month of Chaitra (between March and April), the center witnesses a huge inflow of devotees from across India and abroad.
Kanak Bhawan or Sone-ka-Mandir is situated right at the center of the city. This mandir built more as a palace than a shrine is dedicated to Lord Ram and Matha Sita. It is believed that Lord Ram’s step-mother Kaikeyi gifted the Bhawan to the Lord and Matha Sita as a marriage gift.
With the passage of time, the Bhawan was ruined and had to be reconstructed and renovated at different times by various rulers, including Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya and Samudra Gupta in 387 AD.
In modern time, it was finally repaired and rebuilt architecturally and aesthetically in 1891, by Vrishbhanu Kuvari, Queen of Teekamgarh (Madhya Pradesh).
Besides Lord Ram and Matha Sita, the mandir has the idols of the Lord’s brothers as well. The idols are beautiful and decorated with gold crown, gold ornaments and matching attire.
Large crowd visit the mandir throughout the year, especially on occasions such as Ram Navami, Janki Navami, Vijaya Dashmi etc.
The Nageshwar temple is a small yet strong ancient temple that has tested the time to retain its original charm and beauty in the face of constant threats from nature and conquering invaders.
The temple is believed to be built by Lord Ram’s younger son Kusha in appreciation of his admirer Nag Kanya. The story behind the temple is that this Nag Kanya picked up the Kusha’s amulet lost in the Sarayu river while he was bathing. Kusha was saddened by the incident believing it as a bad omen on his life. And, then he was happy with the Nag Kanya who helped to redeem it.
In the passage of time, while this temple survived while rest of other constructions around the place were destroyed and immersed in dense forest. The temple is believed to have helped Chandragupta II who assumed the title Vikramaditya to recognize the city of Ayodhya, which he had rebuilt later.
Today, this temple is a ‘must-visit site’ for pilgrims and tourists alike. Pilgrims thronged the temple in large numbers especially during Shivrathri.
Hanuman Garhi is one of the very popular temples in Ayodhya, frequented by devotees and tourists in large numbers. This temple is highly revered by both the local devotees as well as visitors from outside.
The temple, an example of admirable architectural skills, is built at a height, open to sunrise and sunset, and is approachable by a flight of 76 steps. In the inner sanctum of the temple stands the statue of Mata Anjani with infant Hanuman on her lap.
The temple was said to be constructed by a Hindu courtier of the Nawab of Avadh around the middle of the 10th century at a place donated by the Nawab.
The site was believed to be the abode of Hanuman stayed in cave who was keeping guard on Ramkot, the birth place of Lord Ram.
Sumantanath is one of the many Jain temples in Ayodhya, said to be built by Kesari Singh the treasurer of the Nawab of Faizabad. It was constructed to commemorate the birthplace of Tirthankaras. The temple is located near the Ramkot citadel and bear inscriptions of Jainism and teachings of thirthankaras and their sayings.
There are hundreds of other popular sites, in and around Ayodhya worth visiting. This includes
- Darbarji Durgakali temple
- 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
- Kalhareshwar Mahadev Temple at Darbarji DurgaKali
A visit to this temple city can be a life-time experience for many reasons
It could be due to the mere touch and feel of this sacred land; the sight and tranquility of several historical shrines and mesmerizing idols. Or it could be on experiencing the local rituals, festivals and fairs that are unique to this place; Or by understanding the local people, their living, customs, language, food etc.
People -religion, language and food
The people of Ayodhya are simple, friendly and very religious. They follow their cultural tradition and customs strictly.
Majority population are Hindus (93.23% according to 2011 census); other include Muslims (6.19%) Sikhs (0.14%) Buddhists (0.12%), Jains (0.10%) etc. People use mostly Hindi and Avadhi for communication. English is also spoken in the region.
People of Ayodhya takes simple vegetarian food including dal, roti, vegetable and rice. On special occasions, they prepare pooris and kachoris and other dishes. The city provides a variety of authentic Indian cuisine.
Cultural festivals and fairs- the hallmark of Ayodhya
Visitors get opportunity to relish and experience a variety of local fairs and festivals that are unique to Ayodhya. Soon, you will be mingling with the local people and embraced by a distinct and fascinating cultural identity and heritage belonged to this region.
Ayodhya is one of the few Indian cities where you can enjoy festivals and fairs conducted almost throughout the year.
You have Ram Navami in March- April; Rath Yatra in June-July; Sharavan Jhula in July- August, Parikrama Mela in October- November; Sarayu Snan (holy dip) in October- November-also on every Amavasya and Purnima; Ram Vivah and Ramayana Mela in December- January.
Other festivals celebrated with much fanfare in Ayodhya include Bharat Kund Mela, Guptar Ghat Mela, Balark Ghat Mela, Suker Skshetra Mela, Makgaura Mela etc.
Although Ram Navami, associated with the birth anniversary of Lord Ram, is celebrated across the country, the celebration in Ayodhya is very special one. This is because of the city’s historical significance in the life of Lord Ram.
No doubt, this is the most important festival to be celebrated in the city that gave birth to Lord Ram. Usually, the festival falls in the month of March- April. And, it is done on a very large scale, exciting the pulse of every nook and corner of the city.
Usually, on Ram Navami day people fast for a day, some devotees fast even for nine days during the period. People keep their houses clean and tidy and conduct special poojas at home and temples, worshipping the idols of Lord Ram, Matha Sita and Lakshmana and Hanuman. All temples in the city are luxuriously decorated and illuminated. People dance, chanting praise for Lord Ram with great love and devotion.
On the eve of Ram Navami, people organize a fair in the city with lot of enthusiasm and flourish. On the auspicious day, they conduct a chariot procession or Rath-yatra, carrying the idols of Lord Ram Matha Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman in the chariot.
You can be a part of the huge crowd accompanying the Rath-yatra, singing, dancing and chanting praises of Lord Ram.
People also stage Ram Lila acts depicting the life and times of Lord Ram during the celebrations.
Ramlila is the enactment Lord Ram’s life based on the 16th-century bhakti poet Goswami Tulsidas’ Shri Ramacharitmanas. It is played during Ram Navami at certain places and during Vijayadashmi celebrations at some other places. The performance will last 7 to 31 days.
There are mainly four styles of Ramlila; pantomimic style, (with jhankis/tableaux pageants); dialogue-based style; operative style (with musical elements from the folklore) and the mandali-style (performed on a platform stage, complemented by songs and kathak dances). Artists appear in fascinating costumes and attire. You can see the mandali-style of Ramlila in Ayodhya.
Shravan Jhula Mela
Shravan Jhula Mela is organised in the Hindu month of Sravan, falling in July-August.
Devotees place idols of Lord Ram, Lakshman and Matha Sita in Jhula or swings in the temples assuming the deities are in a playful mood. The idols are also taken in processions to Mani Parvat placed on the branches of trees and make them swing.
River Sarayu (Ghaghara) features in the epic Ramayana and is regarded as a holy river. Because, it was in Sarayu that Lord Ram was believed to have taken Jalsamadhi or immersed himself in water to return to his eternal being.
A dip in Sarayu or Sarayu Snan is very auspicious for devotees. Sarayu Snan or holy dip is done during the month of October- November in Ayodhya. Thousands of devotees gather in Ayodhya to take the holy dip on every Amavasya and Purnima as well.
You can also join thousands of devotees to perform Sarayu aarti which is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. It is usually made in the form of a lit lamp, and a small diya with a candle and flowers that is floated down the river.
Ayodhya is also famous for taking parikramas or circumambulations of divine spots or shrines by devotees. There are different parikramas of varying duration, including Antargrahi Parikrama, Panchkoshi Parikrama, and Chaturdashkoshi Parikrama.
Parikramas begin with a dip in the Sarayu river, by devotees.
Antargrahi Parikrama is the shortest, that completes within a day. After taking a dip in the Saryu, you can begin the parikrama from the Nageshwarnath temple. You will pass through Rama Ghat, Sita Kund, Maniparvata and Brahma Kund, and end up at Kanak Bhawan.
The Panchkoshi Parikrama circuit covers ten miles. It covers Chakratirtha, Nayaghat, Ramghat, Saryubagh, Holkar-ka-pura, Dashrathkund, Jogiana, Ranopali, Jalpa Nala and Mahtabagh.
On the way, you can visit various shrines coming on this circuit and offer prayers to the deities.
The Chaturdashkoshi Parikrama is conducted only once in a year during Akshainaumi. This constitutes a circular journey of 28 miles and is completed within 24 hours.
Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated in Ayodhya to commemorate the return Lord Ram to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile.
On the occasion, people clean and renovate their houses and establishments and decorate them. They light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home and participate in special poojas.
Dressed up in new clothes, they make light fireworks and engage in family feasts, sharing mithai (sweets), and exchange of gifts between family members and close friends.
Hundreds of temples in Ayodhya will be illuminated with decorative lights. There will be millions of lighted earthen oil lamps all over the place, especially on the stairs of Sarayu Ghats at Ram ki Paidi.
There are stage performances by artists dressed up like Lord Ram, Matha Sita and Lakshmana. Devotees gather in large numbers chanting praises for Lord Ram.
100m tall statue of Lord Ram and New Ayodhya Township
Soon, visitors to Ayodhya will be greeted with a 100meter tall statue of Lord Ram. The state government is planning to build the statue at an estimated cost of ₹ 330 crore.
The government is also mulling to construct a 500-acre a New Ayodhya township on the banks of the river Sarayu. The township will have temples, parks, residential buildings, public spaces, shopping arcades and luxury hotels.