Ayodhya is a gem for the travellers as it is totally untouched when it comes to the development from the point of view of tourism. The town of Ayodhya has the temples built by the kingdoms of ancient India that also includes the Kingdoms of South. While roaming around this temple town, I came across the temples built by the kingdom of Orchha, Golconda, Datia, Banaras and many more. Thus, you get to see the architecture style of each ancient kingdom of India right here in this town.
The kings left a family in each temple to look after it and the same family flourished and developed a dharmshala (rest house) for their respective temples. The temples now lie in a dilapidated condition; there is no one that can take the responsibility for their restoration. The ownership doesn’t lie with anyone. The derelict architecture is dying in an abandoned state. Neither the government nor the temple owners show any interest in retaining the old charm. But, to a traveller like me, the ruined temples’ architecture also look beautiful.
The city indeed looks like a set of Ramayan which could never be dismantled.
Only a handful of pundits grew rich all thanx to the Ram Mandir Controversy. The temples like Dashrath Mahal, Kanak Bhavan and Ramayan Bhavan can be seen well-maintained and restored. I was even shocked to see the guards with loaded guns in a temple. On enquiring for the same, they said that it was for the Mahant of the Temple!
Entrance to the Dashrath Mahal
But beyond all these controversies people forgot Ayodhya and Faizabad as beautiful destinations for the travellers, whether they believe in God or not. Maybe, an inflow of a few travellers (not religious tourists) may help it develop like Mathura-Vrindavan.
Meanwhile, I would like to show you some interesting architectures and stories of the ancient temples of Ayodhya.
The Streets of Ayodhya
If you have ever had a glimpse of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan, you would realise that the streets of Ayodhya resemble those tiny lanes even after years. There are only a handful of new buildings but apart from them, you can have a glimpse of the lanes adorned by wooden houses most of which have fine carving on their balcony railings. You can typically see the people enjoying their leisure time in the lanes on their charpoys spread under the trees. As you walk in the interiors, the colourful doors, window and the cycle-rickshaws look like an old picture with the background music of the bhajans of Lord Ram.
Each building in Ayodhya is a piece of beautiful architecture and a saga of love and devotion for Lord Ram.
The street leading to Ram Janmbhumi is more beautiful with colourful buildings, but unfortunately, you are not allowed to click them.
On the lane leading to the sideway gates from the Lakshmi Dwar in the city centre, you can still see the ancient quarters that might be built for the soldiers. Though the palace is a private property, the exterior can be enjoyed and pictured by all.
Ayodhya Research Centre
When I entered the Tulsidas Bhavan, I hardly expected anything unusual. But this place is a valuable treasure of India that has preserved the dying Indian Art related to Ramayan.
The museum has the collection of Ramayanas from all over the world, in all the possible languages it is in written in and is open for you to explore. Apart from that, the museum also has the Ramayana art collected from all over the world. The wall in the entrance hall is also painted completely with beautiful Madhubani paintings. The showcase has the dolls brought from south India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesian Islands most of which depict the scenes of Ramayana from Sundarkaand (the childhood narrative of Lord Ram).
As you enter the gallery, you can see the flying statues of Hanuman on the ceiling and the terrifying masks on the walls mostly worn during the performances of a Ramayana scene in Ramleela or other folk dances. Another entire section has the painting showing the art of the contemporary painters and the tribal art that weave Ramayana in threads and creates lovely wall-hangings.
Though I am not a great devotee of God, people’s devotion in the form of such divine art really left me surprised.
Moreover, hardly did I know that the researchers from all over the world come to Ayodhya just to refer to this forms of Ramayana Art. When I went there, there was a girl from Sri Lanka who was preparing for her thesis on the comparative study of the ‘Ram Leela’ in different parts of India and Sri Lanka!
The temple which has a mention even in the Ramayana has a marble plate notifying it’s restoration in each Yuga, from Treta Yuga onwards. No one knows if the information is based on any reliable records or is just a prediction. The word Kanak means ‘Gold’, and this luxurious palace was built for the Queen Kaikeyi who was the 3rd wife of Dashrath. The palace was originally plated with gold and was a ‘Muh Dikhai Gift’ (An Indian tradition where the newly wedded daughter-in-law is gifted on her first arrival at her in-law’s place).
Only the front portion of the palace has been converted into a temple and is open to the visitors. Sita is worshipped here as the leading lady of the palace and unlike the other temples, here you can see the idols of only Ram and Sita. And each devotee is given a small idol of Ram-Sita as ‘Prasad’.
The surreal view from the terrace of Hanuman Gadi
This Hanuman Temple is the most colourful one and is also the tallest point apart from the newly built Nazarbaugh Gurudwara. One can see the view of the whole city dotted with the big and small domes of the temples. If we believe the tale, Lord Ram had asked his devotee Hanuman to sit at this hill and keep a watch on the flourishing city of Ayodhya, as he went for a bath at Saryu Ghat not to return ever. Since then, the huge silver idol of Lord Hanuman is installed here. The Hindu scriptures declare Lord Hanuman to be immortal. And looking at the bird’s eye view of the city, one can really wonder if he still sat on the terrace and kept a watch. (Then I thought about the riots and the killings here and had to give a pause to my thoughts)
The Historic Gurudwaras
People may remember Ayodhya as the birthplace of Lord Ram, but it is also a birthplace of one of the 24 Tirthankars of Jainism. More than that, it also venerated by the Sikhs as the pilgrim that was visited by Guru Nanak to spread the preaching of Sikhism during his holy pilgrimage. The shrine is now being built as a huge Gurudwara at Nazarbagh.
The only shrine till the 20th Century was the Nishan Saheb that was preserved on a raised platform. During the rule of the Mughals, the place was visited by Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh while his son Gobind Singh was just a child. The place where the young Guru Govind Singh had meditated has now been converted into a huge Gurudwara. And the shrine where a Brahma Kund is located is known for its importance in Hinduism as Lord Brahma is supposed to have meditated here for 4000 years! The relics of Guru Tegh Bahadur still lie in a room at this place. The shoes, a steel arrow, a dagger and a chakra are safely preserved here for centuries. Even a holy scripture dated 1838 named ‘Brikrami’ is also a great source of information and one of the holy scriptures of the Sikh community. Sadly, the protestors of Ram Mandir are hardly interested in preserving this Brahma Kund and the task of restoration is thus undertaken by the Sikhs.
Another interesting fact about the Sikh shrine is that the shrines were looked after by a Brahmin till a Sikh family from Kashmir took over the responsibility.
Ram ki Paidi
This is one of the most scenic places which is supposed to be the swimming pool of Lord Ram. Beautiful steps have been constructed here and the Ghat-like platforms are also created.
Saryu River Ghats
Saryu river has a few famous Ghats starting from the Saryu Ghat near Faizabad. Saryu Ghat still has the carved paduka of Lord Ram which he left before proceeding to Saryu for forever. A walk during the evening at the Ghats can be scenic with the view of a colourful sunset. Saryu Aarti is also something that cannot be missed.
Diwali in Ayodhya – The Place Where it all Began
2017 onwards, UP government has begun a grand celebration of Diwali when the steps of the Saryu River’s ghats and Ram ki paidi are lit up with earthen lamps. The evening starts with the Saryu Aarti proceeding with the offering of lakhs of diyas to the river. The fireworks and music also follow the rituals.
The Gurudwara Nazarbagh Saheb serves tea and snacks to all in the morning on the auspicious occasions of Diwali and Ram Navami.
Ram Nyas Bhumi
We are one of the luckiest generation to be able to witness the construction of the most legendary temple. I am sure they won’t allow you to even stand for a minute in the temple, once it is inaugurated (the way it happens in Vaishnava Devi, Siddhi Vinayak etc) . Grab the opportunity now and see the best of the artists sculpting and carving the finest of the designs.
Ayodhya – Myth V/S Facts
A pandit engrossed in reading Ramayan was disturbed for while by me asking him if we had any proof that this is the Ayodhya as mentioned in our scriptures. Keeping his finger at the couplet where he stopped, he said that there is a detailed description of Ayodhya in Ramayan, but after almost hundreds of centuries, it was difficult to claim if this was the same place.
As per him, the course of the River Saryu has not mentioned the way it is today. Either the river has changed its course or the mentioned Ayodhya was located at a different place.
No doubt that there are some knowledgeable Mahants who are spreading the knowledge of the forgotten scripture, but I personally felt that most of them were more interested in gaining money in the name of Ram Mandir and have been living a life of a millionaire rather than that of a pandit. And have literally made Ram Janmbhumi as war-field. The locals there are also fed up with the controversy and are forced to doubt and think if these people really cared for Lord Ram. And if they really believed in His principles then they would have done something about the other ancient temples that lied abandoned, the roads, streets and the sewage condition of Ayodhya.
While the country waits for the verdicts of Supreme Court on this most discussed controversy of whether to build the Ram temple on the platforms that are excavated and are dated around 4th Century BC, I remember the shlokas of Bhagvat Geeta in which the Lord claims to be in each and every particle of this universe. The mosque that was demolished also had Ram in it and the temples which are not being looked after well also have Ram in them and same goes for Allah. But well, it is a great way to run the vote banks in the name of Gods. And thus, the drama continues.
- If you are a solo female traveller, it is difficult for you to get a place or rather a safe place here.
- You can take a bus to Ayodhya Bypass from Lucknow and can take the battery rickshaw for 10 INR to the main city.
- The nearest railway station for fast trains is Faizabad and even Ayodhya has a railway station and the trains run frequently from Lucknow to Ayodhya.
- Each and every temple in Ayodhya has a proper guest house/dharmshala.
- You can easily walk around the places but for commuting on the main road you can opt for sharing rickshaws which would not charge you more than 10 INR.
- If you plan to visit Ram Janmbhumi, you can visit Aurobindo Ashram while exiting.
I am extremely thankful to Gurudwara Nazarbagh Saheb that didn’t only provide me with a stay when everyone else denied but also provided some valuable information about Ayodhya.
And also a special thanx to Mr Biren Thapar for his valuable inputs about the town of Ayodhya.
Check the beautiful pictures of my journey on my Instagram.