Explore city map of Ayodhya, Ayodhya, an old city in India, lies beside the Saryu river in Uttar Pradesh. This city is the main office for both the Ayodhya District and the Ayodhya division. Known in the past as Saket, Ayodhya is famous as the birthplace of Lord Shri Ram and the backdrop for the epic story, Ramayana. It was once the capital of the Kosala Kingdom. Ayodhya sits at a height of about 93 meters, or 305 feet, above sea level.
Explore the map of Ayodhya City, located on the banks of holy river Saryu in the state of Uttar Pradesh of India. Ayodhya is the administrative headquarters of the Ayodhya district ( formerly Faizabad), UP.
Located in Uttar Pradesh, India, Ayodhya is a city on the Sarayu river's edge. It serves as the central administrative hub for both the Ayodhya district and division. The city's governance is managed by the Ayodhya Municipal Corporation.
Historically, Ayodhya was known as Saketa. Ancient Buddhist and Jain scriptures record visits by spiritual leaders Gautama Buddha and Mahavira to Ayodhya. Jain scriptures further recognize it as the birthplace of five tirthankaras: Rishabhanatha, Ajitanatha, Abhinandananatha, Sumatinath, and Anantnath, and link it to the fabled Bharata Chakravarti. From the time of the Gupta Empire, Ayodhya and Saketa have been referred to as the same city.
Today's Ayodhya is celebrated as the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama of the Kosala kingdom and the setting for the renowned Ramayana epic. This distinction has elevated Ayodhya to one of the top seven Hindu pilgrimage sites. A temple, believed to be Rama's birthplace, was reportedly replaced with a mosque by either Mughal emperor Babur or Aurangzeb. In 1992, this site became a point of contention, leading to the mosque's demolition by Hindu groups who sought to erect a grand Rama temple there. The Supreme Court, after hearings in 2019, declared that the land should be given to a trust for a Hindu temple's construction. The court also mandated that 5 acres of land be allotted to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board for a new mosque, compensating for the destroyed Babri mosque. The construction of the Ram Mandir began in August 2020.
Names and Etymology
The name "Ayodhya" comes from the Sanskrit word yudh, which means "to fight" or "to wage war." The term Yodhya, as a future passive participle, signifies "to be fought." With the addition of the negative prefix 'a,' the entire term translates to "not to be fought," or more simply, "invincible." This interpretation is supported by the Atharvaveda, where Ayodhya is described as a city even gods cannot conquer. The ninth-century Jain text, Adi Purana, also highlights Ayodhya's invincibility against enemies. Another perspective, as per Satyopakhyana, is that Ayodhya means a city that cannot be overcome by sins.
"Saketa" is another ancient name for Ayodhya, recognized in various cultural texts including Sanskrit, Jain, Buddhist, Greek, and Chinese sources. Vaman Shivram Apte, a scholar, suggests that "Saketa" comes from the Sanskrit words Saha (with) and Aketen (houses or buildings). The Adi Purana links the name Saketa to the city's splendid buildings with notable banners. Hans T. Bakker, another scholar, suggests an alternative derivation from the roots sa and ketu (meaning "with banner"), with the variant name saketu found in the Vishnu Purana.
In English historical contexts, Ayodhya was known as "Oudh" or "Oude," and it was the capital of the Oudh State until 1856.
In the Ramayana, Ayodhya is identified as the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom. Therefore, it was also known as "Kosala." The Adi Purana praises Ayodhya as su-kośala, indicating its wealth and excellence.
The cities of Ayutthaya in Thailand and Yogyakarta in Indonesia derive their names from Ayodhya.
History of Ayodhya
The ancient Indian Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, talk about a fabled city named Ayodhya. This city was the capital of the fabled Ikshvaku kings of Kosala, including the well-known Rama. However, these epics, as well as older Sanskrit texts like the Vedas, do not mention a city named Saketa. In contrast, non-religious ancient Sanskrit texts, such as those by Panini and Patanjali, do refer to Saketa. Additionally, the Buddhist text Mahavastu talks about Saketa as the base of the Ikshvaku king Sujata, whose lineage led to the Shakya's capital, Kapilavastu.
The earliest Buddhist texts in Pali and Jain texts in Prakrit mention Saketa (called Sageya or Saeya in Prakrit) as a significant city in the Kosala region. Both Buddhist and Jain texts imply that Saketa and present-day Ayodhya are the same. For instance, Buddhist texts say Saketa was six yojanas away from Shravasti and separated by a large river. Saketa is also mentioned as a stop on the way from Shravasti to Pratishthana.
From the fourth century onwards, several texts, including Kalidasa's Raghuvamsha, began referring to Ayodhya as another name for Saketa. Later Jain texts describe a city named Viniya (or Vinita) as Lord Rishabhanatha's birthplace, linking it with Bharata Chakravartin. They also use different names like Aojjha (Aodhya), Kosala-puri, Viniya, and Saeya (Saketa) interchangeably for the same city. Post-canonical Jain texts too mention "Aojjha" as a key city in Kosala. They suggest that Viniya, Kosalapuri, and Ikkhagabhumi were distinct cities, each being capitals of different kings.
There are theories about Ayodhya's historical and legendary aspects. One theory suggests the legendary Ayodhya is the same as the historical city of Saketa and today's Ayodhya. Another theory argues that the legendary Ayodhya is a mythical place and the name "Ayodhya" was applied to Saketa (current Ayodhya) around the fourth century, possibly when a Gupta emperor moved his capital there. Other theories propose that Saketa and Ayodhya were either adjacent cities or that Ayodhya was part of Saketa.
Archaeological and literary findings indicate that the area of today's Ayodhya had become an urban center by the 5th or 6th century BC. This site aligns with the ancient city of Saketa, believed to have been a major marketplace at the crossroads of two significant routes: the Shravasti-Pratishthana north-south road and the Rajagriha-Varanasi-Shravasti-Taxila east-west road. Ancient Buddhist scriptures like the Samyutta Nikaya reveal Saketa was in the Kosala kingdom, ruled by Prasenajit (Pasenadi around the 6th-5th century BC), with its capital at Shravasti. The Buddhist commentary Dhammapada-atthakatha mentions that Saketa was founded by the merchant Dhananjaya, father of Visakha, on King Prasenajit's advice. The Digha Nikaya lists it among India's six major cities. While early Buddhist texts cite Shravasti as Kosala's capital, later texts, including Jain and Buddhist Jatakas, name Saketa as the capital.
Saketa, a bustling town, was significant for preachers like Gautama Buddha and Mahavira. Texts like the Samyutta Nikaya and Anguttara Nikaya note Buddha's stays in Saketa. Jain texts, including Antagada-dasao and Anuttarovavaiya-dasao, record Mahavira's visits. These texts, along with post-canonical Jain scriptures, mention various shrines in Ayodhya.
After Kosala's annexation by Magadha under Emperor Ajatashatru around the 5th century BC, Saketa's fate remains unclear. It may have continued as a commercial hub but not as a political center, with Pataliputra as Magadha's capital. During Ashoka's Mauryan rule in the 3rd century BC, several Buddhist structures likely rose in Saketa, now Ayodhya, as suggested by archaeological finds like a large brick wall, possibly a fortification from the third century BC, identified by archaeologist B.B. Lal.
Post-Maurya, Saketa fell under Pushyamitra Shunga's rule. A first-century BC inscription indicates Dhanadeva as the appointed governor. The Yuga Purana and Patanjali's works refer to Saketa enduring attacks by Greeks, Mathuras, and Panchalas, and enduring a Greek siege.
Later, Saketa became an independent kingdom. The Yuga Purana records seven powerful kings ruling after the Greeks' retreat, corroborated by the Vayu and Brahmanda Puranas and the coins of the Deva dynasty kings like Dhanadeva. During this time, Saketa, now Kosala's capital, likely overshadowed Shravasti in prominence. The region's major trade route shifted southwards, passing through Saketa, Ahichhatra, and Kanyakubja.
Succeeding the Deva kings were the Dattas, Kushans, and Mitra kings, though their chronological order is uncertain. Bakker theorizes that the Dattas followed the Devas, later annexed by Kanishka's Kushan Empire. Tibetan texts recount an invasion led by king Vijayakirti of Khotan, involving Kushans, which resulted in the plunder of Buddhist relics from Saketa.
Despite such turmoil, Saketa remained prosperous under Kushan rule. Ptolemy, a 2nd-century geographer, mentions a metropolis "Sageda" or "Sagoda," identified as Saketa. The earliest inscription naming Saketa dates back to the late Kushan period, found on a Buddha image pedestal in Shravasti, donated by Sihadeva of Saketa. Before or after the Kushan era, Saketa was governed by a dynasty of "-mitra" named kings, distinct from Mathura's Mitra dynasty. These kings, known only through their coins, include Sangha-mitra, Vijaya-mitra, Satya-mitra, Deva-mitra, and Arya-mitra; coins of Kumuda-sena and Aja-varman were also found.
Period of Gupta
In the fourth century, the Gupta dynasty gained control over the region and revived Brahmanism. The Vayu Purana and the Brahmanda Purana confirm that the early Gupta kings governed Saketa. Despite no Gupta-era archaeological layers being found in current Ayodhya, a significant number of Gupta coins have been discovered there. This suggests that during the Gupta era, the city's inhabited areas might have been in parts not yet excavated. The Buddhist sites, damaged in the Khotanese-Kushan invasion, seem to have been abandoned. The 5th-century Chinese traveler Faxian mentioned seeing ruins of Buddhist structures at "Sha-chi," which some believe to be Saketa. If true, it implies that by the 5th century, Saketa no longer had an active Buddhist community or significant Buddhist buildings.
A major event in the Gupta period was recognizing Saketa as the legendary city of Ayodhya, the Ikshvaku dynasty's capital. A 436 AD inscription from Kumaragupta I's reign refers to Ayodhya as the Kosala province's capital, noting offerings made by commander Prithvisena to Ayodhya's Brahmins. The Gupta Empire's capital later shifted from Pataliputra to Ayodhya. Records by Paramartha and Xuanzang mention King Vikramaditya relocating the royal court to Ayodhya (Kosala). An old Ayodhya tradition, first documented by Robert Montgomery Martin in 1838, narrates that the city was deserted after Rama's descendant Brihadbala's death. It remained so until King Vikrama of Ujjain rediscovered and restored it, clearing forests, building Ramgar fort, and constructing 360 temples.
The title Vikramaditya was held by various Gupta kings, but the one who moved the capital to Ayodhya is identified as Skandagupta. Bakker suggests this move was influenced by Ganges flooding in Pataliputra, the need to counter the Huna invasion from the west, and Skandagupta's aspiration to emulate Rama. According to Paramaratha's Life of Vasubandhu, Vikramaditya, a patron of scholars, granted 300,000 pieces of gold to Vasubandhu, a native of Saketa. This wealth was used to construct three monasteries in Ayodhya. Paramartha also mentions that king Baladitya (Narasimhagupta) and his mother donated large sums to Vasubandhu, funding another Buddhist temple in Ayodhya. These structures were possibly those observed by the 7th-century traveler Xuanzang, who described a stupa and a monastery in Ayodhya ("O-yu-t-o").
Decline as a Political Centre
Ayodhya likely faced challenges during the 6th century when the Huna leader Mihirakula invaded the Gupta Empire. Following the Gupta decline, the Maukhari dynasty, evidenced by coins found nearby, may have controlled Ayodhya. Despite these upheavals, the city wasn't destroyed. The 7th-century traveler Xuanzang described Ayodhya as a thriving town and a hub for Buddhism. However, its significance as a key political center had shifted to Kanyakubja (Kannauj). During Xuanzang's visit, part of Harsha's empire, Ayodhya was probably governed by a vassal or administrative official. Xuanzang noted the city's size at about 0.6 km in circumference. The Kāśikāvṛttī, another 7th-century text, mentions a moat around the town, akin to Pataliputra's.
After Harsha's empire crumbled, control over Ayodhya fluctuated between local kings and the rulers of Kannauj, like Yashovarman and the Gurjara-Pratiharas. Between 650 and 1050 AD, there's no direct mention of the town in surviving texts or inscriptions, although it might correspond to the "city of Harishchandra" cited in the 8th-century Gaudavaho poem. Archaeological finds, including statues of Vishnu, Jain tirthankaras, Ganesha, the seven Matrikas, and a Buddhist stupa, indicate continued religious activities in Ayodhya during this period.
Early Medieval Era
Indologist Hans T. Bakker notes that during the first millennium AD, Ayodhya's religious significance was mainly tied to the Gopratara tirtha (known today as Guptar Ghat). It's believed that Rama and his followers ascended to heaven from this spot by entering the Sarayu river's waters.
In the 11th century, the Gahadavala dynasty rose to power in this region and supported Vaishnavism, leading to the construction of several Vishnu temples in Ayodhya. Out of these, five temples remained until the end of Aurangzeb's reign. Bakker suggests that a temple might have been built by the Gahadavalas at the site believed to be Rama's birthplace (referenced in the Vishnu Hari inscription). Over time, as Rama was increasingly seen as the principal avatar of Vishnu within Vaishnavism, Ayodhya's significance as a pilgrimage destination grew.
By 1226 AD, Ayodhya became the capital of the Awadh (or "Oudh") province in the Delhi Sultanate. Muslim historians of the time described the area as mostly wilderness before this. Although pilgrimages continued, the imposition of a tax on pilgrims meant that the temples received limited financial support.
Mughal and British Era
During Mughal rule, the Babri mosque was built in Ayodhya. This city served as the capital of Awadh, a name often mispronounced as "Oudh" by the British and thought to be derived from "Ayodhya."
Following Aurangzeb's death in 1707 AD, the central Muslim authority weakened. Awadh gained near independence, with Ayodhya as its capital. During this period, the rulers relied more on local Hindu nobles, leading to a more relaxed control over temples and pilgrimage sites.
In the 1850s, conflict arose when a group of Hindus claimed that the Babri mosque was constructed on the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama. This led to an attack on the mosque. To address the resulting dispute, British administrators divided the mosque area between Hindus and Muslims.
The British annexed Ayodhya in 1856. Awadh's rulers were Shia Muslims, and there had been prior Sunni protests against the leniency of the government towards certain practices. The British quashed the Sunni opposition. In 1857, they annexed Oudh (Awadh) and later restructured it into the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.
After Independence of India
In 1984, the Vishva Hindu Parishad party initiated a campaign to reclaim the site of the Babri mosque for a Rama temple. This movement escalated in 1992 when a rally by right-wing Hindu nationalists resulted in riots and the destruction of the Babri mosque. Subsequently, a temporary temple for Ram Lalla, the infant form of Rama, was erected. The Indian government restricted access to the site, keeping it at a distance of 200 yards and locking the main gate. Nevertheless, Hindu devotees started entering through a side door to worship.
In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted an excavation at the mosque's site to investigate if it was built over a temple. The findings revealed pillar bases, suggesting the prior existence of a temple. Not just Hindus, but also Buddhist and Jain groups claimed that their historical temples had been at this site.
On July 5, 2005, five terrorists attacked the temporary Ramlalla temple in Ayodhya. All attackers were killed in a gunfight with security forces, and one civilian died in a bomb explosion during their attempt to breach the security wall.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court decreed on September 30, 2010, that the disputed land be divided into three parts: one-third to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, one-third to the Nirmohi Akhara, and one-third for the Ram Lalla shrine. The court also ruled that the land where Ram's idols were present should go to the Hindus, while the rest would be equally divided among the three parties. The judgment, supported by ASI evidence, concluded that the Babri Masjid was constructed after demolishing a Hindu temple, believed to be Rama's birthplace, and that the mosque did not adhere to Islamic construction principles. The Supreme Court's final verdict awarded the disputed land to Hindus for building the Ram Mandir and directed that an alternative land parcel be provided to the Muslim community for a mosque.
On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court of India, through a 5-judge bench, ordered the land to be given to the government to form a trust for constructing a temple and instructed the government to allocate 5 acres of land in Ayodhya to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board for building a mosque.
Interestingly, some South Koreans connect "Ayuta" from their ancient Samgungnyusa legend with Ayodhya. This legend states that the ancient Korean princess Heo Hwang-ok hailed from Ayuta. Recognizing this historical tie, the local governments of Ayodhya and South Korea conducted a ceremony in the 2000s to erect a statue of Princess Heo Hwang-ok, celebrating the connection between the two regions.
On August 5, 2020, India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, initiated the construction of a new temple at the site considered to be the birthplace of the deity Ram. The plan includes developing a new township called Navya Ayodhya, covering a 500-acre area adjacent to the Faizabad-Gorakhpur highway. This township is expected to feature upscale hotels and apartment complexes.
The inauguration of the Ram Mandir is scheduled for January 22, 2024.
Demographics of Ayodhya
According to the 2011 Census in India, Ayodhya's population was 55,890. Of this, 56.7% were male and 43.3% were female. The city had a literacy rate of 78.1%. In terms of religious composition, Hindus made up the majority at 93.23%, while Muslims were the second-largest group at 6.19%.
Climate and Geography
Ayodhya experiences a humid subtropical climate, common in central India. The summers are long, hot, and dry, starting from late March and extending to mid-June. During this period, the average daily temperatures hover around 32 °C (90 °F). This is followed by the monsoon season, which continues until October. The city receives about 1,067 mm (42.0 in) of rain annually, and the average temperature during monsoons is around 28 °C (82 °F). Winter begins in early November and lasts until the end of January. After winter, there's a brief spring in February and early March. Average temperatures in winter are generally mild, around 16 °C (61 °F), though it can get colder at night.