Ayodhya

Ayodhyā (Hindi: अयोध्या) is an ancient city of India, the old capital of Awadh, in the current Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya is the birth place of Hindu God Shri Ram, and the capital of Kosala Kingdom. This Hindu holy city is described as early as in the Hindu Epics. During the time of Gautama Buddha the city was called Ayojjhā (Pali). Under Muslim rule, it was the seat of the governor of Awadh, and later during the British Raj the city was known as Ajodhya or Ajodhia and was part of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, it was also the seat of a small 'talukdari' state. It is on the right bank of the river Sarayu, 555 km east of New Delhi. The word Ayodhya is Sanskrit for "not to be warred against". Some Puranas like the Brahmanda Purana consider Ayodhya as one of the six holiest cities in Hinduism.

The Temple City of Ayodhya

The ancient city of Ayodhya was one of the most ancient, largest and most magnificent of Indian cities and the holiest of the world. Skand and some other Puranas rank Ayodhya as one of the seven most sacred cities of India. It was the venue of many an event in Hindu history, today preeminently a temple town. This city was also a significant trade center in 600 BC.

According to the Ramayana, Ayodhya was founded by Manu, the law-giver of the Hindus. For centuries it was the capital of the descendants of the Surya dynasty, of which Lord Rama was the most celebrated king. Based on the records, it is said to have covered an area of 250 km² (96 square miles), and was the capital of the Hindu kingdom of Kosala (Kaushal), the court of the great king Dasaratha, the 63rd monarch of the Solar line. The opening chapters of the Ramayana recount the magnificence of the city, the glories of the monarch and the virtues, wealth and loyalty of his people. Dasaratha was the father of Rama, the seventh avatar of the Vishnu. It is here that Shri Rama was born.

Ayodhya during ancient times was known as Kosaldesa. The Atharvaveda describes it as "a city built by Gods and being as prosperous as paradise itself".

The illustrious ruling dynasty of this region were the Ikshvakus of the Suryavamsha (solar clan). According to tradition, Ikshvaku was the eldest son of Vaivasvata Manu, who established himself at Ayodhya. The earth is said to have its name 'Prithivi' from Prithu, the 6th king of the line. A few generations later came Mandhatri, in whose line the 31st king was Harischandra, known widely for his love of Truth. Raja Sagar of the same line performed the Asvamedha Yajna and his great grandson Bhagiratha is reputed to have brought Ganga on earth by virtue of his penances.

Later in the time this clan came to be called as Raghuvamsha. Bhagirath's Grandson was Raja Dasaratha, the illustrious father of Lord Rama, with whom the glory of the Kosala dynasty reached its peak. The story of this epic has been immortalized by Valmiki and immensely popularized by the great masses through centuries. According to puranic tradition, in the 93rd generation from Ikshvaku, the 30th from Rama was Brihabdala the last famous king of the Ikshvaku dynasty of Ayodhya, who was killed during the Mahabharata war.

Historical Significance

Tulsidas is said to have begun the writing of his famous Ramayana poem Shri Ramacharitamanas in Ayodhya in 1574 CE. Several Tamil Alwar mention the city of Ayodhya. Ayodhya is also said to be the birthplace of King Bharata (The First Chakravarti King), Bhahubali, Brahmi, Sundari, King Dasaratha, Acharya Padaliptasurisvarji, King Harishchandra, Shri Rama Achalbhrata, and the ninth Gandhara of Mahavir Swami.

Ayodhya is also the birth place of five Tirthankars, including the first Tirthankar of Jainism, Shri Rishabh Dev. He is known as the father of Jain religion. The city is also important in the history and heritage of Buddhism in India, with several Buddhist temples, monuments and centers of learning having been established here during the age of the Mauryan Empire and the Gupta Dynasty. Ayodhya reached its glorious peak as known to history during the reign of the Guptas over India.

The Thai kingdom and city of Ayutthaya, and the Indonesian sultanate of Yogyakarta, were named after Ayodhya, reflecting the common Southeast Asian practice of adopting place names from Hindu kingdoms.

According to an 11th century Korean chronicle the Samguk Yusa, the wife of King Suro of the ancient Korean kingdom of Geumgwan Gaya was a princess who traveled by boat from a faraway land called Ayuta to Korea in 48 CE. It is commonly thought that Ayodhya is the foreign land referred to in the Korean chronicles, but some scholars believe that the foreign land may have been Ayutthaya of Thailand. The Koreans know the princess as Heo Hwang-ok, who was the first queen of Geumgwan Gaya and is considered an ancestor by several Korean lineages.

Hindu tradition and scriptures states that, this place & other places in Ayodhya were discovered, excavated & rebuilt by the king Vikramaaditya as it was during the tenure of Lord Rama. It is said that Lord Rama appeared in king Vikramaditya's dreams & showed him the very powerful & prosperous city of Ayodhya with all its glory & richness during his times. He then instructed the king to rebuild the city of Ayodhya as it was. King Vikramaditya expressed his inability to rebuild such a magnificent city again with all its riches but promised to rebuild this city as per his abilities. He then, as per the lords instructions, carried out large scale archeological excavations, at different locations in Ayodhya & reinstalled the temples & other places of importance in Ayodhya. The city of Ayodhya holds immense historical & spiritual importance.

Historians have identified this place to be Saketa, a key Buddhist centre during the 5th century BC (it is a widely held belief that Buddha visited Ayodhya on several occasions) which it remained till the 5th century AD. In fact, Fa-hien, the Chinese monk, kept record of several Buddhist monasteries that he saw here.

In the 7th century AD, Xuan Zhang (Hiuen Tsang), the Chinese monk, recorded spotting many Hindu temples in Ayodhya. In the epic Ramayana, the city of Ayodhya is cited as the birthplace of Lord Sri Rama, a Hindu deity who was worshipped as Lord Vishnu's seventh incarnation. Ayodhya became a famous pilgrimage destination in the 1400s when Ramananda, the Hindu mystic, established a devotional sect of Rama.

The 16th century witnessed a shift in power with Ayodhya coming under the rule of the Mughal Empire. Ayodhya was annexed in 1856 by the British rulers. Between 1857 and 1859, this place was one of the main centers where the sparks of the first war of Indian Independence originated. These sparks later led to a nationwide revolt of the Indian soldiers in opposition to the British East India Company that began in Calcutta.

Amongst the 'MOKSHDAYANI PURIS' of the world meaning "the lands of spiritual bliss & liberation from the karma-bandhan" Ayodhya city holds the top spot, apart from cities like varanasi, dwaraka & others. Ramcharitmanas & other respectable hindu scriptures like 'Vishnu Puran', 'Shrimad Bhagvat Mahapuran' & others emphasize the importance of living & visiting such religious places. According to them these Spiritually charged cities increase the PUNYA meaning "fruits of Virtuous & Righteous actions" & PAAP meaning "fruits of a persons wrong doings" of an individual manifold. Therefore people visiting & living in such holy cities are found doing noble & virtuous deeds.

Vandalization by Muslim Invaders

Ayodhya, like other Indian cities, was the victim of pillage and sacking during the Ghaznavi raids and Ghori invasions. Hindu temples were allegedly looted or destroyed. The cultural fabric was totally destroyed. With Muslim rulers established around the city under Mohammed of Ghor, it lost its strategic and economic importance to Lucknow and Kanpur.

Ayodhya today is a small, rustic city with ancient Hindu architecture predominating, and with some Mughal influence. Its population is mostly Hindu with a minority of Muslims, Jains and Buddhists. However, its history and heritage hold an unequivocal importance for Hindus.

Accounts during the Muslim Invaders

The Encyclopedia Britannica volume 1, 1985. 15th edition, has this to say about Ayodhya:

"There are few monuments of any antiquity. Rama’s birthplace is marked by a mosque, erected by the Moghul emperor Babur in 1528 on the site of an earlier temple."

Until recently, much of the evidence was literary, based on accounts in chronicles, supplemented by some archaeology around the site. Even then, archaeology left little doubt regarding the existence of a previous temple at the site at which the Babri Masjid is situated. Ayodhya has drawn the attention of competent archaeologists including a few internationally known experts like B.B. Lal and S.P. Gupta. As a result, the volume of data available is huge running into several volumes. Some of it has probably been rendered obsolete by discoveries following the demolition of December 6, 1992.

Discoveries at the site I

From 1975 through 1980, the Archaeological Survey of India under the Directorship of Professor B.B. Lal, a former Director General of the Survey, undertook an extensive programme of excavation at Ayodhya, including the very mound of the Ramajanmabhumi on which the so-called "Janmasthan Masjid" or Babri Mosque once stood and was later demolished on 6th December 1992. To continue with Gupta's account:

At Ayodhya, Professor Lal took as many as 14 trenches at different places to ascertain the antiquity of the site. It was then found that the history of the township was at least three thousand years old, if not more … . When seen in the light of 20 black stone pillars, 16 of which were found re-used and standing in position as corner stones of piers for the disputed domed structure of the 'mosque', Prof. Lal felt that the pillar bases may have belonged to a Hindu temple built on archaeological levels formed prior to 13th century AD …

On further stratigraphic and other evidence, Lal concluded that the pillar bases must have belonged to a Hindu temple that stood between 12th and the 16th centuries.

"He also found a door-jamb carved with Hindu icons and decorative motifs of yakshas, yakshis, kirtimukhas, purnaghattas, double lotus flowers etc."

What this means is that Lal had found evidence for possibly two temples, one that existed before the 13th century, and another between the 13th and the 16th centuries. This corresponds very well indeed with history and tradition. We know that this area was ravaged by Muslim invaders following Muhammad of Ghor's defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan in the second battle of Tarain in 1192 AD. This was apparently rebuilt and remained in use until destroyed again in the 16th century by Babar.

Impressive as these discoveries are, Lal had actually been somewhat unlucky. He had barely missed striking a trench containing a treasure trove of Hindu artifacts from the medieval period. As Gupta tells us:

Prof. Lal had hard luck at Ramajanmabhumi. His southern trenches missed a huge pit with 40 and odd sculptures just by 10 to 12 feet. But he did get the pillar bases of the pre-16th century demolished-temple which others did not get.

Excavation was resumed on July 2, 1992 by S.P. Gupta, Y.D. Sharma, K.M. Srivastava and other senior archaeologists. This was less than six months before the demolition (which of course no one then knew was going to take place). Their particular interest lay in the forty-odd Hindu artifacts that had been discovered in the pit missed by Lal. These finds had been widely reported in the newpapers. Gupta, a former Director of the Allahabad Museum and an expert on medieval artifacts had a special interest in examining the finds. He tells us:

The team found that the objects were datable to the period ranging from the 10th through the 12th century AD, i.e., the period of the late Pratiharas and early Gahadvals. The kings of these two dynasties hailing from Kannauj had ruled over Avadh and eastern Uttar Pradesh successively during that period.

These objects included a number of amakalas, i.e., the cogged-wheel type architectural element which crown the bhumi shikharas or spires of subsidiary shrines, as well as the top of the spire or the main shikhara … This is a characteristic feature of all north Indian temples of the early medieval period and no one can miss it - it is there in the Orissa temples such as Konarak, in the temples of Madhya Pradesh such as Khajuraho and in the temples of Rajasthan such as Osian.

There was other evidence — of cornices, pillar capitals, mouldings, door jambs with floral patterns and others — leaving little doubt regarding the existence of a 10th - 12th century temple complex at the site of Ayodhya. So Lal had been right in believing there was an earlier temple - prior to the one destroyed by Babar. More discoveries were made following the demolition of December 6. All these discoveries leave no doubt at all about the true picture.

The discovery of a number of Kushana period terracotta images of gods and goddesses earlier made it clear, first, that at the Janmabhumi site Hindu temples were built several times during the 2000 years with the interval of only 450 years, from 1528 to 1992, when the Muslims destroyed the temple and occupied the site and also built a new structure they called 'Janmabhumi Masjid' in their own record; … And finally, the temple was destroyed sometime after the 13th century AD, in every likelihood in the early 16th century, as is fully borne out by the inscriptions of Mir Baqi found fixed in the disputed structure from back in time, during the British days as is clear from the accounts given by Mrs. A. Beveridge in her translation of Babur-Nama published in 1926. (op. cit. 115)

Discoveries at the site II: The Hari-Vishnu inscription

The demolition on December 6, 1992 changed the picture dramatically, providing further support to the traditional accounts — both Hindu and Muslim. Some of the kar-sevaks, no doubt influenced by all the publicity about history and archaeology, went on to pick up more than two hundred pieces of stone slabs with writing upon them. These proved to belong to extremely important inscriptions, more than a thousand years old. In effect, the kar-sevaks had done what archaeologists should have done years ago; they had unearthed important inscriptions — in howsoever a crude form — something that should have been done years ago by professional historians and archaeologists. The inscriptions, even the few that have been read so far, shed a great deal of light on the history of not only Ayodhya and its environs, but all of North India in the early Medieval, and even the late ancient period.

Here is what S.P. Gupta found upon examining the two-hundred and fifty or so stone pieces with writing upon them:

Not all were ancient, since scores of them, generally rectangular marble tiles, bore the dedicatory inscriptions in the Devanagari script of the 20th century. However, at least three dozens of them were certainly ancient, belonging to the period bracketed between 10th and 12th centuries AD. (In The Ayodhya Reference: pp 117-18)

The most important of these deciphered so far is the Hari-Vishnu inscription that clinches the whole issue of the temple. It is written in 12th century AD Devanagari script and belongs therefore to the period before the onslaught of the Ghorids (1192 AD and later). Gupta tells us:
This inscription, running in as many as 20 lines, is found engraved on a 5 ft. long, 2 ft. broad and 2.5 inches thick slab of buff sandstone, apparently a very heavy tablet … Three-fourths of the tablet is found obliterated anciently. The last line is also not complete since it was anciently subjected to chipping off. A portion of the central part is found battered, maybe someone tried to deface it anciently. The patination — tarnishing including wearout — is, however, uniform all over the surface, even in areas where once there were inscriptions. (op. cit. pp 118-19)

Gupta is an archaeologist and not an epigraphist trained to read ancient inscriptions. It was examined by Ajay Mitra Shastri, Chairman of the Epigraphical Society of India. Shastri gave the following summary. What the inscription tells us is of monumental significance to the history of Medieval India. The inscription is composed in high-flown Sanskrit verse, except for a very small portion in prose, and is engraved in chaste and classical Nagari script of the eleventh-twelfth century AD. It has yet to be fully deciphered, but the portions which have been fully deciphered and read are of great historical significance and value … It was evidently put up on the wall of the temple, the construction of which is recorded in the text inscribed on it. Line 15 of this inscription, for example, clearly tells us that a beautiful temple of Vishnu-Hari, built with heaps of stones … , and beautified with a golden spire … unparallelled by any other temple built by earlier kings … This wonderful temple … was built in the temple-city of Ayodhya situated in Saketamandala. … Line 19 describes god Vishnu as destroying king Bali … and the ten headed personage (Dashanana, i.e., Ravana). (op. cit. 119; emphasis mine. I have left out the original Sanskrit quotes given by Shastri.)

Need we say more — a temple for Hari-Vishnu who killed the ten-headed Ravana, in the temple city of Ayodhya? So Ayodhya was known as a temple city even then; Saketa was the ancient name of the district. The inscription confirms what archaeologists Lal and Gupta had earlier found about the existence of a temple complex. Shastri also tells us:

Line 20 contains an allusion to the serious threat from the west (paschatya-bhiti), apparently posed by Sultan Subuktugin and his son Mahmud of Ghazni, and its destruction by the king." This, as I earlier pointed out, is echoed in some of the Puranas also.

This last fact is interesting — that Subuktugin and Mahmud Ghaznavi were stopped by an eastern ruler, the one who had the inscription made, probably Sallakshana known also as Sallakshanavarman. This shows there is probably a great deal more that remains to be discovered by archaeologists and historians.

Summary of findings based on both literary and archaeological/epigraphical evidence:

1. All the literary sources without exception, are unanimous that a Rama temple existed at the site known since time immemorial as Rama Janmabhumi.

2. Archaeology confirms the existence of temples going back to Kushan times, or about 2000 years. This date may well be extended by future excavations assuming that such excavations will be permitted by politicians.

3. Archaeology records at least two destructions: the first in the 12th-13th century; the second, later, in all probability in the 16th. This agrees well with history and tradition that were temple destructions following the Ghorid invasions (after 1192 AD) and restored, and was destroyed again in 1528 by Babar who replaced it with a mosque. This is the famous - or infamous - Babri Masjid that was demolished by kar-sevaks on December 6, 1992.

4. A large inscription discovered at the site dating to 11th-12th century records the existence of numerous temples including a magnificent one in which Hari-Vishnu was honored as destroyer of the ten-headed Ravana. Ayodhya was always known as a temple city.

Brief History — 1528 thru 1934:

As per historians, since 1528 there have been at least 76 armed conflicts in which over 300,000 Hindus sacrificed their lives to restore the Ram Janma Bhoomi temple. Summary of these conflicts is as follows:

  • Babar's reign (1528-1530) - Hindus launched 4 attacks in which 100,000 people were killed.
  • Humayun's reign (1530-1556) - Hindus launched 10 separate initiatives to regain control.
  • Akbar's reign (1556-1605) - Hindus fought 20 battles.
  • Aurungzeb's reign (1658-1707)- Hindus fought 30 battles. One such battle was led by Guru Gobind Singh in which Aurungzeb's army was defeated. Four years later, Aurungzeb again attacked Ayodhya and regained control after killing 10,000 Hindus.
  • Sahdat Ali (1798-1814) - Hindus fought 5 battles.
  • Nasir-uddin Haidar (1814-1837) - Hindus fought 3 battles.
  • Wajid Ali Shah (1847-1857) - Hindus fought 2 battles.
  • British Rule (1912-1934) - Hindus fought 2 armed conflicts.

Hindus never gave up on one of their holiest places. Hence the only conflict free periods were when they were allowed to worship inside the disputed structure. For example, in order to avoid further conflict, during the latter part of his reign Akbar allowed Hindus to build a platform known as 'Ram Chabutra', and to install and worship images of Ram Parivar in the so called Babri compound. This practice was later opposed by Aurungzeb which resulted in most battles for the control of the shrine during his reign.

In 1751 A.D. Maratha Sardar Malhar Rao Holkar after defeating the Pathans in the plains of Ganga and Yamuna, asked Nawab Safderjang to hand over Ayodhya, Kashi and Prayag to the Peshwas. In a letter dated February 23, 1756, Nanasaheb Peshwa asked Sardar Scindia to annex Ayodhya and Kashi as the handover of these holy places was already promised to Raghoba Dada by Suja- uddoula. Later in 1789 A.D. Sardar MahadJi Scindia did annex Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi, but due to his untimely demise was not able to restore the temples of Ram Janma Bhoomi, Krishna Janma Bhoomi and Kashi Vishweshwar back to Hindus.

Joseph Tieffenthaler (1710 - 1785), an Austrian Jesuit priest toured Oudh (Ayodhya) region between 1766 and 1771 A.D. His account of Indian History and geography was translated and published in French in 1786 A.D. Tieffenthaler states

"The Emperor Aurungzeb destroyed the fortress called Ramkot and built at the same place a Mohammedan temple with 3 domes. Others say that it has been built by Babar. One can see 14 columns made of black stone .. which bear carvings … Subsequently Aurungzeb, and some say Babar destroyed the (heathen) place in order to prevent heathens from practicing their ceremonies. HOWEVER THEY HAVE CONTINUED TO PRACTICE THEIR RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES IN BOTH THE PLACES (inside the 3 domed Babri structure and the compound), KNOWING THIS TO HAVE BEEN BIRTH PLACE OF RAMA, by going around it 3 times and prostrating on ground".

According to the British records by Thornton (1854 A.D.) and Carnegie (1870 A.D.) till 1855 A.D. Hindus continued to worship Ram in the 3 domed structure. During the First War of Independence of 1857 the local Muslim leader Amir Ali persuaded the Muslims to finally hand over the disputed place to Hindus and jointly fight with the British. However the British won the War of 1857 and Amir Ali and Hindu leader Baba Ram Charan Das were publicly hanged from a tree near the Ram Janma Bhoomi. The British subsequently put a railing wall between Babri structure and the courtyard and separated the Muslim worshipers who got the Babri structure and Hindus had no choice but to do puja outside in the courtyard.

Recent History — 1934 thru 1992:

In 1934, during the armed conflict between Hindus and Muslims the Babri structure was damaged. Since 1936, the Babri structure was an abandoned building and did not function as a community mosque for local muslims. There is no evidence of any Mutawalli or Imam or Muazzin or Khatib or Khadim having functioned as the mosque management as such for the up keep and maintenance of the 'mosque'. A Waqf report dated September 16, 1938 showed 'Syed Mohammad Zaki' as a Mutawalli. But later the District Waqf Commissioner found that Mutawalli Zaki was a Shia, an opium addict and most unsuited for the duties of a Mutawalli. Meanwhile the Sunni Waqf Board claimed that Babri mosque was under its control. A report dated December 10, 1949 by the Waqf inspector Mohammad Ibrahim, to the U.P. Sunni Central Board of Waqf, states that "due to the fear of Hindus and Sikhs no one offered namaz in the said 'mosque'".

On December 23, 1949 the image of 'Ramalalla' appeared in the disputed structure and Hindus resumed prayers and worship inside. On December 29, 1949 Additional Magistrate Markandey Singh confiscated the building and handed over the posession to Priya Dutta Ram as Receiver, who assumed charge of the same on January 5, 1950. After almost 12 years, on December 18, 1961 the Sunni Waqf Board filed the law suit seeking the possession of the disputed structure. This law suit was liable to be dismissed since the then prevalent statute of limitation for property takeover of 6 years had already passed.

New Archeological Discoveries

ON THE 18TH OF JUNE 1992, when the ground near the Ramajanma Bhumi was being levelled, a most startling archaeological discovery was made at Ayodhya. At a depth of about 12 feet from the ground level near the Ramajanma Bhumi temple, towards the south and beyond the fencing, a big hoard of beautifully carved buff sandstone pieces was located in a large pit, dug down below the old top level. A careful study by a group of eight eminent archaeologists and historians found that all these objects are architectural members of a Hindu temple-complex of the 11th century A.D.

The group comprised Dr. Y.D. Sharma, former Deputy Director General, Archaeo logical Survey of India, Dr. K.M. Srivastava, former Director, Archaeological Survey of India, Dr. S.P. Gupta, former Director, Allahabad Museum, Prof. K.P. Nautiyal, Vice-Chancellor, Avadh University and former Head of the Ancient History and Archaeology Department, Garhwal University, Prof. B.R. Grover, former Director, Indian Council of Historical Research, Shri Devendra Swarup Agrawal and Dr. Sardindu Mukherji of the Delhi University, and Dr. (Mrs.) Sudha Malaya of Bhopal.

The Temple: The experts who visited the site on behalf of the academic organization, "The Historians' Forum", on the 2nd and 3rd of July 1992, are unanimously of the view that the temple, to which these fragments belong, is of the developed NAGARA style of ancient temple architecture which was current in northern India during the later part of the early medieval period i.e. the period after 900 A.D. and before 1200 A.D. The temples of this style are characterized by a distinctly imposing Shikhara, which is a tall and tapering spire over the Garbha-griha or sanctum sanctorum, which houses the main deity.

The Shikhara Amalaka: The developed Shikhara is like a mountain with several tiers of subsidiary Shikharas, rising one above the other and projecting partially from the main Shikhara. The Shikharas are crowned with a very distin- ctive circular piece of stone, called amalaka, which is shaped like a cogged wheel, with bead-like mouldings along the periphery. It is so very typical of the tepmles of northern India that no one in the world who knows even a little about the Hindu temples can cast any doubt about its position in the temple structure. There are two examples of half-amalakas, in the present hoard of objects, evidently used on the top of the subsidiary Shikhra, called Shikharas of Karnas, i.e. fringe spires.

The Shikhara Jala: The second most significant find is the curvilinear part of the Jala mouldings present on the Shikharas. It is beautifully decorated with scrolls. It also belongs exclusively to the north Indian temples of the period after 900 A.D. since the technique of its carving involves the method of scoop- ing out of the areas around the floral elements so that the art-motifs are framed with surface absolutely plain. It is called 'Stencil' technique.

The Capital: The third most noteworthy sculptured piece of stone in this collection is a rectangular capital of a piller with beautiful mouldings in the form of highly stylised lotus petals arranged as narrow parallel strips carved in low relief around the capital.

The Cornice: The fourth example of stone sculptures belongs to the most characteristic member of the Nagara style of temples -it is called Chhadya, and in Hindi Chhajja, sun-shade, where the straight wall over the high plinth meets the base of the Shikhara. It is carved and shaped like rectangular Mangalore tiles to serve not only as a sun-shade but also allow the rain water to run off quickly and protect the structure. It is a corner-stone of the cornice.

Floral frieze: There is one frieze of continuous leaf-moulding which decorates one of the top lines of the plinth of the temple.

Door-Jamb: There is one example of a door-jamb or dvara-shakha of the main entrance of the temple. It is decorated with a meandering floral design, carved in 'Stencil' style.

Images of Vishnu's Incarnations: There is also a fragment of a stele embellish- ed with the most significant sculptures of a number of Vaishnavite gods, viz. a Chakrapurusha, i.e. a youthful male figure standing gracefully at an angle (tribhanga) and holding vertically in the palm of the right hand the character- istic wheel or Chakra of Vishnu. Another image is that of Parshurama, sitting cross-legged and holding a battle-axe in the left hand. Below him is the image of Balarama, the elder brother of Krishna, with a canopy of serpent-hoods and having a wine-cup in his hand. Still below him is the image of a mother godess (matri-devi), the bestower of all good luck. As per the iconographic stipulation, there should have been an image of Dashrathi Rama, i.e., the son of Dasharatha, above the image of Parshurama, in order to complete the trio of three Ramas in the full set of ten incarnations of Vishnu. Evidently, the temple to which this stele belongs has necessarily to be a Vaishnabite one.

Shiva-Parvati: Besides the above, there are several other images. One is of Shiva-Parvati, also called Uma-Maheshvara. It was found from a shallow mound called Nala, located some 200 meters away from the site of the above hoard of art and architectural pieces. Though Shiva's head is now lost, his hand holding a Trishula or trident is fully intact. Similarly, although Parvati's face is not extant, her hand from behind Shiva's neck is found resting on his right shoulder in an embracing position. Stylistically, it is also datable to the 11th century.

Terracotta Figurines: Art objects of burnt clay belonging to the earlier periods, such as the Kushana (1st-3rd century) have also been found. These images belong to various Hindu gods and godesses.

Explorations

From 4th July through 18th July 1992, Prof. B.R. Grover camped at Ayodhya, during the period when the ground acquired by the UP Government was being levelled up. It is during this operation that he came across towards the east and south of the Ramajanma Bhumi, large floor-areas, in the pre-Islamic levels, which were carefully paved with burnt bricks. These places were then systemati- cally exposed and photographed in situ for permanent record. He located some brick-walls as well. He noticed similar flooring and also brick-walls at the so-called Janmasthan area, across the modern road, built by the British after cutting the Rama Kotmound. The floor covered with burnt-bricks spreads over thousands of square metres now largely encircled by the newly constructed Rama Divar. During that period Prof. Grover had released as many as three reports of his findings to the press which prompted the Historians' Forum to send two eminent field-archaeologists to examine the reported discoveries.

Fresh Excavations

Huge Brick Walls: On the 22nd and 23rd of July Dr. K.M. Srivastava and Dr. S.P. Gupta went to Ayodhya and scraped the section facing east and also dug at least two feet still deeper in a small area along this section. They discovered a huge burnt-brick wall of more than a dozen courses running along the section and beyond it. Below this, after a little break, the remains of another brick- wall have been found. At two different pre-Islamic levels, there are the remains of brick-laid floors.

Mass Destruction: There are clear cut marks of massive destruction of the huge wall mentioned above since brick-debris and large pits have been located here. Further, there are two hard rammed floors of Chunam and Kankar, laid one above the other with a significant break in between but over the level of the brick- wall.

There is therefore, enough new archaeological material which conclusively proves what Prof. B.B. Lal, the previous excavator of this site, has been repeatedly saying that here at the Ramajanma Bhumi there was an impressive structure of the 11th-12th century built on pillers standing on a series of parallel burnt-brick bases which was destroyed in the early 16th century, in all likelihood the bases carried on them the same temple-pillers which are fixed in the 'mosque'.

These new archaeological findings also confirm the views expressed earlier in 1990 by Dr. S.P. Gupta that the 16 black stone pillers and one piece of door- jamb with carvings of gods and godesses existing in the so-called 'Babri Mosque structure' and also the adjoining areas, belong to a 11th century Hindu temple, possibly Vaishnavite.

Muslim Testimony: The new discovery further confirms the claims of all early Muslim authors, like the grand-daughter of Aurangzeb whose writing was cited in Sahifa-i-Chihal, Nasaih Bahadur Shahi, Mirza Jan, the author of Hidiqa-i- Shahada and a large number of other 18th, 19th, and even 20th century scholars like Shri Abdul Hai, have repeatedly mentioned that anciently here, at this very site, called 'Janmasthan', there was an imposing Hindu temple which was destroyed by the Muslims and a mosque was built over its debris.

Mir Baqi's Claim: Indirectly though, the newly acquired archaeological evidence also equally confirms the statement made by Mir Baqi in his inscriptions, still found fixed in the structure of the 'mosque', that at this very place he built a structure for the angels to descend, specifically at the command and permiss- ion of Babar.

The Hindu Testimony: And finally, it lends full support to a long standing Hindu tradition of the Valmiki's Ramayana, the Vishnu and other Puranas and a host of other works of the Sikhs, Jainas and Buddhists as well as the Sanskrit classics like Kalidasa's Raghuvamsham, according to which for thousands of years this ancient settlement with Rama Kota was occupied and reoccupied following desertions and destructions, the story of which has, however, been recollected in two important monographs, one is entitled Ayodhya by Hans Bakker and the other is Ram Janmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid by Koenraad Elst published in English in recent years.

Archaelogical Evidence of pre-existing Temple

1. The Babri structure had 14 pillars made of 'Kasauti' black stone with Hindu images. Also inside the Babri compound was a piece of a door jamb with images of 'Mukut-dhari Dwarpal' and 'Devakanyas'. Iconographical evaluation of these pillars and the door jamb by Dr. S. P. Gupta (former Director of Allahabad Museum) showed that these belonged to a Hindu temple of the 11 th Century A.D. when the Garhwal Kings of Kanauj ruled Ayodhya.

2. Between 1975 and 1980 Prof. B. B. Lal (the then Director General of Archaeological Survey of India) conducted an excavation behind the Babri structure. The excavation showed pillar bases of burnt bricks (of the preexisting temple). The most beautiful pottery dated around 8 th-9th Century B.C. was also found.

3. On June 18 th 1992, when the ground near the Ram Janma Bhoomi was being levelled, at a depth of 12 ft, several beautifully carved buff sandstone objects were found. These objects included images of Vaishnav divinities with one 'Chakrapurush' sculpture also showing 'Parashuram' and 'Balram', an image of 'Shiv-Parvati' (largely broken) and many carved stones such as corner were terrecotta Hindu images of Kushan period (1 st to 3 rd Century A.D.).

These and other objects found during subsequent excavations during July 1992, were found to be members of a Hindu temple complex of about 11 th Century A.D. by a team of 8 eminent archaeologists and historians. The team included Dr. Y. D. Sharma, former Deputy Director General of Archaeological Survey of India, and Prof. B. R. Grover, Director of Indian Council for Historical Research.

4. The destruction of Babri structure on Dec. 6, 1992 revealed many archaeological remains which irrefutably prove that Mir Baqi had incorporated parts of the preexisting temple in the construction of the Babri mosque. The remains include a temple bell, several intricate and detailed carvings, an image of Vishnu, and several other Hindu images.

The principal amongst the findings however is a 2 ft wide by 4.5 ft long buff sandstone tablet 'SHILA LEKH' bearing an inscription in 'Devanagari' script and Sanskrit language. The 'Shila lekh' describes an ancient Ram Mandir existing at Ram Janma Bhoomi at least since the 12 th Century A.D. which was built by a Garhwal king Raja Govindachandra.

The 4th line of this 'Shila lekh' specifically describes a temple of Lord Vishnu (Hari) at the 'Janma Bhoomi Sthal'. The 15 th line describes it as a massive, magnificent temple dominating the landscape, and with steeples 'shikhar' adorned with gold 'Kalash'. The 17 th line specifically mentions the location as Ayodhya and the 'Saket Mandal', while the 19 th line mentions the 'Vaman Avatar' and then mentions Ram as the destroyer of evil Ravan.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Findings

In March 2003, an Indian court had asked the ASI to undertake excavations at the disputed site at Ayodhya. The excavation was ordered to find answer to the question whether the Mughal ruler Babur superimposed the mosque called Babri Masjid on a preexisting structure after razing it or built it on virgin ground. The answer to this question has been found from the excavations. The 574-page ASI report consisting of written opinions and maps and drawings was opened before the court on August 25, 2003.

The report said there was archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the disputed Islamic structure, and concluded that it was over the top of this construction during the early 16th century that the mosque was constructed directly resting over it.

The excavations found ancient perimeters made of bricks that predate the time of Babur, and walls that were anchored with beautiful stone pieces bearing carved Hindu ornamentations like lotus, Kaustubh jewel, alligator facade, etc. Among the excavation yields was a mutilated sculpture of divine couple, carved architectural members including foliage patterns and lotus motifs, and 50 pillar bases with brickbat foundation associated with a huge structure. All these are indicative of remains that are associated with the temples of north India.

Hindu pilgrims have always been visiting the place for thousands of years. Now, archaeology has confirmed the existence of a holy structure of north Indian architectural style at Ayodhya.

Prime Pilgrimage Attractions

  • Janmabhoomi — Rama Janma Bhoomi is where Lord Rama was said to have taken birth. There is a small Lord Rama temple here. At this location there used to be the Babri Mosque, which was constructed in the 15th century by the Moghuls upon demolishing the existing temple. The mosque was destroyed in 1992, and at the present time there are plans to built a grand Rama Temple here.
  • Guptar Ghat — At Guptar Ghat there are some nice temples, and nearby there is a nice park. Gupta means disappearance. It is said that Rama left His body at this place. There are a few nice temples here, one called Chakra Harji Vishnu and Gupta Harji, and other called Raja Mandir. There are many Deities in the Chakra Harji Vishnu Temple, including what appears to be a very old carved Chakra Harji Vishnu Deity. There is also an imprint of Sri Rama's feet here.
  • Ramkot — The chief place of worship in Ayodhya is the site of the ancient citadel of Ramkot, which stands on an elevated ground in the western part of the city. Although visited by pilgrims through out the year, this sacred place attracts devotees from all over India and abroad, on 'Ramnavami', the day of the lord's birth, which is celebrated with great pomp and show, in the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April).
  • The Hanuman Garhi — Situated in the centre of the town, this temple is approachable by a flight of 76 steps. Legend has it that Hanuman lived here, in a cave and guarded the Janmabhoomi or Ramkot. The main temple contains the statue of Anjani, with child Hanuman, seated on her lap. The devotees believe that all their wishes will be granted with a visit to this holy shrine. A massive structure in the shape of a four-sided fort with circular bastions at each corner , houses a temple of Hanuman and is the most popular shrine in Ayodhya.
  • Treta-Ke-Thakur — This temple stands at the place, where Rama is said to have performed the Ashvamedha Yagya. About 300 years ago, the Raja of Kullu built a new temple here, which was improved by Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, during 1784. At the same time, the adjoining ghats were also built. The initial idols in black sandstone were recovered from Saryu and placed in the new temple, famous as Kaleram-ka-Mandir.
  • Nageshwarnath TempleNageshwarnath Temple — The temple of Nageshwarnath is said to have been established by Kush, the son of Rama. Legend has it that Kush lost his armlet, while bathing in the river Saryu, which was picked up by a nag-kanya, who fell in love with him. As she was a devotee of Shiva, Kush erected this temple for her. It is said that this is the only temple to have survived till the time of Vikramaditya, the rest of city had fallen into ruins and was covered by dense forests. It was by means of this temple that Vikramaditya was able to locate Ayodhya and the sites of different shrines here. The festival of Shivratri is celebrated here with great pomp & show.

Other Pilgrimage Attractions

There is a nice area by the river surrounding Lakshman Ghat. Lakshman, the brother of Rama, is said to have bathed at Lakshman Ghat.Vasistha Kund is a temple with a small round kund like a well. Rama is said to have performed a yajna (sacrifice) at Treta Ka Mandir. There are Sita-Rama Deities in this temple. Kaushalya, the mother of Rama, is said to have established the Kshireswara Nath Temple for Sita. Bharata Kund, at Nandigram, 20 km from Ayodhya, is said to be the place where Bharata ruled while Rama was in exile for 14 years. A half km north of Janmabhoomi is Swarga Dwara, or Ram Ghat, which is an important bathing ghat.

History of the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement

References

Bibliography
1. Ram Janmabhoomi Vs Babri Masjid -by K. Elst, Voice of India Publ, 1990, 173pp
2. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society, by Koenraad Elst, Published By Voice of India, 1991, 419 pp.
3. Ram Janma Bhoomi - New Archeological Evidence, by Y.D. Sharma et al published by Historians' Forum, New Delhi, 1992
4. Legal Aspects of RJB/BM issue - by Justice Deoki Nandan.
5. Ayodhya, Sacred Hinduism.

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