Timeless Ayodhya

Timeless Ayodhya

Lights, lamps and laser shows marked Deepavali in Lord Rama’s homeland, writes Sangeeta Venkatesh

Ayodhya was all decked up with lights for Deepavali. PIC COURTESY WIKIPEDIA

Like many in my generation, the first stories I heard from my grandmothers were from the Ramayana — the extraordinary story of Chakravarthi Rama — the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, which began and ended in Ayodhya. Visiting Ayodhya was always on my wish list. Making Lucknow our base, we drove a distance of 135 kilometres to Ayodhya.

Ayodhya, now a dusty town, is supposed to have been founded by Manu, the progenitor of mankind, which was later ruled by the Ikshavaku dynasty. In the Sri-Vaishnava tradition, Ayodhya is 65th amongst the 108 Divya Desams and is known as Thiruvayodhi. It is counted amongst the seven muktisthalas that represent parts of the body of Lord Vishnu, of which Ayodhya represents the head. The name Ayodhya, in Sanskrit, means ‘unconquerable’. Legends have it that it was King Dasharatha’s vision for Ayodhya that made it matchless in splendour and it had a layout resembling the Ashtapada board game. The city was later restored by Vikramaditya of the Gupta Dynasty (4th-5th BCE) and is identified as the city of Saket of the Kosala Mahajanapada.

Sugriva Kila

Our first stop was the Sugriva Kila, dedicated to the Vanara king Sugriva of Kishkindha, one of the central characters of the epic. It is at an elevated part of Ayodhya from where you can see a vista of the entire town. Next up was Kanak Bhavan, a temple dedicated to Rama and Sita, located northeast of the Ram Janmabhoomi. It is said that this palatial building was gifted to the newlyweds, Rama and Sita, by King Dasharatha’s youngest queen Kaikeyi. King Vikramaditya renovated the building during the Gupta period, and in the year 1891, it was rebuilt by Vrishbhanu Kunwari, the Queen of Tikamgarh. The Dasharath Bhavan is where the original palace of King Dasharatha was supposed to exist, where Lord Rama grew up with his brothers, as described in the Bala Kanda chapter of Valmiki Ramayana.

Through several security checkpoints, we reach the Ram Janmabhoomi to see Ram Lalla, as the deity is fondly called. An identity card is required and we had been instructed to leave all our electronic devices behind. The Chakravarthi was a good 12-15 feet away from us in a makeshift tent and seemed perfectly at peace. The construction of the foundation of the new Ram temple and the sanctum sanctorum with an idol of Ram Lalla will be ready for prayers by December 2023. 

Hanuman Garhi

Hanuman Garhi is another popular temple in the town. Hanuman’s unflinching devotion towards Rama makes devotees throng to his temple even before visiting the main temple. A flight of 76 steps leads you to the temple that has an idol of young Hanuman with his mother Anjana. Located on the north-western side of the Ram Janamasthan is Sita ki Rasoi. The temple has idols of all the princes of King Dasharatha along with their wives and also houses a symbolic kitchen. Historian Ramchandra Gandhi writes in his philosophical tract titled Sita’s Kitchen: a testimony of faith and inquiry, “The Sita whose kitchen is also the birthplace of Rama is only in manifestation his consort; in reality, she is Mahalakshmi; and Sita’s kitchen is the entire field of her self-imaging Shakti, powerfully represented by the Earth.”

The Sri Ram Janmabhumi Nyas Workshop is overseen by the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas Trust where pillars, bricks, and other structural materials required for the rebuilding of the temple for Ram Lalla were stored. It also housed the model of the proposed new temple. However, on November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court of India ruled to constitute a Trust formed by the Central Government and not the Nyas to build a temple on the 2.77 acres of the land. 

Devotees of the Sri-Vaishnavism sect make it a point to visit the Ammaji Mandir that has been built in the Dravidian style architecture. It was founded by Sri Yogi Parthasarathy Iyengar of Thiruvellikeni over 100 years ago.

The temple has idols of Sri Rama, Sita, and Ranganatha that Yogi Parthasarathy Iyengar and his wife Yogi Singammal found in the Rama temple in Thiruppulani in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu. After Sri Parthasarthy passed away, Yogi Singammal (known to all as Ammaji) looked after the temple administration and also taught devotees the tenets of Sri Vaishnava philosophy. 

The Sarayu River that flows through Ayodhya has several ghats or banks such as the Guptar Ghat, Lakshman Ghat, Jhunki Ghat. The Jal Samadhi taken by Lord Rama was supposed to be at the Guptar Ghat. The aarti in the evening is something every devotee looks forward to.

Valmiki Bhavan, Tulsi Smarak Bhavan, Nageshwar Nath Mandir, Ram Katha Sangralaya and Bade Hanuman Temple are some other places you could visit. 

Like last year, this year too, lights, lamps and laser shows marked Deepavali in Lord Rama’s homeland, adding a special touch to the celebrations here.