Ayodhya

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Ajodhya Town (in Sanskrit Ayodhya; now known as Ajudhi)

This article has been extracted from

THE IMPERIAL GAZETTEER OF INDIA , 1908.

OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.

Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts.Many units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

Town in Fyzabad District, United Provinces, situated in 26 degree 48' N. and 82 degree 12' E., on the right bank of the Gogra, and on a branch of the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway. Population (1901), 21,584. The interest of Ajodhya centres in its ancient history. The old city has almost entirely disappeared, and only its outlines are marked by an extensive tract of elevated ground. But according to tradition Ajodhya was in remote antiquity one of the largest and most magnificent of Indian cities.

It is said to have covered an area of 12 yojanas or 80 to 100 miles in circumference, though the limits according to modern tradition extend only about 6 miles from Guptar Ghat on the west to Ram Ghat on the east. Ajodhya was the capital of the kingdom of Kosala, and contained the court of the great king Dasaratha, fifty-sixth Monarch of the Solar line in descent from Raja Manu. The opening chapters of the Ramayana recount the magnificence of the city, the glories of the monarch, and the virtues, wealth, and loyalty ofhis people. Dasaratha was the father of Rama Chandra, the hero of the epic, whose cult has experienced a great revival in modern times. With the fall of the last of the Solar line, Raja Sumintra, the one hundred and thirteenth monarch, Ajodhya became a wilderness and the royal family dispersed. From different members of this scattered stock the Rajas of Udaipur, Jaipur, &c, claim descent.

Tradition relates that Ajodhya was restored by king Vikramaditya of Ujjain, whose identity is a matter of dispute. Ajodhya was of small importance in Buddhist times, when Saketa became the chief city of Kosala. It is still uncertain where Saketa was situated, and it has been suggested that it occupied part of the ancient city of Ajodhya. Numismatic evidence points to the rule of a line of independent Rajas, in or near Ajodhya, about the com mencement of the Christian era.

The identifications of Ajodhya with the capitals of Sha-chi, 'O-yu-t'o, or Pi-so-kia, visited by the Chinese pilgrims, are all doubtful.

Under the rule of the early Muhammadan kings of Delhi, Ajodhya or Awadh was the seat of a governor whose authority extended over a varying tract of country.

When Akbar had firmly established his power in Northern India, the city became the capital of a Subah or province. In the eighteenth century it was for a time the nominal head-quarters of the early Nawabs of Oudh. In 1765, however, Shuja-ud-daula made his residence at Fyzabad, a few miles away, and Ajodhya lost all im- portance, except as a rellrgious centre.

The present town stretches inland from a high bluff overlooking the Gogra. At one corner of a vast mound known as Ramkot, or the fort of Rama, is the Holy spot where the hero was born. Most of the enclosure is occupied by a mosque built by Babar from the remains of an old temple, and in the outer portion a small platform and shrine mark the birthplace.

Close by is a larger temple in which is shown the cooking-place of Sita, the faithful wife of Rama. A lolty temple stands on the bank of the Gogra at the place where Lakshmana bathed ; and Hanuman, king of the monkeys, is worshipped in a large temple in the town, approached by an immense flight of steps, which bears the name Hanuman Garhi.

Other noticeable temples built during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are the Kanakbhawan, a fine building erected by a Rani of Tikamgarh, the Nageshwarnath temple, Darshan Singh's temple, and a small marble temple built by the late Maharaja. Ajodhya also contains a number of Jain temples, five of which were built in the eighteenth century to mark the birthplaces of the five hierarchs who are said to have been born at Ajodhya.

Besides the mosque of Babar, two ruined mosques, built by Aurangzeb, stand on the sites of celebrated Hindu shrines — the Swargadwara, where Rama's body was cremated, and the Treta-ka-Thakur, where he sacrificed. An inscription of Jai Chand, the last king of Kanauj, has been found in the latter.

Three graves are reverenced by Musalmans as the tombs of Noah, Seth, and Job, and the two last are mentioned under those names in the Ain-i-Akbari.

A large mound close by, called the Maniparbat, is said to have been dropped by Hanuman when carrying a portion of the Himalayas, while another tradition asserts that it was formed by the coolies who built Ramkot shaking their baskets as they left work ; it possibly covers a ruined stupa.

Modern buildings include the spacious residence of the Maharaja of Ajodhya (see Ajodhya Estate) and two dispensaries. For adminis- trative purposes Ajodhya forms part of the Fyzabad municipality. There is little or no trade ; but three great fairs take place annually in March-April, July -August, and October-November, which are some- times attended by 400,000 persons.

At special fairs the attendance has been estimated at as many as a million. There is one public school, while ten Sanskrit schools contain 350 students.

Chhoti Mecca

120 shrines

Shailvee Sharda, Other Ayodhya: Home of Sufi shrines, November 10, 2018: The Times of India

Ayodhya is home to at least 120 shrines, including the mazar of hazrat nuh (left) and Tomb of Haji Iqbal near Badi Bua Grave
From: Shailvee Sharda, Other Ayodhya: Home of Sufi shrines, November 10, 2018: The Times of India

It’s Sad The Syncretic Culture Had Never Attracted The Limelight: Scholars

To most, Ram and his ‘janmabhoomi’ are two sides of the same coin. Citing scriptures, some also call Ayodhya the ‘karmabhoomi’ of the Puranic king Bhagirath, who is believed to have brought the Ganga on earth. But the canvas of Ayodhya has many more colours to it.

The saffron of Hindus has given place to yellow, the hues of which are linked to Sufism. In fact, Ayodhya came to be known as ‘Khurd’ or ‘Chhoti Mecca’, an identity coined by the locals to celebrate the pious and plural character of the place.

“Ayodhya is home to at least 120 shrines — including mosques, mazars, karbalas and eidgahs — which are important to Muslims. Each of them attracts Hindus as well. Almost all of the 100 mosques in Ayodhya follow a strictly vegetarian code as a mark of respect for the Hindu brethren,” Mahant Girishpati Tripathi of Tewari Mandir said.

“The presence of these shrines jointly gives Ayodhya its identity of Chhoti Mecca. To a believer, Ayodhya is next to Mecca,” said Mohd Omar, a religious leader. Mohd Akram, a maulvi, added, “Secular Muslims see Lord Ram as a ‘paighambar’ (messenger of God). Religious texts describe him as an avatar and the Quran directs us to respect all paighambars.”

Krishna Kumar Mishra alias Barfi Maharaj, convenor of Shri Saryu Avadh Balak Samiti, a 110-year-old people’s group working to conserve Ayodhya’s heritage and legacy, said, “The mazar of paighambar Hazrat Shees makes Ayodhya a must-visit for Muslims.”

Sarvesh Kumar, assistant professor of cultural geography at Banaras Hindu University, has documented the city’s Sufi heritage. “The mazars of Hazrat Shees, Nuh and Badi Bua are among the most frequently visited. It is a tradition in Hindu families to take newlyweds and babies to these shrines for blessings,” he said.

Hazrat Shees is believed to be the son of Aadam, the first man, in Islamic tradition. “The shrine is at least 600 years old. He was the first child born on earth and lived a thousand years. Abul Fazl, chronicler during Emperor Akbar’s time, has mentioned the shrine,” said its caretaker Mohd Kaleen-ud-Din Firdausi.

Another popular shrine is Nughazi Mazar behind Ayodhya Kotwali. Caretaker Mohd Omar said the place is the mausoleum of Prophet Nun (Noah in the Bible). The shrine of Hazrat Ibrahim Shah from Tashkent is also thronged by devotees every evening. Khadimul Auliya (chief caretaker) Mohd Junaid Qadri said. The Hazrat is also known as ‘zinda fakir’ because it is believed that he is alive and meditating in a cave in Adgada area.

“While most of the early Chisti Sufi shrines are from the 16th century, the tradition in Ayodhya goes back to the 14th century. This includes the shrine of Badi Bua, also unique because she was a woman, the sister of Shaikh Nasiruddin Chiragh-i Dilli, a Sufi saint of the Chishti order who was born in Ayodhya in the 12th century. After having spent 40 years of life in the land of Rama, he shifted to Delhi to live with Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya.

Locals and scholars said it was unfortunate that Ayodhya’s syncretic culture had never attracted the limelight. “The place should be seen as a school of Sufism as many of these shrines have distinct traditions which are being lost as times change,” said BHU professor Rana PB Singh, who has brought out many papers on the tradition of Ayodhya.

“The canvas of faith in Ayodhya is much bigger than it seems. Besides being the birthplace of Ram and home to more than 60 temples, Ayodhya is a manifestation of belief in the supreme ruler,” said vice-chancellor of RML Avadh University Manoj Dixit.


Hazrat Shees

The Times of India, June 7, 2016

Shailvee Sharda


Ayodhya may have come to be known as the land of Rama because of the dispute over Ram Janmabhoomi, but it has also been known as 'Chhoti Mecca', a term coined locally to celebrate its pluralist culture.

This facet of Ayodha comes into sharp focus particularly during the month of Ramzan. Mahant Girishpati Tripathi of Tewari Mandir said the temple town has at least 20 shrines which are important to Muslims. "Each of these attracts Hindus as well," he said.

There are more than a 100 mosques which follow a strictly vegetarian code as a mark of respect for the Hindu brethen. "The presence of these mazars, mosques and mausoleums jointly give Ayodhya its identity of Chhoti Mecca. To a believer, Ayodhya is next to Mecca," said Mohd Omar, a Muslim religious leader. Maulvi Mohd Akram added that secular Muslims see Lord Rama as 'messenger of god' (meaning paighambar). "Religious texts describe him as an avatar and Quran directs us to respect all paighambars," he said.

"Ayodhya is perhaps the only place in India to have the mazar of Islamic paighambar Hazrat Shees which makes the place a must-visit for Muslims," said Krishna Kumar Mishra (alias Barfi Maharaj), convenor of Shri Saryu Avadh Balak Samiti, a 110-year-old people's group working to conserve Ayodhya's heritage and legacy. Expectedly, Hazrat Shees's mazar is one of the most revered among all places.

"Hazrat Shees was the son of Hazrat Aadam (the first man to be sent on earth) and epitomized the importance of sharing in life," said Mohd Kaleen-udDin Firdausi, caretaker. "The mazar is at least 600 years old. He was the first child to be born on earth and lived for about a 1,000 years. His mazar has increased in length since the time it was made." Abul Fazl, a writer in Akbar's times, has mentioned this mazar. It also finds a mention in 'The Gazeteer' for the province of Oudh (1877).

The main shrines

Shailvee Sharda, March 14, 2019: The Times of India

Devotees at Haqbari Karbala
From: Shailvee Sharda, March 14, 2019: The Times of India
People from all religions, especially newly-weds, visit the mazar of Hazrat Nuh
From: Shailvee Sharda, March 14, 2019: The Times of India


Even as the SC-appointed mediation panel is hoping for an amicable settlement to the decades-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, in the temple town different faiths have co-existed for centuries

Following the Supreme Court's decision to refer the Ayodhya litigation to a secret mediation process, the court-appointed three-member panel is in the temple town, hoping to resolve the decades-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute through mediation. While for many, Ram and his ‘janmabhoomi’ are two sides of the same coin, the canvas of Ayodhya has, in fact, many more colours to it. Here, the saffron of Hindus co-exists with yellow, the hues of which are linked to Sufism. In fact, Ayodhya is known as ‘Khurd’ or ‘Chhoti Mecca', an identity coined by the locals to celebrate the pious and plural character of the place.

Ayodhya saw no communal clashes in 1992 while the rest of the state was burning after the Babri Masjid demolition

Manoj Dixit, Vice-chancellor, RML Avadh University


“Ayodhya is home to at least 120 shrines including mosques, mazars, karbalas and eidgahs which are important to Muslims. Each of them attracts Hindus as well. Almost all 100 mosques in Ayodhya follow a strict vegetarian code as a mark of respect for the Hindu brethren,” Mahant Girishpati Tripathi of Tewari Mandir said with pride.

“The presence of these shrines jointly gives Ayodhya its identity of Chhoti Mecca. To a believer, Ayodhya is next to Mecca,” said Mohd Omar, a religious leader. Mohd Akram, a maulvi, added, “Secular Muslims see Lord Ram as a ‘paighambar’ (messenger of God). Religious texts describe him as an avatar and the Quran directs us to respect all paighambars.”

Krishna Kumar Mishra alias Barfi Maharaj, convenor of Shri Saryu Avadh Balak Samiti, a 110-year-old people’s group working to conserve Ayodhya's heritage and legacy, said: “The mazar of paighambar Hazrat Shees makes Ayodhya a must-visit for Muslims.”

Almost all 100 mosques in Ayodhya follow a strict vegetarian code as a mark of respect for the Hindu brethren

Mahant Girishpati Tripathi of Tewari Mandir


Sarvesh Kumar, assistant professor of cultural geography at Banaras Hindu University, has documented the city’s Sufi heritage. “The mazars of Hazrat Shees, Nuh and Badi Bua are among the most frequently visited. It is a tradition in Hindu families to take newlyweds and babies to these shrines for blessings,” he said. Hazrat Shees is believed to be the son of Aadam, the first man, in Islamic tradition. “The shrine is at least 600 years old. He was the first child born on earth and lived a thousand years. Abul Fazl, chronicler during Emperor Akbar’s time, has mentioned the shrine,” said its caretaker Mohd Kaleen-ud-Din Firdausi.

Another popular shrine is Nughazi Mazar behind Ayodhya Kotwali. Caretaker Mohd Omar said the place is the mausoleum of Prophet Nun (Noah in the Bible). The shrine of Hazrat Ibrahim Shah from Tashkent is also thronged by devotees every evening, Khadimul Auliya (chief caretaker) Mohd Junaid Qadri said. The Hazrat is also known as 'zinda fakir' because it is believed that he is alive and meditating in a cave in Adgada area.

“While most of the early Chisti Sufi shrines are from the 16th century, the tradition in Ayodhya goes back to the 14th century. This includes the shrine of Badi Bua, also unique because she was a woman, the sister of Shaikh Nasiruddin Chiragh-i Dilli, a Sufi saint of the Chishti order who was born in Ayodhya in the 12th century. After having spent 40 years of life in the land of Ram, he shifted to Delhi to live with Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya. Badi Bua’s name was Rahmatullah Bibi,” said Kumar. There exist several historical graves in the surroundings of Badi Bua, including those of Shaikh Zainuddin Ali Awadhi, Shaikh Fatehullah Awadhi and Allama Kamaluddin Awadhi, the disciples of Shaikh Nasiruddin.

These mazars attract Muslim visitors even from abroad. “People from South Africa, Indonesia, Trinidad and Tobago visit Ayodhya only for these shrines. They club it with visits to places like Dewa Sharif in Barabanki and Syed Salar Sharif in Bahraich,” said Prateek Hira of Indian Association of Tour Operators.

Locals and scholars said it was unfortunate that Ayodhya’s syncretic culture had never attracted the limelight. “The place should be seen as a school of Sufism as many of these shrines have distinct traditions which are being lost as times change,” said BHU professor Rana PB Singh, who has brought out many papers on the tradition of Ayodhya.

Secular Muslims see Lord Ram as a ‘paighambar’ (messenger of God). Religious texts describe him as an avatar and the Quran directs us to respect all paighambars

Mohd Akram, Maulvi


“The canvas of faith in Ayodhya is much bigger than it seems. Besides being the birthplace of Ram and home to more than 60 temples, Ayodhya is a manifestation of belief in the supreme ruler. The co-existence of people of different faiths, especially Hindus and Muslims, makes it an epitome of India’s syncretic culture,” said vice- chancellor of RML Avadh University Manoj Dixit, adding, "evidence of Ayodhya's tolerance is the fact that the temple town saw no communal clashes in 1992 while the rest of the state was burning after the Babri Masjid demolition."

Hanumangarhi/ Aalamgiri Masjid in Argara

Arshad Afzaal Khan, UP temple to build mosque on its land, invites Muslims for namaz, Sep 01 2016 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Hanumangarhi Temple
Aalamgiri Masjid

A 300-year-old dilapidated mosque would be rebuilt on the land belonging to Hanumangarhi temple,.

Days after a local civic body declared the Aalamgiri Masjid `hazardous', and pasted a notice banning entry into the building, Hanumangarhi temple trust, which is in possession of the masjid land, not only allowed its reconstruction and agreed to bear the cost but also welcomed Muslims to offer namaz in the premises.

Aalamgiri Masjid was built in the 17th century with the consent of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb by one of his generals. The structure and its land situated in an area called Argara came in the possession of the Hanumangarhi temple after Nawab Shujauddaulah donated the land to the temple in around 1765, on the condition that namaz would continue at the masjid.

However, gradually the practice of offering namaz came to an end and the masjid was lying abandoned with no renovation or maintenance. Ayodhya municipal board had recently put up a notice on its wall banning entry into the masjid.This galvanised a group of local Muslims following which they met Hanumangarhi's chief priest Mahant Gyan Das, requesting him the permission to get the masjid repaired.

“I asked our Muslim brothers to renovate and reconstruct the masjid on our expense and also issued noobjection certificate for Muslims to offer namaz as this is also a `Khuda ka ghar',“ Mahant Gyan Das told TOI.

“I am also extending support for the renovation of a mausoleum on the premises which is as old as the masjid,“ added Gyan Das, who has been holding iftar for Ayodhya Muslims during Ramzan.

Elaborating on the masjid, historian Roshan Taqui said, “After the battle of Buxar in 1764, Shujauddaulah, the Nawab of Awadh, moved his capital from Faizabad to Lucknow. During his reign in Faizabad he had donated the land in Ayodhya for the construction of Hanumangarhi temple. After he shifted to Lucknow, when a delegation of mahants visited him and appealed for more land, the nawab donated four pucca bighas of land that already had on it a masjid built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.“

Mani Ram Ki Chhawni 

Shri Sita Ram Naam Bank

A bank where Ram Naam is deposited in Urdu, Arabic, Apr 5, 2017: The Times of India

Ram Sita Ram, written in different languages of Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic are deposited in the bank in Ayodhya; A bank where Ram Naam is deposited in Urdu, Arabic, Apr 5, 2017: The Times of India

HIGHLIGHTS

Devotees here deposit the name ‘Shri Sita Ram’ in red ink on the notebook provided free of cost by the bank

The bank management claims the number of notebooks deposited with them is in crores

Bags and bags of notebooks lie packed in this bank. In each notebook, the words 'Shri Sita Ram' are written in scores of boxes. The sacred words are not only in Hindi or Sanskrit but also in Urdu and Arabic.

The International Shri Sita Ram Naam Bank in Mani Ram Ki Chhawni locality of Ayodhya offers no interest but promises full return on the day of judgement.

Established about 20 years ago, devotees here deposit the name 'Shri Sita Ram' in red ink on the notebook provided free of cost by the bank. The bank management claims the number of notebooks deposited with them is in crores.

The notebooks are taken by account holders who return after months or years to deposit the filled-in copies and take new ones. The bank also offers a facility to send and receive copies by post from various destinations in India and abroad.

Mahant Raghuvar Sharan of Rasik Niwas temple says, "The bank does not deal in money but the number of its account holders is on the rise."

"Scribbling 'Shri Sita Ram' has always been a popular way of remembering the lord. One need not go to a temple. A businessman can do it sitting in his office, an office-goer can do it at his desk whenever he gets a break and a housewife can do it while doing her daily chores," said Mahant Ram Das, the chief priest of Nirmohi Akhara.

Mahant Punit Ram Das, manager of the bank, says, "We have deposits of 'Shri Sita Ram' in Urdu, Arabic, English, Gujarati and Marathi and the account-holders could be bureaucrats, businessmen, rickshaw-pullers, labourers, homeakers or social activists. They hail from all faiths. "This bank has got branches in the US, Canada, Nepal, Poland and almost all states of India," he says.

"There is frustration in every walk of life. People look for a medium to provide them a way to obtain peace. Scribbling 'Shri Sita Ram' is a way to connect to God," says Mahant Punit Ram Das.

See also

Ayodhya

Ayodhya constituency

Ayodhya (Babri Masjid/ Ram Janambhoomi)

Ayodhyawasi Bania

Ayodhyawasi Jain

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