Ayodhya is an ancient holy city and an important pilgrim center of India, the old capital of Awadh, in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. During the time of Gautama Buddha the city was called Ayojjhā (Pali). Under the British Raj the city and the administrative area around it was called Oudh. 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 (4/40/91) consider Ayodhya as one of the six holiest cities in Hinduism.
In the first few centuries of the Common Era it was caled Śāketa. Śāketa, or was conquered by the great Kushan / Yuezhi Emperor Kanishka c. 127 CE, who made it the administrative centre of his eastern territories. The name occurs again in Faxian as in the early fifth century. It is not clear when the name changed, but by the time of the visit of the Chinese pilgrim monk, Xuanzang, c. 636 CE, it was known as Ayodhya.
Legacy and Importance
Ayodhya was one of the most ancient, largest and most magnificent of Indian cities. 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 in descent from Vivaswan or the Sun God.The son of Vivaswan "Viavswat Manu" founded the city of Ayodhya. The opening chapters of the Ramayana, a religious epic of the Classical Hindu period, 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 Chandra, the Seventh Avatar of the Vishnu. Many Hindus believe the birthplace of Rama to be in Ayodhya at the place called Ram Janmabhoomi, the site of the demolished Babri Mosque. According to the Ramayana, Ayodhya was ruled by the House of Ikshvaku, who was the son of Manu.
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.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan, founder of the Swaminarayan Sect of Hinduism lived here during his childhood years. It was from Ayodhya that Bhagwan Swaminarayan started his seven year journey across India as Neelkanth.
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 Bhahubali, Brahmi, Sundari, King Dasaratha, Acharya Padaliptasurisvarji, King Harishchandra, Shri Rama, Achalbhrata, and the ninth Gandhara of Mahavir Swami.
The Atharva Veda called Ayodhya "a city built by gods and being as prosperous as paradise itself".
Ayodhya was the victim of pillage and sacking during the Ghaznavid raids and Ghorid invasions. Some Hindu temples were allegedly looted or destroyed. Some believe that the Babri Mosque was constructed on the remains of a temple, but this claim remains very controversial. 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 over Hindus in India and across the world.
The Thai kingdom and city of Ayutthaya were named for 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 travelled by boat from a faraway land called Ayuta to Korea in 48 CE. It is commonly thought that Ayodha 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.