Sri Ayodhya Dharma Yatra
Sri Ayodhya Dharma Yatra
Situated on the banks of the beautiful Saryu River, Ayodhya, also known as Saket, is the birthplace of Lord Rama and was the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom. Here, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His quadruple expansion as Lord Rama, Laksmana, Bharata and Satrughna appeared as sons of Maharaja Dasaratha in Raghu dynasty in Treta-yuga.
Ayodhya was originally built by Vaivasvata Manu, who is the descendant of Svayambhur Manu, the ruler of the entirety of mankind. Ayodhya was his capital city. Thereafter, Dasaratha developed Ayodhya to such glorious proportions that the kingdom of Indra could hardly compare to it. Ayodhya is one of the seven most sacred cities (sapta-puri) as described in Garuda Purana. The whole tract of Ayodhya spanning 84 kos (nearly 275-km-long pilgrimage route) is smeared with the footprints and pastimes of Lord Ramacandra. There are many important holy places to visit here. Ayodhya Mahatmya of Skanda Purana mentions that Ayodhya city sits on Lord Vishnu's Sudarshana Chakra (disc), rising above the earth and the shape of Ayodhya Dhama resembles Matsya (fish).
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says, “Ayodhya is not bound up with any material worlds. Just like Vrindavana, it is not bound up with any material limitations, as much as Krishna is not bound up by any material limitations. So the kingdom of Ayodhya was historical the tract of land as we see at the present moment, but at that time the king of Ayodhya was the emperor of the world.” (Letter to Satsvarupa, Montreal, 16 June 1968)
Ayodhya Dhama Yatra traditionally begins by visiting the revered Sri Hanuman Garhi temple and offering obeisances to Hanuman Ji, who is the protector of the Dhama. Main temple altar has a magnificent deity of Hanuman Ji sitting on the lap of his mother Anjana, flanked with silver and gold maces, and a silver garland inscribed with the name of Lord Rama. The Vijaya Stambha (victory pillar) that was brought by Hanuman from Lanka, and erected here in celebration of the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana can also be seen.
Sri Kale Ram Mandir, situated on
the banks of the Saryu River, is the most important temple to visit. Unique
deity of Sri Kale Ram Ji has the whole family of Lord Rama carved out on a
Saligrama sila. Sri Kale Ram Ji was originally installed and worshiped by
Maharaja Vikramaditya at Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple before Babar attacked. Just
before the attack, the pujaries immersed Them in the Saryu River. Many
years later, a brahmana from Maharashtra had a dream of Sri Rama and
found the deities submerged in Saryu. He established Them at this present
Dasaratha Mahal is the royal palace where Maharaja Dasaratha resided with his kith and kin. Childhood pastimes of Lord Rama were enacted here. At Dasaratha Mahal there are beautiful deities of Maharaja Dasaratha along with Lord Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna and their respective families. Near Dasaratha Mahal is Kanak Bhawan. It is an exceptionally beautiful palatial house that was gifted by Lord Rama’s step-mother Kaikeyi to Sita immediately after the marriage. Lord Rama lived here after marriage. The main temple altar has three sets of gorgeous deities of Sri Sri Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. As per the inscription on the walls of Kanak Bhawan, one set of deities was installed by Lord Krishna.
Ayodhya is beautified by the river Saryu. Saryu originates from Mansarovar Lake in Mt Kailash in Tibet (China). Bordering Ayodhya to one side, Saryu is like a golden bracelet of Ayodhya Dhama. In Ramayana there are repeated mentions of the hallowed Saryu where Lord Rama performed numerous pastimes. At Saryu riverfront, there is Ram ki Pairi, a large stretch of ghats and gardens, skirted by a row of ancient temples. Every evening, a beautiful Arati ceremony takes place on the banks of Saryu River. On Diwali, there is a stunning display of millions of oil lamps that are lit to mark Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya, and pay homage to Him and His family. Ayodhya bagged a Guinness World Record when it witnessed the largest display of oil lamps at the Ram Ki Pairi, with the lighting of 6,06,569 lamps on November 14, 2020 during the Deepavali celebrations.
Sri Ram Janmabhoomi is the transcendental birthplace of Sri Rama Lala or baby Rama as called affectionately. As per Skanda Purana, this was the location of the palace of mother Kaushalya where Lord Rama took birth. At the main altar, exquisitely beautiful deities of Sri Rama Lala and His brothers Bharata, Lakshmana and Satrughna are worshipped here with great devotion and fervour. One can have the darshans of Sri Rama Lala at the current make-shift temple, even as the new temple is being constructed. In 1528 AD, unfortunately, the Mughal emperor, Babar, demolished the ancient temple that was originally built by Maharaja Vikramaditya. Indeed, it is extremely heartening to see a magnificent Temple coming up at this place! Ram Janmabhoomi Karyalaya is the workshop of the new temple construction site. One can see here rare photos and descriptions of all the places where Lord Rama visited and performed His pastimes. It is worthwhile to spend time here and immerse oneself in Lord Rama’s pastime places. The model of the new Sri Ram Janmabhoomi temple is also displayed here.
Nandigram is 22 km from Ayodhya and has reference in the Valmiki Ramayana. Bharata, the brother of Lord Rama, spent a very austere and remorseful time here while Rama was in exile for 14 years. There are three significant places to visit – Bharata Kunda, Bharata Gufa (cave) and Sri Bharata Hanuman Milap Temple. Bharata took his bath at Bharata Kunda, which is a huge lake. At Bharata Gufa (cave), Bharata spent his time when Rama was in exile and worshiped the padukas (honourable sandals) of Lord Rama. Nearby is Sri Bharata Hanuman Milap Temple, where we can have the darshan of beautiful deities of Bharata and Hanuman embracing each other. Nandigram is a quiet and serene place.
Makhauda Dhama is 19 km from Ayodhya, on the banks of Manorama river. This significant landmark has importance equal to Ram Janmabhoomi. Maharaja Dasaratha, on the advice of sage Vasistha, did the Putra-Kameshti yajna here, along with sage Rishyasringa to beget sons. There are two temples for Sri Rama Janaki here that are the site of putra-kameshti yajna. A ghee drain was laid from Ayodhya to Makhauda Dhama to bring in the huge quantities of ghee required for the yajna. The remains of this ghee drain can be seen starting from the borders of Ayodhya to the Ghaghova bridge till Makhauda Dhama. The renowned Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama (84 Kosi) of Ayodhya starts on the Purnima day of Chaitra month from Makhaura Dhama. Sri Ramrekha Temple is at Makhauda Dhama. This was the resting place for the attendees of the Vivaah (marriage) of Sri Rama and Sita.
Revered Lakshmana Qila temple is on the banks of the holy Sahasradhara Tirtha. This ancient temple is the spot where Lakshmana concluded his manifest earthy pastimes. Dasaratha Samadhi is 14 km from Ayodhya. Dasaratha left his body amid immense aggrievement at separation from his beloved son Rama. He was cremated at this place and a temple was built as a memorial to him in Bilva Hari ghat. Sacred Guptar Ghat is situated on the banks of the Saryu River, 10 km from Ayodhya. Lord Rama concluded His manifest pastimes by taking ‘Jal Samadhi’ here along with His two brothers, Bharata and Satrughna and all the inhabitants of Ayodhya.
Mani Parvat, implying the divine hillock of jewels, was brought from Janakpur after the marriage of Lord Rama with Sita. Mani Parvat was Sita Devi’s favourite location. Every year, Sita Rama’s Jhulan Utsava is observed throughout Ayodhya during the month of Sravana, which starts from here. Sita Kunda, one of the holiest sites in Ayodhya, is located in the Kami Ganj area near Mani Parvat. Just like Lord Rama would take a daily bath at Saryu river, Sita took the bath here. Sita Kunda was created by Sita herself.
Sri Valmiki Ramayana Bhawan is a unique multi-story temple that has the entire 24000 Sanskrit slokas in Valmiki Ramayana inscribed on all the walls. One can have rare and wonderful darshans of sage Valmiki with Lord Rama’s sons, Luv and Kusa standing side by side. Celebrated Surya Kunda is on the outskirts of Ayodhya while returning from Nandigram.
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has a temple in Ayodhya Dhama. Ayodhya had seven famous ancient Vishnu Murtis, each with a different prefix and with a unique pastime. Sapta-Hari Murtis include - Guptahari, Chakrahari, Vishnuhari, Chandrahari, Bilvahari, Dharmahari and Punyahari. Punyahari and Bilvahari temples do not exist anymore. These temples existed even before Lord Rama descended Himself and are located at various ghats on the banks of Saryu river.
Besides these places, there are many other holy places of Lord Rama’s pastimes spread in 84 kos of Ayodhya that can be covered while undertaking the Parikrama. Traditionally, there are four types of Parikramas (circumambulation) undertaken to cover Ayodhya Dhama - Antargrahi Parikrama, Panchkoshi Parikrama (16 km circuit), Chaturdashkoshi Parikrama (a circular journey of 45 km done once a year on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Navami in the Kartik month) and Chaurasi Koshi Parikrama that starts on Rama Navami.
Rama Navami, Deepavali, Rama Vivah (the day marking the marriage of Sri Rama and Sita), Sravana Jhula festival (July-August), Kartik Purnima and the folk theatre of a traditional Rama Lila performance during Dussehra are the major festivals celebrated with tremendous jubilation in Ayodhya. Throughout Ayodhya, one can hear the continuous vibrant chants of Lord Rama’s kirtan – ‘Jai Ram Sri Ram Jai Jai Ram’.
Places to visit in and around Ayodhya:
1. Sri Hanuman Garhi
2. Sri Kale Ram Mandir
3. Dasaratha Mahal
4. Kanak Bhawan
5. Saryu River Ghat
6. Sri Ram Janmabhoomi
7. Ram Janmabhoomi Karyalaya
8. Nandigram (22 km from Ayodhya)
9. Makhauda Dhama (19 km from Ayodhya)
10. Sri Valmiki Ramayana Bhawan
11. Lakshmana Qila Temple at Sahastradhara
12. Sri Guptar Ghat
13. Mani Parvat and Sita Kunda
14. Sri Nageshwarnath Temple
15. ISKCON Ayodhya
16. Sapta Hari Temples
17. Dasaratha Samadhi
18. Surya Kunda
Ayodhya is a 135 km (2½ hour) drive from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya is well connected by rail from throughout India. Ayodhya airport, Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram International Airport will soon be serving flights from Ayodhya.
1. Sri Hanuman Garhi
Constructed in the shape of a fort, Sri Hanuman Garhi is situated at the centre of Ayodhya. It is a cave temple approachable by climbing 76 steps. After Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya from exile, Hanuman Ji stayed in Ayodhya to serve his dear-most Lord. Hanuman lived here in a cave and guarded the Janmabhoomi or Ramkot. Main temple has a magnificent 6-inch deity of Hanuman Ji sitting on the lap of his mother Anjana. Deity is adorned completely with flower garlands and vermillion. Hence, one can only have the darshan of his orange-coloured lotus face. Deity is flanked with silver and gold maces gifted by the devotees. A silver garland inscribed with the name of Lord Rama always adorns Hanuman. Across the courtyard, there are beautiful deities of Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshmana. At the back, there is a deity of Lord Nrsimhadeva. Inside the temple, there is a Vijaya Stambha (victory pillar) that was brought by Hanuman from Lanka, and erected here in celebration of the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana.
The temple architecture is unique, engraved with splendid designs. Atmosphere here is devotional. Lord Rama’s name is inscribed on every wall of the temple. One can hear the loud chants of Sri Rama’s kirtan – ‘Jai Ram Sri Ram Jai Jai Ram’ by the devout devotees singing from a hall at the side of the temple. Traditionally, the Ayodhya Dhama Yatra starts by offering obeisances and seeking the blessings of Hanuman Ji. Hanuman Garhi is mentioned in the Skanda Purana.
2. Sri Kale Ram Mandir
Sri Kale Ram Mandir is one of the most important temples of Ayodhya. The unique deity of Sri Kale Ram Ji has the whole family of Lord Rama carved out of a Saligrama sila. This deity was originally installed by Maharaja Vikramaditya and worshiped at Sri Rama Janmabhoomi temple, before Babar attacked the temple. Just before the attack, the pujaries immersed the deity in the Saryu River. Many years later, a brahmana from Maharashtra had a dream of Sri Rama and found the deities submerged in Saryu. He established Them in this present temple, which was built in 1782. Since then, Sri Kale Ram Ji is worshipped with great fervour and devotion by the lineage of pujaries of the Maharashtrian brahmana.
4. Kanak Bhawan
Inscription on the wall of Kanak Bhawan: “Kanak Bhawan was a Gilded Palace where Lord Rama and mother Sita dwelt in Treta-yuga. In the beginning of Dwapar-yuga, it was restored as a memorial for Lord Rama by Maharaja Kush, the Lord’s elder son. In the middle of Dvapara-yuga, it was rebuilt by Maharaja Rishabha Deo. It was visited by Lord Krishna by the end of Dvapara-yuga. During Kali-yuga, it was first reconstructed by Maharaja Vikramaditya in Yudhisthira Era 2431, which was subsequently expanded and repaired by Maharaja Samudra Gupta in Vikram Samvat 444. Unfortunately, it was laid to ruin by S.Salarjung in Vikram Samvat 1084.
The present magnificent ‘Kanak Bhawan Temple’ was built by Maharani Vrishbhanu Kunwar of the royal state of Orccha. In the main sanctum, there are 3 pairs of deities of Lord Rama and Sita. The first pair of deities on right-side was consecrated by Maharani Vrishbhanu Kunwar; the pair on left-side was installed in the ancient temple constructed by Maharaja Vikramaditya; and the small pair of deities was consecrated by Lord Krishna during His visit to this holy place. This inscription was installed on Rama Navami, 13th April 2019 on the instructions of Maharaja Saheb Tikamgarh Shri Madhukar Shah Ju Deo and Raja Saheb Ayodhya Shri Bimlendra Mohan Pratap Mishra.”