Ayodhya Deepotsav: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Ayodhya Deepotsav: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

In the heart of India, nestled along the banks of the sacred Sarayu River, lies Ayodhya, a city steeped in history and myth. Ayodhya has long been regarded as the birthplace of Lord Rama, a revered figure in Hinduism, making it one of the most significant pilgrimage sites for millions of devotees worldwide. However, in recent years, Ayodhya has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from a historical and religious center into a thriving modern city. This article delves into the modern makeover of Ayodhya and Ayodhya Deepotsav, exploring its journey of rejuvenation while preserving its ancient heritage.

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

The Historical Significance

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Before we embark on Ayodhya’s contemporary journey, it’s essential to understand the city’s historical and religious significance. Ayodhya is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, a revered deity in Hinduism. The ancient epic Ramayana narrates the life and adventures of Lord Rama, further cementing Ayodhya’s importance in the hearts of millions of devotees.

The historic town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh is more popular for its political significance than its religious significance. The court verdict on the years-long political tussle over the construction of a Ram temple on this Ram Janmabhoomi has just come. The court has done its job, and now the government will do its job. But keeping that issue aside, it is worth introducing Ayodhya. Ayodhya is woven into our folk life as the city of Ram-Rajya. The word Ayodhya means the land where no war has ever taken place.

The encient great poet Valmiki has written in the Ramayana:

Kaushal (Ayodhya) is a very great country. That country lies on the banks of the Saryu River and is happy and endowed with abundant wealth. Kaushal, i.e., the city of Ayodhya, is known throughout creation, and that city was inhabited by Manu Maharaj, who is the best of human beings.Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Like Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya is described in detail in Ramacharit Manas by Tulsidas. Tulsidas has also written that only seeing Ayodhya destroys sin. In Ramcharit Manas, Lord Shri Ram says that no other city is more dear to me than Awadhpuri.

In the Treta Yuga, King Rama of Raghu Kul ruled on the throne of Ayodhya. The city is synonymous with happiness and prosperity on the banks of the River Sarayu and has abundant wealth.

Over centuries, Ayodhya witnessed the construction of magnificent temples and shrines dedicated to Lord Rama. The most prominent among them was the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, believed to be the exact spot of Lord Rama’s birth. However, this sacred site became the focal point of religious and political disputes, leading to decades of turmoil.

The Legal Battle

The legal battle over the Ram Janmabhoomi site spanned several decades, creating tension and divisions among communities. In 2019, the Supreme Court of India finally delivered a landmark verdict, granting the site to Hindus for the construction of a grand temple. This judgment marked a turning point in Ayodhya’s history, paving the way for the modernization and rejuvenation of the city.

Here are the main temple attractions in Ayodhya

Ram Janmbhoomi

The main attraction of Ayodhya town is undoubtedly Ram Janmabhoomi. Years ago, there was a temple here, then an Islamic construction, and now a mystic temple of Lord Shree Ram has been constructed after the verdict of the Supreme Court of India.Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Before constructing the temple, the idol of Lord Shree Ram was kept in a tent, not in any temple or other construction. One had to go through strict security before reaching the idol’s darshan place. The idolatry of Rama in Ayodhya has a long and checkered history. After the demolition of the controversial structure in December 1992, when an idol of Ram was installed there, the site was open, and Ram devotees could easily visit the place. But in 2005, after an attack was attempted there by a terrorist organization, the security of this place was increased.

The new temple of Lord Shree Ram

The newly constructed Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is a grand and majestic structure that is being built at the site of Ram Janmabhoomi, the birthplace of Lord Rama. The temple is being constructed by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust and is expected to be completed by January 2024.Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

The temple is being built in the North Indian temple architecture style and will be made of sandstone and marble. The temple complex will have three storeys, and be 235 feet wide, 360 feet long, and 161 feet high.

The ground floor of the temple will have a sanctum, where the idol of Lord Rama will be placed. The first floor will have a hall for darshan, and the second floor will have a museum and a library.

The temple complex will also have temples dedicated to other deities, such as Surya, Ganesha, Shiva, Durga, Annapurna, and Hanuman.

The construction of the Ram Mandir is a significant event for Hindus all over the world. The temple is expected to be a major pilgrimage site and is likely to attract millions of visitors every year.Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

The Ram Mandir, a monumental project, is taking shape on a 2.7-acre expanse of land allocated to the Hindu community by the Supreme Court of India in 2019. What makes this temple truly remarkable is the unwavering commitment to tradition in its construction, employing age-old methods and materials like exquisite sandstone and marble. This architectural marvel is a vision brought to life by a team of distinguished architects, spearheaded by the venerable Chandrakant Sompura. Envisioned to be a spiritual haven, the temple is expected to graciously host up to 100,000 devotees simultaneously, with plans for a well-equipped guest house, a hospital, and a library within the temple complex. More than just a structure, the Ram Mandir stands as a resplendent symbol of the resurgence of Hindu culture and heritage in India, a testament to the unyielding spirit and determination of the Hindu community.

Ramkot and other temples

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

There are more than 6,000 temples in Ayodhya, if you look from a high place, you can see hundreds of temple shikhars and Dharmadhajas hovering over them, as many temples as there are Ramdhun. As a result, even if you walk anywhere in Ayodhya, you will hear the chanting of the name of Lord Ram. Except for the strictly clothed area of Ram Janmabhoomi, you don’t have to go through any special security system to go to all the other temples. The entire area on a slight slope is known as Ram-Kot. The area got its name as there was a fort here in ancient times. There are many temples within Ramkot; some of the notable temples are as follows:

Sitaji’s Cooking House:

The place where Sitaji used to cook. There are some symbolic vessels placed here.

Kaikeyi Bhavan:

The room of King Dasharatha’s queen, Kaikeyi, is where King Bharata was born.

Kaushalya Bhavan:

Room of Kaushalya Devi, Rama’s mother.

Sumitra Bhavan:

Mother of Lakshman and the Third Queen of the King Dasharath, father of Lord Ram.

Kanak Bhavan:

This temple is grand in appearance. Here too, the idol of Ram-Sita is revered. According to a legend, Maharani Kaikeyi gifted this palace to the bride, Sita. At that time, the temple was covered with gold. Today it has no gold on it, yet it is also called ‘Sone Ka Mandir’. However, the color of the temple is also yellow-golden.

Sheesh Mahal:

The Sheesh Mahal, decorated with many pieces of glass, is dedicated to Ram-Sita. There is also a temple for his sons, Lav-Kush, near the palace.

Dasharatha Palace:

The palace of King Dasaratha is very attractive in appearance, especially the golden decoration on the walls of the palace.

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Among the many temples in Ayodhya, the priest of the temple known as ‘Ram Darbar’ also claims that the original idols of the Ram temple are kept here. It is said that when the temple is constructed, only ‘Ram Darbar’ will take the idols and install them. However, there is no evidence or information available about the whereabouts of the original idols of the Janmabhoomi temple today.

Keep a guide with you while traveling around this entire area, so that you can know the architectural beauties and interesting stories associated with the architecture.

Karsevak-Puram:

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

After deciding to build the temple, the first place where the work started was known as Karsevakpuram. For the purpose of building a new temple, brick piles from every corner of the country were seen here.

About one lakh bricks with the name Shri Ram written on them have been preserved here. Stones from quarries in different areas, like Rajasthan, Agra, were deposited here. Many of these stones have been carved. Stone cutting, shaping and carving are done here
There is a special workshop for that. A model of the proposed temple has also been prepared and submitted here. The temple, as per the model, will be 268 feet long, 128 feet high, and have a total of 212 pillars. The workshop also has a temple, and the story of Sriram’s appearance in Janmabhoomi is found there.

Hanumangarhi:

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Ayodhya is a very small town, and the area around the Ram Janmabhoomi is crowded with narrow lanes. A temple in that area is visible from a distance. The name of the temple with the tall Shikhar is Hanumangarhi. When Lord Ram took a deep water samadhi, the responsibility of protecting the city was assigned to Hanumanji. Hanumanji sat on a high seat; the place is now known as Hanumangarhi. Hanumanji lived in a cave here, where the temple is now. This temple with a fort-like construction from outside is at the highest point in Ayodhya. One has to climb 75 big steps. Apart from Hanumanji, there is also a statue of his mother, Anjani. This temple is open from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Saryu River Bank : Naya Ghat

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Ayodhya is a city situated on the banks of the Saryu River. Tourists regularly visit the bank called Naya Ghat to take a dip in Saryu. For the past few years, thousands of lamps have been lit at the foot of the ghat every year on the occasion of Diwali, making the ghat even more popular. It is also considered very auspicious to come to Naya Ghat and bathe in Saryu on the occasion of Diwali. There are about fifty-five ghats around here, and each one has a religious story attached to it. This entire area is known as ‘Ram Ki Paudi’. A crowd of devotees gathers to see the glowing ghat at the time of Aarti in the evening. There is also a facility for boating in the Saryu River.

Guptar Ghat

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Both Ayodhya and Faizabad are twin cities. There is no line of demarcation between where one town ends and another begins. The Saryu River flows past Faizabad, where the Guptar Ghat is located. After abdicating the throne of Ayodhya, King Rama took Samadhi into the waters of Saryu. That tomb is today’s Guptar Ghat.

Tulsi-Valmiki Memorial

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Saint Tulsidas and Saint Valmiki were the two Mahatmas who created the great book ‘Ramayana’ and kept the characters of Tretayuga alive for ages. A building dedicated to both of them is also located here. Tulsi Bhavan is a museum of a kind where items related to Tulsidas and the Ramayana are preserved. Ramlila is performed in this bhavan every evening from 6:00 to 9:00. A temple dedicated to Saint Valmiki is also situated a short distance from here.

Nandigram

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Rama handed over the throne of Ayodhya to Bharata before going into exile, but Bharata did not accept the throne. Instead of living in the royal palace, he built a cottage on the outskirts of Ayodhya, lived in it, and kept Rama’s footwear in the cottage as a symbol of remembrance. This place came to be known as Nandigram (Bharatkund). When Rama returned from exile, he met Bharata here. Nandigram is 15 kilometers from Faizabad. Nandigram is known for Shradh rituals. Akhand (non-stop) Kirtan (chanting) was started here in the year 2018 in the name of Sita-Rama, which will continue for 14 years, i.e., till 2032. Another attraction in Nandigram is the Shiva temple here. Nandi, seated in the temple, faces the gate instead of Lord Shiva.

Ramkatha International Museum

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

This museum is located near Naya Ghat on the banks of the Saryu River in Ayodhya. It is well known that the Ramayana is woven into the culture of Agni in Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia. In this museum, the Ramayana paintings, sculptures, Ramlila costumes, etc. in their own styles are displayed. The other part of the museum houses the ancient remains found during the excavation of the Ram Janmabhoomi, which, upon seeing them, reveal that they are part of a Hindu structure.

Also nearby is Maniparvat, where some pieces of the Sanjeevani mountain are believed to have fallen. Nageswara Mahadev and many other temples and pilgrimages are located in the religious city of Ayodhya. Generally, where there are temples, there is a tendency to extort devotees by dragging them into their shop or inviting them to the temple. Fortunately, Ayodhya lacks it altogether.

It is certain that Ayodhya will take on a new look after the construction of the Ram temple, but the current Ayodhya is still calm and simple, as if it were in the Treta Yuga. Its nature is worth enjoying on a day trip.

The Modern Makeover

1. Infrastructure Development

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

With the legal hurdles resolved, Ayodhya embarked on an ambitious journey of modernization. The city witnessed a massive overhaul of its infrastructure, including the construction of wide roads, state-of-the-art transportation systems, and improved civic amenities. These developments not only facilitated tourism but also enhanced the quality of life for its residents.

2. Tourist Attractions

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Ayodhya’s makeover included the development of world-class tourist attractions. The Ram Mandir, designed to be an architectural marvel, is the centerpiece of this transformation. It is set to become a major pilgrimage site for devotees from around the world. Additionally, the city now boasts museums, parks, and cultural centers that showcase its rich heritage.

3. Promotion of Cultural HeritageAyodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

While modernization was a priority, Ayodhya remained committed to preserving its cultural and historical heritage. Efforts were made to restore and maintain ancient temples and monuments, ensuring that they continue to stand as a testament to the city’s glorious past. Cultural festivals and events are also organized to celebrate Ayodhya’s diverse heritage.

4. The Economic Impact

Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Ayodhya’s transformation has had a significant economic impact on the region. The influx of tourists and pilgrims has created opportunities for local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. The city’s improved infrastructure has also attracted investments, leading to job creation and economic growth.

Here are some key points to keep in mind while visiting Ayodhya:

Best time to visit: Adhodhya can be visited anytime throughout the year. It is more fun to enjoy the cold in winter. During festivals like Ramnavami, Diwali, and Devdiwali, it gets crowded; otherwise, it is very quiet on normal days.

Transportation: Ayodhya has a railway station, and some direct services from Gujarat take it there. The nearest airport is Lucknow, 135 km away.3 9

Accommodation: There are almost no hotels in Ayodhya, there are quite a few hotels in Faizabad, there are more Dharmshalas in Ayodhya.

Historical Significance: Ayodhya is revered as the birthplace of Lord Rama, a central figure in Hinduism. Understanding the historical and religious importance of the city adds depth to your visit.

Ram Janmabhoomi: Visit the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, the sacred spot believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama. It’s a place of deep religious significance and tranquility.

Temple Etiquette: When visiting temples in Ayodhya, remember to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering. Show respect to the customs and traditions observed by the devotees.

Festivals and Celebrations: Check the local calendar for festivals and events. Attending these can provide a rich cultural experience and a chance to witness Ayodhya’s vibrant celebrations.Ayodhya Reimagined: Exploring the Modern Makeover of an Ancient Heritage

Heritage Sites: Explore other historical and architectural marvels like the Kanak Bhawan, Hanuman Garhi, and Treta Ke Thakur, each with its own unique story and significance.

Local Cuisine: Savor Ayodhya’s traditional cuisine, which often includes delectable sweets like ‘peda’ and ‘malpua.’ Don’t forget to try the local street food.

Local Markets: Ayodhya offers various markets where you can shop for souvenirs, religious artifacts, and handicrafts. Bargaining is common in these markets.

Respect Local Customs: Be mindful of local customs and traditions. Seek permission before taking photographs, especially in religious settings.

Language: While Hindi is widely spoken, you can get by with English in many places. Learning a few basic Hindi phrases can enhance your experience.

Safety and Hygiene: Ayodhya is generally safe for tourists, but it’s wise to take precautions like safeguarding your belongings and drinking bottled water for hygiene.

Guided Tours: Consider hiring a local guide who can provide insights into the city’s history, mythology, and hidden gems.

Respect for All Faiths: Ayodhya is a city of religious diversity. Show respect for all faiths and be sensitive to the religious sentiments of the local people.

Environmental Responsibility: Help maintain the cleanliness of the city and its surroundings by disposing of waste properly and reducing plastic usage.

Plus know this: There are several places to eat in Ayodhya. The samosas here are famous. Every third shop here is a sweet shop.

  • Taxis and rickshaws are handy options for transportation. Ramkot-Naya Ghat area is close enough to walk.-
  • There are a lot of monkeys in Ayodhya, beware of them.
  •  Ayoddha is a city that can be visited in a whole day. On the next day, some historical places in twin city Faizabad can be visited. Freedom struggle revolutionary Ashfaqullah Khan was hanged by the British in Faizabad jail. This place is another must watch memorial.

Remember that Ayodhya is not just a place of religious significance but also a city rich in culture and history. Approach your visit with an open mind and a spirit of reverence, and you’ll have a meaningful and memorable experience.

Conclusion

Ayodhya’s journey from a historical and religious center to a modern city is a remarkable tale of resilience and rejuvenation. While the legal battle over the Ram Janmabhoomi site tested the city’s unity, it ultimately paved the way for progress. Ayodhya now stands as a symbol of coexistence, where ancient heritage and modernity harmoniously coexist.

The modern makeover of Ayodhya, with its state-of-the-art infrastructure, world-class tourist attractions, and a commitment to preserving its cultural roots, has not only revitalized the city but also positioned it as a global destination for spiritual seekers and history enthusiasts alike. As Ayodhya continues to evolve, it serves as a testament to the enduring power of heritage and the potential for transformation in the modern world.


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