Ayodhya was on my travel wish list for a long time. Ayodhya – the city where Lord Ram was born, the city where the epic Ramayana begins and ends. This is a city every child born in India knows of, even if we do not know its precise geographical location. When I started traveling, I kept looking for travelogues on the place, there were none. The ones that were there focussed primarily on the Ram Janmabhoomi debate than the city.
Ayodhya is one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus called Sapta-puris, making it a pilgrim place for Hindus. It is a city to be visited. However, in recent times, of all the 7 sacred cities this is probably the least visited for multiple reasons. When I visited the place this October, there were hardly any visitors or tourists. Yes, the infrastructure is limited, but then it’s just a couple of hour drive from Lucknow which is well connected by all means.
Sapta-Puris – 7 Sacred Cities of India are – Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kashi, Kanchipuram, Ujjain & Dwarka
Places to visit in Ayodhya
Let me walk you through the must-see places in the town. This is the Ram Dhun that I recorded across temples in the town.
Temples of Ayodhya
The place is full of temples, but here are a few that you must see:
Ram Janmabhoomi Temple
This is the place where we believe that Lord Ram was born. In the late 16th CE, a mosque was built on top of this temple. In late 20th CE, the mosque was broken to rebuild the temple. Taking these as historical facts, at this point in time, the spot of Ram Janmabhoomi remains one of the most controversial places in India. The spot is fortified like no place I have seen. You have to deposit everything you have to enter the premises. One has to go through multiple security checks that border on the violation. You have to walk through the narrow pathways with no place to escape if you need to and with commandos watching you all the time.
Monkeys jumping on top of the roofs of barricades make you laugh at your being a human. I walked through the whole place with a lot of excitement as well as anxiety.
When I reached the temple, which is actually a Swiss tent I had tears in my eyes. The idol of Ram Lalla is sitting in a tent, surrounded by commandos and monkeys. As tourists you do not even get close to the tent, it is a good 20 feet away from you. In the minute that I was allowed to stand there, I tried to visualize the size of the temple – it seems very small. I wonder if it was a part of the larger complex but there was no way to know that. A Pujari Ji sat at the fence between us and the temple. He gave us prasad and took the Dakshina. I left the temple with a heavy heart. A place of devotion cannot be a war zone.
Hanuman Garhi Temple
Hanuman Garhi is one of the most popular temples in the town. It is said that when Lord Ram decided to leave the world and enter the Saryu River, he called Hanuman. He asked Hanuman to take care of his Ayodhya. Hanuman chose to sit on a hill to watch over the town. It is believed that the Hanuman Garhi temple exists where Hanuman sits guarding the city of Ayodhya.
It is a lovely little temple. You have to climb a lot of steep stairs to reach the temple. However, to tell you the secret, there is a kind of backdoor entry where the climb is not as much. My most vivid memory of the Hanumangarhi temple is its striking colors and its exquisitely carved silver doors.
The idol of Hanuman here is just an odd-shaped stone.
At Hanuman Garhi, you must go to the rooftop of the temple. You can have a top view of the city. If you have a guide with you, they would be able to point out the various landmarks of the city. How I wish there was a board pointing out or a young pandit trained to tell the visitors about it.
This is probably the most beautiful temple in the town. Right from its main gate which has colorfully carved recessed arches, it enchants you. You enter to see the carved walls and windows all around the central courtyard. I felt strong feminine energy in this place even before I heard the legend behind this beautiful temple. Notice, that it is called a Bhawan and not a temple which means it is a dwelling place.
Legend is that Kaikayee, the stepmother of Ram and youngest wife of King Dashrath, gifted this palace to Sita at her wedding. Of course, the building as we see it today is relatively new. My guide said that different temples have been built at different points in time at this spot. A board on the main wall of the temple explains the renovations done since the Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and recent times, complete with the names of the renovators.
The temple at Kanak Bhawan has some of the most beautiful idols of Ram and Sita. Here you get an image of Ram & Sita as prasad. We visited this temple in the evening – evening aarti was going on. Devotees were sitting in front of the idol and singing bhajans evoking an emotion of Devotion.
Ghats of Ayodhya
Ayodhya is situated on the banks of the Saryu River. Saryu, also called Sarju, is an integral part of the story of Ramayana. Like every city sacred city located on the banks of a river, there are ghats with stories. A board at Guptar Ghat tells the story of the Saryu River that originates from Lake Mansarovar in the Himalayas and soon after Ayodhya merges with the mighty Ganga.
We landed first on the other bank of Saryu at Faizabad. So, my journey of Ayodhya began at Guptar Ghat. A quaint lonely ghat, with a big temple in pale yellow dominating it, stands quietly on the banks of the Saryu River. A few colorful boats are parked next to the Chai Pakora shops.
We boarded the boat and started our journey towards the town. On the way, we saw last rites being performed at the sand islands of Saryu.
Legend is that it is at Guptaar ghat that Lord Ram entered Saryu to take Jal Samadhi.
Saryu is a wide river and you can take a long boat ride on it. You get to see many birds as you go around. As you get close to the shore, you get a view of the skyline of the town.
At the town, we landed at Jhunki Ghat – a cleaner, grander version of ghats you see at places like Varanasi. The ghat was clean and freshly whitewashed. I had a bright marigold mala around my neck and it almost felt being a part of the place. You can have a peaceful walk on ghats like this.
Laxman Ghat is a little ahead of Jhumki ghat. This ghat is considered important because of the belief that this is where Lakshman, the younger brother of Ram, took Jal Samadhi.
We attended the Saryu Arti in the evening. I have attended similar Arti at Ganga in Varanasi and at the Yamuna in Bateshwar. I believe this is a new initiative. As cities grow, new rituals are added and evening aarti on banks of rivers seems to be a 21st CE ritual. Having said that, it is a beautiful site to see the river lighted with earthen lamps.
When the multi-tiered lamps go around, it creates a spiritual aura. The music and songs add their own touch to the aura. I enjoy, these Aarti’s a lot. However, the best one at the moment is still the one at Varanasi.
Finding Ram in Ayodhya
This place to most of us stands for Ram – who embodies the good qualities of a human being. I tried to understand what Ram would mean in the town today. I spoke to a few people I met and I learned that in Ayodhya Ram is treated in the Swaroop or in the form as one wants. For some, he is still a baby called Ram Lalla. For mothers, he is in the form of a son. And for young men, he is a Sakha or friend. Then for people from Mithila – the region where Sita came from, he is Var Roop or the son-in-law. There is no one way to perceive him.
Swami Dineshacharya of Hari Dham gave me a perfect explanation of what Ram stands for and why visitors should come to Ayodhya. He says Ram’s life tells us how to lead a virtuous life. Ram teaches us to be good humans and so does the place. If you understand Hindi, hear him speak about this:
Ayodhya Research Center
In the middle of the town is located a relatively new Research Center. It aims at documenting Ramayana as depicted in various art forms. Well, each and every corner of India has a Ramayana story to tell. Why just India, we find Ramayana stories in Southeast Asia – in Thailand, Indonesia, and of course, Sri Lanka is part of the story itself.
Read More – Ramayana Places in Sri Lanka
Here you can see the story of Ramayana in various art forms. There is one wall full of Ramayana in Madhubani paintings. The colorful geometric patterns tell the story we all know. Then there is Ramayana in Odisha’s Patachitra style.
Read More – Ramayana Paintings in Royal Palace, Thailand
There are masks used in various types of Ramayana performances or Ram Lila’s across the continent.
Read More – Ramayana in Madhubani Paintings by Ganga Devi
On the first floor, we saw a series of paintings depicting scenes from Ramayana. What is interesting here is the depiction of Ramayana geography. The physical location of each scene of Ramayana is depicted on maps. I found this research incredible.
I was also told that Ramayana is performed every day at this center. Although I could not see the performance, I hope I can see it next time I visit the town.
It is one of the most colorful cities I have seen. Every house, and every Ashram has a colorful facade, making the city look lively and vibrant. The narrow lanes are bustling with activity as the cycles, cars, and humans try to use the same space to reach their destinations.
Video – On the River Sarayu in Ayodhya
Watch the video on the river Sarayu in HD mode. Subscribe to my YouTube channel.
If you want to visit the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, do carry your identity card if you are an Indian and your passport if you are not. You might have intelligence officers walking up to you and asking a few questions. They are friendly, just provide them with the information they need.
It is a small town. The best way to explore it is by walking around. Although rickshaws are available anywhere.
Ram Navami which typically falls in April and Diwali which typically falls in early November are the biggest festivals associated with Lord Ram. Obviously, they are big celebrations in the city. If you want to attend them, check the festival dates for the year & plan accordingly.
There are not many hotels in the town. Most accommodations are in the Dharamshala’s attached to various temples or belonging to different communities. For good hotels, you will have to stay in Lucknow. Hope this changes soon.
The food available is mostly vegetarian and simple. We ate at an Ashram and were served a Sattvik Thali – which was not only vegetarian but was also devoid of onion and garlic.
Remember it is a holy city and respect the local culture & ethos.
As they say in Ayodhya – Jai Shri Ram!
good sentiments reflected and equally timely r the pics that u have sent.
in a recent meet somebody said rightly-
it is only in bharat desh that the majority is afraid of the minority and the minority is often pamoered 2 the level of wrong domination where the minority prevails and rules over the majority.
rea d pampered
a typo mistake. blame the fingers and the keyboard.
the best one. I always wanted to go there.But it is still a dream for me. All those pics and your way of narrating it ,made me feel as if i was there. Thank you soo much.Hope i too visit the place. Jai shri Rama.
I wish you get to visit Ayodhya soon enough. It is a beautiful city.
Thank you. Yeah,it is indeed the most beautiful place(though i haven’t visited).From all the reading i have done about the place,i could really feel the beauty of the place. 🙂
Very nice travelogue – filled a gap in knowledge. must see the place.
Thank you Ketan. Glad you enjoyed reading about Ayodhya.
Wonderful write up. Will definitely visit when next in India…Rajesthan also on the list :-))
Thank you Indira. Do share your thoughts when you visit Ayodhya.
One more great write up, I always thought Ayodhya is just the Janmabhoomi temple but thanks to your write up I got to learn much more about the city. One more place has been added to my places to visit list..
Thank you, Raju Garu. I also want to go back to explore Ayodhya in detail. I want to do its parikramas and see the Ramayana in Art forms.
Indeed a comprehensive and a very crisp article on Ayodhya. Anything and everything that you wish to do at Ayodhya, please do not hesitate to be in touch. I will be more than happy to organise. Thanks for writing this and helping readers to understand Ayodhya beyond politically compulsive issues.
Thank you, Prateek for taking us around Ayodhya. I definitely want to come back and do more comprehensive work on Ayodhya. Will sure contact you as and when that happens.
Ayodhya is a beautiful city & such an important place – wonder why not many people visit it.
Oh God Anuradha,
You are such a amazing that got a change to visit Lord Rama’s Land “AYODHYA”
This post is such a beautiful & lot mean for me as I’m Lord Rama’s devotee. You completed did a awesome job with this post. The info which you shared in this post is really appreciable & pictures of temples are so beautiful.
Thank you, Sonali. Stay Connected for more stories.
Thank you for sharing your experience of Ayodhya! Reading your experiences makes me wanna pack the bags right away !I thought it was yet another place stuck with controversies – During Ramayan, Pre Luv-Kush through the current times, but reading your narratives feels like walking down the place!
Lakshmi, glad ou liked the post on Ayodhya. Yes, it is such a black hole kind of place, we hardly know it beyond its controversy. I hope some people who read this post end up visiting Ayodhya and inspire many more to go there. I even feel more people visiting would ease out even the controversy.
I had never been there.
But thank you so much, ma’am for such an interesting post. Very unusual and informative post.
Neha, Ayodhya is a hidden gem for travelers. You must visit it sometime.
Dear Sir, I am very much thankful for information provided on Ayodhya, the sacred place of Lord Rama. In fact, you have rightly mentioned that though Ayodhya is also a mokha puri, no information on connectivity from important places at least in Uttarpradesh is found so far. Once again thaks.
Surya chandra Rao, Kurnool, Andra Pradesh
Thank you, Surya ji for your comment. We at IndiTales are trying our best to bring you the unknown facets of India. Ayodhya needs to be promoted well – it is such an important place for us. I do see some local efforts to promote it. Hope they would start showing results soon. I think the more we travel to Ayodhya, the more it will flourish.
Great article. But you missed Military Mandir, Bahu Begam ka Maqabara, Sita ki Rasoi, Nageswarnath Temple, Gulab Badi, Ram ki Paiso, Tulsi Bhavan, Tulsi Udyan, Ramkatha Park and many more. The city is sacred not only to Hindus but Jains also. I live here and every place is 30 minutes distance from my home. Peaceful place it is. Military Mandir and Kanak Bhavan are two best places I admire visiting.
Brijesh Ji – I have covered Gulab Badi and Bahu Begum ka Maqbara in my post on Faizabad – do read that. Rest of the temples I did miss. I will come back soon to Ayodhya to know it in detail. Will take your suggestions and inputs on everything that I can explore in Ayodhya.
whenever I want to go some where , First I searched your post and read your blog as you mention all the necessary informations required . when I was reading this post , I too was very upset after reading some lines that our beloved God is still in tent . Thank you for sharing a beautiful post
Yogi Ji – Are you going to Ayodhya. Please go, if you have not been there. We need to visit it more often. Out generation has neglected this pilgrim city and that has not helped.
Please check the stories of different characters in Ramayana.
Wonderful Image!! This is a very interesting and informative blog. It’s a really useful blog. I really loved reading your blog.
Beautifully documented ! Thank you.
Jai Shri Ram.
Very Informative Blog