Ayodhya is one of the most ancient and historically relevant cities of India. Emblazoned into our psychology through mythology and the hugely popular narrative of Lord Ram, it remains a pilgrimage site for millions even today. Most places to see are linked with the Ramayana and the tale as described by Sage Valmiki and Goswami Tulsidas. If you happen to be in the city, here are some top picks for a visit:
Ram Janmabhoomi: This is the epicentre of Ayodhya. The place is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. It is also where a mosque was built by Babar over what archaeological evidence shows was an ancient temple. The same mosque was demolished in 1992. Three claimants have been arguing the case for what is now the longest legal battle in the history of India. As of today, the golden idols of Lord Ram, Sita and his brothers have been placed under a makeshift tent that can be approached through a grilled maze installed for security purpose. Pilgrims are allowed to view the temporary temple after several layers of security check. Beware of touts who promise to take you to Ram Darbar where golden idols are placed – that place has no link with Ram Janmabhoomi.
Sarju and Ram ki Paidi: One of the most historic rivers, the Sarayu is where Lord Ram and his family along with residents of Ayodhya bathed. It continues to flow in perpetuity. One can choose to go boating or take a holy dip or simply stand by its banks and pray to the river with earthen lamps and flowers. Right next to the river, is the Ram ki Paidi which had structured ghats and is a resplendent sight to behold in the evenings when the multi-coloured lights come up.
Hanuman Garhi: A must stop for travellers to the city, Hanuman Garhi is a 10th-century temple dedicated to Hanuman, who was a prime devotee and sevak of Lord Ram. The temple can be approached by a flight of 76 stairs. The deity is a saffron coloured idol lodged in a temple surrounded by a square courtyard. Several shops selling religious and other trinkets and sweetmeats line up the street to Hanuman Garhi. The temple is considered Siddha and holds significant religious value especially as Hanuman is believed to be staying there still guarding Ayodhya.
Kanak Bhawan: Is a haveli very close to Hanuman Garhi and pulsates with immense devotional resonance. The deities Rama and Sita are famous because of their gold crowns. The haveli is believed to have been a gift for Sita in the muh-dikhai ritual popular in Hindu custom. It was supposed to have been covered with gold. Perhaps one of the largest temples in the area, the shrine and the atmosphere have a tranquil and sacred feel and was renovated by King Vikramaditya in 1891 and later by Queen of Teekamgarh, Vrishbhanu Kuvari.