‘A visit to Ayodhya is a mélange of culture, food, colour, tradition and of course spirituality’
The narrow lane is abuzz with activity and it is the whiff of besan laddus that permeates through the chaos. People are jostling for space and vendors are busy selling paraphernalia – all of which have a connection with Lord Rama from books to prayer beads to photographs. Well this is in Ayodhya’s busiest street that leads me to Hanuman Garhi, a temple dedicated to the Monkey God. The undercurrent of faith here is unmissable as after all Ayodhya is said to be one of the seven sacred cities for Hindus. Naturally, it is spirituality that rules here and the labyrinth of lanes house several temples amidst homes where you will see locals go about their lives almost as if they were blissfully unaware of the rush of pilgrims and tourists around them.
Located on the banks of the Sarayu river, Ayodhya in Faizabad district has several mythological connections. There is also a Buddhist connection here with several stupas dating back to King Ashoka’s times that are referenced in old texts being present in the city. Naturally, there are temples all over and much to see but make sure you start your sojourn at Rama ki Paidi. This place has a series of ghats on the bank of Sarayu river and you will see many people taking a dip here. On the river front is a newly constructed bridge that is a great point to see a mellow sunset. On the other end of the ghats are a series of temples dedicated to Lord Rama and Hanuman and simply walking along the ghats makes for a vibrant and cultural experience. If you are here in the evening, make sure to catch a magnificent sunset that swathes the place with an orange hue that makes for lovely photographs too. With many colourful doors and distinctive architecture this place is for everyone whether spiritually inclined or not.
Ayodhya is also home to many dharamshalas, ashrams and akhadas or resting places for sadhus, and you will find all kinds of holy men and spiritual seekers on the streets here. If you can brave the crowds, the Hanuman Garhi is a must see. There are 70 plus steps to reach the temple and this place is especially crowded on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The interiors are ornate complete with stucco figures, painted pillars and brackets and the temple has a statue of Anjani, Hanuman’s mother, with a child version of Hanuman seated on her lap. Another must see while you are here is the Kanak Bhawan Temple dedicated to Lord Rama and Goddess Sita. A short flight of stairs that leads you to a decorated entrance, which opens to a massive courtyard with monochrome tiles, this temple is built on the lines of a palace. Our guide mentioned that this temple was gifted to Goddess Sita by Queen Kaikayi, Lord Rama’s stepmother when Sita came to Ayodhya after she married Lord Rama. This temple was built by the royal house of Orchha and Tikamgarh during the late 19th century.
The main sanctum area has a high ceiling and arched doorways and has three sets of idols of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita. The idols are adorned with gold ornaments, giving the temple its name as ‘kanak’ meaning gold. A visit to Mani Parvata 65 feet hillock is well-known for the fact that some parts of the Sanjivni Booti fell off here while Lord Hanuman was carrying the huge mountain to Lanka. Before leaving Ayodhya, stop at the Tulsi Smarak Bhawan, a museum that houses some rare paintings, photographs, antiquities and ivory articles linked to Lord Rama’s life. While here, don’t miss the famous food Bedhai. The crispy, deep-fried wheat chapattis, with spicy curry based potato sabzi is favourite among locals as a breakfast snack. If you are looking for some street food, chaat is a great choice. Famous all over Uttar Pradesh, it consists of an enormous variety of flavours, with various toppings and masala. The samosa chaat, aloo tikki chaat, matar chaat are the most known among the wide variety. For me, however, beyond all its sights it was the fact that the faith of the people and the absolute irrevocable trust in their eyes is something that will remain etched in my memory.
Words: Bindu Gopal Rao