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Sri Ayodhya Dharma Yatra – The Abode of Lord Ramacandra

Sri Ayodhya Dharma Yatra

The Abode of Lord Ramacandra

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
temple. 

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
.

 Entrance of Hanuman Garhi Temple

Vibrant and imposing exterior of Sri Hanuman Garhi Temple

Lord Rama’s name is inscribed on every wall of the
temple.
   

Hanuman Garhi Temple

 

Sri Hanuman Ji

 

Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshmana at Hanuman Garhi Temple

 

Continuous Sri Rama Kirtan by the devotees – Jai Ram
Sri Ram Jai Jai Ram

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.

In
front of Sri Kale Ram Ji, there is a unique murti of Hanuman Ji, which
is also carved from a single Saligrama sila. Sri Kale Ram Mandir is located
just behind Sri Nageshwarnath temple on the banks of Saryu river, and is
approachable by taking a small lane on the right-side of main door of
Nageshwarnath temple.

 

 

Way to Sri Kala Ram Ji Temple

 

Sri Kala Ram Ji

 

Hanuman Ji

3. Dasaratha Mahal

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.
This
place is also known as Bada Asthan or Badi Jagah. Dasaratha Mahal is a short
walk from Hanuman Garhi. Opening timings are from 8 am to 12 noon and 4 pm to
10 pm every day.

 

Entrance of Shri Chakravarti Maharaj Dashratha Mahal

 

Main altar at Dasaratha Mahal

At the centre are deities of Maharaja Dasaratha with
his kith and kin

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