The History of Ayodhya
Ayodhya, an ancient city in India, holds immense significance for Hindus as it is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. For centuries, the dispute over the land where the Ram Mandir (Ram Temple) is located has been a source of tension between Hindus and Muslims.
The controversy dates back to the 16th century when the Babri Masjid was constructed on the site. This led to decades of disputes and conflicts over the ownership of the land. The issue gained prominence in the 19th century with the arrival of the British, who conducted surveys and reports to determine the rightful owner of the land.
Ayodhya is an ancient city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, situated on the banks of the Sarayu River. It is considered one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus, as it is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana. Ayodhya has a long and complex history, involving various religious traditions, political dynasties, and legal disputes. Here are some key points about the history of Ayodhya:
- Ayodhya was historically known as Saketa and was the capital of the kingdom of Kosala. It was also visited by Gautama Buddha and Mahavira, the founders of Buddhism and Jainism respectively. Jain texts also claim that Ayodhya was the birthplace of five Tirthankaras, or spiritual teachers
- Ayodhya became associated with the legend of Rama, who was said to be a descendant of the Ikshvaku kings of Kosala. The Ramayana, composed by the sage Valmiki, narrates the life and deeds of Rama, his wife Sita, his brother Lakshmana, and his loyal devotee Hanuman. The Ramayana also describes the construction of a grand temple for Rama in Ayodhya by his son Kusha
- Ayodhya was part of various empires and kingdoms, such as the Mauryan, Gupta, Kanauj, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal, Awadh, and British. During the medieval period, Ayodhya was also known as Awadh or Oudh and was a prosperous and culturally rich region. Several temples, mosques, monasteries, and monuments were built in Ayodhya by different rulers and communities
- Ayodhya became the center of a controversial dispute over the ownership of a site, where a 16th-century mosque called Babri Masjid stood. Hindus claimed that the mosque was built by demolishing a temple that marked the exact spot of Rama’s birth. Muslims argued that they had the right to worship at the mosque, which was built by the Mughal emperor Babur or his general Mir Baqi
- The dispute escalated in the late 20th century when Hindu groups launched a campaign to reclaim the site and build a new temple for Rama. In 1992, a large mob of Hindu activists demolished the Babri Masjid, sparking communal riots and violence across India. The matter was taken to the courts, and several attempts were made to resolve the issue through negotiations, mediation, and arbitration
- In 2019, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgment, ruling that the disputed land belonged to the government, and ordered it to be handed over to a trust to build a Hindu temple. The court also ordered the government to give an alternative plot of land to the Muslim community to build a mosque. The verdict was welcomed by both sides as a fair and peaceful solution and paved the way for the construction of the Ram Mandir, or Rama’s temple, in Ayodhya
The British Surveys and Reports
In 1760, European geographer Joseph Tiefenthaler visited Ayodhya and wrote a report mentioning the presence of a Ram Chabutra (a platform dedicated to Lord Ram) near the mosque. Another surveyor, Montgomery Martin, reported in 1838 that there were remnants of pillars of an ancient Hindu structure. These reports further fueled the controversy.
In 1853, a civil servant named Charles A. Elliott noted that both Hindus and Muslims claimed ownership of the land. The dispute intensified in 1855 when the Muslim community sought permission to pray inside the mosque, while Hindus demanded access to perform puja (worship) on the Ram Chabutra. The British authorities decided to build a wall between the mosque and the Chabutra to prevent any clashes.
The Ram Chabutra and the Birth of the Movement
The year 1949 marked a turning point in the Ayodhya dispute. It was during this time that the idols of Lord Ram mysteriously appeared inside the mosque. This event led to heated debates and legal battles between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The government took control of the disputed site and locked the mosque.
The issue gained even more significance in the 1980s when Lal Krishna Advani, a prominent leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led a rath yatra (chariot journey) across the country to garner support for the construction of the Ram Mandir. The yatra ignited communal tensions and further polarized the nation.
The Babri Masjid Demolition
In 1986, the Rajiv Gandhi-led government passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, which was met with resistance from Muslim leaders. This led to the formation of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, which aimed to protect the rights of Muslims and preserve the mosque.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished by a large mob of Hindu activists. The incident sparked widespread violence and riots across the country, leading to the loss of numerous lives. The demolition of the mosque further complicated the already contentious issue.
The Legal Battle and Mediation Efforts
The Supreme Court of India took up the Ayodhya case in an attempt to find a resolution to the long-standing dispute. Mediation panels were formed, and various hearings were conducted to listen to the arguments of all parties involved.
In November 2019, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict, granting the disputed land to the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust. The court also instructed the government to provide an alternate plot of land to the Sunni Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque.
The Construction of the Ram Mandir
Following the court’s decision, the construction of the Ram Mandir began in Ayodhya. The groundbreaking ceremony took place in August 2020, and the temple is expected to be completed in the coming years.
The construction of the Ram Mandir marks the culmination of decades of struggle and conflict. It is seen as a significant moment in the history of Ayodhya and a symbol of Hindu pride and devotion to Lord Ram.
The Ayodhya dispute has been a contentious issue in India for centuries, with deep-rooted religious and cultural sentiments attached to it. The journey from the construction of the Babri Masjid to the eventual construction of the Ram Mandir has been marred by violence, legal battles, and political tensions.
The resolution of the Ayodhya dispute through the Supreme Court’s verdict and the subsequent construction of the Ram Mandir is seen as a step towards healing and reconciliation. However, the issue continues to be a sensitive topic, and its impact on communal harmony and national unity cannot be overlooked.