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This book version of the exhibition was published on the 20th anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Masjid. 6 December 2012


HUM SAB AYODHYA 1 Hum Sab Ayodhya


Published by Sahmat in association with the Aligarh Historians Society 2012 ISBN: 978-93-80536-30-9 Rs. : 1000/Design: Ram Rahman Printing: Ishtihaar SAHMAT 29 Ferozshah Road, New Delhi 110001 Tel 2338 1276, 2307 0787 E mail:


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6 December 1992, ever etched in our memory as the day of national shame, is now two decades away. The destruction of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, by a mob gathered from all corners of the country, with the intent proclaimed from house-tops, raised basic questions about the strength of our secular fabric and our commitment to the rule of law. As time passes, with not a single perpetrator of that deed yet brought to justice, the two questions remain as valid as they were in the immediate aftermath of that deed. SAHMAT was one of those organisations in the country which believed that the Indian people needed to be told the truth and for this purpose sought to invoke the rich legacy of our common culture and interwoven life in order to counter the frenzied propaganda of religious separatism. One means of doing this was to bring out through an exhibition of photographs, paintings, drawings, and reproductions of texts, how Ayodhya itself has had a rich and complex past, presenting in a microcosm what our country has been like: Hum sub Ayodhya, “We are all Ayodhya”, was therefore the title given to the exhibition. This was done within months of the outrage. Among other sites, it was set up in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi — from where it was forcibly removed by the police on the orders of the Lt. Governor of Delhi, after the Speaker of the Lok Sabha had made critical observations on the exhibition. Undaunted, the exhibition toured throughout India in the year 1993 and later. This book version is being published on the twentieth anniversary of the demolition. The illustrations from the exhibition contained in this volume take the reader to the various aspects of life and change in Ayodhya down the centuries. Ayodhya’s ancient significance in geography as the site of the Sarayu-Ghaghara confluence is now lost as the Sarayu has changed its course. Names too have changed: the river that flows by Ayodhya was called Ganga by the Buddhists, who seemingly held this to be the main course of the holy river. Historians debate whether Saketa and Ayojjha (Ayodhya) were the names of the same place. Long before the Rama story developed, there were Buddhist monasteries here, and also Jain images worshipped. The Rama story appears in a

Buddhist Jataka different from the version in the Valmiki’s Ramayana and its great retelling by Tulsidas. In the latter two texts the hero becomes the avatar of Vishnu and a king setting standards of equity and justice — according to the lights of the times. But Lord Shiva too had a place in Ayodhya as its presiding deity, as is shown by two Gahadavala inscriptions. When the Muslims arrived, Ayodhya, called Awadh or Awadhpuri in popular speech of the day, became the capital of a large province. Mosque domes arose among the shikharas of temples and Muslim derveshes lived cheek by jowl with Hindu purohits. In the 18th century the town’s name was transferred to the state of the Nawabs of Awadh who built the sister-city of Faizabad. The Revolt of 1857 came soon after the English annexation in 1856, and Ayodhya – Faizabad played a valiant role in the rebellion. Nearly seventy years later one of the martyrs of the National Movement, Ashfaqullah Khan, was hanged in Faizabad jail. Ayodhya-Faizabad has thus a rich repository of composite culture and united resistance. What happened on 6 December 1992 was a cruel denial of so much of its own past. In a 16th century historical work we are told of an Afghan army earlier in that century, which had gone out of Ayodhya on some local expedition. Upon its return, two groups awaited to welcome it at the gate of the city: Muslim theologians to offer them benediction and Hindu women holding pitchers of water for them. The Afghan soldiers first went to the women to quench their thirst, and then only turned to the theologians, to the latter’s great indignation. Those simple men, unencumbered with any ingrained prejudice, had only followed what realities of life demanded. In the last century there was a man, the Father of our Nation, who was a sincere votary of Rama, and to whom Ramraj was always a shining vision. Mahatma Gandhi thought Rama enjoined him to protect all Muslims, and he paid for it with his life. This was a sacrifice made at the highest level of faith. For both mundane reasons of our own welfare and for the higher cause of the spirit, both Ayodhya and the Rama story have a message which needs to be heard above the feverish din of propaganda. This is the object of the illustrations and texts that follow. SAHMAT Decmber 2012

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Manjit Bawa, Kaun Mara? (Who Died?), background painted by Paramjit Singh, December 10, 1992, acrylic on canvas, 70 x 60 inches.

Aaj koi naara na hoga, sirf desh bachaana hoga (There shall be no slogans today, our only task is to save the nation), poster, December 8, 1992, 36 x 11½ inches. Design: Parthiv Shah.

Painter Manjit Bawa (on the left) plays the dholak for the legendary Sindhi Sufi singer from Pakistan, Allan Faqir. Anhad Garje, Delhi, January 1, 1993.

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Ayodhya: What then are our invocations?, broadside, May 1993, 24 x 38 inches. Design: Ram Rahman. Texts: Charles Correa, Geeta Kapur, Madan Gopal Singh, and Ram Rahman, with contributions from Rajendra Prasad. Architectural drawings: Ravindra Bhan.

7 December 1992 Protest against demolition of Babri Masjid; delegation meets the President of India and submits memorandum 8 December 1992 Issue of 2,00,000 Aaj Koi Nara Na Hoga poster with poems by Kabir and Raidas. 11–12 December 1992 Protest against demolition of Babri Masjid, Safdar Hashmi Marg, New Delhi. Manjit Bawa makes painting on the left. 1993 1 January 1993 Anhad Garje, Delhi. An evening of Sufi–Bhakti music Participants included: Keshav Badge, Allan Fakir, Shubha Mudgal, Kankana Banerjee, Hafiz Khan, Naseeb Pyare, Jaffar Husain Khan, Shanti Hiranand, Bunger Khan, Eltaf Husain Sarahang, Bhai Dilbagh Singh, Gulbagh Singh Kartik Das Baul, Gopal Das Baul, Abdul Rab Fakir, Nitai Das, Randasi Baul, Fakirni, Gulam Husain Niyazi, Shobha Gurtu Posters by artists: Manu Parekh, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Manjit Bawa, Nalini Malani, Gopi Gajwani, Orijit Sen, Arpita Singh, Akbar Padamsee, Vivan Sundaram, Haku Shah 20 February 1993 Anhad Garje, Mumbai. Participating artists (in Mumbai, Gujarat and Lucknow: see below) included: Pt. Jasraj, Kishori Amonkar, C.R. Vyas, Shobha Gurtu, Eltaf Husain Sarahang, Shubha Mudgal, Sweta Jhaveri, Atul Desai, Kankana Banerji, Bungar Khan, Nasib Pyare, Keshav Badge, Warsi Brothers, Nasib Wali, Bhakto Das Baul, Neela Bhagwat, Bhadra Savai, Madangopal Singh, Hemant Chauhan, Shanti Hiranand, Jafar Husain Khan, Wadali Brothers. 24 February Anhad Garje, Surat 25 February Anhad Garje, Baroda 26 February Anhad Garje, Valod 27 February Anhad Garje, Ahmedabad 3 April Anhad Garje, Lucknow

12 April 1993 National Street Theatre Day Poster released May 1993 What Then Are Our Invocations ? Poster on Ayodhya circulated across India. 9–21 August 1993 Hum Sab Ayodhya: an exhibition meticulously documented with an assemblage of photographs, prints and architectural drawings, exploring the multi-faceted history, geography, culture and life of the people of Ayodhya, accompanied by cultural programmes; travels to 17 cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Bhopal, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jallandhar, Lucknow, Faizabad, Calcutta, Simla, Amritsar, Vadodara, Varanasi, Patna 12 August 1993 Hum Sab Ayodhya exhibition vandalized by the Bajrang Dal in Faizabad 13 August 1993 Muktnaad: Mushaira in Faizabad 15 August 1993 Muktnaad in Ayodhya. A unique, night-long performance of music and dance on the banks of the Sarayu, at the ‘Ram ki Pairi’ ghats. The participants and audience consisted of around 700 artists, cultural activists, academics and media persons from all over the country – from Delhi, Chandigarh, Simla, Calcutta, Patna, Trivandrum, Bangalore. By the very fact of its being held, Muktnaad posed a challenge to the forces of communalism who had sought to present Ayodhya, and the traditions associated with it, as their special preserve, and their seige of Ayodhya was broken. Street theatre groups from Patna and Lucknow performed all along the way to Ayodhya; they even managed a popular and well-received performance in Faizabad despite prohibitory orders. 21 August 1993 ‘Ram-Katha’ panel of Hum Sab Ayodhya exhibition confiscated from Teenmurti House, New Delhi; case filed by Sahmat to revoke confiscation order

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Hum Sab Ayodhya This exhibition, presented by SAHMAT, explores the multi-faceted life of the people of Ayodhya in the context of the geographical, historical, social and cultural evolution of the town. Like any other city in India, Ayodhya has a complex history, multiple religious associations, a variety of economic activities and a rich cultural tradition. Often called a ‘religious town’ due to its connection with several religions and religious sects, and their leaders – Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Guru Nanak, Chiragh-i-Delhi among others, its inhabitants have led an active material life, engaged in agriculture, petty commodity production and trade. Culturally, Ayodhya has been a symbol of the plural and composite traditions of India, and has inspired creativity in music, literature and theatre. Historically a flourishing town and capital of important kingdoms, it was politically active against the British colonial domination during the Revolt of 1857 as well as in the national liberation struggle. Hum Sab Ayodhya, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House, New Delhi, August, 1993

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The people of Ayodhya have not always lived in harmony, even if the town is named A-yodhya, a place of no conflict. The Hindu sects have fought each other. So have the Hindus and the Buddhists, the Muslims and the Hindus. Yet, like the inhabitants of any other city, the people of Ayodhya have lived together through the past into the present in reconciliation and collaboration, while pursuing their material and cultural activities. A glimpse of how they have lived and grown is what follows.

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Images in the Exhibition This exhibition presents a narrative of the site and city of Ayodhya with contemporary photographs, maps, and art historical examples of sculptures and paintings. The art historical references are in some instances directly from the region of Ayodhya and are marked as such. A large number of these images are crossreferenced to enable viewers to visualize the life of the people in that region through material evidence, historical parallels and imaginative correspondence. The life of the people includes everyday artisanal and trading activity, as well as reverential relationships to mythic and iconic images. The images in the exhibition should be seen as visual configurations that bring out the layered and diverse traditions emerging from material evidence of the Ayodhya region, as of all regions of India. They recall a composite civilization from ancient times to the present. The exhibition ends with the skyline of Ayodhya, gracefully crowned by roofs, domes and shikharas, sheltering a population whose selected portraits as inscribed in this historical account add up to the title: Hum Sab Ayodhya. 9 Hum Sab Ayodhya


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Ayodhya became a human settlement in the pre-urban period. The area occupied by the town gradually extended north and westwards as far as the banks of the river Sarayu during the Mauryan and post-Mauryan period. Today, Ayodhya is situated on elevated land. In any human habitation it is generally seen that material such as bricks, stones and wood of an earlier period are re-used in later times for construction purposes. This process still continues in Ayodhya; therefore, it is difficult to precisely date the period of construction of any building there. Since early times the people of Ayodhya and surrounding areas have lived in hutments made of mud walls and thatched roofs. They erected pillars to provide support to thatched roofs, to serve either as sheds for cattle or for other domestic purposes. Archaeological excavations in the area show that pillared shelters came into vogue as far back as the 10th and 11th centuries AD. Since then this kind of construction has remained with the ordinary people of the area.

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Ayodhya–Faizabad: The People and Their Life Ayodhya is situated on a mound and its elevation can be seen from the banks of the Sarayu river. The face of the mound, eroded by the Sarayu, clearly indicates different periods of history. Remnants of fortification walls can still be observed on the banks of the river. Terracotta ringwells and burnt-brick structures of the pre-Christian era or the Mauryan period can still be seen. English surveyors thought that the region had been inhabited in early times by tribal people called the Tharus. “The Tharus, from the nature of their work, seem to have held the country undisturbed for a long time, until a part of them were expelled by the Rajputs, who had adopted the rules of purity, part by military Brahmans, and part by an impure tribe named Bhar. The military Brahmans who were chiefly of the Domkatar tribe seem to have been at first the most successful in seizing on the territory of the Tharus. But after a time the Bhars in most places prevailed, and drove out the Domkatars. Afterwards the Bhars totally, and the military Brahmans in a great measure, were expelled by Rajputs of pure birth, many of whom have held their possessions very long, but in general dependent on other countries.” By the close of the 6th and beginning of the 5th century BC, Ayodhya emerged as a marketplace, as it lay at the junction of two important highways: the north– south connection leading from Sravasti in the north to Pratisthana (the modern Paithan on the Godavari river) in the south, and the east–west connection leading from Rajagaha through Varanasi to Sravasti. During the period of the Buddha and Mahavira, merchants came to assume significant positions. They gave financial support and granted gardens or parks to preachers. The big merchants evolved as middlemen. They bought wares from craftsmen and appropriated surpluses in the form of foodgrains from the peasants.

They were quite distinct from small-time traders and peddlers in terms of wealth. It is also probable that a more developed form of agriculture evolved during the period between the Mauryan and Gupta empires. Riverine activity developed, and boats started plying and carrying goods to Banydesh (Bengal). The articles of trade included slaves, commodities of everyday use, clarified butter, honey, beeswax, lac, pungent condiments, stones, etc. In spite of rules for regulating the market and strict vigilance by the state, dishonest dealings were prevalent. It was generally asserted that a merchant who was not a cheat, a goldsmith who was not a thief and a courtesan who was not greedy were difficult to find. Economic activity was intense in the early years, attested to by a large number of coins that have been found in Ayodhya. During the Gupta period banking seems to have come into vogue, linked to trading. The seths had their own businesses and were also moneylenders. The commonest of the coins attributed to Ayodhya may be compared with the Taxila pieces bearing a steelyard. Their date may be conjectured to be 3rd century BC. The remaining coins of Ayodhya are inscribed with the names of the rulers who issued them. Kumundasena was the only member of the dynasty to call himself raja; the others inscribed their coins with their names only. Their reigns cover approximately the first two centuries AD. The paucity of indigenous coinage suggests the shrinkage of trade and subsequent decline of crafts. The shortage of gold in the 4th century became acute by the middle of the 5th century AD. Except for a few gold coins of Hansa and Sasanka in the early 7th century, gold coins are not found for nearly 400 years, until the beginning of the 11th century. (John Allan, Catalogue of the Coins of Ancient India, 1936.)

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The influence of the Delhi Sultanate in the region led to the re-emergence of Ayodhya as an important garrison town and administrative city. The economic changes may be briefy summarised as follows: (a) Modification of the existing pattern of rural economy with the introduction of two new features: the iqta systern and a comprehensive land tax called kharaj. (b) Growth of urbanisation, characterised by the growth of new cities, expansion of old ones, development of market centres, and also a corresponding increase in craft and commerce. (c) Monetisation of the economy. The Delhi Sultanate apparently gave a new impetus to the economy of the region. “The Delhi Sultanate was at once Indian and Islamic. It was a secular state, incorporating certain features which were not reconcilable with the shariat. These features were consciously or unconsciously seen as essential for stable political power to remain in the hands of the Sultan and for maintaining peace and prosperity in a country which was extremely diverse in nature. … The administration was exclusively in the hands of secular authorities. The division between practical politics and religious ideals had become quite clear; the Sultans were perfectly willing to safeguard the ‘honour and ideal’ of Islam as long as this did not interfere with state policies. Their own personal religious beliefs notwithstanding, they ran the state as practical men of the world and not as religious zealots.” (Mehr A. Farooqi, The Economic Policy of the Sultans of Delhi)

The majority of the people in the region were engaged in agriculture. It appears that agricultural production in Avadh was immense and any fluctuation in prices of foodgrains immediately had its effect on the peasantry. During the period of Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq, efforts were made to improve agriculture because the state thought that an increased amount of revenue could be collected. It was during this time that the practice of state grants or loans called sondhars evolved. These were granted for introducing improvements in agriculture. It is evident that production of foodgrains in Avadh was large because when a famine visited the

Sultanate in c. 1337, the Sultan received huge supplies of grain from there to feed those who were faminestricken. During this period some karkhanas were operational in Avadh and trade also became extensive. These trends continued into the 16th and the 17th centuries. In and around Ayodhya, cloth- weaving grew as an industry. However, agriculture continued to be the main occupation of the people. The appointment of Suadat Khan as the Nawab augured a phase of prosperity. Along with agriculture, other kinds of production also increased. The weaving industry expanded and cloth was sent out to areas in Varanasi and Bengal. The practice of extracting glass from reh also became an important economic activity. Bangles and utensils were exported in large quantities from Faizabad. It was during this period that people from other parts of the country started settling in Ayodhya. Pilgrims started coming in large numbers and gradually the area gained an identity as a religious city. Several families that came and settled in and around the region have stories to tell of their origins. It was during the rule of the Nawabs that the numebr of Khanzadas (converted Rajputs) increased in number. In the 19th century trade and commerce expanded, and the Sarayu river was used extensively for transportation of goods. In the early years of the 20th century the production of cloth was limited mostly to the Tanda region. The trade in utensils also waned. There was an appreciable decline in the production of glass goods. By 1920 people had stopped making glass from reh. By 1921 there was an appreciable decline in the cultivation of indigo. Large areas of agricultural land started being used for growing sanwan. After 1921 the river was not used for purposes of trade. Boats were used only to ferry bhusa and other cattle fodder from Ayodhya–Faizabad to Barabanki and Gonda, and to carry people between the riverside cities of Bengal and Ayodhya–Faizabad.

Cowherds, detail of a folio of a Ramayana series, c. 1587-88 AD, Akbar’s reign.

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History of Ayodhya The site of Ayodhya was too forested for human habitation till the end of the 6th or the beginning of the 5th century BC. Representing a proto-urban phase, the early inhabitants of Ayodhya, who came from regions to the south and west, were a part of the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) Culture. Situated on the right bank of the river Ghagra, modern Ayodhya is popularly identified with the Ayodhya of the Ramayana. However, Saketa, mentioned in ancient literary sources including Buddhist writings, and Vishaka, Vinaya or Vinita, mentioned in Jaina texts, can also be identified with Ayodhya. Saketa was a flourishing town in the kingdom of Kosala because of its geographical position. It remained a commercial centre for a period of 300 years, from 485 to 200 BC. Saketa had been visited by the Buddha. Although the rule of Ashoka Maurya over Saketa is not well documented in literary texts, it is certain that as an ardent Buddhist, he would have built stupas and viharas. After 190 BC it was ruled by the Mitra dynasty who developed it into a military stronghold. Chandragupta I of Magadha, realising the strategic importance of Saketa and Prayag in the control of the area up to Kashi, expanded westwards. His successor Samudragupta consolidated the empire, and placed Saketa under the direct rule of Pataliputra. Skandagupta is believed to have shifted his capital from Pataliputra to Saketa. The Guptas laid the foundations for a renewal of brahminical institutions and learning during the 4th century AD, so that when the Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hien visited the city he hardly found anything of Buddhist interest. When another Chinese pilgrim, Hiuen Tsiang, visited the region during the reign of King Harsha of Kanauj (AD 636–640), it had become part of Kanauj and was probably administrated by a feudal vassal. From AD 650, Ayodhya remained in virtual obscurity till Mahmud of Ghazni attacked Kanauj in 1019. Following the withdrawal of the Turks, Ayodhya probably came under Rajput control. In 1198, Muhammad Ghouri attacked Ayodhya. The city remained unsettled until 1228, when Malik Nasirud-din Mahmud, son of the Delhi Sultan, managed to restore peace in the region and used Ayodhya as a base for northward expansion. Subsequently, garrisons were stationed in the town and construction of a fort began after 1279. This period was a prosperous one for Ayodhya and several nobles from Delhi came to settle

in Avadh. Avadh became part of the Sharqi kingdom of Jaunpur towards the end of the 14th century. Recovered by Bahloi Lodi, it was lost to the Mughals led by Babur, until their defeat by Sher Shah and his Afghans. Under Akbar, Ayodhya once again came under Mughal rule. Akbar’s reign saw heightened religious activity in northern India. During the reign of Jahangir and Shahjahan, Ayodhya gained significance as a place sacred to the Hindus. With the death of Aurangazeb, anarchy and civil war prevailed in Avadh. Fierce battles were fought between the Vaishnava Bairagis and Shaivite Sanyasins over possession of religious places in Ayodhya. It was only after 1722, with the appointment of Mir Muhammad Amin as governor, that affairs in Avadh started settling down. In 1731, Mir Muhammad Amin took the title of Nawab Sadat Khan and was appointed as the Subahdar of Avadh. He was succeeded by Safdar Jang who shifted the capital to Faizabad. In 1756 Shuja-ud Daula became the Nawab. In 1775 his son Asaf-ud Daula shifted the capital to Lucknow. On 13 February 1856, Avadh was annexed to the British East India Company. 14 Hum Sab Ayodhya

Left: Woodcutters, Mughal, detail of a folio of a Ramayana series; c. 1587-88 AD, Akbar’s reign. These are details taken from a set of Ramayana paintings which were commissioned by Abd-ar-Rahim Khan Khanan, a noble in Akbar’s court and are reflective of the tastes and enthusiasms of the emperor. The distinctive aspect of this Ramayana set, now in the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., is its compositional and expressive simplicity. Above: People in the city of Ayodhya, detail of a folio of a Ramayana series, c.1587-88 AD, Akbar’s reign.

Ayodhya: Population In 1869 the total population of Ayodhya was 7,518 – 4,999 Hindus and 2,519 Muslims. The Hindus comprised 2,075 Shaivites, 2,222 Vaishnavites, 100 Nanakashi, 10 Aghoris and 592 ‘others’. The Muslims were divided among 1,630 Shias and 889 Sunnis. In the subsequent decades, as Ayodhya emerged as an important pilgrimage centre, a large number of people came here to stay in the maths and akharas. In 1925 the population of Ayodhya in terms of local residents remained constant, at around 7,500. However, due to the inflow of pilgrims the Census recorded an increase in population. Year Total Hindus Muslims 1891 23,959 20,155 3,155 1901 26,728 25,361 1,342 1921 23,735 21 ,046 2,672 1941 33,985 32,654 1,020

In 1941, apart from Hindus and Muslims, the population of Ayodhya consisted of 34 Christians, 15 Sikhs, 140 Jains and 1 Arya. Among the Hindus, unlike in other places in the Avadh region, the higher castes were dominant. The Hindu population of 32,654 in that year comprised 4,718 low-caste persons as against 27,936 high-caste persons. The people of Ayodhya were engaged in different occupations. In 1891, 6,251 were engaged in agriculture (mainly Ahirs); 3,489 in banking; 630 were professionals; 2,316 were artisans, 2,530 were menials; 4,023 were labourers; and 4,714 were engaged in ‘other’ occupations. 15 Hum Sab Ayodhya


References to Ayodhya in Literature and Other Writings In the Samyutta, we are told that the Buddha dwelt in Ayojjha on the banks of the Ganga. During the Buddhist period, Ayojjha on the banks of the Saryu was the capital of Dakshina Kosala, while that of Uttara Kosala was Sravasti on the Tapti. Ayojjha represents the Sanskrit Ayodhya of the Ramayana and the A-yu-te of Yuan Chwang (Hieun Tsiang) who places it 600 li to the southeast of the neighbourhood of Navadevakula city, identified as Newal in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya is one of the seven holy places of the Hindus, and is otherwise known as Ayojjha or Ayudhya. It has been the birthplace of the first and the fourth Jaina Tirthankaras. Fa-Hien called it Sha-Che, and according to Ptolemy it was known as Sogeda. Described as a village in Brahmana literature, it has been referred to as a city in the Bhagavatha Purana. It has also been called Vinita, Saketa, Iksvakubhumi, Ramapuri and Kosala. According to the Skanda Purana, Ayodhya resembles a fish in appearance. It is one yojana in extent in the east, one yojana in the west, one yojana from the Saryu in the south and one yojana from the Tamsa in the north. (From B.C. Law, Historical Geography of Ancient India, Paris, 1954.)

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Ayodhya as a Centre of Piligrimage The late growth of the tradition of Ram Bhakti is supported by the late evolution of Ayodhya as an important centre of Hindu pilgrimage. “Hindu revival in Ayodhya is one of the most remarkable things in modern times. In Buddhist times the place had no particular sanctity, although there were doubtless temples and shrines. Long afterwards, during many centuries, Ganga, Benaras, Puri and Mathura kept their reputation, while Ayodhya became a wilderness and a famous hunting ground.” (Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, 1877)

Several treatises compiled on tirtha yatras (pilgrimages) support the view that Ayodhya developed late as a place of pilgrimage. The Vividha-Tirthakalpa, a Jaina text compiled in the 8th century, mentions Ayodhya as the place where the Jaina Tirthankaras lived. Lakshmidhara’s 12th-century text, TirthaVivecanakanda, indicated the benefits of visiting the tirthas mentioned in the Hindu epics and puranic literature. He compiled his work in c. AD 1125. He lists the pilgrimages as Kashi, Prayag, the Ganga and Gaya. Although Ayodhya is mentioned as one of the several secondary places of worship, it is not associated with Rama. Goparataru, associated with Vishnu, is marked as sacred. Vacaspati Mishra compiled the Tirtha-Cintamani in 1420 and the chief places of Hindu worship mentioned by him included Gaya, Purshottama (Puri), Prayag, Kashi and the river Ganga. He also referred to the Adhyatma Ramayana and pointed out that bathing in the river Saryu washed away one’s sins. He did not refer to Ayodhya as a punyasthan for its association with Rama. It is extremely surprising that a religious treatise almost contemporaneous with Tulsidas’ Ramcharitamanas does not refer either to Rama or Ayodhya. The TodarNandam, compiled in c. 1585, neither refers to Rama nor to Ayodhya. Todar Mal is said to have met Tulsidas in Kashi and also as having had the Kashi Vishwanath temple repaired. It was in the seventeenth century that Ayodhya began to be mentioned in the treatises on tirthasthans as a place of pilgrimage for Hindus.

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Hiuen Tsiang arrives back in China. Silk scroll, Dunhuang, China. Hiuen Tsiang arrives back in China after his journey to India, laden with 75 precious scripts. The horses are led into the temple followed by men bearing gifts. The road is lined by priests and officials, while at the sides people prostrate themselves in reverence.

Fa-Hien’s Account of Ayodhya “Going on from this to the south-east for three yojanas, they came to the great kingdom of Sha-che. As you go out of the city of Sha-che by the southern gate, on the east of the road [is the place] where Buddha, after he had chewed his willow branch, stuck it in the ground, when it forthwith grew up seven cubits [at which height it remained], neither increasing nor diminishing. The Brahmanas with their contrary doctrines became angry and jealous. Sometimes they cut the tree down, sometimes they plucked it up and cast it to a distance, but it grew again on the same spot as at first. Here also is the place where the four Buddhas walked and sat, and at which a tope was built that is still existing.” “The Ayudha country, the Records proceed to tell us, was above 5000 Li in circuit, and the capital was about 20 Li in circuit. The country yielded good crops, was luxuriant in fruit and flower, and had a genial climate. The people had agreeable ways, were fond of good works, and devoted to practical learning. There were above 100 Buddhist monasteries, and more than 3000

Brethren who were students of both ‘Vehicles’. There were ten Deva Temples, and the non-Buddhists were few in number. Within the capital was the old monastery in which Vasubandhu Pusa, in the course of some scores of years, composed various Mahayana and Hinayana sastras. Beside this monastery were the remains of the Hall in which Vasubandhu had expounded Buddhism to princes, illustrious monks and brahmins from other countries. Four–five Li north from the capital, was a large Buddhist monastery, with an Asoka tope to mark a place at which the Buddha had preached to Devas and men for three months on the excellent doctrines of his religion. Four or five Li west from this monastery was a Buddha-relic tope, and to the north of the tope were the remains of an old monastery. Here Sik-li-lo-to [restored by Julien as Srilabdha], a master of the Sautrantika School, composed a vibbasi-sastra.” The Travels of Fa-hien: Fa-Hien’s Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, translated by James Legge, Delhi, 1971

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Hiuen Tsiang makes his way across mountains and rivers carrying scrolls, a fly-whisk and a khakkhara (ringed staff), the attributes of a monk. Tun Huang, China. When the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsiang visited Ayodhya in the 7th century AD, it had become an important religious centre under the reign of the Guptas. He found 1,000 monasteries and 3,000 monks studying the books of both the ‘Great’ (Mahayana) and the ‘Little’ (Hinayana) Vehicles of Buddhism at Ayodhya. There was also a reinvigoration of the brahmanical tradition at this time.

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Amir Khusrau on Ayodhya Ode to Avadh (Ayodhya) by India’s greatest Persian poet Amir Khusrau, on his visit to the town, AD 1278 “A town, it is; but what a town, a garden. The heart of the meanest is calm’d here. The land under it appears to take on ornaments. Its village is like the (light-seeking and self-burning) moth and its environs (sheer) music. The sources of happiness are here unnumber’d. The petals, the flowers, the wine, measureless. A hundred fruit bear names in Hindawi: That sweeten the lip and also the tongue. All people here wish to please the hearts of others; Good-natured, pleasant of demeanour and of excellent manners, are they. From their trade and commerce and craft, They all live in content, whether rich or poor.” Firaqnama, in Suleymania Library, Istanbul, Turkey, Mss. No. 39 2, reported by Amir Hasan Abidi in Life, Times and Works of Amir Khusrau.

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A Fourteenth-Century Sufi’s Reminiscences of Avadh (Ayodhya) Shaikh Nasiruddin Mahmud Chiragh-i-Delhi was a native of Avadh (Ayodhya), and in his conversations recorded by Hamid Qalandar in or about 1356, there are some reminiscences of that city. A Merchant of Ayodhya “There was a merchant in Avadh, whom people used to call Khwaja Khujandi. He had memorised the Quran. In the ‘circle’ of the Friday Mosque (Masjif-i- Jum’a) I and he used to sit down together. He used to take cloth of pat fabric to Delhi and sell it. He had much wealth. People asked him, ‘You have so much wealth, yet you buy inferior cloth (to sell); if you buy fine cloth, much profit would ensue.’ He replied: ‘I buy inferior cloth, because this is for the clothing of the poor and the derveshes. The fine cloth is for the Turks and soldiers (so I do not deal in it).’ Once Khwaja Khujandi was walking about in the bazaar (of Avadh). He saw a man displaying a letter and crying out, ‘Where is the house of Khwaja Khujandi?’ Khwaja Khujandi went forward and said, ‘Here I am.’ The man said, ‘Had you lost a slave?’ He said, ‘Yes: he has taken away much money in tankas with him.’ The man told him, ‘The Kotwal of Karrah has arrested him and detained him in front of the town gate. The slave was in an ale-house. Someone found out who he really was and took him to the Kotwal. The Kotwal made enquiries. The slave said, “I am the slave of Khwaja Khujandi. The Khwaja has gone to the City of Delhi. Now he must have returned to Avadh. Send him a letter at Avadh.” The man said this and gave him the letter. It was written there that he should bring witnesses and recover his slave and money, of which seven tankas had been spent.

Surendran Nair, Khwaja Khujandi, 1993, charcoal on paper, 11 X 9 inches.

“The Shaikh further said: We used to sit together in the circle of the Friday Mosque. His custom was that when he came from his house, under one sleeve he had a small jar, and under the other rape-seed and sugar. If he came across a beggar, he gave him something out of the jar, while he put sugar and rapeseed over graves and into ant-holes. He also said: He used often to slap his face with his right hand and say: ‘Be a Muslim’, and then with his left hand, saying ‘Don’t be a Muslim!’ ”

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Graves and Groves “The Shaikh recalled that there were then in Avadh many scented graves and excellent mango-groves. Now the groves and mango-groves no longer exist.”

Alex Mathew Graves and Groves, 1993, charcoal on paper, 7 x 10 inches.

Architectural view, detail of a folio of a Ramayana series, c. 1587-88 AD, Akbar’s reign.

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TRAVELLERS’ ACCOUNTS OF AYODHYA A Mad Man “He related that there was a mad man (diwana) in the town of Avadh. A theologian Maulana Kamaluddin was an eminent religious divine. He saw in a dream that the mad man was narrating the Prophet’s praise from the sermon-stand, and angels were present listen to him. When it was day he went to the bazaar. He saw the mad man sitting at the shop of a cooked-lamb seller (barrapuz). As the cooked-lamb seller put the meat in the cauldron, he pulled it out, hot as it was, from the cauldron and ate it. When the Maulana saw him, he said in wonderment: ‘What does he do at night, and what in daytime!?’ ” Meeting the Sultan’s Minister “The Shaikh recalled that Qazi Hamiduddin, the Chief Merchant (Maliku’t Tujjar) and Alauddin Khilji’s minister for religious affairs and land-grants, came about that time (Alauddin Khalji’s reign, 1296–1316) to Avadh. He held a reception and invited me (among others). When most people had left, some of us remained sitting together with him. The minister narrated how he saw Sultan Alauddin sitting in a small place, head bowed.” Nasiruddin Mahmud in Avadh “Shaikh Nasiruddin Mahmud was born in the town of Avadh.His father died when he was nine, and he was brought up by his mother. … He was forty-two years old when he left Avadh for the capital city of Delhi, where he sought and obtained the discipleship of Shaikh Nizamuddin Muhammad Badauni. At that time his mother lived in the town of Avadh. Shaikh Nasiruddin returned to Avadh to be in attendance upon her. After her death, he stayed a few months in the town of Avadh by way of mourning. His mother’s grave is behind the idgah.”

Gulammohammed Sheikh, Dreams and Dreaming, 1993, watercolor on paper, 11 x 9 inches.

From Hamid Qalandar’s biography of the saint at the end of his record of conversations, Khairul Majalis, edited by K.A. Nizami, Aligarh, 1959.

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Bhupen Khakhar, Untitled, 1993, ink on paper, 11½ x 8½ inches.

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Ayodhya under Akbar “Avadh is one of the great cities of India, longitude 118° 6’, latitude 27° 22’. In olden times it was so extensive as to be 148 kurohs (1 kuroh = 2.25 miles) in length and 36 in width, all inhabited. It is one of the select pilgrim-centres of India. Near the city gold is obtained by sifting sand. They say that this was the palace of Raja Ramchand. He combined spiritual with worldly sovereignty. A kuroh from the city the Ghaggar river meets the Saru (Sarayu) and the combined river flows under the old fort. Near the city they have constructed two large graves, six or seven yards long, claiming them to be of the Prophets Seth (Shish) and Job (Ayyub), and telling many mythical tales about them.” Description in the A’in-i-Akbari of Abu’l Fazl, 1595. Directly translated from the original text.

Rama and Sita on a silver coin, c. AD 1600, Akbar’s reign. 26 Hum Sab Ayodhya

Babur crossing the river Son over a bridge of boats. A folio of the Babur Nama, Akbar’s reign. In the Babur Nama of the National Museum, New Delhi, the artist Jaganath depicts a scene from 1529 when Babur travelled through Bihar and crossed the river Son. Here, Babur is seen sitting on the platform of the boat named Gunjaish. His favourite boats were named Asaish, Araish, Farmaish, etc. The Babur Nama, or the autobiography of Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, was written down in Turki between 1528 and 1530. It was preserved in the royal library by Babur’s descendants, each of whom contributed annotations, translations and illustrations to the original manuscript. The illustrated Babur Namas, in several manuscripts, were completed between 1595 and 1605 under the patronage of Akbar, and are based on a Persian translation of the text. Depicting themes as varied as episodes from Babur’s personal life, battle scenes, the fauna and flora of the land, the dresses and lifestyles of the period, these are a rich source of the history of the period. 27 Hum Sab Ayodhya


Squirrels, a peacock and a peahen, sarus cranes and fish, ascribed to the artist Bhawani. A folio of the Babur Nama, Akbar’s reign. Babur starts his account of the birds of India with the peacock. “The peacock is a beautifully coloured and splendid bird. On the head of both cock and hen are 20 or 30 feathers rising some 2 or 3 inches high. The hen has neither colour nor beauty. The cock has an iridescent collar (tauq susani); its neck is of a beautiful blue; below the neck its back is painted in yellow, parrot-green, blue and violet colours. The flowers on its back are much the smaller; below the back as the tail-tips are large flowers painted in the same colours. The tails of some peacocks go to the length of a man’s extended arms. It has a small red tail under its flowered feathers, like the tail of other birds. Its flight is feebler than the peahen’s. It cannot do more than one or two short flights. Hindustanis call the peacock mor.”

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Washerman of Ayodhya, A folio of the Razmnama, Akbar’s reign. This painting illustrates the episode of the washerman of Ayodhya refusing to take his wife back while Rama’s spy listens. The Razmnama, an abridged translation of the Mahabharata, was commissioned by Akbar and the manuscript was illustrated for his own library. The manuscript is now in the British Museum library, London.

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FROM AYODHYA The Mani Parbat, Ayodhya, photographed AD 1870. Cunningham’s report for the Archaeological Survey of India suggests that the Mani Parbat may have been the site of a stupa built by Ashoka. This would correspond with Hieun Tsiang’s mention of a Great Sangharama (monastery), built by Ashoka northwest of the city of Ayodhya. Traces of Gupta temples, both Buddhist and brahmanical might also be found at the site.

FROM AYODHYA The Kubertila or Navaratna, Ayodhya. It has been suggested that the mound called Kubertila may contain traces of temples built during the Gupta period. Ayodhya revived politically with the later Guptas who, along with the promotion of brahmanical institutions and the Rama legend, also patronised and built Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Sermon in the deer park at Sarnath, 1st–4th century AD, Gandhara School. The Pali canon of the Buddhists mentions Ayodhya as Saketa where the Buddha held religious gatherings in its parks. Buddhism had a continuous presence in Ayodhya from 600 BC to 1000 AD.

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A Sermon of the Buddha at Ayojjhya Phena Sutta: The Foam On a certain occasion the Exalted One was staying at Ayojjhya on the bank of the river Ganges. Then the Exalted One thus addressed the brethren:

Like to a ball of foam this body is: Like to a bubble blown the feelings are: Like to a mirage unsubstantial Perception: pithless as a plantain trunk The activities: a phantom, consciousness. Thus hath declared the Kinsman of the Sun However one doth contemplate (this mass) And thoroughly investigate its form, To him, so seeing, empty, void it is. Beginning with this body first of all: By his rich subtle wisdom it is shown. ’Reft of three things, life, heat and consciousness, Behold it thrown aside. When ’tis cast off, Discarded there it lies, a senseless thing, Mere food for others. Such its lineage. A babbling fantasy, a murderer: Such is its name. No essence here is seen. Thus should a brother with an eager will, Regard this mass. Mindful and self-possessed By day, yea, day and night, let him cast off All fetters, make a refuge of himself, And act as if his head were all ablaze, Aspiring for the state that changeth not.

Head of the Buddha. Ist-3rd century AD, Gandhara School, Hadda, Central Asia. Part of a life size figure, the head and face of the Buddha at Gandhara was conceived in realistic as well as spiritual termsthe compassion of his quest on behalf of humanity softening the remoteness that he attained in Nirvana.

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Head of Tirthankara Rishabhanatha, Akota.

Tirthankara Rishabhanatha, Chausa. If Saketa is identified with Vineya (Vinata) of Jaina mythology, it could be the birthplace of the first Tirthankara Rishabha as well as several other Jaina mythological figures. Associating their descent with the prestigious line of Ikshavakus made it easier for the Jainas to appropriate the story of Rama and produce their own versions of the epic. According to the Paumacariyam of Vimalasuri, Saketa had a Jaina monastery and a temple with an image of the twentieth Tirthankara.

Tirthankara Rishabhanatha, Mayurbhanj.

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The first and last Jaina Tirthankaras: Rishabhanatha and Mahavira, 11th century AD, Eastern Ganga period, Orissa. The Tirthankaras are portrayed as young naked ascetics with crowns and ornaments standing stiffly with a fixed, inward-looking gaze, diamond-like shrivatsa symbol on the chest, and umbrellas over their heads showing the heavenly abode of the naked saviour.

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Ayodhya is pre-eminently a city of temples, but not all its places of worship are connected with the Hindu religion. Till the close of the 19th century, besides several Hindu temples, there were six Jaina temples, Islamic mosques and tombs in the city. Remnants of Buddhism, Jainism, Brahminism–Hinduism and Islam can still be found in Ayodhya. It is certain that several religions grew and prospered in this city at different or simultaneous periods of time in the past. The oldest religious tradition at Saketa (Ayodhya) seems to have been the worship of tribal images. Uttarakuru, where Mahavira preached, had a shrine of Yaksha Pasamiya. Saketa is also said to have a shrine dedicated to a snake deity. Some images were found submerged in the bed of the nallah (river-outlet) in the 1860s. Pandits claimed that they were images of Jagannath, but a learned Brahman said that the images were of the gods of the Bhars who overthrew the Brahmans. Unidentified images are still to be found in the Kale Ram temple situated near Swaragadwar. During the rule of the Mauryas, Buddhism and Jainism prospered in Ayodhya. “The only remains at Ayodhya that appear to be of any antiquity are three earthen mounds to the south of the city, and a quarter of a mile distant. These are called Mani-Parbat, Kuber-Parbat, and Sugrib-Parbat. The mounds are surrounded by Musalman tombs, and as it is the Muhammadan practice to bury the dead along the sides of the highroads close to their cities, I infer that the road which now runs close to the west of the mounds, is one of the ancient highways of the district.”

FROM AYODHYA Excavated trench, Ramkot. Excavations conducted by B.B. Lal, former Director-General of Archaeological Survey of India, Ayodhya, 1975–76.

(A.E. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India, 1862)

Fa-Hien, who visited Saketa around AD 400, found the Buddhist monuments in ruins. It appears that during the reign of the Guptas the influence of Buddhism started declining. However, from Paramartha’s Life of Vasubandhu, it may be inferred that Skandagupta Vikramaditya was a patron of Vasubandhu, the famous Buddhist teacher, and the successor of Skandagupta, Narasimha Baladitya, was also a patron of Buddhism. During excavations at Ramkot, Professor B.B. Lal found a terracotta image showing a Jaina ascetic (opposite). Ascribed to the 4th century AD, it is the oldest image to be found in Ayodhya. The region figures prominently in the Jaina Ramayanas and is associated with the Tirthankaras. Ayodhya, called Ikhagabhuma (Ikshvakubhumi) in Jaina writings, is believed to have been the birthplace of the first Tirthankara, Rishabha, as well as of other Jaina mythological figures. Several Jaina Tirthankaras and Chakravarti rulers are connected with the line of Ikshvakus.

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An early terracotta Jaina figure excavated at Ayodhya. Ascribed to the 4th century AD. 35 Hum Sab Ayodhya


The period 400 to 200 AD also saw the rise of the Brahmanical order. This period brought to the fore the Rama legend. The story of Rama was directly lifted from the Buddhists. (A.B. Keith, A History of Sanskrit Literature, 1924)

Gautama Buddha claims in one of the works that he was Rama in the previous birth. In the Anamak Jataka, Rama is referred to as Bodhisattva. Vimalasuri’s Paumacharayam depicts the characters of the RamaKatha as creations of the Jaina tradition. The tradition of Ram Bhakti and Ayodhya as the Ramayana city seems to have grown gradually after AD 1200. Ram Bhakti apparently grew in significance after the emergence of Swami Ramananda in Benaras. Before Swami Ramananda the Ramanuja sect was very popular in north India and at that time Lakshminarayan was the chief deity. It was during the lifetime of Ramananda that the other incarnations of Vishnu, including Rama, Krishna, Narasimha and several others became popular. However, no fixed rituals had been evolved for the worship of these incarnations.

FROM AYODHYA Umamaheswara, c. AD 1000, Bilvahari temple, Pura Bazar, Ayodhya. A number of Shaiva images of early medieval times may be seen at the various temples of Ayodhya. The Bilvahari temple has a broken stone sculpture representing Shiva and Parvati as Umamahesvara.

The notion of Rama as an avatar of Vishnu did not receive general acceptance till the rise of the Sants. In the 15th century Vaishnavism came to merge itself with the Sant traditions and thus grew the popularity of the cult of Rama. Ramanandi sects rose in and around Ayodhya. In the 19th century there were seven akharas belonging to different monastic orders in Ayodhya. These sects settled in Ayodhya during the reign of Shuja-ud-daula. They received grants, donations and favours from court officials and revenue farmers. Soon these religious sects and the mahants who headed the akharas became powerful by virtue of their control over land and by moneylending. In 1900 the Faquirs, the Gosains and the Bairagis together owned 47 estates in Faizabad district. The presence of Islam was first felt in the region from the 11th century with the penetration of the Turkish forces. It established a permanent presence when Sayed Salar settled down in Ayodhya in AD 1034. The Islamic influence in the area was visible through the large number of mosques and dargahs that came up after the 11th century. Not surprisingly, most of the dargahs were enveloped in local myths and emerged as places of worship for both Muslims and Hindus.

FROM AYODHYA Vishnu image kept in a house at the holy place of Vamdeva, Ayodhya. There is no specific mention of a Vishnu temple at Ayodhya going back to the Gupta period, although Hiuen Tsiang speaks of the existence of Deva temples at Ayodhya. It is possible that some of these may have been dedicated to Vishnu.

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FROM AYODHYA Naga deity, Tirtha Punyahari in village Punhad, region of Ayodhya. According to the Jaina Vivagasuya, Saketa had a shrine dedicated to a snake deity along with its tradition of Yaksha worship.

FROM AYODHYA Linga with Shiva image, late 5th century AD, Gupta period, Bhumara, Madhya Pradesh. This is an image of Shiva represented as an Ekamukha linga. The somewhat flat rendering of form and sharply rendered ornament suggest indebtedness to the Sarnath School. Evidence of Shaiva practice in Ayodhya comes from the Karamdanda inscription of the time of Kumaragupta I, from a site southwest of the town, in which the participation of some brahmanas from Ayodhya in a procession of ‘Shiva-linga’ is mentioned.

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By the 12th century Sufism as a mystical, universalistic dimension within Islam gained popularity, and its influence spread to all corners of India. In the Faizabad/ Ayodhya region, numerous khanqahs sprang up. Ayodhya emerged as a strong centre of Sufi activity. A number of Sufi saints settled in and around Ayodhya, and were provided with revenue-free land grants. These grants were renamed to the successors of these saints. During this period several mosques were also erected. Amir Khusrau stayed in Ayodhya for some time. After 1274 he came to Avadh and became attached to the court of a wealthy noble and benefactor of the arts, Malik Amir Ali Sarjandar. Another disciple of Shaikh Nizamud-din Auliya, Maulana Shams-ud-din bin Yahya, was also a resident of Avadh. Shaikh Nasir-ud-in Mahmud, who became famous as Chiragh-i-Delhi or the Lamp of Delhi, was born in Ayodhya in 1276. The most brilliant among the disciples of Nizam-ud-din Auliya, he eventually became his successor. Shah Abdur Razzak gained popularity in Avadh towards the latter half of the 17th century. He used the raslila to propagate his views. According to him, Rama, Lakshmana and Krishna were prophets who came to this earth to better the conditions of the people.

Yaksha figure, 2nd century BC, Parkham, Mathura. This Yaksha figure possesses all the characteristics of the Bharhut style to which is added a certain sense of weight, a feature of these large images. The massive body with a closely set head, broad chest and full belly are entirely appropriate to a divinity that presides over the productive powers of nature. The oldest religious tradition at Saketa seems to have been the worship of Yakshas. The Jaina text Avassagacurni speaks of the existence of a shrine of a Yaksha who used to kill painters!

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Saivite Brahmanas of Ayodhya: Gupta Era, AD 435–36 Karamdanda Stone Inscription of Kumaragupta I, the year 117 The inscription is incised on a linga of greyish sand-stone which was excavated from a mound called Bharadhi Dih near the village of Karamdanda, about twelve miles from Faizabad on the road to Shahganj, Faizabad district. The linga itself consists of an upper circular portion, l foot 1 inch high and 107/8 inches in diameter, rising from an octagonal base 1 foot 9 inches high. The inscription is incised on five faces of the octagonal base of the linga, which is now deposited in the State Museum, Lucknow. (lines 1–4) Obeisance to Mahadeva. In the victorious reign of the Maharajadhiraja, the prosperous Kumaragupta, whose fame was tasted by the waters of the oceans (and) who meditated on the feet of the Maharajadhiraja, the prosperous Chandragupta, when a century of years increased by seventeen (had elapsed), on the tenth day of the month of Kartika;

Sunga Ruler Dhanadeva’s Inscription, early first century AD The slab containing this two-line inscription from an early shrine of unknown religious denomination (Buddhist, Jaina or Brahmanical) was placed at the foot of the entrance to the 18th-century samadhi of Baba Sangat Bakhsh at Ranopali, a mile from Ayodhya, on the Faizabad road. All inscriptions in India before the 1st century BC and the bulk of them until the 4th century AD are in Prakrit. This inscription from Ayodhya is therefore one of the very few Sanskrit inscriptions from 1st century BC/AD, and possibly could be the earliest.

A shrine (in honour) of his father Phalgudeva was erected by Dhana[deva], the righteous king of Kosala, the son of Kausiki, the sixth in descent from Senapati Pushyamitra, who performed the horse sacrifice (Asvamedha) twice.

(lines 4–11) when this was the specification of the date, Prithivisena, who was (at first) Mantri-Kunlaratnatya (and) afterwards the Mahabaladhikrita of the prosperous Kumaragupta the Maharajadhiraja, and who was son of Sikharasvamin, Mantri-Kumaramatya of the prosperous Chandragupta (II), the Maharajadhiraja, and son of Vishnupalitabhatta who, (in turn) was son of: Kuramaranyabhatta, a teacher of the Chhandoga and of the Asvavajin gotra (placed) at the feet of Sailesvarasvamin Mahadeva, for the worship of the feet of this same Lord Mahadeva, known as Prithivisvara, with proper religious rites to (Brahmanas) from Ayodhya, of different gotras and charans (and) conversant with penances, recitation of sacred texts, the mantras, the sutras, the bhashyas and pravachanas … at the procession of the image …

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Rama-Katha Contrary to popular belief, particularly in northern India, there are several other important versions of RamaKatha, besides Valmiki’s Ramayana in Sanskrit and Tulsidas’ Ramcharitamanas in Hindi. Each version is accepted as authentic by its respective audience. Valmiki’s Ramayana is not described as a text on dharma or classified as an itihasa (history). It is referred to as a kavya or adikavya, a poetic composition. Rama is seen variously as the ideal kshatriya, the ideal/perfect man, and, due to his descent from the solar line, as a solar deity. It was only in later editions refashioned by brahmin authors that Rama was said to be an incarnation of Vishnu. There were also other changes and additions. Ravana emerged as a ten-headed monster. Sita’s banishment from Ayodhya, her life in the hermitage of Valmiki and the birth of her sons Lava and Kusha appeared in the Uttarakhanda. Rama-Katha in Buddhist Traditions The Dasaratha Jataka, dating to somewhere between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC, is probably older than Valmiki’s text. In this version, Sita is not the wife but the sister of Rama. At the end of the exile when Rama returns to Ayodhya, Sita is made queen-consort of Rama and they rule jointly for sixteen thousand years. Rama is said to have descended from Ikshvaku, from whom the clan of the Buddha also claims descent. Rama-Katha in Jaina Traditions The Paumacharyam of the Jainas, composed by Vimalasuri in the 3rd century, begins not by giving the genealogy of Rama, but of Ravana and then of Hanuman. We are told that rakshasas were not devils but normal human beings. Ravana was not a ten-headed monster but was described as such because he wore a necklace of nine gem-stones which reflected his face. Similarly, Hanuman was not a monkey but the leader of a clan with a monkey emblem on its standard. At the end of the story, Dasaratha, Rama and Lakshmana, all become Jaina ascetics, and Sita takes to a nunnery. Within the Jaina traditions too, there are variations. In some texts, Sita is the daughter of Ravana who is brought up by Janaka.

Rama with bow, 16th century AD, Vijayanagara period, Tamil Nadu.

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Rama conversing with hermits, a folio of Ramayana series, c. AD 1775–80, Pahari.

Bharata, 14th–15th century AD, Vijayanagara period, Tamil Nadu.

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Rama-Katha in Regional Versions Emergent regional languages also produced their own versions of the Rama-Katha. These include the Tamil epic of Kamban called Iramavataram, the Telugu Ranganatharamayana, the Kannada Pampa Ramayana, the later Bengali Krittibasa Ramayan, and Eknath’s Bhavartha Ramayan in Marathi. Non-Indian versions of the Rama-Katha Although the reworked versions of Valmiki’s text made Rama-Katha a sacred text of the Vaishnavas, it continued to enjoy popularity as a cultural metaphor in Central Asia, China and Tibet, sometimes drawing on Buddhist variants, and reflecting local social and cultural norms. Local colour is evident in the versions found in Southeast Asia. Thus in one version northern Vietnam (Annam) is identified as Ayodhya and the area to the south of it (Champa) as Lanka. In some versions Sita appears, unknown to Ravana, as his daughter. More recent versions, such as Serat Kanda from Java, incorporate Islamic legends, even featuring the prophet, Adam. In the Malayan version, Ravana is exiled to Serendip, where Adam sees him and pleads for him before Allah, who grants him a kingdom. Secular Versions Rama-Katha has been reworked into classics of Sanskrit literature through plays and poems written for the royal courts and the literati. These compositions treat the Rama-Katha as a source for literary themes and demonstrations of poetic virtuosity. Among the better known of these works are Raghuvansham, a narrative poem by Kalidasa, Pratimanataka, a play by Bhasa, and Bhavabhuti’s Uttararamacharita. In the 9th century biography of Ramapala, a contemporary East Indian king, the Ramacharitam of Sandhyakaranandin can be read either as the story of Rama or as a biography of the king.

Hanuman, 15th century AD, Vijayanagara period, Southern India.

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Sabala, the cow of abundance, a folio of Ramayana series, c. AD 1587–88, Akbar’s reign. 43 Hum Sab Ayodhya


Building of Agra Fort, detail of a folio of the Akbar Nama, AD 1565. In these paintings of the building of Agra Fort, from folios of the Akbar Nama in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, remarkable attention is given to the specialisation of labour and the materials and methods of construction, as seen in the depictions of the Banjara women labourers, the guards, the pounders of bricks and the builders of the domes. These depictions are indicative of the importance attached to everyday artisanal activity in the period and the artists’ nuanced understanding of professional and social roles, probably from their own experience of building activity.

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Babri Masjid (built 1528–29) Inscriptions (1) In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. And in Him is my trust. (2) In the name of One who is Wise, Great (and) Greater of all the universe (and) is spaceless. After His praise, blessings be upon the Chosen one (i.e. the Prophet), who is the head of prophets and best in the world. The qalandar-like (i.e. truthful) Babur has become celebrated (lit. a story) in the world, since (in his time) the world has achieved prosperity. (3) (He is) such (an emperor) as has embraced (i.e. conquered) all the seven climes of the world in the manner of the sky. In his court, there was a magnificent noble, named Mir Baqi the second Asaf, councillor of his government and administrator of his kingdom, who is the founder of this mosque and fort-wall. (4) O God, may he live for ever in this world, with fortune and life and crown and throne! The time of the building is this auspicious date, of which the indication is nine hundred (and) thirty five (AH 935 = 1528–29 AD). Completed was this praise of God, of Prophet and of king. May Allah illumine his proof! Written by the weak writer and humble creature, Fathu’llah Muhammad Ghori. (1) By the order of King Babur whose justice is an edifice, meeting the palace of the sky (i.e. as high as the sky), (2) this descending place of the angels was built by the fortunate noble Mir Baqi. (3) It will remain an everlasting bounty, and (hence) the date of its erection became manifest from my words: It will remain an everlasting bounty.

West facade, Babri Masjid, Ayodhya

(1) In accordance with the wishes of the ruler of the world, Babur, (2) a lofty building like the palace of the spheres, (3) (that is to say) this lasting house (of God), was founded (4) by the fortunate noble Mir (and) Khan (Baqi) (5) May ever remain such a founder of its edifice, (6) (and) such a king of the world and age!

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The Town Form The present town of Ayodhya stands upon multiple layers of archaeological ruins and mounds, some of which are associated with legendary or mythological lives and incidents. The mounds and groves, the river bank and the ruined sites were gradually built over with temples, houses, ashrams, akharas, dharamshalas, gates and fortifications. By the end of the nineteenth century Ayodhya became a vibrant town with a major commercial spine – running almost north–south – linking all the important nodes and terminating at the ghats on the river bank. Architecture In Ayodhya the courtyard house became the basic module of built form, conforming to local climatic needs, cultural practices and building techniques prevalent across almost the entire riparian plains of northern India. However, due to a variety of requirements, many modifications were necessary in terms of size and treatment. While many temples, like the Kanak Bhavan, were built in the form of houses with the deity considered to be like a permanent resident in the principal room, almost all the ashrams and residences were designed with the provision for a temple inside. In the town, particularly towards the northern end, the articulated fronts of the buildings grouped together constructed the typical street facades. The greatest interest was however generated by the unusual fusion of several styles of architecture. The river front or Ram ki Pairi ghats stand as the most curious example of hybrid architecture in this part of the country. Sharqi Style Early 18th century Ayodhya had many remains of Sharqi and late Mughal styles of construction. Mir Baqi’s mosque is a late product in the Sharqi style of Jaunpur. Avadhi Style The Avadh style of Nawabi architecture reached its peak towards end of the 18th century. Ayodhya has numerous

examples of this highly exuberant style. “A style of architecture of a pronounced hybrid character in which triangular pediments, Corinthian capitals, and Roman arches were contained with fluted domes, ogee arches, and arabesque foliations in a medley of western and eastern forms …” (Percy Brown). The architecture of Ayodhya, although inferior in scale to Lucknow, can be identified as more complex than Lucknow because alongside the already hybrid style of Avadh, several other architectural treatments were brought in by affluent pilgrims and patrons from various parts of the country. The temple built by Raja of Kulu unfortunately fell into ruins. But on its remains was built Ahalya Bai’s temple which brought in a style of building shikharas in a particular Maratha idiom of the Deccan region. Ahalya Bai also built the ghat next to the temple in 1784. In 1887, Rani Krishnakumari of Orccha built the present structure of Kanak Bhavan, which draws inspiration from the medieval Jahangiri Mahal of Orccha. Bengal Chhattris The Rajasthani and Mughal stylised versions of bambooand-thatch hut tops of Bengal came to Ayodhya with the patrons of the Bhakti movement from the west. But in Ayodhya one can also find the square base form of the Bengal chhattri without cornices, which is possibly linked to the presence of Shaivism in the region. Intermix of Elements In the spirit of Avadhi hybridisation, features of different styles got further intermixed, and one can see extreme variations of generic forms like the dome and arch. The straight base, flat body Sharqi dome; semi-circular European dome; squat, fluted dome; onion-shaped fluted dome; and Sikh temple dome – all are visible in Ayodhya. It is possible to find almost all types of Islamic arches: the ogee, a variety of multifoil arches, trefoil arch arcades, plain arches and even Gothic pointed arches. The improvisation crosses all standards to create many forms of crown on the tops of doors and windows, by modification of triangles in half-star shapes or by inverting the curvature. There is similar variety in pilasters and columns. 46 Hum Sab Ayodhya

47 Hum Sab Ayodhya


Architectural Motifs Fish, lions, peacocks – the symbols of Avadh – and several other kinds of motifs are found on the building facades. Most of them do not have any direct religious connection. All these were crafted in brick and lime plaster and mortar, and occasionally clad with stone. Modern Elements The late 19th and early 20th century brought more articulated metal work in fenestration and structural members, and even standard motifs of the 1930s’ Art Deco style. Ayodhya: Variety in Built Form The domes and shikharas of the city are a remarkable mix of styles. On the far right are two Bengal chhattristyled domes, behind which can be seen a very Victorian dome. On the right is a combination of an Islamic dome, behind which is a Greco-Roman temple facade topped by a Hindu shikhara. Also on the right are details of the facade showing stucco sculptures and a punctured sun motif in the centre.

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49 Hum Sab Ayodhya


Restoration of the Ram Ki Pairi Ghats Towards the end of the 19th century the river Sarayu had moved quite far away from the ghat steps at Ram ki Pairi. The steps and the burjees were gradually buried under silt, rendering the ghats absolutely unusable. Makeshift steps were built across the large silt bed near the new course of the river. The old ghat steps were forgotten. In 1985, the Department of Irrigation of the Government of Uttar Pradesh decided to construct a lift canal for supplying water to some agricultural fields near Ayodhya taking the water from the river Sarayu. In the engineering scheme prepared for the project, the proposed canal was to lift water from the river from a point lying to the Northwest of the town of Ayodhya and run through the silt bed in front of the Ram ki Pairi ghats, and discharge at a point to the east of the town. The project included a proposal to beautify this otherwise simple water channel.

Exploratory digs were undertaken at many points along the site periods. As the dig revealed the steps and the burjees after six months, Bhan had won the first stage of the battle. The project continued for four years. A detailed survey of the entire stretch was done with measured drawings. The ghats were completely freed of silt deposit. The canal design was now revised in such a way as to maintain a desired level of water at the old ghat steps. Water flowed into the channel in March 1989 and Ram ki Pairi was restored to its erstwhile glory after more than a century. “The project is the first and so far the only one of its kind anywhere in the world�. Ravindra Bhan

Architect Ravindra Bhan, when asked to design the project, visualised the possibility of adding a new dimension. He proposed to reveal the ghat steps hidden under the silt bed and restore them to their original use.

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The Babri Masjid and Sharqi Mosque Architecture Jaunpur: Atala Masjid. The Babri Masjid in its arrangement and structure of domes, closely follows the Sharqi models. The photograph of the Babri Masjid from the west (with the propylon seen behind the main dome) may be compared with the drawing of the west elevation of the Atala Masjid (1408), Jaunpur. The Babri Masjid, which is thought to have been constructed in 1527–28, follows all the major cannons of Sharqi mosque architecture, which are found in the principal 15th century mosques of Jaunpur, viz., the Atala Masjid (completed, 1408), the Lal Darwaza Masjid (1447) and the Jami Masjid (1448).

View of the east facade, Atala Masjid, Jaunpur

One striking feature of the Sharqi mosque is the absence of minarets and their substitution by a very tall, broad ‘propylon’ (or front gate), which appears to dominate the entire structure. On the right is a photograph of the propylon of the Babri Masjid, practically concealing the main dome. Above and below are shown the propylons of the Atala Masjid and the Jami Masjid. Another feature common with the Sharqi architecture is the recessed arch, which can be seen in all the three propylons.

View of the propylon of the east facade, Babri Masjid, Ayodhya

Drawing from A. Fuhrer, The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, Calcutta: Archaeological Survey of India, 1889, Plates VIII, XLIX.

View of Jama Masjid at Jaunpur, by William Hodges, c. AD 1786.

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Sufi shrines in Ayodhya

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Paintings of the School of Avadh Company painting in Avadh developed on individual lines. This was largely because the European communities in Faizabad, and later in Lucknow, differed greatly from those in the cities which came under direct British rule. The Europeans who flocked to Avadh in the late 18th and early19th century were adventurers and tradesmen looking for quick fortunes. Some of them were interested in European work of good quality and in oriental culture. With the decline of patronage at Delhi, Mughal artists moved to Faizabad and later to Lucknow, and a school of painting arose which was marked by feverish brilliance, a fitting expression of Avadh society under Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula (1753–75) and Nawab Asaf-udDaula (1775–97). Many portraits and paintings of musical or literary themes with a semi-erotic flavour were made at this time. The painters of Avadh were gradually influenced by Western models.

FROM AYODHYA Tilly Kettle painting a portrait of Shuja-ud-Daula, Nawab of Avadh, with ten sons. By Nevasi Lal, AD 1815, Lucknow.

Tilly Kettle visited Faizabad between 1772–73 and got married to an Indian woman. The Daniell brothers also went to Ayodhya where William Hodges had earlier been. Some Indian artists painted in oil and some copied oil paintings in gouache, as for example Nevasi Lal, the Faizabad artist who made a version after Tilly Kettle’s portrait of Shuja-ud-Daula and his ten sons. Once the Nawabs received the title of King from George III in 1819, Western tendencies became even more pronounced in architecture, interior decoration and painting. Indian artists designed carriages, howdahs, pleasure boats, palanquins and furniture in a mixed Indo-European style.

FROM AYODHYA Dancing Girl, by Tilly Kettle, AD 1772, Faizabad.

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FROM AYODHYA Shuja-ud-Daula, Nawab of Avadh. By Tilly Kettle, AD 1772, Faizabad. The three-quarters-length portrait of Nawab Shujaud-Daula holding a bow, with a garden pavilion with canopies and a group of attendants in the background, is characteristic of the English artist Tilly Kettle, who worked on commission in several regions of India in the late 18th century. The Nawab had refused permission to the East India Company to establish factories or open up trade with Avadh; when he accepted the appointment to his court of a British Resident in 1773, it was also agreed that no Englishman would reside in Avadh without the Nawab’s permission.

FROM AYODHYA In a Harem Garden, by Faiz Allah, AD 1765, Mughal, Faizabad. This painting of a harem garden so swarms with late Mughal pleasantries that it fairly bursts its borders. The ladies loll, smoke huqqas, perform and listen to music, draw, fly kites, play with yo-yos, and long for their beloveds, who are probably among the lively hunters barely visible beyond the bridge. Wherever we look this pictorial aviary, containing as many cranes and ducks as women, hints of the birds’ freedom in contrast to the ladies’ imprisonment in their Indian rococo cage. Faiz Allah, to whom this wedding cake of a picture may be attributed, creacted here a wonderland of perspective. Colonnades, water-courses, verdant alleys and many-storied pavilions dance to the rhythm of his vanishing points, sprinkled like confetti and charging the already festive atmosphere.

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Paintings of the School of Avadh Around 1800, pictures showing festivals, and occupations and scenes of Indian life, were made by the artists of Avadh, and these are included under the general title of Company Paintings. By 1775, the culture of Avadh had become markedly cosmopolitan, exotic and eccentric. (From Mildred Archer, Company Drawings in the India Office Library, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1972)

Ghazi-ud-din Haider, Nawab and King of Avadh, entertaining Lord and Lady Moira at a banquet in his palace, c. AD 1820, Lucknow.

Nasir-ud-din Haidar, King of Avadh, entertaining British guests, AD 1831, Lucknow.

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Wajid Ali Shah, King of Avadh, welcoming Lord Hardinge, c. AD 1847, Lucknow.

Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Avadh, c. AD 1780, Lucknow.

Street Scene, c. AD 1800, Lucknow. This drawing is part of a larger set depicting festivals. It shows horsemen with retainers, shops and traders.

Khansama carrying a tureen, c. AD 1825–30,

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Ayodhya–Faizabad, Site of the First Armed Skirmish of 1857 Ahmadullah Shah was one of the most stouthearted leaders of the 1857 Mutiny. He is singular in that his hostile propaganda against the British preceded the Mutiny. It is not well known that the earliest armed skirmish of the rebellion took place on 17 February 1857 at Faizabad, between Ahmadullah Shah’s followers and the British. Captured and imprisoned, he was sentenced to be hanged. In June that year, mutineering Sepoys broke into the prison at Faizabad and set Ahmadullah Shah free. He then went to Lucknow to assume leadership of the rebellion there. “A report received from Faizabad on 26 Jumada K (22 February) containing the following facts: Ahmadullah Shah had been staying in Ghasiari Mandi (Lucknow) and firmly pursuing the true path. The authorities here prohibited crowds from collecting around him, and tried to interfere in what he was doing. The police officer (thanedar), Chini Bazar, issued an order (parwana), saying that this man has become, by fluency of tongue, the clown of the age; and it is necessary to take measures against him; otherwise there may be much disturbance in future. They persuaded Shah Sahib to leave, and the latter left the city. He told those present that he was leaving for Bahraich, and with ten or twelve men went in that direction. Reaching Faizabad, they settled in an inn in the manner of travellers. The thanedar there reported this to Mr Thoburn, the Commissioner, who ordered him to seize their weapons, thinking thus to remove any possibility of tumult. Not satisfied with this, he himself went to the inn taking many Englishmen with him. They (the Shah Sahib and his son) said, ‘We are travellers, and will go away in a few days and settle somewhere else.’ But he did not agree to this and decided to take away their weapons by force. He called two companies of Sepoys and laid siege to the inn. He demanded their arms; they refused. The Sahib Bahadur (the Commissioner) was enraged and ordered them arrested. When the 58 Hum Sab Ayodhya

Sepoys went forward to arrest him, he (the Shah Sahib) decided to sell his life dearly. His companions attacked and killed a number of Sepoys and injured Mr Forbes. Having obtained their heart’s desire, they themselves fell fighting valiantly. Shah Sahib was captured alive, becoming a prisoner without committing any offence. The Commissioner wrote a letter to Mr Carnegie (at Lucknow) saying it was necessary for a search to be made of the house of the thanedar of Chini Bazar, and send him whatever of Shah Sahib’s papers or effects of his were found there. The officer-in-charge of the city went to the thana concerned early in the morning on Monday; he searched it, and then reported in writing whatever the thanedar told him, viz., that Shah Sahib had been expelled from the city and a tumult had been averted. The Englishmen’s wisdom was highly reputed, and yet they could not arrest ten or twelve persons without so much bloodshed.”

The Shah Nujeef, Lucknow, by William Simpson, AD 1861.

Tilism, Lucknow, 27 February 1857

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Faizabad after the British Annexation, 1856 Faizabad: A letter has been received from a correspondent in Faizabad, in which some fresh news appears. These days grain prices there have risen excessively. The army was gathered there, and the English are arriving from all sides. First, they resolved to dig up Hanumangarhi. All materials for this were collected, and the enterprise was due to begin. But when the English held consultations among themselves, they did not deem it feasible or expedient. … Two hundred Englishmen are stationed there [Faizabad]. There is such fear and terror over the measures they are planning. The city is deserted; the sky is darkened by the cloud raised by the sighs of the oppressed. When a road is laid out, what grand buildings are destroyed! A road has been built from the Tirpoli and chauk at Dikusha; for this the Naqqarkhana building has been razed to the ground. At that spot only the houses of Miyan Darab Ali Khan and Jawahar Ali Khan remain. All others, whether of mud or brick, have been destroyed. Similarly,

The Residency, Lucknow, showing the room where Sir Henry Lawrence was mortally wounded, by Shepherd and Robenson, AD 1864.

another road has been laid from the house of Zafarullah Bahadur to the Khawaspuri of Darab Ali Khan. The locality too has been laid waste. Near Khawaspuri a mosque was found to stand on the side of the road, which was narrow at this point. To widen the road here would mean raising a tumult, and they decided to destroy the platform of the mosque. But for fear of a riot, they did not do anything, and God saved the mosque. But one has to see what God will unfold in future: everyone will receive the fruit of his deeds. Nawab Shuja’ud Daula’s palace is breaking apart. Its effects are being auctioned at such low rates as to suggest plunder. A chanpnar (dagger) has been taken away by people practically free, and damascened swords at Rs 3 per maund. All are helpless and at a loss. Dry and wet wood are made to burn, at the same rate. Nobody has any say in things now. Report in Tilism, Lucknow, 6 November 1856 60 Hum Sab Ayodhya

Upsurge of Nationalism and Local Rebellions The annexation of Avadh by the British in February 1856 acted as a stimulant to an upsurge of local rebellions. Even the taluqdars joined the common people in supporting the rebels. The rebellion of the Indian soldiers began in Meerut on 11 May 1857. The Ayodhya– Faizabad uprising started in February when Ahmad Ali Shah, later known as Shah Saheb of Faizabad, and his armed followers declared a holy war against the British. He was forcibly disarmed and imprisoned. The Sepoys took possession of the treasury at Faizabad, but allowed the European officers to leave in peace, providing them with boats and money. Shah Saheb was set free; he rallied people of all religions with his prediction about the downfall of British rule following the events of 1857. By July 1858, Faizabad was again under the British. The British commander Sir Hope Grant, while proceeding to Ayodhya, encountered rebels fleeing across the river. Opening fire, the British forces sank almost all the boats.

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The National Movement and Local Uprisings The land settlement systems that existed in Ayodhya gave rise to large-scale discontent among the peasants. The landlords of the area not only charged rents but imposed a large number of illegal dues called abwabs and leased out land to cultivators after charging an amount called nazrana. The oppression of the landlords was not just limited to economic subjugation, but also extended to social suppression of the peasants. As a result, peasants in Avadh started forming their own peasant organisations at the local level. In 1920, Baba Ramchandra and Jhinguri Singh formed the Rur Kisan Sabha in Rur village, Pratapgarh district. They first appealed to the landlords to better the conditions of cultivators. Failing in their attempt, they approached the government. A large number of peasants from Rur and adjoining areas marched to the Pratapgarh Collectorate and were beaten up. As a result they adopted a more direct strategy of action. On 23 December 1920, Baba Ramchandra organised a gathering of peasants to take an oath on the banks of the river Sarayu. The Baba used the Rama-Katha as a means to convey to the people the oppressions being committed on the peasants. In fact the Baba appealed to the landlords to behave like Rama and adopt a similar compassionate attitude towards the peasants. Defying the inclemency of the cold, and the pressures from government officials and landlords, peasants gathered in large numbers in Ayodhya. Priests opened doors to the peasants, and Hindus and Muslims stayed together. “They returned (from Ayodhya) more than filled with a sense of real and financial wrongs. For the first time in history they had begun to realise the power of a united peasantry. If they stood together, nazrana, begari and other oppressive taxes would automatically cease.” (SJ. A. Fanon, in a letter to the Deputy Commissioner of Rai Bareli)

Baba Ramchandra with a rope around his neck, Oudh Kisan Sabha, December, 1920. (see report opposite).

During the Civil Disobedience movement of 1930–34 the peasants once again became active and some cases of imprisonment were reported. However the movement was not as extensive as in 1920–22. During 1926–28, even as the rest of north India was aflame with communal violence, Faizabad remained comparatively peaceful. In 1934, there was an attempt to attack the Babri Mosque. This incident in Ayodhya did not, however, incite communal feelings in the adjoining city of Faizabad. In 1942, like in the rest of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad–Ayodhya saw intense nationalist activity. In several places, violent outbursts broke out, and students from Benares and Allahabad congregated at Faizabad to appeal to the local people to further intensify the national movement. 62 Hum Sab Ayodhya

Acharya Narendra Dev Acharya Narendra Dev, a well-known freedom fighter and educationist, was active in the Ayodhya–Faizabad region for a long time. After independence he assumed leadership of the socialist movement and emerged as its major theoretician. He was one of the major political thinkers of this century in India. He had full faith in socialist humanism and was an ardent advocate of modifying the socialist alternative according to Indian conditions.

Swami Sahajanand Saraswati (1888–1950) The Swami turned from religious issues to the plight of the peasantry in the years following his arrest and imprisonment in Faizabad jail in March 1922. By 1927, he was easily the most popular peasant leader in Bihar, agitating for redistribution of land and other issues. He was founder-president of the All India Kisan Sabha.

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Ashfaqullah Khan (1900–1927) Inspired by Ramprasad Bismil to join the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921, he was involved in several revolutionary activities against the British. Most notable of them was the Kakori episode, in which a train carrying British revenue was looted in a daring robbery. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to death by hanging. On the morning of 19 December 1927, Ashfaqullah was hanged at Faizabad jail, a martyr to the cause of India’s independence. He was only 26 years old.

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Gallows in Faizabad Jail where Ashfaqullah Khan was hung

Dr Ram Manohar Lohia The famous socialist leader and one of India’s prominent parliamentarians, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia was born in Akbarpur in Faizabad district. He was greatly influenced by the peasant and socialist movement of the region. In the Nehruvian era of Indian politics, he was one of the major leaders of the opposition.

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Akhtari Bai Faizabadi Begum Akhtar (1914-1974) She was born to Mushtari Begum in Faizabad, and was the sole survivor of twin daughters. They lived in the ‘Gulab Bari’ area. As a girl she sang at marriages. Mesmerised by her school-teacher’s lustrous dark hair, she snipped off a bit of it; and, terrorised by the courage of her own impulse, she never went back to school. Mother and daughter shifted to Calcutta when their house was burnt down. She received training in Hindustani classical singing from Ustad Sakhawat Hussain, Ata Mohammed and Ustad Waheed Khan amongst others.

Pakhawaj Legend has it that when Shiva danced, the Mridang was played by Nandi, the Bull. Since time immemorial the Mridang and its north Indian equivalent the Pakhawaj have been associated with the sangeet parampara of temples. Their deep resonance complemented the classical forms of Dhrupad and Dhahmar. As court patronage encouraged lighter forms of music like the Khayal and Thumri, the Pakhawaj was modified to produce a sharper and more versatile sound. However, ancient temple towns like Ayodhya continue to nurture the tradition of the Pakhawaj.

Her first public performance was for the Bihar earthquake relief fund. For a while she was enamoured by films and acted in Ek Din ka Badshah’,’Nal Damyanti’, ‘Mumtaz Mahal, etc. She then gave up acting and devoted herself to music. She married in 1944 and was not allowed to perform for several years. Unable to withhold herself from the world of music, she began recording her songs and performed widely in India and abroad. It is for her rendition of the Ghazal that she is most fondly remembered. She was perhaps the last to render the form bringing to bear on it the weight of centuries of tradition, treading softly eroticism and death, femininity and masculinity, darkness and light. . .

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The Ayodhya tradition of Kathavachak Song and dance are forms of prayer sanctioned in Navdha Bhakti. During the eight daily pujas between dawn and dusk in the temples of the Gangetic plain in central-eastern Uttar Pradesh, Kathavachaks, a community of Brahmins, perform Sarkar ki Sewa and Vyakhyan for the congregation. The art of the Kathavachak demands command over texts, religious legends, poetry and music, for the Vyakhyan moves across the wisdom contained in classical texts as well as folk and oral traditions. To enhance the impact and hold the attention of the audience, Kathak added rudimentary footwork, dramatic poses, flourishes, and subtle abhinaya, using gats, ghungats, nazar and the dexterous dupatta. Unreserved encouragement from Wajid Ali Shah established the Lucknow gharana of Kathak by embellishing the rudimentary temple art form with the baroque touches of the court. As it moved into the court, the Katha and the dance exchanged their bhakti moorings for ada, nazaakat and nafasat. The temple tradition assimilated the courtly forms, and many anthologies published by the mandirs of Ayodhya contain compositions like sher, rubai, ghazal and thumri.

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v;ks/;k 1991 pkyw jktuhfr dk xHkZikr ugha gS v;ks/;k taxy esa ugha gS v;ks/;k v;ks/;k ,d ’kgj dk uke gS tSls Hkksiky Vªsu vkSj cl dh f[kM+fd;ksa dk fj’rk ugha gS esjk bl ’kgj ls

v;ks/;k ,d ’kgj dk uke gS ftlesa yksx [kkrs&ihrs vkSj ft+ank jgrs gSa ,d ’kgj dk uke gS v;ks/;k ftlesa yksx ft+Unxh dh yM+kbZ yM+rs gSa vkSj var esa ej tkrs gSa

NksVk Fkk rc nknh ds lkFk vkrk Fkk vkSj vc vdsys vkrk gwa bl ’kgj esa

;kfu fd HkkSfrd okLrfodrkvksa ls dqN Hkh vyx gVdj ugha gS bl ’kgj esa

’kgj ,d ft+ank ’kCn gS bldh felky gS v;ks/;k

fdrkcksa esa gksxh og v;ks/;k ftlesa jke jgrs Fks vkSj ftUgksaus jktikV R;kx fn;k Fkk pkSng cjl ds fy,

bruk gh ;FkkFkZ gS ;g ’kgj ftruk ;g fd vkneh dk dystk dkVdj bldh txg ftl rjg ckdh yksx eks{k ds fy;s vkrs gSa ;gka mlh rjg jksVh dh [kkst esa Hkh vkrs gSa reke yksx f’kofyax j[k nsus ls og ej tk;sxkA

HksfM+;ksa dk f’kdkjxkg ugha gS ;g ’kgj v;ks/;k ,d ,slk’gj Hkh gS ftl ij fgUnh ds dfo dfork,a ugha fy[krs dfork ds dkyt;h u gksus ds Hk;o’k ;k irk ugha fdl dkj.k dh gksxh fdlh rqylhnkl us ,slh dksbZ fgekdr igys dHkhA flQZ goudq.M ugha gS v;ks/;k ft+Unxh dh gfo ugha tk ldrh mlesa euq"; jgrs gSa bl ’kgj esa ftuesa jgrk gS Hkxoku vkSj pwafd Hkxoku euq"; esa jgrk gS blfy;s og vYyk Hkh gks ldrk gSA ft+Unxh dh HkkxnkSM+ gS bl ’kgj esa reke vU; ’kgjksa dh rjg gh ’ke’kku ugha gks tkrs bykds fl;kjksa ds Qsdjus ls

gekjh v;ks/;k esa ge vkSj gekjs tSls gh vU; yksx jgrs gSa gekjh v;ks/;k gesa jksth jksVh nsrh gS ft+ank j[krh gS ge mls iRuh dh rjg I;kj djrs gSa cPpksa dh rjg nqykjrh gS og gesa D;k jke Hkh jk{klksa ds gokys dj ldrs Fks bls dHkh vxj os lpeqp jgrs gksrs bl ’kgj esa \ D;k dksbZ Hkh ujHkf{k;ksa ds gokys dj ldrk gS bls vxj og lpeqp jgrk gS fdlh ’kgj esa \ v;ks/;k ,d ’kgj dk uke gS taxy esa ugha gS v;ks/;kA vfuy dqekj flag

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69 Hum Sab Ayodhya

On the Exhibition Hum Sab Ayodhya Geeta Kapur (excerpted from the Sahmat bulletin, October 1993)

A lot has appeared in the media about Hum Sab Ayodhya. Now it is urgently necessary that we take stock of the situation. The exhibition was held simultaneously between August 9 and August 15, 1993, in sixteen cities other than Faizabad. It went off without a single unhappy incident. Sahmat has received supportive reports and requests for taking the exhibition to other venues. However on the twelfth of August there was an attack in the one city of Faizabad, where a band of about fifteen people, identified as members of the Sangh Parivar (“family”of right-wing Hindu nationalist organizations), came and tore down the exhibition alleging that two references in the text panel titled Ram Katha were objectionable. Subsequently, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership launched a campaign of lies where they dropped the context of the entire exhibition and spread the word that Sahmat had issued a “poster” in Faizabad/Ayodhya “depicting”Rama and Sita as brother and sister. The exhibition had eighty-three display units with extensive text, and cross-referenced archaeological, art historical, and photographic examples on the history of the city and the people of Ayodhya from ancient times to the present. The Ram Katha was one text unit and the reference in question consisted of a few words under the subheading of “Buddhist and Jaina versions.” The issue was precipitated in the Parliament for a week, leading to a statement by the Speaker on August 20 which convinced Sahmat that BJP’s vicious slander had, for the moment, shaken the faith—that there was not, perhaps for obvious reasons of political discretion (and expediency?), the will and the desire to resist the BJP—even among the Left, liberal, and secular parliamentarians. On this account, Sahmat announced on August 21 its decision to withdraw the exhibition from the Nehru Memorial Museum, New Delhi, the only venue where it was scheduled to continue to run. The same afternoon the police, on behalf of the lieutenant governor of Delhi, came and confiscated the text panel on Ram Katha under Section 95 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Just days before Sahmat had already been charged in Faizabad under Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot); Section 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on account of religion, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony); Section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to raise religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs); Section 298 (uttering words,

etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings); Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief); and Section 120B (criminal conspiracy). The cases were filed on August 16. Thus Sahmat is legally designated as a criminal organization, and its identifiable members and those who helped with the exhibition—artists and designers, eminent historians from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Aligarh Muslim University, Allahabad University, and the Indian Council of Historical Research in Delhi—are liable for arrest if the state wishes to use its draconian powers. Hum Sab Ayodhya has not only been vandalized by the Sangh Parivar, but also misrepresented by state action, in fact and in the conscience of the public. All along Sahmat had made a strenuous effort to give the facts, provide the original text of the Dasharatha Jataka in Pali and in English, and invite Members of Parliament (MPs) and the press to see the exhibition. But propaganda is contagious, and many simply assumed that there must have been a poster with some sort of an image, and that this was flyposted in Ayodhya clandestinely by fools or mischief-makers from Sahmat. At first even the disinterested intelligentsia believed this version, even those who should know the cunning of the Sangh Parivar. Just before the exhibition closed Sahmat succeeded in getting about ten MPs, representatives of secular political parties, to come and see it. They were aghast at the way the disinformation had been allowed to mislead the Parliament and it was then that the MPs Somnath Chatterjee, Bhogendra Jha, and Ram Vilas Paswan took up the cause, the latter in eloquent defense and direct confrontation. A few important points: the text panel on Ram Katha was based on the recently published book, Anatomy of a Confrontation, edited by Professor S. Gopal, with a contribution on the Ram Katha by Professor Romila Thapar. It referred back to the sources available to ancient Indian historians of all ideological persuasions. Taking Valmiki’s Ramayana and Tulsidas’s Ramacharitamanas as standard versions, or at any rate the most popular and best known, it mentioned variations of the Rama story to suggest how, as a generative legend of ancient times, it adapts itself to different characterizations, to different moral and ethical purposes, and indeed to different norms of iconography. It proliferates into different stories of kinship, lineage,

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and kingship with or without divine descent. In referring to the Buddhists’ Dasharatha Jataka, possibly one of the oldest versions of the Rama story, the sibling relationship of the couple that ruled for “sixteen thousand years”establishes the symbolic purity of the royal line within that particular tradition. The same tradition holds that Rama is a Bodhisattva, belonging to the same lineage from which the Buddha is descended, hardly a denigration of the divine personage in that tradition! Similarly the Jain version was mentioned, and it has yet another genealogy. Major regional versions like the Kamba Ramayana in Tamil, the Bengali Krittibasa Ramayana, and Eknath’s Marathi version were mentioned, as well as Southeast Asian versions. Nonreligious but richly characterized poetic references, for example in Sanskrit drama beginning with Kalidasa, were also mentioned. The criticism of the panel would rather be the fact that it was too sketchy, that it merely signposted, in a brief line or two, the fact of affinity and transformation of mythic material within the long narrative stretch of this legend. The criticism would also come from the fact that this brief text implied that there can be no hegemonic discourse on the subject. Both of these criticisms are, to my mind, valid.There was a desire to release the narrative into its several layers of symbolic meaning that become, each in its own tradition, a source of pedagogy for people of all faiths, and for the aesthetic contemplation of atheists as well. If this is considered culpable, then one admits to it, while defying the criminality that has been imposed suddenly, and virtually for the first time in India, on such a transparently secular position. But this secular position is precisely what has come in for mockery. Almost everyone was recommending to Sahmat (in hindsight, let it be said) a dose of pragmatism on the ground of realpolitik and occasionally also on the plea of public sentiment. Both these issues need to be debated at length. Let me only say that if there is a question involved it is of principle, that in India we must fight to maintain the freedom to transmit knowledge as a foundation of that more controversial issue of the freedom of expression. In the long battle ahead, where every post in the intellectual and imaginative space opened up by modern India will have to be defended against the motivated bigotry coming from fundamentalist versions—fascist versions—of culture, it is not through spurning liberal

intelligence, nor through declaring the modern artist redundant, that the strength to fight will be gained. We are all asking, now that we have been embroiled in a national debate and criminal proceedings, what is our course of action? There is of course the court of law, and this will be moved by some eminent lawyers who have stood against bigotry and the compromise of the state before. There is the enlightened section of the press, which, as you will have already seen in finely balanced and sometimes bold editorials, is beginning to understand the dangerous implications of allowing BJP triumphalism to work in the field of culture as it has in politics, and they have chastised the state for its open partisanship with communal forces. There are, finally and not least, academics who have come forth in the appeal signed within the space of one morning by scores of scholars, writers, and journalists. Major figures in the intellectual field have addressed press conferences and student gatherings in the most passionate and fearless terms, stating that this case affects the free transmission of knowledge, and that they would want to participate in the act of taking the battle further afield through their teaching activity. Some of those who have spoken out are the academics Veena Das, Irfan Habib, Suvira Jaiswal, Rajni Kothari, Ashok Mitra, Gyan Pandey, K. N. Panikkar, Prabhat Patnaik, K. M. Shrimali, and Romila Thapar, and the constitutional lawyer Rajiv Dhavan. As follow-up action, they have offered that together with Sahmat, they would like to help make people participants in the political and legal battle forced upon Sahmat, thus making a chain of supporters alert to the progress of fascist pressures of which we shall all be victims sooner or later if we do not resist now. We should remember that defeat begins with equivocation, and then the fascist victory is as if inevitable. It is for supporters of Sahmat, who have participated in its activities and hold faith with its principles, to suggest what might be our course of cultural action given the current climate and circumstance. Sahmat is not a monolith, it is persons and groups who join in and take its activities across different parts of the country. Before all else the concrete activity of resistance, which has taken on the irreversible movement called Artists Against Communalism, has to continue in the smallest gesture as in large collectives. We are, I think, well advised to read the writing on the wall and to recall, with far greater urgency, the first injunction we placed on ourselves when Sahmat was formed: Artists Alert!

71 Hum Sab Ayodhya

72 Hum Sab Ayodhya

Hum Sab Ayodhya, Sahmat 1993  
Hum Sab Ayodhya, Sahmat 1993  

The book version of the Sahmat exhibition from 1993. Released in New Delhi on 6 December 2012, on the 20th anniversary of the Babri Masjid d...