Posted on: 17 January 2013

Extract from Alexander Cunningham's first journal in 1862, wherein he describes the ancient city of AYODHYA in great detail…

Digital Rare Book:
Four Reports Made During the Years, 1862-63-64-65
Archaeological Survey of India
By Alexander Cunningham
Printed at The Government Central Press, Simla - 1871
Volume 1

"...The ancient city of Ayodhya or Saketa is described in the Ramayana as situated on the bank of the Sarayu or Sarju River. It is said to have been 12 yojans, or nearly 100 miles in circumference, for which we should probably read 12 kos, or 24 miles-an extent which the old city, with all its gardens, might once possibly have covered. In the Ain Akbari, the old city is said to have measured 148 kos in length by 36 kos in breadth, or in other words it covered the whole of the Province of Oudh to the south of the Ghaghra River. The-origin of the larger number is obvious. The 12 yojans of the Ramayana, which are equal to 48 kos, being considered too small for the great city of Rama, the Brahmans simply added 100 kos to make the size tally with their own extravagant notions. The present city of Ajudhya, which is confined to the north-east corner of the old site, is just two miles in length by about three-quarters of a mile in breadth; but not one-half of this extent is occupied by buildings and the whole place wears a look of decay. There are no high mounds of ruins covered with broken statues and sculptured pillars, such as mark the sites of other ancient cities, but only a low irregular as of rubbish heaps, from which all the bricks have been excavated for the houses of the neighbouring city of Faizabad. This Muhammadan city, which is two miles and-a-half in length, by one mile in breath, is built chiefly of materials extracted from the ruins of Ayodbya. The two cities together occupy anarea of nearly six square miles, or just about one-half of the probable size of the ancient capital of Rama. There are several very holy Brahmanical temples about Ajudhya, but they are all of modern date, and without any architectural pretensions whatever. But there can be no doubt that most of them occupy the sites of more ancient temples that were destroyed by the Musulmans.

According to the Ramayana, the city of Ayodhya was founded by Manu, the progenitor of all mankind. In the time of Dasaratha, the father of Rama, it was fortified with towers and gates, and surrounded by a deep ditch. No traces of these works now remain, nor is it likely, indeed, that any portion of the old city should still exist, as the Ayodhya of Rama is said to have been destroyed after the death of Vrihadbala in the great war about B.C.1426, after which it lay deserted until the time of Vikramaditya. According to popular tradition this Vikramaditya was the famous Sakari Prince of Ujain, but as the Hindus of the present day attribute the acts of all Vikramas to this one only, their opinion on the subject is utterly worthless. We learn, however, from Hwen Thsang that a powerful Prince of this name was reigning in the neighbouring city of Sravasti, just one hundred years after Kanishka, or close to 78 A.D., which was the initial year of the Sake era of Salivahana. As this Vikramaditya is represented as hostile to the Buddhists, he must have been a zealous Brahmanist, and to him therefore I would ascribe the re-building of Ayodhya and the restoration of all the holy places referring to the history of Rama. Tradition says that when Vikramaditya came to Ayodhya, he found it utterly desolate and overgrown with jangal, but he was able to discover all the famous spots of Rama's history by measurements made from Lakshman Ghat on the Saryu, according to the statements of ancient records. He is said to have erected 360 temples, on as many different spots, sacred to Rama, and Sita his wife, to his brothers Lakshmana, Bharata, and Satrughna, and to the monkey god Hanumana. The number of 360 is also connected with Salivahana, as his clansman the Bais Rajputa assert that he had 360 wives.

There are several very holy Brahmanical temples about Ajudhya, but they are all of modern date, and without any architectural pretensions whatever. But there can be no
doubt that most of them occupy the sites of more ancient temples that were destroyed by the Musulmans. Thus Ramkot, or Hanuman Garhi, on the east side of the city, is a small walled fort surrounding a modern temple on the top of an ancient mound. The name Ramkot is certainly old, as it is connected with the traditions of the Mani Parbat, which will be hereafter mentioned ; but the temple of Hanuman is not older than the time of Aurangzib. Ram Ghat,at the north-east comer of the city, is said to be the spot where Rama bathed, and Sargdwari or Swargadwari the "Gate of Paradise." On the north-west is believed to be the place where his body was burned. Within a few years ago there was still standing a very holy Banyan tree called Asok Bat or the " Griefless Banyan," a name which was probably connected with that of Swargadwari, in the belief that people who died or were burned at this spot were at once relieved from the necessity of future births. Close by is the Lakahman Ghat, where his brother Lakshman bathed, and about one-quarter of a mile distant, in the very heart of the city, stands the "Janam Asthan", or " Birth-place temple" of Rama". Almost due west, and upwards of five miles distant,is the Guptar Ghat, with its group of modern white-washed temples. This is the place where Lakshman is said to have disappeared, and hence its name of Guptar from Gupta,which means "hidden or concealed." Some say that it was Rama who disappeared at this place, but this is at variance with the story of his cremation at Swargadwari.

The only remains at Ajudhya that appear to be of any antiquity, are three earthen mounds to the south of the city, and about a quarter of a mile distant. These are called Mani-Parbat, Kuber-Parbat, and Sugrib-Parbat. The first,which is nearest to the city, is an artificial mound, 65 feet in height, covered with broken bricks and blocks of kankar. The old bricks are eleven inches square and three inches thick. At 46 feet above the ground on the west side, there are the remains of a curved wall faced with kankar blocks. The mass at this poiut is about 40 feet thick, and this was probably somewhat less than the size of the building which once crowned this lofty mound. According to the Brahmans the Mani-Parbat is one of the hills which the monkeys made use of when assisting Rama. It was accidentally dropped here by Sugriva, the monkey-king of Kishkindhya. But the common people, who know nothing of this story, say that the mound was formed by the labourers shaking their baskets on this spot every evening on their return home from the building of Ramkot. It is therefore best known by the name of Jhowa-Jhar or Ora Jhar, both of which mean "basket-shakings." A similar story is told of the large mounds near Banaras, Nimsar, and other places."…

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