By VIJAY PHANSHIKAR :
Ayodhya was a magnetic point of the civilisation of
India spanning countless lakhs of years, of which
Lord Ram was an icon. The point to underline here is
not just about Lord Ram and Ayodhya, but about the
maturity Indic civilisation attained over countless lakhs
of years. And, it must be asserted that this is not an
attempt of a retrograde revivalism, but a recall of the
great history from which to draw our sustenance in
modern times and create a model for thought and
action suitable to modern times.
The poetry of the moment cannot be missed -- even after
those many countless thousands of years: Two identical
twins dressed in the attire usually rishis wear stood in the middle of the
capacity-packed royal court, right facing
the Emperor. Their faces aglow with
supreme confidence, they sang the story
of the life of Emperor himself in a mesmerising voice and a rare musicality,
impressing everybody -- and, in the
process, leaving behind the imprint of
the moment on history forever.
Of course, the Emperor was none other than Prabhu Shri Ram himself. The
occasion was the celebration of the very
successful culmination of the ‘Rajasooya
Yadnya’ to mark the unmatched conquest of Ayodhya’s armies and diplomatic corps over every other kingdom in the
unimaginably vast Indian political landscape those countless millennia ago. No
kingdom was annexed, of course. But
every other King in the country was
made to accept the superiority of the
Kosala kingdom of which Ayodhya was
the capital city from where ruled Lord
Ram as the most powerful monarch in
The real twist of the episode of singing
of Lord Ram’s story in his own presence
was that he did not know that those two
extremely handsome boys were his own
sons -- Kush and Luv!
Mahrishi Valmiki described this emotionally charged moment in his timeless
epic Shri (Valmiki) Ramayan, the most
authentic record of the story of Lord
Ram and the attendant history spanning
those glorious times. Mahrishi Valmiki
was a contemporary witness to Lord
Ram’s life and times, and put down in
divine words the life-story of the most
ideal King the world ever saw, and also of
the Ishvaku dynasty to which Lord Ram
Besides the poetry of the moment,
what cannot be missed is the description
of the glorious city -- nay, megapolis -- of
Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala empire.
Kosalo Naam Muditah Sfito
(On the banks of - river - Sarayu there
was the great kingdom of Kosala that
was replete with wealth and grain)
Ayodhya Naam Nagari
Manuna Manavendrena Ya Puri
(The city named Ayodhya was well
known and was founded by Manu, the
first King of the mankind).
Thus narrated the two boys and
went on to make a graphic description of the megapolis of Ayodhya.
Spread over 12 yojans in length and 3
yojans in width, Ayodhya was a classic
example of great and thoughtful planning and urban design. It had broad
thoroughfares that were regularly kept
clean and sprinkled with water and
strewn with fragrant flowers. Those
highways and lanes and bylanes were
lined with great structures of artistically
designed and richly decorated palaces
and mansions and public auditoria. The
megapolis was dotted with lush green
parks and gardens and orchards that
had properly-distanced trees of different
and useful species, such as mango, with
thick canopies. It also had lakes and
ponds that were zealously kept clean and
beyond pollution. The city also had
countless open spaces where people often
gathered for public ceremonies and celebrations and festivals and felicitations.
The city boasted of a democratic polity
of believers of the divine and people of
virtue who did not know vices such as
thieving and violence. The society boasted of countless numbers of scholars and
intellectuals who often engaged themselves in debate and discourse on critical
issues of public interest. Ayodhya was a
rich place, thanks to its thriving trade for
which people from all over the country
But what made another critical difference was the patronage of the arts and
literature from the royal family and
social and financial elite. Groups of men
and women performed various art-shows
and expressed their artistic talents with a
sense of complete freedom.
Ayodhya was protected not just by its
armies, but also by a strong wall all
around and a deep, water-filled moat.
The surrounding wall had many gates
and arches that acted as screeningpoints manned by the security personnel.
At this point, it is necessary to go back
to the massive geographical spread of
Ayodhya. The Ayodhya of those times
was 12 yojans in length and 3 yojans in
width. Yojan is a measure of distance,
and when translated into modern terms,
it accounted for 12.625 kilometers. That
meant Ayodhya was 154.5 km in length,
and 38.625 kilometers in width -- spread
along the flow of the Sarayu river.
That means, the geographical area of
Ayodhya of those times was 5967.5625
What a spread! Bigger than the current National Capital Regions (of Delhi)
and almost as big as the Greater Mumbai
and Navi Mumbai put together.
That brings us to feeling amazed by
the sheer scale of details of urban management of Ayodhya.
The planners ensured that the city
spread along the Sarayu banks up to plus
150 kilometers, but restricted its spread
away from the water-front only up to 38-
39 kilometers -- presumably to facilitate
better utilisation of the river water for
urban usage for people’s needs.
And still, the Sarayu flowed uninterrupted by urban abuse and pollution.
For, Mahrishi Valmiki described the taste
of the river-water to be as sweet as sugarcane juice.
Several ancient texts mention that a
dip in the Sarayu meant cleansing of
body, mind, and soul. Textual references
also are available to suggest the importance of benefits people had from
bathing in the Sarayu waters. It is
believed that the tradition of bathing in
the Sarayu went back to lakhs of years.
That was Ayodhya -- one of the seven
holy cities of India, as stated so clearly in
the following verse from the Brahmanda
Ayodhya Mathura Maya Kashi
Puri Drawavati Chaiva Saptaite
(Seven cities are known to be the doors
for sublimation of soul -- Ayodhya,
Mathura, Maya (Haridwar), Kashi,
Kanchi (puram), Avantikapuri (Ujjain),
and Dwaravati (Dwaraka)).
Ayodhya finds reference in several other important texts describing not just its
physical attributes, but also its metaphysical qualities, such as the one in
Tasyat Hiranmaya Koshah
Sargo Loko Jyotishavratah/
These are enough to prove the highcalibre civilisational quotient of
Ayodhya. It was not just a political
centre of the Kosala empire, but also the
soul of its culture and civilisation and an
expression of its fine polity that had
enriched itself through arts and literature and protected itself with latest
weapons and methods of warfare.
Mahakavi Kalidas mentions in his iconic
Raghuvansham how the Kings from the
dynasty were the protectors even of Gods
and their King the Indra, and how they
spent from their treasures the last goldcoin when the people needed. In that
way, notes Kalidas, the royal treasure of
the Kings from Raghuvansh always
remained rather empty and the royals
had to fill that up by carrying out campaigns in other kingdoms across their
Let us come to modern times about
asserting the ancient vintage of Ayodhya
as an important and proud reference to
civilisational context. When Jagadguru
Rambhadracharya (the saint who went
blind as a child of four) stood before the
judge to depose in the Ayodhya temple
case, he surprised everybody by quoting
verses from the Atharva Ved to assert the
existence and importance of Ayodhya as
a city that made Bharatvarsh proud -- in
the Indic context.
The point to be made here is that
Ayodhya was a magnetic point of the
civilisation of India spanning countless
lakhs of years, of which Lord Ram was
an icon. The point to underline here is
not just about Lord Ram and Ayodhya,
but about the maturity Indic civilisation
attained over countless lakhs of years.
And, it must be asserted that this is not
an attempt of a retrograde revivalism,
but a recall of the great history from
which to draw our sustenance in modern times and create a model for thought
and action suitable to modern times.
When the country rejoices over the
construction of Shri Ram temple at
Ayodhya and the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ of
Ram Lalla’s (Balak Ram) idol there, time
it is for us to rise above any so-called
political narrative and remind ourselves
that Lord Ram and Ayodhya are the
icons that have so far shaped our
thought-process very well -- so that we
could survive hostile onslaughts for
thousands of years.
While all other
ancient civilisations perished in time,
Indian civilisation has survived. Why?
Simply because we have been backed by
a divine culture that has given us a rare
resilience -- whose evidence we often get
Ayodhya -- of those ancient times -- is
one of the point through which flowed
the nectar or potion of our strength to
tide over time’s vagaries. This facet of
our culture and tradition and history
needs to be reminded to ourselves time
and again. Hence this reference to
Ayodhya -- with a context to Lord Ram.
The idea of Ayodhya is the idea of the
cultural finesse India of ancient times
had been able to achieve. The idea of
Ayodhya is the ideal that we must emulate even today -- sheerly for its timelessness, merely for its agelessness.
We must understand that the Ayodhya
as mentioned in Shri Valmiki Ramayan
did not get built overnight. It took thousands of years to come to that fine point
-- thanks to its science, thanks to its spirituality, thanks to its academic excellence, thanks to its arts, thanks to its literature, thanks to its culture and heritage, thanks to its seers and royals who
offered continued leadership with fine
That is basic expected of us.