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Ayodhya (also Oudh or Awadh), an ancient city, is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. In the Ramayana, Lord Rama was born here during the reign of his father, Dasaratha, in what was then a prosperous, well fortified city with a large population. In traditional history, it was the early capital of the kingdom of Kosala, while, in Buddha's time (6th-5th century BCE), Shravasti became the kingdom's chief city. Scholars equate Ayodhya with the city of Saketa, where the Buddha is said to have briefly lived. Its later importance as a Buddhist centre was attested by the Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-hsien in the 5th century CE who saw 100 monasteries here. Other monuments, including a stupa (shrine), were apparently built by Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE.
The Kanauj kingdom arose here in the 11-12th centuries. Later part of the Delhi sultanate, the Jaunpur kingdom, and the Mughal Empire, Oudh gained a degree of independence in early 18th century, before its subordination to the British East India Company in 1764 and annexation by the British in 1856; this and the subsequent loss of hereditary land revenue rights helped precipitate the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Despite the city's great age, few ancient monuments survive. Its temples and bathing ghats by the river Saryu are of no great age. Near the modern city are several mounds marking the site of ancient Ayodhya that have not yet been adequately explored by archaeologists.
Ayodhya's Babri Masjid was built in the early 16th century by the Mughal emperor Babur on a site believed to be Rama's birthplace and the location of an ancient Hindu temple, the Ram Janmabhoomi. Because of its significance to both Hindus and Muslims, the site was often a matter of contention. In 1990, riots in northern India followed the storming of the mosque by militant Hindus intent on erecting a temple on the site; the ensuing crisis brought down the Indian government. Two years later, on 6 Dec 1992, the three-story mosque was demolished in a few hours by a mob of Hindu fanatics. More than 1,000 people died in the rioting that swept through India following the mosque's destruction. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica; Mar 06]
The Ghats on River Saryu
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