Ayodhya

Ayodhya əyōd´yə [key] or Ajodhyaəjōd´yə [key], town, Uttar Pradesh state, N India, on the Ghaghara River. Formerly called Oudh, the town forms a municipal corporation with Faizabad. Ayodhya was the capital of the kingdom of Kosala (7th cent. BC). Long associated with Hindu legend of Rama and his father Dasharatha (see Ramayana), the town is a center of pilgrimage and is one of the seven sites sacred to Hindus.

In the late 1980s Ayodhya became a focus of Muslim-Hindu tensions, and in 1992 fundamentalist Hindus pulled down the 16th-century Babri mosque that they alleged stood on the site of Rama's birthplace. In 2003 the Archaeological Survey of India reported that remains of a structure with features like those of Hindu temple were underneath the mosque. Building a temple on the site was a rallying issue for Hindu nationalist parties, and a 2009 report on the razing accused many prominent Hindu nationalists of planning, supporting, or failing to prevent the attack. A. B. Vajpayee and other Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) leaders were named as being among those who were in some way culpable. In 2017 the supreme court ordered that Lal Krishna Advani and several other BJP leaders be tried for their alleged role in the razing of the mosque.

The site of the razed mosque was long a source of contention; a lawsuit over ownership of the site that dated to 1950 was decided only in 2010. The decision divided the land between Hindus and Muslims, but parties on both sides announced plans for appeals, and in 2011 the supreme court suspended the ruling. A 2019 decision by the supreme court, while criticizing the destruction of the mosque, awarded the land to Hindus on the basis of the 2003 archaeological report.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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