In remote antiquity, Ayodhya was one of the largest and most magnificent of Indian cities. It is said to have covered an area of 25,000 hectares (96 square miles), and was the capital of the kingdom of Kosala, the court of the great king Dasaratha, the fifty-sixth monarch of the Solar line in descent from Raja Manu. The opening chapters of the Ramayana recount the magnificence of the city, the glories of the monarch and the virtues, wealth and loyalty of his people. Dasaratha was the father of Rama Chandra, the hero of the epic.
A period of Buddhist supremacy followed the death of the last king of the Solar dynasty. On the revival of Brahmanism, Ayodhya was restored by King Vikramaditya (c. 57 BC). Kosala is also famous as the early home of Buddhism, and of the kindred religion of Jainism, and claims to be the birthplace of the founders of both these faiths. In the 7th century, the Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang observed there were 20 Buddhist temples with 3000 monks at Ayodhya, amongst a large Brahmanical population. At the end of the 19th century, Ayodhya contained 96 Hindu temples and 36 Muslim mosques. Little local trade was carried on, but the great fair of Ramnami held every year was attended by about 500,000 people.
Since the early 1990s, Ayodhya has become the reason for much violence between Muslims and Hindus. In 1992, extremist elements claiming to represent the Hindu majority, razed a 16th-century Muslim mosque (q.v. Babri Mosque), sparking nationwide riots between Hindus and Muslims that killed more than 2,000 people. One of the claims of the Hindu fundamentalists is that a Hindu temple originally stood where the mosque stood. In 2001 the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) announced, in defiance of court orders, that it would break ground on a Hindu temple by March 15, 2002. Over 20,000 Hindu nationalists have since gathered at the site.
See also: nationalism
(Parts of this article come from an old encyclopedia.)