Was there any Rama temple in Ayodhya?
Also, was Ayodhya mentioned as a pilgrimage site in any of the Puranas?
I would like so share some of the important points from the following link http://veda.wikidot.com/ayodhya, here. It provides both historical as well Archaelogical Evidences
Puranas like the Brahmanda Purana consider Ayodhya as one of the six holiest cities in Hinduism.
The story of this epic has been immortalized by Valmiki and immensely popularized by the great masses through centuries. According to puranic tradition, in the 93rd generation from Ikshvaku, the 30th from Rama was Brihabdala the last famous king of the Ikshvaku dynasty of Ayodhya, who was killed during the Mahabharata war.
Tulsidas is said to have begun the writing of his famous Ramayana poem Shri Ramacharitamanas in Ayodhya in 1574 CE. Several Tamil Alwar mention the city of Ayodhya. Ayodhya is also said to be the birthplace of King Bharata (The First Chakravarti King), Bhahubali, Brahmi, Sundari, King Dasaratha, Acharya Padaliptasurisvarji, King Harishchandra, Shri Rama Achalbhrata, and the ninth Gandhara of Mahavir Swami.
Archaelogical Evidence of pre-existing Temple:
The Babri structure had 14 pillars made of 'Kasauti' black stone with Hindu images. Also inside the Babri compound was a piece of a door jamb with images of 'Mukut-dhari Dwarpal' and 'Devakanyas'. Iconographical evaluation of these pillars and the door jamb by Dr. S. P. Gupta (former Director of Allahabad Museum) showed that these belonged to a Hindu temple of the 11 th Century A.D. when the Garhwal Kings of Kanauj ruled Ayodhya.
Between 1975 and 1980 Prof. B. B. Lal (the then Director General of Archaeological Survey of India) conducted an excavation behind the Babri structure. The excavation showed pillar bases of burnt bricks (of the preexisting temple). The most beautiful pottery dated around 8 th-9th Century B.C. was also found.
On June 18 th 1992, when the ground near the Ram Janma Bhoomi was being levelled, at a depth of 12 ft, several beautifully carved buff sandstone objects were found. These objects included images of Vaishnav divinities with one 'Chakrapurush' sculpture also showing 'Parashuram' and 'Balram', an image of 'Shiv-Parvati' (largely broken) and many carved stones such as corner were terrecotta Hindu images of Kushan period (1 st to 3 rd Century A.D.).
These and other objects found during subsequent excavations during July 1992, were found to be members of a Hindu temple complex of about 11 th Century A.D. by a team of 8 eminent archaeologists and historians. The team included Dr. Y. D. Sharma, former Deputy Director General of Archaeological Survey of India, and Prof. B. R. Grover, Director of Indian Council for Historical Research.
The principal amongst the findings however is a 2 ft wide by 4.5 ft long buff sandstone tablet 'SHILA LEKH' bearing an inscription in 'Devanagari' script and Sanskrit language. The 'Shila lekh' describes an ancient Ram Mandir existing at Ram Janma Bhoomi at least since the 12 th Century A.D. which was built by a Garhwal king Raja Govindachandra.
The 4th line of this 'Shila lekh' specifically describes a temple of Lord Vishnu (Hari) at the 'Janma Bhoomi Sthal'. The 15 th line describes it as a massive, magnificent temple dominating the landscape, and with steeples 'shikhar' adorned with gold 'Kalash'. The 17 th line specifically mentions the location as Ayodhya and the 'Saket Mandal', while the 19 th line mentions the 'Vaman Avatar' and then mentions Ram as the destroyer of evil Ravan.
Yes, the Tulsi Doha Shataka of Goswami Tulsidas, written in the sixteenth century, describes explicitly the demolition of the Rama Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya and mentions the perpetrators behind it.
The following are relevant extracts from the text describing the demolition:
मंत्र उपनिषद ब्राह्मनहुँ बहु पुरान इतिहास ।
जवन जराये रोष भरि करि तुलसी परिहास ॥ 85 ॥
English Translation: Tulasīdāsa says that the Yavanas, filled with rage, burnt many Mantras or Saṃhitās, Upaniṣads and even Brāhamaṇas (parts of Vedas), and Purāṇa and Itihāsa scriptures, after ridiculing them.
सिखा सूत्र ते हीन करि बल ते हिन्दू लोग ।
भमरि भगाये देश ते तुलसी कठिन कुजोग ॥ 86 ॥
English Translation: Tulasīdāsa says that in the hard and inappropriate age, [they, the Yavanas] forcibly made the Hindus bereft of Śikhā (the hair tuft) and Sūtra (the sacred thread) and made them wander [as homeless people], after which they expelled them from their country (native place).
बाबर बर्बर आइके कर लीन्हे करवाल ।
हने पचारि पचारि जन तुलसी काल कराल ॥ 87 ॥
English Translation: The barbaric Babar came, with a sword in his hand, and killed people after repeatedly calling out to them. Tulasīdāsa says that the time was terrible.
संवत सर वसु बान नभ ग्रीष्म ऋतु अनुमानि ।
तुलसी अवधहिं जड़ जवन अनरथ किय अनखानि ॥ 88 ॥
English Translation: Tulasīdāsa says that in the Saṃvat 1585 (1528 AD), sometime around the summer season, the ignorant Yavanas caused disaster and sorrow in Awadh (Ayodhyā).
राम जनम महिं मंदिरहिं तोरि मसीत बनाय ।
जवहिं बहुत हिन्दुन हते तुलसी कीन्ही हाय ॥ 89 ॥
English Translation: Destroying the temple at Rāmajanmabhūmi, they constructed a mosque. When they killed many Hindus, Tulasīdāsa cried out - Alas!
दल्यो मीरबाकी अवध मन्दिर रामसमाज ।
तुलसी रोवत हृदय हति त्राहि त्राहि रघुराज ॥ 90 ॥
English Translation: Mir Baqi destroyed the temple in Awadh (Ayodhyā) and the Rāmasamāja (the idols Rāma Pañcāyatana – Rāma, Sītā, Bharata, Lakṣmaṇa, Śatrughna, Hanumān). [On thinking of this,] Tulasīdāsa cries, beating his chest, O the best of Raghus! Protect us, protect us!
राम जनम मंदिर जहाँ लसत अवध के बीच ।
तुलसी रची मसीत तहँ मीरबाँकि खल नीच ॥ 91 ॥
English Translation: Tulasīdāsa says that in the midst of Awadh (Ayodhyā), where the Rāmajanmabhūmi temple was resplendent, there the wicked and vile Mir Baqi constructed a mosque.
रामायन घरि घन्ट जहँ श्रुति पुरान उपखान ।
तुलसी जवन अजान तहँ कियो कुरान अजान ॥ 92 ॥
English Translation: Tulasīdāsa says that where there was constant ringing of the bells and the narrations (upakhāna, from Saṃskṛta upākhyāna) of the Rāmāyaṇa, Veda and Purāṇa, the ignorant (ajāna) Yavana read (literally, “did”) the Quran and the Azaan (ajāna). (Yamaka figure of speech in the repetition of ajāna.)
Footnote: The translations mentioned above were made by Nityananda Mishra.
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