Ayodhya. The name lights up a horizon of thought where the celestial meets the terrestrial—a rich, lambent, ambivalent zone. Is it of this earth, or of the beyond? In India’s supra-rational imagination, it’s both at once. Even in its highest idealisations as a city of paradise, its ethereal light was not devoid of a glint of steel. Prefixed by the negative ‘a-’ in a pattern common to Sanskrit, a-yodhya literally means ‘that which cannot be won in battle’, a place beyond the reach of the warrior’s sword. This is the sense in which it makes its first appearance, in the Atharvaveda, around 1200 BC. Here, Ayodhya is the human body. The metaphor reappears a few centuries later, circa 600 BC, in the Taittiriya Aranyaka—the body, with its eight chakras and nine dwaras, is devanam purayodhya, the impregnable fortress of the gods. It’s not yet a name, more an adjective. The city on the Sarayu, the abode of Rama Dasharathi, is yet to fully emerge from the mist at this point. But Ayodhya is already living its duality, on the cusp between the transcendental and the very, very earthly.

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