According to Hindus, the piece of land where Babri Masjid stands today is the birthplace of Lord Rama, the revered Hindu god. In Ramcharitramanas, the holy book of Hindus, Ram, son of King Dashratha and Kaushalya, was born in Ayodhya.
It is also said that during Mughal King Babur's era, the pre-existing temple at the site of Ram Lalla was destroyed to build a mosque. It was later known as Babri Masjid or Babur's mosque.
Since then, both Hindus and Muslims have worshipped at the site. According to a magazine report, the first-ever case in the Ayodhya dispute was filed in 1885 by Nirmohi Akhara (body of Hindu saints in Ayodhya), who sought permission to pray inside the Babri mosque. The permission was denied by the courts then.
On Jan 16, 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad, an Ayodhya resident filed a case in the court of the civil judge, Faizabad, seeking permission to worship the deities installed at "Asthan Janma Bhoomi" popularly known as Ram Janm Bhoomi.
According to a report in the Outlook magazine, an interim injunction was granted which restrained the Muslim community from removing the idols. Soon, another resident went to court seeking permission to pray inside the temple. It opened flood gates and many people and various Hindu organisations approached the court seeking permission to pray at the contested site in Ayodhya.
Professor BB Lal, former DG, ASI once told India TV, "While we were digging at the site, we found pillars in the trench. The pillar bases had the scriptures of Hindu deities." ASI has been engaged in the excavation work in Ayodhya twice - 1977 and 2003.
Watch | Former ASI DG, BB Lal says solid evidence of temple's existence on the disputed site in Ayodhya
Since then, Ayodhya dispute has been one of the most sensitive issues, politically and communally, searching for a lasting solution.
The issue got more complicated after the disputed structure was demolished on December 6 in 1992. There have been several attempts to find a solution legally, with all parties committing to accept a court verdict.
Allahabad High Court's historic verdict
In 2010, the Allahabad High Court had said the 22.7 acres of the disputed land in Ayodhya be equally divided among the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
After that, as many as 14 appeals have been filed before the Supreme Court. The matter has lately gained momentum legally and the Supreme Court seems to be eager to settle it once and for all.
A five-judge Supreme Court bench will hear the matter on a priority basis from August 2, 2019.
Earlier, the top court, on March 8, took a major step as it appointed a three-member mediation panel to talk to all stakeholders and try to reach a consensus on solving the most vexed dispute. The talks will end on July 31.
Though the court, while recommending mediation, said it was looking for "a possibility of healing relationships", it expected the mediation to succeed in developing a consensus on the sensitive matter.
Headed by former Supreme Court judge F.M. Kalifulla, the panel was tasked to hold consultations to explore the potential avenue through which an amicable settlement between the parties could finally arrive.
The other two members of the panel are -- spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living Foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, who is a well-known mediator in the legal circles.
The Supreme Court asked the panel to conduct in-camera proceedings and complete the mediation process within eight weeks. The court stressed on maintaining confidentiality on the proceedings, as it will protect the on-going dialogue from unwarranted controversies and unsolicited comments.
The Hindu parties have contested that the mediation is not progressing in a positive direction, while the Muslim parties have held back from making a statement on the nature of the proceedings. As a result, the court has asked the mediation committee to submit its report on the consultations held so far.
Here's a brief chronology of the Ayodhya Case
October 24, 1994: In a significant development, the top court said in the historic Ismail Faruqui case that a mosque was not integral to Islam.
April 2002: Allahabad High Court begins hearing to determine who owns the disputed site.
March 2003: Supreme Court said in the Aslam alias Bhure case, no religious activity to be allowed at the acquired land. Later, the top court said interim order passed remain operative till disposal of the civil suits in Allahabad High Court.
September 30, 2010: Allahabad High CourtHC, in a 2:1 majority, ruled the three-way division of disputed area between Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
May 9, 2011: In a major development, the Supreme Court stated the High Court verdict on Ayodhya land dispute.
February 26, 2016: Subramanian Swamy moves Supreme Court seeking construction of Ram Temple at the disputed site.
March 21: Chief Justice JS Khehar suggested out-of-court settlement to the parties.
August 7: Top court constituted three-judge bench to hear pleas challenging 1994 verdict of Allahabad High Court. August 8: Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board told Supreme Court probability of building the mosque in a Muslim-dominated, which is at a distance from the disputed site.
September 11: SC directs Allahabad HC Chief Justice to nominate two additional district judges within ten days as observers regarding the maintenance of the disputed site.
November 20: UP Shia Central Waqf Board told the top court that temple should be built in Ayodhya and mosque in Lucknow.
December 1: Thirty-two civil rights activists challenge the 2010 Allahabad HC verdict.
December 5: Final hearing in the Ayodhya appeals begin before a Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer.
February 8, 2018: SC starts hearing the civil appeals, and later rejected all interim pleas, including Swamy's, plea seeking to intervene as parties in the case.
April 6: Senior advocate, representing a Muslim litigant, Rajeev Dhavan files plea in SC to refer the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgement to a larger bench.
July 6: Uttar Pradesh government tells the top court that some Muslim groups were trying to delay the hearing in the garb of reconsideration of an observation in the 1994 verdict.
July 20: Supreme Court reserves verdict.
September 27: SC refuses the case to be heard by a five-judge Constitution bench, instead of the hearing scheduled on October 29 by a newly constituted three-judge bench.
October 29: A three-judge Bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi ruled that dispute appeals be listed in January 2019.
The progress made in 2019
January 4: A Two-judge bench led by CJI Bench said an "appropriate Bench" will take up the appeals on January 10.
January 8: Interestingly, the top court notifies a five-judge Bench led by the CJI and Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud will hear the Ayodhya title dispute appeals on January 10. Lalit recused from the hearing.
January 29: Hearing deferred as Justice Bobde was on medical leave. Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer get on the bench instead of Justices N.V. Ramana and U.U. Lalit.
February 26: The Supreme Court proposes a court-monitored mediation process between the Hindu and Muslim parties. Allots eight weeks to the Muslim parties to go through the official translation of Ayodhya case records.
March 8: The Bench appoints mediation committee on the dispute. The mediators -- former apex court judge, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, as Chairman, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. During a hearing May, the court extended the process of mediation till August 15, as an interim report suggested that mediation is on track.
(Inputs from IANS, India TV Archives)
Also watch: History of Ayodhya