The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra has attracted me whenever my mom chanted them. I accept being a Shiva Devotee as a child, Still do not why, but the deity’s power drew me close to him always. And as a kid, I had this fascination to visit Mahakala once in my lifetime. But my mamma always said you could not see him until called. Hence I waited patiently to be contacted by the Shiva. You must be guessing why Mahakal & not any other Jyotirlingams. Well, I want to visit all twelve Jyotirlingams, but Mahakal was on my top list. Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga’s presiding deity, Lord Shiva in the Lingam form is believed to be Swayambhu.
Its deriving currents of force (Shakti) from within itself as against the other images. And lingams that are ritually established and invested with mantra-Shakti. Mahakaleshwar’s shrine is said to be the most sacred abodes of Lord Shiva. Eventually, I was called upon, to visit the ancient temple city Avantika (Ujjain) situated on the holy Kshipra. The Simhastha Kumbh Mela, a grand Hindu spiritual festival – also takes place here once in twelve years in Chaitra month as per the Hindu calendar. It celebrates the religious belief in the divinity and spiritual awakening where devotees take a plunge in the holy Kshipra. The only river that travels straight from South to North. It is thought that by bathing in this river, one is blessed with divine vitality.
In ancient Hindu scriptures, Ujjain is an essential home for major religious activities. One of Sapta Puris, situated on the tropic of Cancer, line with an extraordinary cosmic influence. It was making Ujjain an ideal place for time calculation and creation of Panchang (Hindu calendar). Therefore, this city situated on the intersection of the Tropic of Cancer and the meridian for which it is also known as ‘Greenwich of India’. As ‘Time’ in Sanskrit is called ‘Kal’, Shiva is worshipped as Mahakal, the God of Time. According to legend, Lord Mahakaleshwar’s idol is fixed at the meridian crossing point. And the tropic of cancer, which is also n the Earth’s centre.
So then without delay, I booked mine along with my mamma’s flight tickets for Mahakaleshwar. It was morning and comfortable flight to Indore. Outside the airport, you can hire taxis or cabs to Ujjain, its 55Kms from Indore. The drive has a lavishing greenfield and natural scape to its beauty. And by the time we reached, it was late afternoon. We checked in to our hotel. I booked Hotel Arthva, Near Jantar Mantar, Mahakal-Harsiddhi Road, Ujjain. Nonetheless, you have other options too from budget hotels to a dormitory or Dharamshala starting with a price range of Rs 500. After refreshing up & a hot coffee cup, we decided to visit the Mahakalewar temple for evening Arti.
The synagogue was crowded as it was being decorated for Holika Dahan. After the Aarti, I checked up on the Bhasam Aarti timing at Mahakaleshwar. I came across we had to fill in a form that was sold out. I was disheartened! But the Mahakaleshwar temple Pujari suggested speaking with the trustee’s head. Thus, I met the Mahakaleshwar trustee’s authority and shared my dilemma. And was kind enough to allow us additional form for the Bhasam Aarti. However, I would suggest an online booking on a given internet site. Also, for Prasad & paid Darshan tickets along with Bhasam Aarti Booking. We stayed in the Mahakaleshwar temple back till Holika Dahan ceremony was performed. Later we ate local cuisine at our hotel & took sleep for a few hours.
The root of the Mahakaleshwar temple is unknown, but it dates back to the prehistoric period. The Shiva Purana depicts that, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu once argued over who was supreme in the foundation. Hence the three worlds were pierced as an eternal pillar of light- the Jyotirlinga to test them. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma decided to travel along the pillar. From downwards and upwards to find the end of the light. And Lord Vishnu conceded his defeat, while Lord Brahma lied that he had found the end. Suddenly Lord Shiva came out as the second tower of light. And Shiva said Lord Vishnu would be worshipped till the eternity goal. But cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies.
Later Prajapati Brahma established the temple. At that point king, Chanda Pradyota appointed a citation of prince Kumarasena in 6th c. BC. He had to look after the Mahakala temple’s legal philosophy and order situations. And he worshipped him like a pious devotee. There is the icon of Lord Siva bears on punch-marked coins of Ujjain, belonging to 4th-3rd c. BC. The Mahakala temple is also identified in several ancient Indian poetic verses.
As per historical facts, Gazanavide commander invaded Malwa in the Eighth Decade of Eleventh c. AD. He looted the magnificent and magnanimous temple, also, with brutally destroying the image & the temple. But very soon the Paramaras rejuvenated everything. Sultan Iltutmish of Delhi also attacked Ujjain. He knocked down the synagogue in 1234-35 AD. And the Maratha general Ranoji Shinde built the present structure in 1734 CE.
The temple faced destruction, reconstruction and renovation over the centuries. In the 19th century, the neighbourhood’s last ruling dynasty the Scindias took over the temple’s restoration work. Situated near the Rudra Sagar lake, the present five-level temple was constructed in 18th century AD. It is a mixture of the Paramara, Chalukya and Maratha styles of architecture. The Garbhagriha has the Dakshinamurti Lingam, i.e. facing the south. So this Jyotirling, Mahakal is the Lord of Earth and Lord of Death as well.
I woke up at midnight. As we have to reach the MahaKaleswar temple for Bhasam Arti before 4 am. Took a quick shower, called an auto-rickshaw for the synagogue. Bhasma Aarti booking counter is available for booking offline that opens from 10 am to 3 pm every day. They snap a photograph of a person and his identity proof. And confirmation of your booking is sent over SMS. You will also get a confirmation SMS after 7:00 pm if your booking application is allowed. I was feeling lucky as I could get express permission despite being late & unaware of the procedure.
Upon arriving at the Mahakaleshwar temple, we saw a massive queue for Bhasma Aarti. As timings are 4 am to 5 am, we too stood in line from 1 am. And the Jal Abhishek started around 3:15 am. And after the Jal Abhishek, we were gone to the enormous hall to watch Bhasma Aarti.
Lord Shiva is called Mahaankaal in Ujjain or The Ruler of Kal. Even the Lord Transcends Time or Death & Immortality. And this Aarti is done with fresh ashes of Aghori’spyre. However, I saw that Bhasma Arati Seva with Human Ash is now not being used in Ujjain. The Ash used is obtained by burning Cow Dung, or the Bark & Timber of trees. Or the Ash received after conducting Havan, Homa & Yagnas. During the Bhasma Arti woman have to do Parda, as Shiva is usually depicted naked in Sadhana, his whole body covered in Bhasma.
The first rhyme of the Shiva Panchakshara Stotram gives the following description: Naagendrahaaraaya Trilochanaaya, Bhasmaangaraagaaya Maheshwaraaya Nityaaya Shuddhaaya Digambaraaya – ‘Salutations to the mighty three-eyed Shiva, eternal and pure, wearing the king of snakes as his garland, naked and besmeared with sacred ash.’ The whole space was filled with the chanting of hymns. And for a moment, I felt his third eye opened with a flash of fierce lightning.
After the Bhasam Arti, Lord Shiva was dressed & decorated with flowers, ornaments & Chandan. Before devotees played Holi with the Shiva, by smearing Gulal. Afterwards, we left for the hotel to return for the Jal Abhishek with the correct dress code. I came back to the Mahakaleshwar temple around 7.30 am, for Jal Abhishek & Darshan. We took the paid tickets of 250 INR each, to keep off the crowds. However, it took an hour to complete the entire process. But the priest was kind and generous to perform the ritual with all mantras.
Post my Jal Abhishek & Darshan; I took an auto-rickshaw to tour another city’s sacred spot. The tour cost me 1000 INR for the whole day, with a drop at my hotel. But before starting the tour, we had a steaming hot cup of tea. Along with it ate the famous Poha with Sev of Ujjain for our breakfast. I wanted to try the Bhang Thandai but was apprehensive as mom was travelling with me. I saw a shop on the Mahakal road, offering Bhang in Peeda & other mixed with Thandai. So I did try it in the evening. And it was yummy. Now let’s begin with the experience of my enlistment. Post a sumptuous breakfast I started the tour with:
Bade Ganesh Temple
A few meters away from the Mahakaleshwar temple are the Bade Ganesh Temple, It is devoted to Lord Ganesha, the presiding deity signifies wisdom, discretion and foresight.
This Ganesha temple is also a significant centre of learning about astrology and Sanskrit language. In the ancient Vedic period, about 1500 BC, houses of prayer were study centres too. It is the country’s only temple with a Panchmukhi (five-faced) idol of the monkey-god Lord Hanuman which symbolizes courage, dedication, devotion, strength, and righteousness.
Vikramaditya Seat of Judgement
The legendary emperor Vikramaditya, who is characterized as the ideal king, recognized for his wisdom, courage, magnanimity and patronage of scholars, had Ujjain as his capital city. One of the city’s attractions, Bhartrihari Caves, natural caves were existing since ancient times. It is named after Bhartrihari, who is the step-brother of King Vikramaditya. He lived and meditated here after renouncing worldly life. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit them, but I suggest you can add to your list.
It is one of 52 Shakti Peeths situated all over India and lies at the walk-able distance from Mahakaleshwar temple. According to the Shiva Purana, the Elbow of the Sati fell at this spot when Lord Shiva was taking Sati from the Yagya of Daksha Prajapati. However, as per Skandhapuran, the Goddess was called Harsidhi for killing two demons Chanda and Prachand and buffaloes were used to be sacrificed here. The synagogue houses the idols of Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati, and the famous dark vermilion image of Annapurna, the Goddess of Nourishment sn.
As per folk tales, King Vikramaditya was a keen devotee of Harsidhhi Mata. During the Maratha period, the temple was restored, was two tall, deep-stamps that light where hundreds of lamps are lit during festivities, especially during Navratri festival. On one of the present tank’s Column gates, has the year 1447 is inscribed on it. During the evening Arti, on the auspicious occasion of Holi, the deep-stamps was enlightened with hundreds of lamps. It looked so mesmerizing.
After the Akshayavata of Prayag, Vanshivata of Vrindavan, Panchavata of Nashik and Bodhivata of Gay, Siddhavata at Ujjain is known for its holiness. Post funeral rites are done here at the Siddhavata ghat of Holy Shipra. Skanda-Purana has referenced this place as preta-Shila-Tirth. Agreeing to some, Parvati performed her penances here. It has likewise been a place of worship for the followers of Natha Sect. Shipra abounds with tortoises at Siddavata. It is also believed that the Banyan tree at the Ghat was tried to be ruined, but the roots formed into an iron sheet, to protect itself and later grew thicker & denser.
Kal Bhairav Temple
Kaal Bhairava is one of the famous temples for its strange rituals. However, many other temples lie in the vicinity of Siddavata. The Shaivite form of worship has also emphasised the eight Bhairavas mainly by the Kapalika and Aghora sects. Kaal- Bhairava is the first among them, known for the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva. And the supreme ruler of this universe as per Hindu scriptures. Skandpurana has made a mention of the temple of Kaal Bhairava in its Avanti Khanda. Kale-Bhairava is offered liquor, as a part of their worship. And the Lord is accompanied by his divine vehicle, a black dog.
Kal Bhairav Temple
We visited & gave alcohol as part of the worship ritual since Kaal Bhairav is our Kul Devtaa. It is supposed that a certain king named Bhadrasen got this temple constructed during the Parmars period. I also discovered traces of old Malwa-style paintings on the temple walls, along with a deep-Stambh near the temple entrance. The right of the courtyard in the temple is dedicated to Vitthala and, the left is Adharmashala. This little town famous since ancient times for the wax-resist dyeing technique called Batik.
The Gadhkalika Temple is a Shakti Peeth, and the idol is saffron in colour. It’s unlike the usual idols of Goddess Kalika which are dark in colour. This temple was repaired in the 7th century AD by Emperor Harshvardhan.
The fable goes that the famous Classical Sanskrit writer Kalidasa often visited the temple. And due to his devotion to the Goddess, he was blessed with supreme literary skill. The rulers of the Scindia dynasty built the present construction.
After I visited the Gadhkalika Temple, I determined to take a break for lunch as it was past 1 pm. Hence we went to a nearby Bhojanalaya. They offered different cuisine veg Thali ranging from Rs 35- Rs 55. It was neat & decent place to dine. Afterwards, I headed further into Mangalnath Temple. It has scenic settings on Kshipra and Khilchipur rivers’ confluence. It depicts the religious significance with a banyan tree which is supposedly planted by Parvati.
Other Scriptures suggested this is the birthplace of the Mars planet. The Mars planet is worshipped in the form of Shiv Ling. From whom seeking the removal of defects in their Kundli (horoscope) related to Mars. In ancient times, this was an ideal geographical location for a readable view of Mars. It is stated that this is the intersection point of the Tropic of Cancer and the zero longitudes passing the Earth. Also, the serene bank of Shipra, close to the temple, is worth spending an afternoon.
Sun Dial in Ujjain Observatory
I have drenched my desires for visiting temples, so I steered towards the Observatory (Vedh Shala). The calculation of time is done here, taking into account the unique geographical location of Ujjain. This observatory was constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh II between 1725 AD and 1730 AD. The observatory entry feet 10 INR, dawn to dusk, & it’s 2-3 km from the railway station. The planets’ astronomical motions and orbits ore studied through Samrat Yantra, Nadivalaya Yantra, Digansha Yantra, Shanku Yantra, Yamyottarabhitti Yantra which is the main instruments.
Maharaja Madhav Rao Scindia renovated the observatory in 1923 who was then the ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior. And this spot is also known as Yantra-Mahal. The studies of the planetary motions are still conducted in this observatory. And it’s published annually in a journal – an ephemeris showing daily speed and position of planets. While going out of this place, I tried a glass of Keshar milk with some freshly made kachoris.
Aside from its religious and political importance, ancient Ujjain was a seat of great learning. And also the oldest centre of education. Sandipani has great mythological value. And it is considered the first education place of Lord Krishna, along with elder brother Balram and Sudama. Also Mahabharata, the Puranas, shared-Bhagavata, Brahma, Agni and Bramavaivarta bear references to Sandipani Ashram. Students are imparted with Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads and spiritual values.
Along with science, mathematics, political science, military science, and arts. The principal objective was to reach spiritual alignment. That’s the sole reason why it gained more excellent academic. Much archaeological evidence of three thousand years has been recovered from here. Mostly resembling Hastinapur, Indraprastha, Mathura, Achichchhatra and Kaushambi. These pieces of evidence indicate that this region is the oldest in the city. The Gomati-Kunda is the most senior water supply source to the Ashram which is spoken about in Puranas.
The area is known as Ankapata. And favourite tales describe that Lord Krishna used the spot for washing his writing-table. I also saw the image of standing Nandi near the tank that belonged to the Shung-period. In the 16th century, Shri Vallabhacharya, a great saint of the Vaishnava sect, delivered his religious discourses in this Ashram’s locality. There are temples devoted to Lord Shiva too. An old engraved stone with numerals from 1 to 100 can also be seen within the ashram complex.
Lastly, I made my way to Ramghat towards the bank of Shipra River. The ambience of the riverside was vibrant. And serene at the same time. As the dusk came on, the priests started the evening Arti along with many worshippers. Somewhat similar to the Ganges Arti at Varanasi. It’s a spectacular event which connects every life breathing at the great distance. Our devotional vibes become stronger as chanting were rigorous. And spiritual vibrations become evident with Diyas floating on the river surface.
In between twinkling temples and humming devotees, evening Arti will leave you spellbound. There were a few more places you can add up to your list. I toured one of my picks apart from Mahakaleshwar Temple. I am also sharing those places here. Hence you can travel whenever you are in Ujjain to visit Mahakaleshwar. As these are on my cards when I revisit the ancient city. Also will suggest trying the local food like Dal-Bhapla, Jalebi, Kesar kulfi, and spicy sev is a must.
Kalideh Palace: It is a historical watershed, now considerably decayed in a ruin. Kaliadeh was built unconventionally as a water palace in the middle of Shipra RiverThThe Sultan of Mandu constructed Kalideh palaces a fine example of Persian architecture. Nearer to the water palace lies the Sun temple, famous for a gorgeous sculpture of God Sun.
Gopal Mandir: It lies in the busy market’s centre, a beautiful example of the Maratha architecture style.
Chintaman Ganesh Temple: It is built across the Kshipra river. The ancient shrine with artistically-carved 11th-century pillars in the assembly hall. Along with Riddhi and SiddhiLoLoLotLord, Ganesha’s consort seated on either side of him.
Navagraha Triveni (Shani Temple): Situated on the Triveni Ghat of the Shipra, this temple is dedicated to Navagraha. It too attracts large crowds on new moon days falling on Saturdays.
Ram-Janardan Temple: Mirza Raja Jaisingh constructed it in the 17th C. And the boundary wall, and the tank was added later during the Maratha period in the 18th C. This temple gives you an artistic survey of sculptures & painting dates back in 10th & 11th century.
While sitting at the nook of the Ghat, I started enjoying the crowd. A flare of Diyas on the river surface enlightening my soul & the moon dominated the sky. Something profound inside which I am yet unable to comprehend was Calm. After a couple of hours, I headed back to my hotel room. And I thanked the autorickshaw driver for an overwhelming tour of Mahakaleshwar. My next destination was Omkareshwar then Mandu. Hence enquired cab fare from hotel travel desk. And I booked an early morning drive. We had a delicious Thali for dinner, before running into the bed.
How to reach:
The nearest airport to Mahakaleshwar temple is located in Indore. It is 51 km away. Or Raja Bhoj Airport (BHO) at Bhopal, 172 km away from Ujjain. It is connected with cities like Delhi and Mumbai. You can take Cab or taxis, or public busses to reach Ujjain.
The Ujjain Junction, Vikram Nagar, Chintaman and Pingleshwar are four nearby railway station. All these stations are well-connected to the major cities. After reaching the railway station, tourists can take any local transport to get to the temple.
Many buses Ply to Ujjain, making it the best transportation mode if planning to visit via road. Several buses commute to this destination from major cities like Bhopal, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune.
Important points to note if you are visiting Ujjain:
- Ujjain Darshan Bus runs from Dewas gate Bus stand at Ujjain and covers most of Ujjain points. There are two trips one in the morning and other in the afternoon.
- There are buses available which cover two jyotirlingas in a day, Mahakaleshwar and Omkareshwar.