Ujjain – The city most known for the sacred ‘Mahakaleshwar Temple‘, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva – The God of Creation. And this year with ‘Simhasth’ (22 April-21 may, 2016) visiting Ujjain would mean that the sacred town will be neater, cleaner and more beautiful. So plan your trip this March, much before the massive gatherings of Sadhu’s and Pilgrims reach Ujjain in first week of April.
There are 84 Mahadevas in Ujjain, In Hindi it is termed as ‘Chaurasi Mahadeo’. Ujjain is also referred as ‘Avantika’ and was also called as ‘Ujjaini’ during the mahabharata times. Ujjain is among the 7 Mokshapuris located in India and it is believed that one can get deliverance from the bondages of life and rebirths with just one visit to such sacred place. The other 6 are Kashi (Varanasi), Ayodhya, Kanchi (Kanchipuram), Mathura, Mayapuri (Haridwar) and Dwaraka. Learn More
Visit Ujjain before ‘Simhastha’ (22 April-21 may, 2016) and experience the holy blessings of Mahakaleshwar. And if you can then take part in the sacred Simhastha and celebrate the faith of life with a holy bath in the River Shipra on the Ram Ghat.
Main Dates Of Holy Bath
- First bath Full Moon Night 22 April 2016 (Friday)
- Vaishakha Krishna Amavasya 6 May 2016 (Friday)
- Shukla Tritiya 9 May 2016 (Monday)
- Shukla Panchami 11 May 2016 (Wednesday)
- Poornima 21 May 2016 (Saturday)Apart from this, 17th and 19th May, 2016 are also the main dates for taking the holy bath.
Significance of Kumbh in Ujjain: Kumbh as we all know happens every 12 years and depending on the relevance of planets and Zodiac signs the place of Kumbh are designated. Ujjain is located on the banks of the sacred River Shipra in the western region of Madhya Pradesh and Kumbh in Ujjain is held when the Sun is in the zodiac sign Aries and Jupiter in the zodiac Leo, and hence it is also referred to as ‘Simhasth Kumbh’.
Did you Know: The writings of the famous Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang (602 – 664 A.D.) have mentioned about Ujjain Kumbh Mela. He visited India during the reign of King Harshvardhana. Apparently, this is the oldest written evidence till date.
Simhasth is a great bathing festival where one can witness lakhs of devotees coming together from across the world to celebrate this month long congregation that involves the ceremonial bathing in the holy River Kshipra and the main event takes place on the full moon day of Chaitra month and continues in different intervals during the entire month of Vaishakh, culminating on the tenth full moon day.
The other sacred places where a Mahakhumb is celebrated as per its relevance are:
- Kumbh in Haridwar : When the Sun is in the zodiac sign Aries and Jupiter is in Aquarius it is held at Haridwar.
- Kumbh in Prayag : When the Sun is in Capricorn and Jupiter is in Taurus, it is held at the holy city of Allahabad (Prayag).
- Kumbh in Nasik : When Jupiter enters the zodiac sign Leo it is held in Nasik. It is also held in Nasik, when Jupiter, Sun and Moon enter the zodiac sign Cancer on Amavasya.
While many visit Ujjain during Kumbh festival, Ujjain is also referred as the temple town of Madhya Pradesh and it is here that Lord Shiva truly resides as the main deity protecting the place.
Following are some of the most prominent places to see while in Ujjain.
Not many know but the Mahakaleshwara Temple is a 3 tiered one. The main being the Mahakaleshwar (Mahakal) resides at the bottom and is actually at an underground level. On top of that is Omkareshwar and the top most has a shrine dedicated to Nagachandreshwara. This sanctum is only open oncea year and that is the day of Nagapanchami.
Now I was lucky to have experience the original Bhasma Aarti (that used fresh and burning hot cremation vibhuti/raakh/ashes from a funeral pyre) and was able to spent a good amount of time at the Shiva Linga and comfortably performed prayers but now the priests would quickly frisk you off with just a quick glimpse from outside the Garbgriha and only few fortunate ones get to go inside.It is therefore recommended to visit the temple as early as possible (Rudra Abhishek is performed every day from 4 AM to 5 PM and the temple remains open till 11 PM before it closes for deity’s rest). Now they even have the facility of an online Puja where they send your prasada via quick mail! Another thing nowadays the Bhasma Aarti is performed using vibhuti made of cow-dung rather than the fresh Bhasm from the cremation ground. (the original practice stopped 15 years back). That experience definitely cannot ever be recreated but then the Aarti today is also mesmerizing.
Outdside the main temple within the premises that are 84 smaller shrines of Mahadev and each have an interesting story. I remember visiting Swapneshwara Mahadev as I have some issues with weird dreams so took blessings as he is the one who rides over nightmares!
There is also Vruddhakaleshwara Mahadev which many scholars believe to be the original Jyotirlingam.
The spiritual vibrations that I had felt during the Mahakal Puja still amazes me, even after so many years. It’s indeed an experience and a must do in your lifetime.
After seeking blessings and offering prayer at Mahakaleshwar, I’ll recommend you visit the Harsiddhi Temple, one of the 51 Shakktippeths of India.
It is here that the elbow of Maa Sati fell as Lord Shiva held her charred body during his Tandav Dance.
Ramghat is the main bathing site at Ujjain and the most prominent place for the Kumbh festival and is scattered with numerous temples. This is also where the evening aarti is performed on the ghats of Shipra River.
Another interesting temple is the Gopal Mandir located on the Ram Ghat. Constructed in Maratha Style of Architecture, this temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is the Silver Door inside the main Sanctum that is quite interesting and so does it’s background story. This gate was originally was installed at the Somnath Temple, Gujarat and was stolen by Mohammed of Ghazni and later on was taken away by to Lahore by Ahmed Shah Abdali. Fortunately Maharaja Scindia recovered it back and reinstalled it here at Gopal Mandir.
Ram Janardhan Temple
Another Ancient Place to visit is Ram Janardhan Temple, a 17th Century Temple that is dedicated to Vishnu. It was built by Mirza Raja Jaisingh and the boundary wall was later added by a Maratha Warrior sometime during 18th Century.
The image of Sheshashayi Vishnu installed in between the assembly hall and the interior of Ram-Temple belongs to the 10th century and the image of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh belong to the 12th century A.D. Some fine Maratha Paintings can still be seen here along with a besautiful architecture in both the temples. There is a sculture of Lord Krishna near a tank, that belongs to 11th Century and is quite beautiful.
Kal Bhairav Temple
Wherever Lord Shiva resides, there ought be a Kal Bhairav Temple and this one definitely is interesting. Being the most fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva, Kal Bhairav is worshipped by tantrics rituals, yet here it is worshiped by offering the deity ‘liquor’.
Yes and no matter what the day, the liquor never stops and is available at all the shops outside. Located around from the main city of Ujjain, here even the Prasad offered to you is – Liquor!
The Kaliadeh Palace is an ancient Palace which was built in the year 1458 AD by the sultans of Mandu.
The palace is located on an island and was once surrounded by River Shipra (now the course has changed and it flows at Ram Ghat). It is a fine example of Persian architecture with a central hall and surrounding galleries and passages.
Besides the architecture, the Kaliadeh Palace is famous for its 52 ponds that surround the palace and has a unique mechanism that is best witnessed during rainy season. The uniqueness of the system is that the water first flows clockwise and then travels anti-clockwise. The River Shipra flows by the Palace sides and makes the place quite enchanting specially during monsoons.
Among Ujjain’s numerous sacred temples small and big there lies another interesting yet mystical places which are the Bhartrihari Caves. These caves owe their name to Bhartrihari, who was the step brother of King Vikramaditya (11th Century). The caves are truly a master piece for thier rock-cut architecture and their underground construction.
Now legend has 2 tales that are associated with these caves, one is that after renouncing the worldly life, Bhartrihari came here to meditate and soon became a great scholar and shared his knowledge with the locals and even wrote a few Sanskrit literature.
But is due course he took Samadhi near a Peepal tree that can still be seen outside the cave. Another tale is quite an interesting one.
The caves are located amidst a thick forested area surrounded by small hills and a trip here is highly recommended. There are maze of caves and you would need to carry a torch/light to go underground, yet the journey is spiritual and it amazes me how these caves have withstood the changing times and natural disasters and retained their original structure.
The caves are open from 9 AM-5 PM.
Apart from these there are numerous another significant places of interest. Bade Ganeshji ka Mandir has a huge sculpture of Lord Ganesh and what makes this temple more unique is an idol of the panch-mukhi (five-faced) Hanuman. The Mangalnath Temple is regarded as the birthplace of the Planet MARS while the Gadkalika, is a temple that was worshipped by Kalidasa. The Chintaman Ganesh Temple has an idol of Lord Ganesh that is considered to be Swayambhu– born of itself. Read More in these temples HERE
Eating Out in Ujjain
Don’t forget to try the Sanchi Flavoured Milk and the yummy Shrikhand (you get the best at the Railway Station!)
On the Temple Road, there’s a famous Bhang Shop, so do stop by for some else go for the Thandai (a cooling Almond drink). There are plenty of hygienic eating shops that offer you food thali (35-55/- INR for unlimited food). For street food go to Freeganj, the market central place.
Places to Stay- Ujjain
MP Tourism has two hotels – Shipra residency and Hotel Avantika (Yatri Niwas)
Ujjain is well connected with Indian Railways and there are direct trains available from Delhi, Mumbai and other cities of India. However Indore and Bhopal are the most recommended cities for transit to Ujjain.
- Indore – 50 kms
- Bhopal – 183 kms
- Ahmedabad – 402 kms
- Mumbai – 655 kms
- Delhi – 772 kms
The nearest Airport is located at Indore which is 53 Kms from Ujjain.
If you are not short on time then take the Tanga or the Local City Tempo which are ideal for a city tour. You can also opt for The Ujjain City Bus Tour – Ujjain Darshan that starts at 8:00 AM in the morning from bus stand and covers all the main shrine, temples and tourists. This gives you a chance to plan your next days itinerary better. Charges: 45-50 INR per person.
Else the most preferred travel option is to hire a personal taxi that charges 500-600 depending on the number of places (minimum 10 important places included). And yes at Ujjain you can also hire a cycle for just 35-40 INR per day and enjoy travelling through the lanes and explore the off-beaten track at leisure.
Excursions from Ujjain
Omkareshwar & Mamleshwar Temple: Being one of the 12 Jyotirlinga’s Omkareshwar Temple is a scared place of worship yet it is the Mamleshwar Temple which I find to be more unique and interesting in terms of its architecture and beautiful stone carvings.
The Shiva Linga in the Garbgriha is in its Nirankar (formless) form and has no modern add ons of copper, silver coating making it quite unique to see.
Both the Omkareshwar Temple and Mamleshwar Temple are located opposite to each other on the banks of River Narmada and can easily be visited by taking a boat ride. Yet most don’t even know about Mamleshwar Temple or simply never go across the river to see this ancient marvel.
I’ll recommend everyone to visit the Mamleshwar Temple that is also referred as ‘Amaleshwar’ or ‘Amareshwar’. Infact this temple is devoid of any priests besides the one who performs the morning-evening aarti. Legends and few historians believe that the Mamleshwar was the place where the sacred Jyortirling was first found but later as the temples were consecrated by Mandhata, who was an ancestor to Lord Rama and the Shiva Linga’s got split, hence there are 2 Shivlingas, one at Omkareshwar and the other at Mamleshwar. Even the Sloka’s that refer the 12 Jyotirlinga mentions ‘Omkaram Amaleshwaram’ indicating this theory. On the wall of the temple there are inscription of Mahims Stotra dated 1063 A.D. Yet, it is Omkareshwar that is considered more sacred!
Another interesting place here are the caves that are located right under the main temple.
This cave is the place believed to the meditating place of Sri Govinda Bhagavatpada, who was the Guru of Adi Shankara.
This is also the place where Adi Shankara was initiated. Today the cave has been closed and you can just go a step down, but that would definitely give you a glimpse on how mystical this cave really was.
Siddhnath Barahdwari Siddheshwar, is another temple that seems to be left incomplete and only has a huge plinth that is supported by beautifully carved pillars.
The base has rock carved Elephants that seems to be supporting the whole 24 pillars of this temple like structure that looks more of a ‘Sabha Grah’. This temple can be visited by taking the Parikrama circuit.
Do try and take a prikrama of the island (shaped in the form of ‘OM’) and ask locals from where you can pick up the Narmada stones that are shaped in Lingam form due to gradual formations of river sands and are also called Narmada Banam or Narmedaswar Shivling. These are also avialbale at local shops but finding your own is truly a delighful experience. (You can now buy them online too). The River Narmada flows beautifully and makes for an ideal place to take a holy dip or just have fun in the cool waters.
Omkareshwar Stay Options : MPTDC Narmada Resort offers a decent stay option. Another place is Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan (run by people of Shegaon, Maharastra) that offers big rooms, clean environment and even food. Its the most preferred place for the backpackers and is quite good.
Omkareshwar Distance from Indore: 80 Kms
Omkareshwar Distance from Ujjain: 140 Kms
I’ll recommend to plan your trip by staying at Indore and then travel around these places as it is more convenient. Indore offers you better places for stay and is well connected with all kinds of transportation and you also get a chance to visit the other most important tourist places of Madhya Pradesh – Mandu and Maheshwar