Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dakshinayana Part Five: Ujjain – The Holy City, hearing the sounds of forefathers

Mahakal Temple Ujjain

Are you able to hear, the sounds of galloping horses? Dust, thrown up to the sky by their powerful legs? Mantras coming out from the lips of saints? Sounds of auctions/ settlements by wealthy traders?

This is Ujjaini, one of the most important and holy cities in ancient India, located in the eastern banks of holy river Shipra. At different points of time, Ujjaini was known by different names like Avanthika, Ujjain, Kumudva, Pratikalpa, Amaravati, Shivpuri, Chudamani, Kanakasrnga and associated with renowned saints and scientists like Sandipani, Mahakatyayana, Bhasa, Bharttrhari, Kalidasa, Amarasimha, Varahamihira, Parmartha, Sudraka, Banabhatta, Mayura, Rajasekhara, Puspadanta, Harisena, Samkaracharya, Vallabhacharya, Jadurupa, Brahmagupta, Bhaskaracharya etc...

Rulers like Krishna - Balarama, Chanda Pradyota, Udayana, Vikramaditya, Mahakstrapa Chastana, Rudradaman, Paramara rulers Munjaraja-Bhojadeva, Udayaditya, Mughal governer Sawai Jaisimha, Maratha General Mahadaji Scindhia were also spent their time in this ancient cosmopolitan city. Even emperor Asoka spent his early years - when he was the viceroy of western provinces of Maurayan Empire- in Ujjain.

Meridian of ancient world - Yomottara – passed through this city.

In the medieval times Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shahajahan visited this city.

During the festival of Simhastha Parva - once in every twelve years - lakhs of pilgrims from different parts of the country will take baths at various ghats of Shipra. This territory is said to be one of the favourite for holy trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. It is believed that Krishna, Balarama and Sudama studied here in the gurukul of Maharshi Sandipani.


Shipra River
Buddhist literature of 6th century BC mention Avanti (Capital: Ujjaini) as one of the four great powers – Avanti, Kosala, Vatsa, and Magadha. Considered as one of the seven sacred cities (saptapuri) for Hindu’s, you can find this name in epic Mahabharata as well.

After the fall of Maurayans, Ujjain came under the rules of Sungas, Satavahanas, and Western Satraps; then came Guptas (Ujjaini was the capital of King Chandragupta II, aka Candragupta Vikramaditya.

Later this city became a famous centre for mathematical and astronomical research - Brahmagupta (head of Ujjain astronomical observatory and author of Brahmasphutasiddhanta), Varahamihira (astronomer, mathematician, astrologer, author of Pancha-Siddhantika, Brihat-Samhita), Bhaskaracharya’s (astronomer, mathematician, head of an astronomical observatory at Ujjain, author of Siddhānta Shiromani - Lilavati is a part of Siddhānta Shiromani) etc also lived here...

Delhi sultanate under the command of Iltumish invaded the city in 1235 AD; Mughal emperor made it the capital of Malwa; Marathas under Scindia considered Ujjain as their capital.
It was in Dharmat near Ujjain, probably in 15th April 1658, one of the decisive battles of Mughal succession was fought between Dara’s forces under the command of Jaswant Singh – Raja of Jodhpur – and the combined armies of Aurangazeb and his brother Murad.

In the midnight

My train reached Ujjain after mid-night. I didn’t have any plan to take a room for spending rest of the night; unfortunately in railway station I didn’t find any waiting room either. One corner was marked for that purpose. Without enclosing walls, practically it didn’t make any difference from an open area - mercury reading was below 9 degree Celsius. Finally I sat on a chair in the last row; some 20 meters away one cow was chewing waste from a box. In between sometime I slept, however a sensation of hot airflow some centimetres away from my face woke me up.

That cow was standing just in front of me. Before allowing her to read my face further I moved quickly to another row. Around 4.30-5.00 in the morning, I woke up and moved towards the parking area. Carefully avoiding all the autos, I reached main road. There was a huge gathering, I approached them and asked about Mahakaleshwar temple. One guy suddenly answered – ‘200kms away from here!!!’ Guy standing next, corrected him – “it’s not so far”. Fortunately one shared TATA Magic came and took me to Mahakaleshwar.

Mahakaleshwar temple

One of the holiest temples for Hinduism, lingam (below the ground level) in this jyotirlinga temple is considered as svayambhu (born of itself). As the Idol is facing south, here Mahadev is also known as Dakshinamurthi. Above Mahakal shrine- at ground level - there is an idol of Omkareshwar Shiva. Images of Parvati, Ganesh, Karthikeya and Nandi are located in north, west, east and south of sanctum. Nagchandreshwar sits on the third storey - opens only on Nag Panchami.

He dropped me a little bit far from the temple. In front of the temple entrance, a lot of vendors were selling flowers to devotees for Archana. Prices were normal. After buying a ticket for special darshana (151 INR – this will give you temple’s locker facility as well) and placing my bag on the locker, I went inside. Temple was not so crowded, after going through the small temples of updevas, I went inside the sanctum of Omkareshwar temple.

On the side of Omkareshwar, there was a path going down - two security guards were there at the entrance. At that time, I did not know the structure of the temple and started searching for Mahakaleshwar’s sanctum. Guards asked me to go through one direction, but I reached a dead end. I came back and checked again with them, and they pointed towards the same place. This time also I didn’t see the path, after moving here and there for some time I met a pandit and he showed the path going through the sides of a pond. Finally I joined the queue; silver gate to the sanctum was just in front of me.

After crossing the silver gate, people were chanting ‘Jai Mahakal’ in a louder voice. One guy standing next to me was chanting shiv stotras.

There was a small path – at a time two people can walk – leading the devotees to sanctum. Finally I was in sanctum – Jyotirlinga of Mahakal was standing in front of us. I touched the jyotirlinga and stood there for some time, later walked out through the front door.

At the exit point there is a big Nandi sitting on the floor. Many people were coming close to Nandi’s ear and telling their wishes, after closing the other ear with one hand. I curiously watched this for some time and did the same.

There were some more shrines in the complex. After visiting all, I went back to pond’s side and met an old pandit there. At the end of conversation, I asked,

“Could you please tell me, how to reach Bade Ganesh temple and Harsiddhi mandir?”
“You can come with me; I am also going in that way”

He gave me teertha and showed the temples located inside the complex. Then we went outside, he went to the store of each flower vendor and gave them teertha, in return they gave him some fresh flowers. Some even asked about me as well!!! Well, it was taking time. He asked me about my Ujjain plan and suggested the nearby temples. At the next junction he stopped the conversation and pointed his hand downwards.

‘Follow this road, Bade Ganesh temple is on right side, for Harsiddhi mandir take right turn from next junction. I have to go in another way.’

Temperature was very low and I am walking with naked feet, with every step walking became harder. I went back to the gate, took the sandal and came back.

Bade Ganesh Temple

Located close to the road, the structure looked more like a home than a temple. There was a big Ganesha statue in the front room. If I correctly remember, Sri Ram statue was there in the centre of next room and some other idols in the sides.

Harsiddhi Devi Mandir

HarSiddhi Devi Temple
Further down the road there was a lake – which needed an urgent cleanup. On reaching the next junction, I could see a board pointing Harsidhhi Mandir. Well, it may not be possible for me to go as far as Gopal temple and came back to Mahakal temple for collecting bag and camera. Hence I went back again, to take camera and bag. One the way back, I looked towards Mahakal temple once again. Combination of blue sky, stone structure of temple, lights, and birds roaming around the top was one of the best views to start a day – Jai Mahakal!!!

Harsiddhi mandir is also located close to the road.

Shipra Snan ghat

Shipra River - Another view
Walking further down the road and a left would take you to Shipra’s snan ghat. Both young and old were taking bath in those cold waters. One boat was slowly moving in the opposite direction of the river. There were three people in it. One was rowing it, another one - free from the moh maya of the present world was watching the blue sky, third and last one was copying the live pictures in the river banks to his camera.

If I could understand the language of Shipra!!! Flowing non-stop for thousands of years, this river saw the rise and fall, birth and death of dynasties, kings, emperors, saints etc. I bent downwards and took a small amount of water in my hand then slowly released it back to the river. Drop by drop it find nirvana in the heart of this great river. After looking towards Shipa for some more time, I turned back and walk towards the main road.

Gopal Mandir

Dwaraka Gopal Mandir.
I left the main road and continue through the inner ones. There were a lot of people in the streets, some were going for jobs, one father was taking his daughter to school, and another one was opening the shop...

Contrary to my expectation, these streets were not narrow. At first look itself I liked their drainage system. There were small channels running close to home, water from every home would fell in to this channel. Base of many homes was located close to the road, with its lower portion projecting a little bit forward and thus covering the top of drainage channel.
Finally it was Gopal mandir. Some 100 meters away, there was a mosque painted in familiar green and white, standing opposite to it. At first, I thought of moving back to main road but finally continue through the side roads.

Sandipani Ashram

Maharshi Sandipani Ashram
Ashram was further away; one auto driver showed me another one going through that direction. I don’t know what I should call for this mechanical creature, but that would come later. First problem was how to reach there. One part of drainage system was broken and waste water was flowing through the road. All my good opinions about Ujjain drainage system evaporated in a single second.

Finally I crossed this mess, reached other side, and sat on the back seat. This must be a locally manufactured metal piece; sound of engine is almost similar to that of an old diesel generator. This curious form has some metal bars slightly projecting outwards – may be gears. There were two small stones placed under a rubber wrap – I was not able to make out any apparent usage for that.

Some more people came and this curious form started moving, suddenly one sadhu came and sat next to driver. In between, sadhu asked many questions about this vehicle. He showed him some kind of registration papers and boasted about the enormous (according to him!!!) amount of tax he has to pay annually to government.

In between he stopped in front of a store, ran to its side took some diesel and poured in to the tank. That small stones kept in his cabin were for this moment. At a junction driver stopped his vehicle and told me to follow another road to reach Ashram. I thought ashram was very much close, but that was not the case at all.

I slowly walked through the road. In the first turn, there was Yamaraj, Dharmaraj and Chitragupta mandirs. In the next compound there were two more temples and a pond. One guy standing there told me that, Sandipani ashram is on the other side of the pond. As there was no option to cross the pond, I had to take the road itself – but ashram was not so close.

Finally on the left side, I saw the board of Sandipani Ashram. Inside there were temples and a pond called – gauri kund. Instead of the usual sitting Nandi, there was a standing Nandi in front of the temple. Inside a room, opposite to this temple, there was a statue of Sandipani and a pair of old model wooden Sandals. I don’t know from where they got those sandals.


Mangalnath Temple.
From here a straight road is going towards Mangalnath Shiva temple. As I didn’t see much vehicles going in that direction, I had to walk. As per Matsyapurana, this place is considered as the birth place of Mars.

Remembering the map, I crossed the bridge close to the temple and reached the other side. Unfortunately, the road connecting the bridge to Ujjain Central Jail road was still under construction and I had to walk all the way to Jail road.

Kal Bhairav temple

Kaal Bhairav Temple
Kal Bhairav temple is located close to central jail. After investing some more energy on the feets, I finally reached the temple. A group of flower vendors were present here as well; in addition to flowers a small bottle of liquor was also present in the plate.

I went inside and reached the sanctum. Before going further, let me tell you something about Bairva form of Shiva. Shivaite form of worship assigned some importance to the adoration of Bhirava form of Shiva.

There are eight forms of Bhairavas - Asithaanga Bhairava, Ruru Bhairava, Chanda Bhairava, Krodha Bhairava, Unmattha Bhairava, Kapaala Bhairava, Bheeshana Bhairava, Samhaara Bhairava. Kaal bhirava is foremost among them. In the Avanthi kanda of Skanda Purana, there is some mentioning about a Kaal Bhairava temple. The followers of Kapalika and Aghora sects used to worship Shiva in the form of Bhairava.

It is believed that, this temple was constructed by a king named Bhadrasen - probably a big temple in the days of Paramars. However, the current temple is not an old one but rebuilt on the remains of old one. There is an opening in the idol, through which priests are pouring a part of liquor coming to the sanctum in the form of offerings. I don’t know where it is going as I didn’t see any exit channels.


Ujjain streets - Another View
Walking all over the city, I was very much tired. There were a lot of vehicles standing front of the temple. I approached one and asked about the charge. Unfortunately, all were hired ones – for the whole day. In short, I had to walk all the way back to Ujjain central jail junction and take a bus or shared auto to the city. I am yet to see any frequent bus service in those areas – so the only hope was shared taxi. There was one standing – but almost full. Well, it was better to go in that one instead of waiting further.

Once again we crossed Shipra River – this time using another bridge – and reached the city.

Almost tired of walking and thirst, I went to a cool bar and bought a bottle of Maaza. He configured the freezer temperature so low that, I could cut that bottle of maaza to pieces chew each one just a biscuit. But I loved the taste. After roaming for some ten more minutes, among those crowds, I finally boarded a bus heading to Indore.


A group of Mandirs
Bada Ganesh mandir

Mangalnath Mandir - A closer view.
Yamaraj-Dharmaraj-Chitragupta mandir
Lamp Post at Kaal Bhirav
An Ujjain Temple
Standing Nandi at Sandipani ashram
Shipra - from a bridge close to Mangalnath
Mosque Opposite to Gopal Mandir
Walls of Ujjain central Jail
Ujjain Roads
Some conversation
For reading rest of the articles please visit,

Dakshinayana Part One – An Introduction
Dakshinayana Part Two – Bangalore to Bhopal
Dakshinayana Part Three – Sanchi
Dakshinayana Part Four – Bhopal: The city of lakes
Dakshinayana Part Five: Ujjain – The Holy City, hearing the sounds of forefathers
Dakshinayana Part Six: Indore – Trade hub of Central India
Dakshinayana Part Seven – Jabalpur: Kalchuris, Gonds and Narmada
Dakshinayana Part Eight – Kanha National Park and Mandla
Dakshinayana Part Nine – Chhattisgarh and Raipur
Dakshinayana Part Ten: Nagpur – The Orange City
Dakshinayana Part Eleven – Sevagram: Walking with Gandhi
Dakshinayana Part Twelve – Aurangabad: The City of Gates
Dakshinayana Part Thirteen – Ellora Memories
Dakshinayana Part Fourteen – U shaped Ajanta
Dakshinayana Part Fifteen – Pune: The Maratha heartland

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