Ujjain is located on the banks of the Shipra river in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. Since ancient times, the region and the Shipra river have been considered the most sacred. Ujjain is known for the famous Mahakaleshwar temple, which is one of the 12 famous Jyotirlingas in India. The Mahakaleshwar temple is located near a lake and has five levels, one of which is underground. Brass lamps burn the way to the underground sanctum of the temple. The glory of this temple is clearly described in various Puranas.
Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva-destroyer of the universe
The Mahakaleshwar temple, mentioned by the great poet Kalidas in his works, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the destroyer of the universe. Shiva Linga is worshipped all over India as it symbolizes the Incarnate power of Shiva on Earth. On the other hand, there is a Jyotirlinga Swayambhu [self-manifesting] linga, which is found in only 12 places in India.
Rituals to be performed at Mahakaleshwar
One of the rituals performed in this temple is the Bhasma Aarti which involves smearing the linga with hot ash from the burning ghats [cremation ground].
Shiva is believed to reside in the crematorium, and the ash-smearing ceremony itself is a tribute to the destroyer of the universe. This form of worship symbolizes death and life being inseparable, an idea that is rooted in most Hindu schools of thought. The statue of Mahakaleshwar temple is called Dakshinamurti, it is dakshinamukhi
It is also considered as one of the top 10 Tantra temples in India, and is the only bhasma-aarti [ash ritual] of its kind in the world. However, does it live up to its propaganda?
The first thing you tell the locals that you plan to visit mahakaleshwar temple is that you have to make sure that you join the “bhasma-aarti”. Bhasma-Aarti is the first ritual to be held everyday in the temple, which is to wake up Lord Shiva, perform “shringar” [anointing and surrounding him for the day] and offering the first aarti [the offering of fire to the deity by circulating lamps, incense and other objects]. What is unique about this aarti is that, however, the “bhasma” or ashes from funeral pyres have to be included as one of the offerings. Mahakaleshwar is a name for Lord Shiva, and the meaning of the God of Time or Death. This may be one of the reasons for including funeral ashes. You will be assured that this aarti is something that you should not miss. The aarti begins only when the fresh ash is brought.
Mahakaleshwar Temple Aarti
The aarti starts at 4 am and if we have to do our puja [prayer] separately, we have to do it only after the aarti is over, and we may have to wait for a few hours. There are two ways to get entry into the temple to see this aarti – one is through the free entry line, where you don’t have to pay except for any offerings that you want to take. The second is through a “VIP” ticket, which takes you in a short line and helps you enter the sanctum sanctorum faster. Also, if you are in the free entry line, you are allowed to wear what you want, as long as it is appropriate. If you are in the VIP line, men will have to wear traditional dhotis, and women should wear sarees.
Reconstruction of the temple
The original temple was destroyed during the Muslim invasions, and the temple was recently rebuilt by sindhis in the traditional central Indian style.
It is a five-story structure at the southern end of the city. The curved superstructure is decorated with motifs on all sides, rising above the colonized porch.
The temple has old idols and sculptures left along with the walls of corridors, while the ancient temples in the courtyard have been ruined.
The floors are embellished with pierced katghara, and balconies have richly decorated the terraces, reminiscent of the Rajput style of architecture. The screens and pavilions are combined with marble colonies that lead to the linga within the sanctuary, making Mughal architecture come alive in the heart of this Hindu temple. Mahakaleshwar temple is indeed a cherished site and also a sculptural bliss.
Ujjain, the city of Lord Mahakaleshwar located in western Madhya Pradesh, will attract devotees in lakhs every year when the Simhastha festival – known as the Kumbh Mela. This festival is called Simhastha because of the configuration of the celestial bodies so that the Sun is in Aries and Jupiter is in Leo – which is known as Leo. It is customary for devotees to take the holy dip at this time. A bath [bath] in the Kshipra river during Simhastha is a way, to feel the devotee, get rid of all previous sins.
However, one benefit to humanity from this controversy was that a few drops of nectar spread and made some places on earth into the most sacred place of pilgrimage sites.
These holy cities where the nectar fell are believed to be Haridwar, Prayag, Nashik and Ujjain, which are the sites for kumbh melas.
Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Prayag, Nasik and Ujjain
Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh is the place where the three holy rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati – meet each other. Prayag is known as a point where these three important and large holy rivers of India come and meet together. The Kumbh Mela in Nashik, Maharashtra is also very famous. Nashik is located on the banks of the famous and holy River Godavari. Nashik is a popular palace where the Godavari river comes down.
Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh is a very sacred city, and it is the place from where the river Ganga enters the plains from the Himalayas. Haridwar is also famous for Kumbh mela or Kumbh Mela. Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh is a very holy city, and it is located on the banks of the holy Shipra river. Ujjain is also famous for many temples, including the Mahakaleshwar temple of Lord Shiva. The Kumbh Mela of Ujjain also has a very significant place in Indian culture.
Since Ujjain is geared up for lakhs of visitors every year, security arrangements and infrastructure need to be prepared on a war footing.
The mela site covers 2152 hectares, which is divided into four zones and 10 zones to accommodate devotees and akhadas. 74-km-long pipelines are being laid to supply water, and four sub-stations have been set up for power supply.
Some material benefits to the city of this big event may be of a permanent nature. For instance, some old historical temples are being renovated. The area around Lord Mahakaleshwar temple is being developed. The administration has also promised adequate security arrangements and vaccination drives to contain the pandemic. In addition, seven satellite cities have been built on the city’s approach route to provide passengers with medical needs, telecommunications facilities, and other requirements, including inquiry offices and police stations. As per the information given by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, these arrangements are being made with the help of local people and voluntary organizations.
How to get to this temple:
While travelling from Delhi to Ujjain, pilgrims can fly to the nearest airport, Indore, and continue by road. It’s a 55-kilometer car ride. Ujjain is also well-connected to the railway network.