In the midst of countless devotees who were taking dip in the holy River Kshipra, I was overjoyed with the belief of being blessed to be part of the grand holy festival “Kumbha Mela” which happens once in 12 years in the Temple city of India – “Ujjain”. The city was ready in all its grandeur to receive the pilgrims from all over the world for the joyous and spiritual occasion of “Kumbha Mela – a sea of faith”
The Legend about Kumbha Mela is that when there was churning of ocean the Gods and demons competed against each other for divine Amruth (nectar of immortality). During the tussle to hold the Kumbha (pot), drops of nectar fell into rivers at four places – Nasik(Godavari), Haridwar(Ganga), Prayag(Triveni Sangam – Ganga, Yamuna & Saraswati) & Ujjain (Kshipra). Hence the River Kshipra at Ujjain became Amruthmayee (enhancer of life) and the Kumbha Mela is celebrated in remembrance of this event. The mela which runs for 30days, millions throng to the Ghats (river bank) for the holy dip.
Churning of Ocean
The city of Ujjain was bursting with energy, there were people everywhere in the Temples, Akhadas (Tents of Spiritual Gurus), river bank and Yatri nivas. People were eager to get a holy dip in River Kshipra and then get Darshan of “MahaKaal”. Mela shops were busy selling veneration items, flowers, memorabilia and toys. In the midst of these hustle-bustle (splendour.!!) sitting in the banks of river Kshipra after a holy dip listening to the chirping of birds, looking high into the clear blue skies lost in the splendid history of this “Timeless City” pondering over its history which has transcended the timelines from Thretha yuga (about 12000yrs ago) to Dwapara Yuga (about 7000yrs ago) and from medieval times to modern age.
Ujjain previously known by many names, some of which are Avanti, Amaravati, Bhaumvati, Kushsthali, Kanashringa, Padmavati, Pratikalpa, Vishala, Avantika and Ujjayani is considered to be amongst the holiest cities of India. Adi Purana describes Ujjain as the most sacred place on earth.
Ujjain is most popular as the city of Mahakaal, the god of time(death) who decides the fate of every existence in this universe. Mahadev Shiva who is Mahakaal after beheading Brahma’s (the creator) fifth head came to Ujjain and was at tranquil here for ages and did penance for the welfare of the universe.
Jyothirlinga – Mahakaleshwar
In Ramayana, it is narrated that Lord Shree Rama along with Sita and Laxman visited Ujjain during their exile in Thretha Yuga and this is the place where Lord Ram performed the final rituals of his father King Dasharath. The river bank just behind Lord Mahakaal temple is named as Ram Ghat in honour of Lord Ram’s visit to Ujjain and also the Ram Ghat is considered to be one of the most ancient communal bath place.
During Dwapara Yuga – Shree Krishna, Balaram and Sudhama were here too for their primary and secondary education at the prestigious ashram of the times – Sandipini Ashram.
This is the place where Shree Krishna summoned all the holy waters from various sources to create Gomati Kund for his elderly Guru Maharshi Sandipani, who was unable to travel far off holy places.
As Guru Dakshina, Sage Sandipani and Guru mother asked Krishna to get back their Son who was snatched by Sankasura(Conch Demon). Victorious Shree Krishna acquired his famous Conch – “Panchajanya” (from Sankasura) with which he restored back Sage’s Son.
The bed time stories have introduced us about the great Avanti kingdom whose capital was Ujjain. The great ruler of Ujjain being the Legendary Vikramaditya who attained worldly knowledge and performed Raja Dharma with great reverence and is considered as the king of Justice as he never punished the innocent. He always listened to his conscience which he considered as the “voice of God”, because of this people in his kingdom worshipped him. The famous “Vikram & Betala (Vampire)” stories were set here in Ujjain too. This was the place where king Bhoja(Grandson of Vikramaditya) struggling to attain Raja dharma found the “seat of Vikramaditya”. King Bhoja attained fame after successfully answering each of the questions posed by 25 angels to attain the great Seat of Vikramaditya.
In the Mauryan period, Ujjain remained administrative centre and Ashoka served as Viceroy of Ujjain during the reign of his father Bindusara, Subsequently Ujjain was controlled by a number of empires and dynasties the Satavahanas, the Guptas, the Paramaras, the Marathas & the Scindias being the prominent. During the war of Independence against British, Ujjain was a key revolt center due to which the British curtailed trade links to the city, thus severely denying the city from further developments, eventually the house of Scindias the ruling family of Ujjain shifted their capital to Gwalior.
Around 6th Century BC Ujjain developed as a major Political, Commercial and cultural centre of Malwa Plateau. Also during the same period Ujjain developed as Adyapeeta – centre for learning Sanskrit, arts and science. Since being important literary centre many Sanskrit scholars lived in the city and have described Ujjain extensively in their works – Kalidasa, Bhasa, Bharthihari were among the famous ones.
Kalidasa, the most celebrated poets of the times who was in the court of King Vikramidtya was in love with this city as Ujjain is mentioned extensively in his works and in the epic Meghadhoot, Kalidasa makes a magnificent aerial description of Ujjain.
Most of Bhasa’s writings & Shudraka’s Mrichchhakatika are also set in Ujjain. Somadeva’s Kathasaritsagara (11th century) which recounts the great King Vikramadityas’s valour, generosity and patronage of scholars is also set in Ujjain. Somadeva also mentions that the City of Ujjain was created by Vishwakarma and describes it as set within beautiful valley, mega city with high fort walls, prosperous and filled with astonishing sights.
Ujjain has also played a major role in development of Vedic Science, mathematics, Astrology & Astronomy. The famous Mathematician, Astronomer and Astrologer Varahamihira (5th Century AD) was here too. Ujjain being at Centre of India geographically served as Time meridian and is also called Greenwich of India as the first longitude meridian pass through the city. In 18th Century Maharajah Jai Singh II of Jaipur, constructed Veda Shala – an observatory “Jantar Mantar” in Ujjain which houses some complex vedic instruments for studying planetary movements, measuring time, calculating eclipses…
This eternal city holds a great significance in shaping the heritage, culture and religious aspects of Sanatana dharma. The city of Ujjain revered for Lord Mahakaal will continue to grow and contribute in all fields and will be a major centre of excellence in the days to come once the current government approves the Smart City status.
Hope to visit again this spiritual, vibrant and historic city soon…and a must city to visit for anyone who marvels at Indian/World History.
Jai Mahakaal ….har har Mahadev.
© Most of the picture images used in this blog are taken from various links on Internet.