It has been long time that I haven’t got a chance to go to a new place. I was just busy with my studies and internship. So, thought of selecting centre for NEET exam for PG courses in Ujjain. Ujjain attracted me for two reasons: I haven’t been to any place in Madhya Pradesh before except for Maihar and secondly, Ujjain is an ancient city situated on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River. My mother also accompanied me since Ujjain is known as City of Temples and this would also be her first visit to this city.
Ujjain was the most prominent city on the Malwa plateau of central India for much of its history. It emerged as the political centre of central India around 600 BCE. It was the capital of the ancient Avanti kingdom, one of the sixteen mahajanapadas. It remained an important political, commercial and cultural centre of central India until the early 19th century, when the British administrators decided to develop Indore as an alternative to it. Ujjain continues to be an important place of pilgrimage for Shaivites, Vaishnavites and followers of Shakta.
We reached Indore from Kolkata. Ujjain doesn’t have its airport. Indore airport is a nice, small and well-decorated airport. From there we took a cab to go to Ujjain. We already had our hotel room pre-booked online. The state highway from Indore to Ujjain is well-laid and nicely maintained. One can easily drive at a speed of 120 kmph without any problem. We reached our hotel in around 45 minutes, covering a distance of around 55 km.
Next day, we planned for the Omkareshwar temple. Omkareshwar temple is located on the banks of Narmada river in Vindhyachal mountain range of Madhya Pradesh. It is a Swayambhu (self-manifested) linga and is one of the famous 12 jyotirlingas. We left around 9 am in the morning, after having our breakfast. We passed by Indore. On the way we stopped at a dhaba named “Baba’s Chowpati” where we had a tea-break. We reached Omkareshwar at around 1 pm.
Omkareshwar temple is on an island called Mandhata or Shivapuri in the Narmada river; the shape of the island is said to be like the Hindu ॐ symbol. There are two main temples of Lord Shiva here, one to Omkareshwar (whose name means “Lord of Omkara or the Lord of the Om Sound”) located in the island and one to Amareshwar (whose name means “Immortal lord” or “lord of the Immortals or Devas”) located on the south bank of Narmada River on the mainland. As per the sloka on dwadash jyotirligam, Mamleshwar the other name of Amareshwar is the jyotirlinga, nonetheless, many consider both Omkareshwar and Mamleshwar equally sacred and representative of jyotirlinga at this sacred place.
According to one story, Vindhya mountain was visited by Narad Muni in a comic mood. He told Vindhya about the greatness of Meru mountain which made Vindhya full of jealousy. He begin worship of Lord Shiva to become greater than Meru mountain. He continued his relentless worship for 6 months. He practiced severe penance and even worshipped Parvita Linga Puja without moving from its place. As a result, Lord Shiva was pleased with his worship and blessed him with his desirable boon with a condition to not to become problem to Shiva devotees. At the same time Hindu Goods and Maharishis came and praised Shiva and requested to stay in that place. Shiva accepted and stayed in that place as Mamleshwar Jyotirlinga. Full with proud and jealousy, Vindhya mountain began to grow in unconditional way and even violate the boon conditions. He even create obstruction for Sun & Moon also. All devotees and deities put the matter in knowledge to Lord Vishnu who suggested them to meet sage Agastya who is capable to solve their problem. On suggestion of Vishnu Gods meet saint Agastya and described their problem. At that time Agastya Maharishi was living in Kashi with his wife. Agastya with his wife visited Vindhya mountain and requested him to stop growing till they can go to southern part of India for worship purpose and return back. Vindhya was agree on this condition and stop its further growth. But Agastya Maharishi never returned back which put Vindhya restricted to its present state. Saint Agastya with his wife stayed in Srisailam which is also called “Kashi of South India” and Dwadash Jyotirlinga. Similarly there are some other legends also.
The second story relates to Mandhata and his son’s penance. King Mandhata of Ikshvaku clan (an ancestor of Lord Ram) worshipped Lord Shiva here till the Lord manifested himself as a Jyotirlinga. Some scholars also narrate the story about Mandhata’s sons-Ambarish and Muchukunda, who had practiced severe penance and austerities here and pleased Lord Shiva. Because of this the mountain is named Mandhata.
The third story from Hindu scriptures says that once upon a time there was a great war between Devas and Danavas (demon), in which Danavas won. This was a major setback for Devas and hence Devas prayed to Lord Shiva. Pleased with their prayer, Lord Shiva emerged in the form of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga and defeated Danavas.
Our cab driver had already informed the priest (panditjee) at the temple. He immediately took us inside the temple. It was Saturday and hence there there was quite a crowd at the temple. We entered the temple through the VIP gate and poured water on the Shivalinga. After darshan, panditjee took us to a lower floor, where there is a terrace with many Shivalingas. We performed some puja rituals at one of the Shivalingas. The panditjee was a learned person and we enjoyed the puja. The worshipping gave us peace.
Omkareshwar is adorned with lofty hills, between which the river Narmada forms a serene pool. Above this pool runs a cantilever type bridge which further enhances the scenic beauty of this island. The beauty and divinity that reside in this town work like a magic spell, transporting you back to childhood moments of sheer wonder. Shivpur island is surrounded by two rivers from both sides by Narmada and Kaveri, a tributary of Narmada. The Narmada Mahatmya texts, which glorify the Narmada river, extolls the confluence (sangam) of Narmada and Kaveri as a holy place (tirtha). Along with its bigger namesake in the South, the Kaveri river of Madhya Pradesh has been mentioned in the Matsya and the Kurma Puranas.
As per Hindu legend, Vindya, the deity controlling the Vindyachal mountain range was worshipping Shiva to propitiate himself from the sins committed. He created a sacred geometrical diagram and a Lingam made of sand and clay. Shiva was pleased with the worship and believed to have appeared in two forms, namely Omkareshwar and Amaleswara. Since the mud mound appeared in the form of Om, the island came to be known as Omkareswar. There is a shrine for Parvati and five-faced Ganapati in the temple. There is a bridge for pilgrims to walk to the island from the main bank of the river Narmada.
Omkareshwar is said to be the place where Sri Adi Sankaracharya met his Guru Govindapada in a cave. This cave can be found even today just below the Shiva temple where an image of Adi Shankara has been installed. We prayed at the cave and returned to Ujjain.
On our return, we had our lunch at Panchwati Dhaba. In the last phase of our journey we stopped at the Shani temple. The temple is on the highway and the day was Saturday. We went inside the temple and paid our reverence to Lord Shani. We returned our hotel … a bit tired.
Har Har Mahadev!