Ujjain boasts a wealth of cultural heritage, largely in the form of temples. Situated on the banks of the Kshipra River, the city dates back to 600 BCE and was once the residence of emperor Ashoka. Ashoka was the governor of Ujjain during the reign of his father. It was also the political and commercial hub of central India and the capital of the ancient Avanti Kingdom. It is considered to be one of the seven sacred places to attain Moksha. Ujjain’s spiritual charm is undeniable. The famous poet, Kalidasa, described it as
The town fallen from Heaven to bring Heaven to Earth.
Shri Ram Ghat
Majority of Indian rivers flow towards the south but Shipra is an Uttargami (north flowing) river. According to sacred texts like Skanda Purana and Bhagwat Purana, a dip in Shipra is considered to free you of all sins and problems.
In the afternoon, after my exam we went out to a few of the numerous places. We went to Shri Ram Ghat. Lord Rama performed his father’s last rites after his death at Ujjain on the bank of river Kshipra, therefore this ghat (series of steps leading to the water) is called ‘Ram Ghat’. Along the banks of River Kshipra, many bathing Ghats are located like Gandhavati Ghat, Sunhari Ghat, Ganga Ghat, Narsingh Ghat, Rinmukteshwar ghat and Siddhnath ghat.
The Shri Ram Ghat, also known as Ram Ghat is the most ancient bathing ghat and is very popularly visited during the Kumbh Mela. Ujjain holds Kumbha Mela every 12 years along the riverside ghats. Goddess Kshipra symbolizes purity, clarity and chastity, and she is worshipped by thousands and thousands of devotees. The Kumbha mela at Ujjain is known as Ujjain Simhastha. The name derives from the fact that it is held when the Jupiter is in Leo (Simha, in Hindu astrology). The Puranas, or ancient Hindu texts, suggest that the Kshipra originated from the heart of Varaha, Lord Vishnu’s incarnation as a boar.
Sandipani Muni’s Ashram
Ujjain was one of the four educational centres of ancient India — Ujjain, Varanasi, Nalanda and Taxila; out of which the first two were known for their elementary to higher education whereas the latter duo were known for their graduation and above level studies and research work.
On the banks of the Kshipra is Sage Sandipani’s ashram or hermitage where Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu’s eighth incarnation, had studied. We visited the Ashrama of Sandipani Muni. Near the ashram is the Gomti Kund, a stepped water tank. Legend has it that this is where Lord Krishna summoned all the holy waters from various centres so that his elderly Guru, Sandipani Muni would not have to travel other holy places. This is the place Lord Krishna studied with Lord Balaram and his bosom friend Sudama for 28 days before proceeding to become the king of Dwaraka.
Shri Harsiddhi Temple
Near the Ram Ghat, there is the famous Harsiddhi Temple. Shri Harsiddhi Temple is one of the ancient places of India and it is the 13th Shaktipeeth among the 51 Shaktipeeths of Mata Sati. According to Shiva-purana, when Shiva carried away the burning body of sati from the sacrificial fire of Dakhsa Prajapati her elbow dropped at this spot. Tantric tradition holds this seat as siddha-peetha. According to Skanda purana the name Harsiddhi got currency for the personal achievement of the goddess in vanquishing the demons.
From the pages of history it is revealed that Maa Harsiddhi devi was the deity, the supreme being of Samrat Vikramaditya and known by the name ‘Mangalchandiki’ in ancient time. King Vikramaditya used to worship devi Harsiddhi and dedicated his head around eleven times in the feet of Maa Harsiddhi but the divine mother again brought him to life. This king Vikramaditya was the emperor of Ujjain who was known for his intellect, valour and nobleness. Vikramaditya is featured in hundreds of traditional Indian legends, including those in Baital Pachisi and Singhasan Battisi. Many describe him as a universal ruler, with his capital at Ujjain.
In all the four directions of the Harsiddhi temple premises there are four entry gates and inside the main entry gate in front of the Harsiddhi assemblage hall there are two pillars adorned with lamps that display their brilliance after being lit.
It takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to prepare and fill the Deepamalikaon with oil and it takes 10 minutes to light 1111 Deeps or lamps. In both the columns we can see Lord Shiva in 511 Deepastambh while Goddess Parvati in other 600 deepstambh. Both the deepstambhs are lit during day and evening aarti time. Hundreds of lamps burning simultaneously create an environment of unexplained splendor.
In the context of Hindu mythology, Deepstambh (Tower of Lamps, in English) is believed to be a cosmic column which functions as a bond joining the heaven and the earth. A number of Hindu scriptures, including the Atharva Veda, have references to Stambha. In the Atharva Veda, a celestial stambha has been described as an infinite scaffold, which supports the cosmos and material creation.
Kal Bhairav Temple
On the bank of the river Kshipra, there is a temple dedicated to Kal Bhairav, the guardian deity of Ujjain. The present-day temple structure was built over the remains of an older temple. The original temple is believed to have been built by an obscure king named Bhadrasen. It has been mentioned in the Avanti Khanda of the Skanda Purana. Kaal Bhairav is a clone of Lord Shiva, which was created by Lord shiva himself at the peak of his anger to destroy all demons and the world. He was later recruited by Lord Shiva as His personal bodyguard.
Interestingly, liquor is one of the offerings made to the temple deity. Liquor is offered to the temple deity as one of the five tantric ritual offerings known as panchamakara. Outside the temple, vendors sell baskets of offerings, containing coconuts, flowers and a bottle of liquor.
The State Government set up liquor counters outside the temple to ensure that the devotees are not swindled by unlicensed vendors of alcohol. The counters sell both country liquor and foreign liquor. When I went to buy Puja samagri at a shop, the guy at the shop asked me: “kaunsa brand?” I was a bit surprised as this was my first such experience. The guy was actually asking me for the brand of liquor that I would like to offer!
It was Sunday and there were many drinkers lined up for the alcoholic prasad, as if the prasad will save them from the ill-effects of liquor or the next-day hangover. My mother got scared of the crowd and stayed outside the temple. After a lot of pushing, I managed to reach the deity. The priest took the thali from me and poured some liquor on the plate and offered prayers and took the plate near the deity. He tilted the plate a bit, and the liquor starts disappearing! The temple priests as well as several devotees claim that there isn’t any cavity, and that the deity miraculously swallows the liquor offered to him.
Mangalnath temple is a famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is regarded as the birthplace of Mars (mangala in Hindi), according to the Matsya Purana. The temple is situated at the place where the first meridian is said to pass the earth and so this place was a renowned spot for a clear view of the planet and consequently it turned to be an apt place for astronomical studies.
According to legends, Shivapurana, Mangaldev was born when seats of Lord Shiva fell on the earth. It is believed that Mangal planet was born at the site of the ancient temple of Mangaldev in Ujjain, the land of Mahakaal. Mangaldev was thus the child of Lord Shiv and Prithvi (Bhumi – Planet Earth), Mangaldev is also called Bhaum.
The specialty of this temple is that all those natives who have Mangal/Mars in the Karka rashi which causes debilitation should do Pooja here as it is believed that Pooja removes hurdles for them and grants them boons.
Gadkalika Mata Mandir
The temple is dedicated to goddess Kalika. This pretty shrine holds an amazing legend which states that, Kalidasa, the great poet had acquired his literary skills by his sincere devotion to this deity.It is said that Kalidasa was an uneducated person and it was due to his dedication to Goddess Kalika that he earned her blessings and also acquired unparalleled literary skills. During 7th century, Harshavardhana renovated the temple.
There are so many temples spread aross this city.
Ujjain is indeed a city of temples.