Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh



Mahakaal
Ujjain (Ujjayini, Avanti, Avantikapuri), is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River, today part of Madhya PradeshIn ancient times the city was called Ujjayini. As mentioned in the Mahabharata epic, Ujjayini was the capital of the Avanti Kingdom, and has been the Prime Meridian for Hindu geographers since the 4th century BCE. Ujjain is one of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) of the Hindus, and the Kumbh Mela religious festival is held there every 12 years. It is also home to Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines to the god Shiva and is also the place where Lord Krishna got education with Balarama and Sudama from Maharshi Sandipani.

Ujjain is a city having immense significance for ancient Indian astronomy and religion. It was considered the prime meridian of longitude by Indian astronomers, and has been the site of many observatories over the centuries. Ujjain also has the sacred temple of Mahakaleshwar, which enshrines one of the 12 holy jyotirlingas, and is the venue of the Kumbha Mela every twelve years held on the banks of the River Shipra.In ancient times the city was called Ujjaini, the capital of the kingdom of Avantika, and finds mention in the Mahabharata. It was also the capital of the great Mauryan king Vikramaditya, and later flourished under the Sungas and Satavahanas. It was a major astronomical and mathematical centre, and great minds who lived here were Varahamihira, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskaracharya. Its temples and monuments suffered widespread destruction in the hands of the Delhi Sultans, beginning its downslide. However, it rose to importance again under the rule of Akbar. In recent times, Ujjain came to be ruled by the Scindias, and was made part of Madhya Pradesh along with the Madhya Bharat region in 1956.

Places to See:

Mahakaleshwar


The Mahakal Temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, is a famous and venerated Shiva temple. The Shivling in this temple is supposed to be the only Jyotirling which faces south and hence it is known as Dakshinmukhi or the south-facing ling. It is the most popular and important temple of Ujjain. Every year on Shivratri (claimed to be the wedding day of Lord Shiva), there is a huge crowd of devotees for darshan. The same kind of public crowd can be seen in the month of Savaan, Nagpanchami. On every Monday of "Savan", there is a huge procession for the Lord Shiva idol in the city attended by large numbers of devotees from across the India.
Mahakal derives its name from "kaal" meaning end of life - death; the word Mahakaal means Lord of Death.

Ankapata


Ujjain is considered to be the place of learning and knowledge since the Vedic period. A famous ashram, Sandeepani Ashram is located there and is said to be one where Lord Krishna and his bosom friend, Sudhama studied under the guidance of Sandeepani, the great sage. Ankapata, where Lord Krishna is said to have cleansed his tablet which he used for writing is located closeby. There is a stone on which Guru Sandipani is said to have inscribed the numbers from 1 to 100. This place is considered holy by its association with Lord Krishna and attracts people with its exciting folktales.

Bade Ganeshji Ka Mandir 


Another significant place for learning Sanskrit and astrology is the Bade Ganeshji Ka Mandir, located close to the Mahakaleshwar Temple's tank. It has a massive statue of Ganesh, the God with the elephant head. Hindus consider the elephant head having virtues of divinity and signifies foresight, wisdom and discretion. In the middle of the temple is an outstanding and unique five faced statue of deity Hanuman who symbolizes belief and devotion. The five faces symbolize strength, courage, righteousness, devotion, and loyalty.

Chaubis Khamba Temple 


The Chaubis Khamba Temple is an impressive architectural marvel of the 9th or 10th century and was considered to be majestic and royal entry point of Mahakala-Vana whose boundary wall now in ruins lies near the gate. At each side of the gate are the splendid graceful images of the goddesses with their names Mahalaya and Mahamaya inscribed on their footstools. The sight of this place is spectacular.

Gomti Kund 


Another place which abounds with legends and among the holiest places is the Gomti Kund, a steep water tank close to the Sandipani Ashram. It is said that Lord Krishna bade the holy rivers from all over the pilgrimage centers for his aged Guru to carry out his rituals easily. Till date, it remains a constant source of water supply to the Sandipani Ashram. The Puranas and Vedas have mentioned this ashram which has proven to be an important place since ancient times as excavations have found out painted artifacts to be more than 3000 years old. These articles resemble closely with those found at Kausambi, Hastinapura, Mathura and Indraprastha.

Gopal Temple 


Another holy place is the 19th century Gopal Temple devoted to Lord Krishna and a specimen of Maratha architecture. It was built by Bayajibai Shinde right in the middle of a huge market and the heart of Ujjain city, marking its strategic importance and popularity. It is made of marble with a spiral structure. The two feet high statue of the deity stands atop a marble altar with doors made of silver. The inner door is the one taken from the temple of by Somnath by Ghazni and restored by Maharaj Scindia.

Chintaman Ganesh Temple 


Another pious place is the marvelous 11th century stone temple, the Chintaman Ganesh Temple which is right in the center of the market. Its presiding deity is considered to be Swayamabhu (Lord Ganesh) and is flanked on both sides by his companions, Siddhi and Ridhhi. The white shrine has an assembly hall with exquisitely carved pillars made of stone which shows its age old sacredness. Hindus firstly worship Lord Ganesh considered the vanquisher of all obstacles. Devotees flock here to worship the deity, conventionally named Chintaharan Ganesh ("the redeemer from the worldly worries and anxieties")

Harsiddhi Temple 


Among the various Shaktipeeths of the Hindu mythology is the Harsiddhi Temple, considered the dwelling of the numerous Hindu Goddesses and houses their images too. Its highlights include the rock structure covered with vermilion and turmeric paste. Another highlight is the Sri Yantra (nine triangles) representing the nine different names of Goddess Durga. Among the famous images and idols known for their characteristic Maratha architecture style is the dark vermilion smeared image of Annapurna (Goddess of Nourishment) and the statue of Mahasaraswati (Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom). During the Navaratri festival, the temple glows with the simultaneous lighting of lamps numbering hundreds on the 15 feet tall lamp stand.

Jantar Mantar 


Another place of astronomical importance and for star gazers is the Jantar Mantar (also called the Vedh Shala Observatory) established in the 17th century. Since, ancient times, Ujjain was the center of the studies and research of Hindu astrologers and astronomers and the observatory is evidence of the same. Jantar Mantar is derived from the words, Yantra and Mantra. It is located in the south eastern place of Ujjain and has four monuments. The first one, Samrata Yantra, 22 feet tall calculates the time. The second one, Nadi Walaya Yantra calculates the Equinoctial days. The third one, Dignasha Yantra calculates the positions of the planets and stars. The fourth and last one, Bhitti Yantra calculates the suns' declination and its distance from the zenith. It also has a telescope and a planetarium.

Nagarkot ki Rani Temple 


An archaeologically important and ancient temple situated in south-west of Ujjain on the marsh ramparts is the Nagarkot Ki Rani Temple ('queen of the city wall') and considered the protector of ancient Ujjain. It is associated with many has many popular folklores of Bharthihari and Vikramaditya and the traditions of Natha sect. Other highlights include a tank dating to the Paramar period and two temples on each side of Nagarkot temple. One of the temples is of the Gupta period and its main deity is Lord Karthikeya.

Patal Bhairavi Temple 


A famous temple dedicated to the Shakti (power) of the mother Goddess namely, Patal Bhairavi Temple has an interesting legend behind it. As per Hindu mythology, a cruel and selfish demon, Bhairav Nath chased a young lady named Vaishno Devi, the reincarnation of Mother Goddess. In order to flee, the Devi shot an arrow in the ground from where water rushed out and took shelter in a cave. However, Devi had to assume the form of Mahakali to kill Bhairav after he found her. Just before dying, Bhairav begged for pardon and was granted Moksha along with a boon wherein each one of the devotees after the darshan of the Mother Goddess at the Holy cave, have to visit the nearby temple of Bhairav Nath in order to fulfill their pilgrimage.

Peer Matsyendranath 


An exquisite and beautiful shrine revered by both Muslims and Hindus lies on the Shipra river banks, namely Pir Matsyendranath and is dedicated to the great sage, Matsyendra. In earlier times before Islamic rule, sages and saints were revered as they were said to have attained spiritual knowledge and awareness through strict atonement and penances. Matsyendra was one such sage and a Sivaiite (Lord Shiva devotee) of the Natha sect. The shrine is of 6th-7th century and is a simple one in terms of architecture with a white structure and a dome surrounded on all four sides by small minarets. Antiques were recovered in excavations. Its simplistic beauty and serene surroundings is appealing.

Ram Janardhan Mandir 


The marvelous and eye catching shrine, Ram Janardhan Mandir, built in the 17th century by Mirza Raja Jaisingh is a perfect example of the elegant and fabulous architectural structural style of the Maratha period. The imposing and classic Maratha paintings decorate the walls and many structures were later on added in the 18th century by the Maratha Kings. Many amazing, striking and excellent sculptures of 11th-12th century like those of the Brahma, Mashesa, Govardhandhari Krishna and Vishnu adorns these shrines and add to their charm and beauty.

Siddhavat 


Another holy place is the Siddhavat which lies on the river banks of the Shipra River. It is famous for its immortal tree, the Siddhavat Tree. It is sacred and is known by various names at different places such as Akashyavat (Gaya and Prayag), Vanshivat (Vrindavan) and the Panchavata (Nasik). Scores of devotees take a holy dip in the Shipra River at the bathing ghat situated there. Legend has it Goddess Parvati undertook her penance at this place which was formerly a place of prayers and worship of the Natha sect followers. Another legend is that the Mughals tried to prevent the Banyan tree from growing by cutting it off and covering the place with iron sheets. However, the tree cut through the sheets and continued growing.

Vikram Kirti Mandir 


An important cultural place, the Vikram Kirti Mandir was set up to commemorate the 2nd millennium of the Vikram period; with the purpose of keeping afresh the glorious memories of the Mauryan Age among the present and future generations. Its attractions include art gallery, archaeological museum, auditorium and the Scindia Oriental Research Institute. The Institute houses an amazing collection of 18, 000 priceless manuscripts on a variety of subjects like the illustrated Shrimad Bhagavata and also houses a library for referring to many important oriental publications. It also has a rare collection of Bark leaf and Palm leaf manuscripts, Rajput and Mughal paintings and a large collection of sculptures, inscriptions and coins............
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