Ujjain, Omkareshwar and Maheshwar Yatra

  • By Sanjeev Nayyar & Aparna Sharma
  • June 2017
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In October 1990 I drove through the outskirts of Ujjain and wondered whether I would ever visit this ancient town again. Since then desire existed but a trip never materialized. Since my wife was born in Ujjain we decided to visit this prachin nagri in December 2006. Article list places to see, history and ends with our experiences.

Our travel schedule was day 1 reached Ujjain early morning, local sightseeing. Day 2 drove to Omkareswar and Maheshwar. Day 3 Ujjain and day 4 evening train to Mumbai.

This piece has 3 parts, one Ujjain, two Omkareshwar and three Maheshwar. Written in 2007 it was edited in May 2017.

1. UJJAIN

Source of Content: Madhya Pradesh tourism web site, display boards of the Department of Archaeology outside each location, History & Culture of the Indian People (HCI) published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. Content is classified under the following heads:

1. History of Ujjain.
2. Vikramaditya, Kalidasa & Gadhkalika mandir.
3. Mahakaleshwar Mandir Jyotirling.
4. Chintamani & Bade Ganesh mandirs.
5. Har Siddhi and Siddhavat mandirs.
6. Kaal Bhairav, Mangalnath & Shani mandirs.
7. Sandipani Ashram.
8. Kaliyadah Palace, Bhartrihari Gufa & Gopal mandir.
9. Jantar Mantar Observatory.

1. History of Ujjain - Ujjain is more than 5,000 years old. While the city’s early history is lost in the midst of antiquity by 6th century B.C. Avanti with its capital as Ujjain is mentioned in Buddhist literature as one of the great four powers along with Vatsa, Kosala and Magadha. Ujjain is one of the Shaktipeethas out of 51. It is on the banks of the holy river Shipraji. Shipra means ‘that which flows slowly or an ornament worn on the waist’.

The Skand Purana mentions that 84 Mahadevas, 64 Yoginis, eight Bhairavas and six Vinayaks (Ganesh) exist in Ujjain.

According to ancient belief the Bhumadhya-rekha (equator) passed through Ujjain. Ujjain means city on ascendance with victory shout. Ujjain comes from Ujjainee, which means one who conquers with pride. Ujjain is also called the luminous region of the heaven.

Modern Ujjain is situated on the banks of the river Shipra regarded as pavitra (pure) from ancient times. While waiting for darshan at Mahakal mandir noted the following names for Ujjain: Ujjaini, Avanti, Pratikalpa, Vishala, Kumudhati, Kushsthali, Chudamani, Kanak Srange, and Padmavati. The train from Mumbai to Indore via Ujjain is called Avantika Express.

Ujjain lay on the main trade route between North India & Deccan. The articles of export to Western Asia such as precious stones, pearls, perfumes, and silks reached the port of Brighukachcha from the remote north through Ujjain. An unknown Greek Merchant who made a voyage to India in the second half of 1st century A.D. talks of a city to the East of modern day Bharuch which fed all commodities to trade like onyx, porcelain, fine Muslim and ordinary cotton.

The earliest known epigraphic record of the Paramaras, the Harsola Granth, issued at the beginning of the 10th century A.D maintains that the kings of the Paramara dynasty were born in the family of the Rashtrakutas in the Deccan. Am not giving details of other rulers since too much of detail. From the 9th to 12th centuries the Paramaras became so identified with Ujjain that tradition has converted Vikramaditya into a Paramara. The last Paramara ruler Siladitya was captured live by the Sultans of Mandu and so Ujjain passed into the hands of the Muslims.

Thus began a long era of misfortune and decay and the ancient glory of Ujjain was lost in a morass of repeated inroads of attacking hordes. Invasion of Ujjain by Illtutmish in 1234 triggered a desecration & destruction of temples. He destroyed the Mahakaleshwar Temple too. This path of destruction was stopped in the time of Baz Bahadur of Mandu and Mughals.

At the beginning of the 17th century, Ujjain & Malwa were gradually ruled by the Marathas whose domination gave impetus to a culture/temple building and modern Ujjain day came into being. The Jyotirling Mahakaleshwar/Har Siddhi temples were reconstructed during this period. Gopal Mandir in the main market too was constructed then. Also, the art of woodwork was also developed. Woodcarvings were done in balconies as you can see in my wife’s ancestral home.

Ujjain finally passed into the hands of the Scindias in 1750 and until 1810 it was their chief town till they shifted to Gwalior. Today Ujjain is full of temples. Though built on old sites they are of recent construction due to frequent destruction.

The names of Kalidasa and Ujjayini are inextricably linked together in the Indian traditions. It is in Meghdoot, a poem of a little over hundred verses, describing the anguish of a yaksha, separated from his beloved by a curse, sending a message to her in the city of Alaka through a rain cloud from his exile in Ramagiri (now identified as Ramtek near Nagpur) that Kalidasa's love of Ujjayini finds full expression. The poet describes the imaginary passage of the cloud over Ujjayini, and it is almost as if he is loath to move on, for in 12 verses (27-38), there is a lyrical description of the city and the people which conjures up a vivid picture of a civilized attractive society, a leisured class, intensely practical and yet imbued with deeply religious and philosophical preoccupations. Kalidasa was one of the nine jewels of Vikramaditya.

The magnificence and awesome spectacle of the bathing ritual at Simhastha 2004 (known as Kumbh in Prayag/Hardiwar) defies description. It is held when Jupiter & Saturn enter in the Simhas (Leo) and Mesha (Aries) respectively once in twelve years. Beginning on the full moon day in Chaitra (April), it continues into Vaishakha (May), until the next full moon day. Ujjain turns, amidst a riot of colors, into an India in miniature.

Insights: Ujjain is associated with the great king Vikramaditya and Kalidasa. I tried hard to find a symbol of the periods they lived in but found none. They were either demolished during the Muslim invasions or were too old to survive. Unable to see any symbol I found the trip incomplete. Although every monument has a self-explanatory board nowhere was there a word about Vikramaditya and Kalidasa. All I found were two recent constructions, the Vikram University and Kalidasa Academy.

As I reflect I can see through the Muslim strategy. The invaders destroyed every major symbol of Indian tradition in Ujjain so that people could not relate with these symbols. Once Indians lost their roots they were more likely to convert to Islam. Fortunately Marathas ruled this area for a while, so reconstruction activity happened for e.g. Mahakaleshwar mandir, Observatory and so on.

2. Vikram University Crest: The Lions, the Rising Sun (which together forms the Crest of the Great Vikramaditya) represents the indomitable courage and rising height of wisdom. The book poised lightly on the petals of the lotus signifies the numerous branches of learning. The silhouette of the Temple of Mahakaleshwar symbolizes the sacred culture of the ancient city of Ujjain the seat of this University. The University was established in 1957.

Vikram Kirti Mandir: Established on the occasion of the second millennium of the Vikram era, as the cultural centre to perpetuate the memory of Vikramaditya, the Vikram Kirti Mandir houses the Scindia Oriental Research Institute, an archaeological museum, an art gallery and an auditorium.

The Scindia Oriental Research Institute has an invaluable collection of 18,000 manuscripts on various subjects and runs a reference library of important oriental publications. Rare manuscripts in Prakrit, Arabic, Persian and other Indian languages cover a wide range of subjects from Vedic literature and philosophy to dance and music. Palm leaf and bark leaf (Bhurja Patra) manuscripts are also preserved in this institute. Apart from an illustrated manuscript of Shrimad Bhagavata in which actual gold and silver have been employed for the paintings, the Institute has a rich collection of old paintings in the Rajput and Mughal style. The museum also exhibits a rich array of images, inscriptions, copper plates and fossils discovered in the Narmada valley. A huge skull of a primitive elephant is of special interest.

Vikrama Samvat: Unlike the Christian calendar which is based on the birth of Jesus the Vikram Samvat calendar is based on the year from which King Vikramaditya established peace & prosperity over Malwa. HCI have dedicated five pages to Samvat in volume 2.

According to HCI, “The era might after all have been founded by a foreigner as stated above. But there is no inherent congruity in the belief that king Vikramaditya founded it in 59 B.C. to commemorate his recovery of Ujjayini by defeating the Sakas”.

Insights: Besides the Vikram University the only icon of Vikramaditya in Ujjain was in a bye lane close to Harsiddhi mandir. The sad part is that there is for the common man not enough information about Vikramditya & Kalidasa both of whom are synonymous with Ujjain in a historic sense. I tried hard but did not find any city sign boards that spoke about them.

Inside Vikramaditya University

Kalidasa Academy: This academy was set up in Ujjain by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to immortalize the memory of the great poet dramatist-Kalidasa, and to create a multi-disciplinary institution to project the genius of the entire classical tradition, with Kalidasa as the apex, enable research and study in Sanskrit classical and traditional performing arts, and facilitate its adaptation for contemporary stage in different cultural settings and language groups. The Academy complex consists of a theatre, museum, library, lecture and seminary halls, mini stage for rehearsals, research facilities for scholars, and a large open-air theater.

Quote HCI, “Kalidasa is by common consent the greatest and poet and dramatist that ever in India. Yet curiously enough, we know hardly anything about his life and have no definite knowledge of the time when he flourished. He is said to be one of the nine learned men who graced the court of king Vikramaditya. Most scholars regarded as a historical fact his association with king Vikramaditya of Ujjain, and the deliberate change in the name of the hero of the Vikramorvasiyam from Pururavas to Vikrama lends color to it. Some regard this Vikramaditya as the ruler, who according to well established tradition defeated the Sakas in 58 B.C. and found an era – the well-known Vikrama samvat to commemorate this fact. There are many views on when he existed. The safest course is to hold that Kalidasa flourished some time between 100 B.C. and 450 A.D.

His best-known work is Sakuntala. This play is considered one of the best not only in Sanskrit literature but in the literature of the world. Kalidasa based the play on the story of Sakuntala as found in the Mahabharata, but he has breathed quite a new and vital spirit into it by introducing several slight but effective changes in the original and also by adding new characters and incidents of high dramatic power. Before Sakuntala, Kalidasa had already composed two plays, the Malavikagnimitra and Vikramorvasiya.

Kalidasa’s genius shone with equal brilliance both in drama and in Kavya or poetry. His two Mahakavyas, Raghuvamsa and Kumarambhava and the lyrical poem Meghaduta are universally regarded as gems of Sanskrit poetry. Both in drama and poetry Kalidasa stands not only unsurpassed but even unrivalled”. For more details read volume 3.

Gadhkalika Mandir: Shri Gadhkalika mandir is traditionally known to be the choice of worship of the greatest poet Kalidasa – the author of Abigyna Shakuntala and chief gem of the court of Raja Vikramaditya. Images and bricks & part of the plinth are of the 1st century B.C. (Shunga period); 4th century A.D. (Gupta period) and 10th century A.D. (Parmar period) were recovered from the basement of the temple.

Emperor Harshvardhan got this temple renovated in the 7th century a.d. – there is some indication of its further renovation in the 10th century a.d. under Parma rule. In the 20th century, the traditional priest Shri Siddhanath Maharaj got this temple renovated in Samvat 2001 (1944 A.D.).

The temple has been rebuilt in modern times by the erstwhile Gwalior state. A beautiful sculpture of Yakshini belonging to the 4-5th century a.d. was recovered from this place, which is presently displayed at Bharati Kala Bhavan Museum, Ujjain.

3. Mahakaleshwar Mandir: Mahakala is the Lord of time and Death. One of the 12 jyotirlingas in India, the lingam at Mahakal is believed to be swayambhu (born of itself) deriving currents of power (Shakti) from within itself as against the other images and lingams which are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti.

Aakasha tavakam lingam Hatkashwaram

Bhulokhe Cha Mahakalah lingatrayah namaustuteye

Translated as

“In the sky is the Taraka linga, in the nether region is the Haatkeshwara and on the earth is Mahakaleshwara. We venerate the three lingas”.

The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, facing the south. At the naval point of the earth south facing Mahakala is situated, the only Jyotirling of its kind. This fact has a special significance in the Tantric tradition. This is a unique feature upheld by tantric traditions to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 Jyotirlingas. The icon of Omkareshwar Shiva is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakal shrine. The images of Ganesh, Parvati and Karttikeya are installed in the west, north and east of the sanctum sanctorum. To the south is the image of Nandi. The icon of Nagchandreshwar on the third storey is open for darshan only on the day of Nagpanchmi. On the day of Mahashivaratri, a huge fair is held near the temple.

Ancient Shri Mahakal mandir was renovated in the 11th century. It was demolished by Illtutmish in 1234. Present temple renovated during Maratha rule some 250 years ago by Baba Ramchandra Shenvi, Diwan of Scindia state. Ground plus two floors are made of stone and appear 300-400 years old while the temple Shikhar seems a more recent construction.

Mahadev is on the ground floor. Omkareshwar Mahadev is on the first floor. Its specialty is that it is looked after Dashnami Sadhus of the Mahanirvani order. It is considered to be an image of Omkareshwar jyotirling on the banks of the river Narmada. Ground three is Nageshwar that opens on Nagpanchami day. Here Nagchandreswara is worshipped in the form of Shivlinga. Some of the other temples in the Mahakaleshwar complex are:
1. Sankatmochan Siddhades Hanuman Mandir – established by Samartha Ramdas, Guru of Shivaji Maharaj.
2. Sacred Kotitirtha is the water source.
3. Bhasma Aarti- Bhasma offered between 4-6 am by burning dried cow dung. During Bhasmaarti no one can enter the Garbhagruha (well) – only makes wearing Sola or silk cloth canetner the well.
4. Savari of Shri Mahakala – last Monday of the holy month of Shravan, Mahakala sitting in a palanquin moves in the city.

Insights: The Bhasm aarti starts every morning at about 4am and lasts for over two hours. Stand in the line by about 2.30 am if you want to get to sit close to garbhagruha. During the aarti bhasm or ashes are offered to the Lingam. The chanting of mantras, sound and vibrations within make it a very powerful aarti, once in a lifetime experience. Being Shaivites we connected with Lord Shiv during the aarti. The manner in which they dress up the Lord is unique and amazing. The lingam becomes his head ie decorated with flowers, eyes, nose etc. The entire “shringar” is very elaborate and done with a lot of “atmeeyata”. The (bhavna (feeling) is ki Lord Shiv swayam prakat hue (himself was present). We were told that the bhasm or ashes were brought daily from the cremation ground. For security reasons we could not click pictures of the temple complex.

We also saw 24 Khamba Mata ka Mandir. It is the old entrance of the Mahakaleshwar mandir and is today about a 7 walk from it. It would be ok to extrapolate that the ancient temple consists of a huge complex where houses stand today.

4. Chintamani Ganesh Mandir: The present sanctum of Chintamani Ganesh is very old. The Ganesh icon is swayambhu – born of itself. Riddhi & Siddhi, the two goddesses are enshrined on both sides of the icon of Ganesh. Traditionally, this is known as the seat of Chintaharan Ganesh (assurer of freedom from worldly anxieties). People assemble here in large numbers to offer their prayers on Wednesdays in the month of Chaitra. Artistic pillars in the assembly hall of the temple belong to the Parmar period (9-12th century).

The temple was renovated by Ahilyabhai Holkar with the addition of a water tank and boundary wall. It is said that while returning to Ayodhya after victory over Ravana, Lord Ram rested here. To get rid of thirst, Lakshman dug out the water with his arrow. This is the reason the water tank is called Banganga.

Bada Ganesh Mandir: this temple is very close to the Mahakaleshwar temple. It has a huge icon of Ganesh, the son of Lord Shiva. An icon of this size and beauty is rarely found. In the middle of the mandir is one of its type a Pancha-Mukhi (five faced) Hanuman.

5. Har Siddhi Mandir: This is one of the prominent temples of Ujjain. The image of goddess Harsiddhi painted with vermilion is located between the images of Mahalaxmi & Mahasaraswati here. Shreeyantra is also located here. According to tradition, this is the real harsiddhi. In tantric tradition, it is regarded as a siddha-peth.

According to Shiv puran, when Lord Shiva was taking the great Sati from the yagna of dakshya Prajapati, the elbow of Sati fell in this place. According to Skand puran, the goddess was called Harsiddhi for killing two demons o Chanda & Prachand. According to folk tradition, harsiddhi is the worshipping goddess of Raja Vikramaditya.

There is a mention of this temple in the books of the 13th century A.D. but present temple is of the Maratha period. An artistic pillar adorns the entrance. The two large columns situated in the courtyard of the temple are Deepswthambs or lamps, symbols of Maratha architecture. Lit during Navaratri they present a glorious spectacle. On one of the columns of the present tank, the year 1447 is subscribed. There are few other temples of gods and goddess on the premises. The Karkoteshwar Mahadev mandir, one of the main temples out of the 84 mahadev is situated in the temple premises. In both the narratives occasions, special worship & celebration are performed here in the month of Chaitra & Ashwin. It is believed that the Goddess of this temple Mataji remains at Koila Dungar temple in Porbander for twelve hours and comes to Ujjain ka temple in the evening during aarti time.

Insights: There is something special about this temple complex. We found the environs very peaceful and rejuvenating. There was some stirring within.

6. Siddhavat Mandir: As there is glory of the Ashayarat in Prayag, Boudhvat in Gaya and Vanshivat in Vrindavan and Panchavata of Nasik just like that Siddhvat is a famous place of pilgrimage in Ujjain. According to tradition, all these trees are immortals & worshipped as Kalpniksha. According to Aramkand of Skandpurana, this tree was planted by Goddess Parvati herself. In diety devil war, the demons emperor Tarkasu was killed by Swami Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva. Kartik Swami was appointed as army leader by diety. Under this tree the power by which Swami Kartikeya killed Tarkasu is situated in the middle of Shipra and is known as Shaktibeah Tirth. Thousands of pilgrims take a dip in the Shipra from the bathing ghat built here.

Goddess Parvati made food eaten by Swami Karthikeya. According to history Raja Vikramaditya got Betal Siddhi after doing austerity here. Mahendra, Sangamitra the son & daughter of Raja Ashok after worshipping here traveled long distances – to countries such as Sri Lanka. In the Mughal times, destruction took place in Ujjain like other places in India. At the same time, this tree was cut & closed by 7 round plates but immediately after a great blitz it got free again. It is the characteristic of this pilgrimage that is related with property, children and salvation. 3 main characteristics are-

1. For the fulfillment of desires the thread (Raksha Sutra) is tied here.
2. For the desire of child especially an opposite Swastik is made here afterwards the lap is filled by coconut.
3. For the peace of forefathers (milk is poured to its branches). There is a special importance of Pind Dan here.

The little village of Bhairogarh near Siddhavat was known for dye painting for centuries. In ancient times when trade with other countries flourished, cloth from Bhairogarh found its way to Rome & China.

Insights: I skipped this mandir and we drove towards Mangalnath mandir but wifey Aparna insisted that we return to the place, a wise decision. I was greatly enamored by this open-air temple on the banks of the river Shipra. Something special about the place. To the right of the temple is the Tree where devotees tie red thread. People come from far and wide. We met an old couple from Churu Rajasthan.

7. Kaal Bhairav: Shaivite form of worship has also assigned importance to the adoration of 8 Bhairavas. Kaal Bhairav is the foremost amongst them. Skanda purana has made a mention of the temple of Kaalbhairav in its Avanti Khanda. According to some antique tradition, the followers of Kapalika & Aghora sects used to worship Shiva or Bhairava. Ujjain was also connected with the pattern of worship developed by these sects. People offer liquor as part of the worship. It is said that a certain king named Bhadrasen got this temple constructed; this must have been a great temple during the Parmar period. Images of Shiva, Parvati, Vishnu & Ganesh have been recovered from this place. This temple was rebuilt with the remains of the old temple. Beautiful paintings in Malwa style once decorated the temple walls. The temple to the right of the courtyard is dedicated to Vithala and to the left is a Dharamshala.

Insights: Seeing devotees offer liquor to God can be scary for some not for those who come with bhavna & respect for the Lord. The mandir is situated on what was once a cremation ground. A new cremation ground is situated close to the mandir. The temple Pandit looked a bit different, wifey found him scary but I found him very intuitive.

Mangalnath Mandir: According to Matsya puran, this is the birthplace of Mangalgraha or Mars. Flowing Shipra river presents a very beautiful view in front of the temple. Devotees gather in large numbers esp. on Tuesday. Located on a hillock, this place represents the highest place in the area. In ancient times, the place was famous as it is said to have provided a clear view of Mars – Ujjain was an important center for astronomical studies. This place, traditionally known for its suitability for astronomical readings of mars continues to hold its religious importance. Worship of Lord Shiva is offered at the temple. Karkarekha goes through the center of the Shivalinga at Mangalnath, it is centrally placed.

Insights: This is the only authentic temple in the country for the puja of the Mangal graha which is Mars. As a planet Mars is supposed to make a person very aggressive which could have adverse effects overall if the energy is not channelised in the right manner. For those who have mangaldosh a special puja is performed only at this temple in the country. We witnessed one such Shanti Puja in which the lingam was smeared with kumkum, panchaamrut and later on with cooked rice. Finally the Pandit completed the puja with Shringar of the lingam. We were fortunate to witness the entire process. Even though it was someone else’s puja he explained the entire process to us and got us to experience it firsthand.

If you like to perform the puja contact Pujari Mahendra Bharti at 98273 13905, 98263 12891, 94259 45577.

Shani Mandir – Triveni Navagraha: the temple of Navagraha, the nine planets situated on the Triveni ghat of Shipra is a prominent center of attraction for piligrims. The temple is about 150 years old. Large crowds come to the Navagraha temple on the Amavasya falling on Saturdays. Religious importance of this place is increasing in recent times although there is hardly any reference to this in ancient texts. Mythological sanctity of the invisible river Saraswati is associated with the story of Triveni Sangam.

8. Sandipani Ashram: The fact that ancient Ujjain apart from its political and religious importance, enjoyed the reputation of being a great seat of learning as early as the Mahabharata period is borne out by the fact that, Lord Krishna and Sudama received regular instruction in the ashram of Guru Sandipani. The area near the ashram is known as Ankapata, popularly believed to have been the place used by Lord Krishna for washing his writing tablet. The numerals 1 to 100 found on a stone are believed to have been engraved by Guru Sandipani.

According to Puranic tradition Krishna & his friend Sudama received regular instructions in the Ashram of Kulaguru Sandipani. Besides Mahabharata, the Puranas, Shrimad Bhagavata, Brahma, Agni & Brahmavairaita bear references to the Sandipani Ashram. Archaeological evidence of 3,000 years old painted grey wares has been recovered from this area. These bear a resemblance to the similar remains recovered at Hastinapura, Indraprastha, Mathura & Kausambi. These evidences show that this region is the oldest in the city. Gomati Kund is the old source of water supply to the Ashram & the same has been referred to in the Puranas also.

The image of standing Nandi near the tank is worth seeing and it belongs to the Shunga period. We were told that it is the only temple in India where Nandi is standing as elsewhere Nandi is found sitting. The area nearby is known as Ankapata.

In all Shiv temples the Nag (snake) is invariably wound around the Lingam. In this ashram there is a Shiv temple in which there is a lingam with the Nag crawling by its side.

In the beginning of the 16th century the great Vaishnava saint Shri Vallabhacharya delivered his religious discourses in the vicinity of this ashram. The followers of the Vallabha sect count this place as the 73rd seat of their acharya who is said to have made 84 sittings for religious discourses throughout through out India. We were taken around by Harsh Vyas who belongs to Sandipani Rishi ka vansh.

Insights: Mitras something special about this place, the positive vibrations and feeling of equanimity that we experienced.

If you like to have more information about the Ashram contact Pandit Rupam/Harsha Vyas 94250 92465, 92294 28213. He belongs to Maharishi Sandipani Vansh.

9. Kaliyadah Palace: as is lost now in the symphonious solitude of the streams of river Shipra flowing through tanks and channels with frolicsome twists and turns in the serene setting of nature, was once a majestic sun temple. Avanti-Mahatmya of the Skanda Purana has recorded a description of the sun-temple, the Surya –kunda and the Brahma-kunda. To this day people from nearby villages hold their religious bath in one of the tanks known as Surya-kunda. Parts of the old temple are scattered here and there throughput the area and the flow of Shipra is divided into two parts on the southern side.

The streams of Shipra have been made to rush through tanks & channels (aired on the western side by arresting it on the eastern side by a barrage). The palace was shaped in its present form in the 16th century by Nasiruddin Khilji, the then ruler of Malwa. The central dome of the palace is an e.g. of Persian architecture. Visits of Akbar & Jehangir to this place are recorded in inscriptions found in the long corridor adjacent to the tanks. The palace came under the control of the Scindias during the Maratha period. The Sun temple was restored by Rajmata Scindia. Today the whole place is deserted.

Bhartrihari Gufa (caves): These caves are situated just above the bank of the Shipra near the temple of Gadkalika. According to tradition, this is the spot where Bhartrihari, who is said to have been the stepbrother of Vikramaditya meditated after renouncing worldly life. He is believed to have been a great scholar.

Chardham Mandir: founded by Shanti Swarupanandji Maharaj. Since a number of us are unable to do the chardham for a variety of reasons Maharajji made four temples in Ujjain itself so that devotees can take anand (joy) there itself. The char dhams are Jagannath dham (East, Orissa), Dwarkadhish dham (West, Gujarat), Badrinath dham (North, Uttranchal) and Rameshwar dham (South, Tamil Nadu).

Gopal Mandir: This huge temple is situated in the middle of the big market square. It was constructed by Bayajibai Shinde, the queen of Maharajah Daulat Rao Shinde in the 19th century. It is a beautiful example of Maratha architecture. The sanctum sanctorum is inlaid with marble and doors are silver-plated. The door in the inner sanctum is said to have been carried to Ghazni from the Somnath temple and from thence by Mahmud Shah Abdali to Lahore. Mahadji Scindia recovered it and now it has been installed in this temple.

Insights: The Gopal mandir is a large monument and situated in the main market. Very close to it is a mosque with a large minaret. The mosque is a recent construction. Due to its size and design it spoils the aesthetics of the market place. When I spoke to my wife she said that the mosque was very small when they were in school. When Ujjain had riots this area was considered to be a sensitive one.

Another first about the market place is that I found Bohra Muslims selling pictures of Hindu Gods & Shivaji, materials for temple visits like agarbattis/flowers.

10. The Vedha Shala (Observatory): Ujjain enjoyed a position of considerable importance in the field of astronomy. Great works on astronomy such as the Surya Siddhanta and the Panch Siddhanta were written in Ujjain. According to Indian astronomers, the Tropic of Cancer is supposed to pass through Ujjain. It is also the fist meridian of longitude of the Hindu geographers. From about the 4th century BC, Ujjain enjoyed the reputation of being India's Greenwich. The observatory today was built by Raja Jai Singh (1686-1743), who was a great scholar. He translated the works of Ptolemy and Euclid into Sanskrit from Arabic. Of the many observatories built by him at Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi, Mathura, and Ujjain, the one at Ujjain is still in use actively. Astronomical studies are conducted through the Department of Education and the ephemeris is published every year. There is a small planetarium and a telescope to observe the moon, Mars, Jupiter and their satellites. The observatory is also used for weather forecasts.

Pandit Rajmani Tugnait wrote in ‘Introduction to Tantra’ about 17 places where Tantric shrines are located one of which is Ujjain. “Ujjain is a hub of many tantric traditions. Mahakala, the devour of time or the destroyer of death, presides over all deities residing here but other traditions are found too. For ages Ujjain was the center of astronomical research, where tantric sadhanas studied the nature & movement of stars & planets & discovered the connecting links between the celestial realm & the human body.

The walls & ceiling of the Hara Siddha Gauri temple in Ujjain are like a living library. Here you will find an elaborate Sri Chakra with hundreds of deities depicted in their personified form. A visit here is equivalent to several years of study in a library. 500 yards away from the Kala Bhairava temple is the shrine of Vikranta Bhairava, a place famous for the quick acquisition of startling siddhis or supernatural powers. Here, in the dead of the night, tantrics who are lovers of the destructive force celebrate the eternal sport of the creator”.

To see pictures of
1. Ujjain
2. Mahakaleshwar Mandir
3. Jantar Mantar