Ujjain City

By Sanjeev Nayyar Sanjeev@esamskriti.com | 2008

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Ujjain comes from Ujjainee, which means one who conquers with pride. It is situated on the banks of the river Shipra. Ujjain is synonymous with Vikramditya (whose icon you see in this picture), Kalidasa & Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling.

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.

What you see is Ram Ghat where the Simhastha (known as Kumbh in Prayag/Hardiwar) is held. The other names for Ujjain: Ujjaini, Avanti, Pratikalpa, Vishala, Kumudhati, Kushsthali, Chudamani, Kanak Srange, Padmavati. The train from Mumbai to Indore via Ujjain is called Avantika Express.

Vikram University Crest: The Lions, the Rising Sun (which together form 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.

Another icon of Vikramaditya the Great. It is situated in a small bye lane close to the Har Siddhi 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.

What you see are artistic pillars in the assembly hall of the temple that 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.

Icon of Pandit Narayanji Vyas in the Bada Ganesh Mandir. He is a descendant of Rishi Sandipani (Sandipani Ashram you will see later) who taught Krishna & Sudama.

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. What you see is an inner view of the sanctum.

Har Siddhi mandir 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. You see me and wifey in front of the temple.

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. 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. A complete view of the mandir.

The two large columns that you see are situated in the courtyard of the temple and called Deepswthambs or lamps. They are symbols of Maratha architecture. The lower part of the swthamb is very oily. We saw a similar swthamb in Mumbai recently. Instead of being lit by oil there were bulbs.

Lit during Navaratri they present a glorious spectacle as you can see in this picture. 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.

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. It is an open air temple on the banks of the river Shipraji. A thread is tied for fulfillment of desires to the tree that you see in the picture.

A side view of the tree. In the front you see the deepswthamb. It is the characteristic of this pilgrimage that is related with property, children and salvation. For the fulfillment of desires the thread (Raksha Sutra) is tied here.

You see a couple from Churu Rajasthan in this picture. We found her face glowing and dress colorful so we decided to click her for you.

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. Karkarepha goes through the center of the Shivalinga at Mangalnath, it is centrally placed.

As part of the pooja they make an icon of Lord Shiva with rice, ghee etc.

Entrance to Kaal Bhairav mandir. 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.

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. You see Guru Sandipani.

There is a room in the complex that houses Guruji’s icon in front of whom are icons of his students Krishna, Balram and Sudama.

You see the Gomati Kund that is the old source of water supply to the Ashram. It 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.

In all Shiv temples the cobra is invariably above the Lingam. Here there is a lingam with the cobra crawling by its side, another unique feature of this ashram.

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 pilgrims. 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.

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 (destroyed by invaders). 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. 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. The palace came under the control of the Scindias during the Maratha period. The Sun temple was restored by Rajmata Scindia. What you see is an icon of Surya Bhagwan.

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. What you see are entrance to the caves.

You see entrance to Kaal Bhairav mandir, icons of Vikram Betal etc.

Garden of Char Dham 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).

There is a move to declare Ujjain as a world heritage city. What you see is the ancestral home of my wife’s Buaji (aunty). It has a lot of wood work from outside. We were told that a number of older homes were made like this.

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