It is believed that the Shipra had its origins in the ancient mythological tale of churning the Ocean by the Gods and the Demons, with the serpent Vasuki as the rope. The ocean bed first yielded fourteen gems, then yielded Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and finally the coveted vessel of spiritual nectar. Then, according to the mythology, there began a scramble for immortality, with the demons chasing the gods across the skies. In the process a few of drops of the spiritual nectar were spilled, and fell on Haridwar, Nasik, Prayag, and Ujjain.
The indomitable spirit of Ujjain is best exemplified by the legend of an ancient banyan tree named Siddhwat. The tree is believed to possess extraordinary spiritual vibrations and holy men meditate under it while others worship it. According to the legend, a ruler once had the tree cut down and covered the mutilated stump with seven iron plates, so as to show his authority. By the next morning, the tree had burst through the iron plates and come back to its original size. The tree is still alive and the object of redoubled veneration.
To this day, Ujjain is considered one of the most sacred places in India. Ujjain is one of the four places in which the Kumbha Mela is held every 12 years in each of those places.
The name of Ujjain:
Ujjain is the modern name for Ujjayini. Legend has it that in the hoary past, the God like king Shiva of Avanti commemorated his victory over the demon-ruler of Tripura or Tripuri on the banks of the Narmada by changing the name of his capital, Avantipura to Ujjayini (one who conquers with pride).
Having one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India, obviously, Mahashivratri is a big event here. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the fair grounds near the famous Mahakaleshwar temple and fast and worship throughout the night.
Simhastha Kumbh Mela:
The Kumbh Mela of Ujjain is a mammoth fair, held once in twelve years at Simhastha. The magnificence and awesome spectacle of the bathing ritual defies description.
The presiding deity of time, Shiva, in all his splendour, reigns eternal in Ujjain. The temple of Mahakaleshwar, its shikhara soaring into the skies, an imposing fašade against the skyline, evokes primordial awe and reverence with its majesty. The Mahakal dominates the life of the city and its people, even in the midst of the busy routine of modern preoccupations, and provides an unbreakable link with past traditions. One of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India, the lingam at the 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. The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, facing the South. This is a unique feature, upheld by tantric tradition to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 jyotirlingas. The idol 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 idol of Nagchandreshwar on the third storey is open for darshan only on the day of Nagpanchami. On the day of Mahashivaratri, a huge fair is held near the temple, and worship goes on through the night.
Also known as the Pancheshani Yatra, it is a grand tour of Ujjain in which thousands of people join in every year. The Chatdwar Yatra, the ceremonial visits to the four gates, is also associated with this Yatra. The legend goes that when Lord Shiva founded Ujjain at Parvati's behest on the banks of the Shipra, four gates were established to guard the city from all four directions. Four guardian deities, Pingaleshwar (East), Kayavarohaneshwar (South) Dardureshwar (North) and Bilveshwar (West) were appointed with Mahakaleshwar at the center of the town.
Bade Ganeshji ka Mandir:
This temple situated above the tank near the Mahakaleshwar temple, enshrines a huge artistic sculpture of Ganesh, the son of Shiva. An idol of this size and beauty is rarely to be found. The middle of the temple is adorned by an idol of the pancha-mukhi (five faced) Hanuman. There is provision for learning of Sanskrit and Astrology in the temple.
The temple is built across the Shipra on the Fatehabad railway line. The Ganesh idol enshrined here is supposed to be swayambhu - born of itself. The temple itself is believed to be of considerable antiquity. Riddhi and Siddhi, the consorts of Ganesha, are seated on either side of Ganesha. The artistically carved pillars in the assembly hall date back to the Paramara period. Worshippers throng to this temple because the deity here is traditionally known as Chintaharan Ganesh meaning "the assurer of freedom from worldly anxieties".
This is an extremely attractive spot on the banks of the Shipra quite close to the Bhartihari Caves and the Gadkalika Temple. It is dedicated to the memory of one of the great leaders of the Natha sect of Saivism-Matsyendranath. Since muslims as well as the followers of the Natha sect call their saints 'pir', the ancient site of Pir Matsyendranath is venerated by both. Excavations at this site have yielded some antiquities which date back to the 6th and 7th century BC.
These caves are situated just above the bank of the Shipra near the temple of Gadkalika. According to popular tradition, this is the spot where Bhartrihari, who is said to have been the step brother of Vikramaditya, lived and meditated after renouncing worldly life. He is believed to have been a great scholar and poet. His famous works, Shringarshatak, Vairagyashatak, and Nitishatak, are known for the exquisite use of the Sanskrit meter.
This temple occupies a special place in the galaxy of ancient sacred spots of Ujjain. Seated between the idols of Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati, the idol of Annapurna is painted in dark vermilion colour. The Sri Yantra, the symbol of power or shakti, is also enshrined in the temple.
According to the Shiva Purana, when Shiva carried away the burning body of Sati from the sacrificial fire, her elbow dropped at this place. There is an interesting legend in the Skanda Purana about the manner in which the Goddess Chandi acquired the epithet of Harsiddhi. Once when Shiva and Parvati were alone on Mount Kailash, two demons called Chand and Prachand tried to force their way in. Shiva called upon Chandi to destroy them which she did. Pleased, Shiva bestowed upon her the epithet of 'one who vanquishes all'.
The temple was reconstructed during the Maratha period and the two pillars adorned with lamps are special features of Maratha art. These lamps, lit during Navaratri, present a glorious spectacle. There is an ancient well on the premises, and an artistic pillar adorns the top of it.
This temple is situated away from the bustle of the city and can be reached through a winding road. The temple looks upon a vast expanse of the Shipra waters and fills the onlooker with an indescribable sense of peace.
Mangalnath is regarded as the birth place of Mars, according to the Matsya Purana. In ancient times, it was famous for a clear view of the planet and hence suitable for astronomical studies. Mahadev or Shiva is the deity which is worshipped in the temple of Mangalnath.
The worship of the eight Bhairavas is a part of Saivite tradition and the chief among them is Kal Bhairava, believed to have been built by King Bhadresen, on the banks of the Shipra. There is mention of a Kal Bhairva temple in the Avanti Khanda of the Skanda Purana. Worship of Kal Bhairava is believed to have been a part of the Kapalika and Aghora sects. Ujjain was a prominent centre of these two sects. Even today, liquor is offered as a part of the ritual to Kal Bhairava Beautiful paintings in the Malwa style once decorated the temple walls, only traces of which are visible. These intricate paintings are a speciality of this temple.
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.
Situated about 2 miles from the city of Ujjain, the deity in this temple is believed to have been worshipped by Kalidasa. The legend goes that he was an idiot and it is by his devotion to the goddess Kalika that he acquired great literary skills.
Emperor Harshavardhan had this temple renovated in the 7th century AD. There is further evidence of renovation during the Paramara period. The temple has been rebuilt in the modern times by the erstwhile Gwalior State.
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.
Situated on the Triveni Ghat of the Shipra, the temple is located away from the old site of Ujjaini town. It is dedicated to the nine planets (Navagraha means nine planets), attracts large crowds on new moon days falling on Saturdays. Its religious importance has increased in recent years though there is no known reference to it in the ancient texts. The ruling planets have always had an important place in Indian rituals and tradition.
Durgadas Ki Chhatri:
This distinctive monument glows like a small jewel in the surrounding lush landscape. Vir Durgadas earned a secure niche for himself in the history of Marwad by his undaunting, selfless service to the State. He fought for the independence of Jodhpur after the death of Maharaj Jaswant Singh and helped Ajit Singh to ascend the throne against the wishes of Aurangzeb.
Durgadas died at Rampura in 1718, and his funeral rites were performed according to his wishes on the banks of the Shipra. The rulers of Jodhpur had built the chhatri to consecrate his memory. This beautiful structure, built in the Rajpur style of architecture, houses a statue of Durgadas which crumbled down.
This enormous banyan tree on the banks of the Shipra, has been vested with religious sanctity as the Akashyavat in Prayag and Gaya, Vanshivat of Vrindavan and the Panchavata of Nasik. Thousands of pilgrims take a dip in the Shipra from the bathing ghat built here. According to one tradition, Parvati is believed to have performed her penance here. It used to be a place of worship for the followers of Natha sect. One legend has it that some Mughal rulers had cut off the Banyan tree and covered the site with iron sheets to prevent its roots from growing. But the tree pierced the iron sheets and grew and flourished. The little village of Bhairogarh near Siddhavat is famous for its tie and dye painting for centuries. In ancient times when trade with other countries flourished, exquisitely printed cloth from Bhairogarh used to find its way to Rome and China.
The Ved Shala (Observatory):
Ujjian 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 first meridian of longitude of the Hindu geographers. From about the 4th century B.C.. Ujjain enjoyed the reputation of being india's Greenwich.
This academy was set up in Ujjain by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to immortalise the memory of the great poet dramatist, and to create a multidisciplinary 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 sittings and language groups. The academy complex consists of a theatre built according to the specification laid down by Bharata's Natya Shastra, an exhibition hall and theatre museum, library, lecture and seminary halls, research facilities for scholars.
Getting to Ujjain: