A Temple To Culture

Located on the banks of the Shipra river, Ujjain traces its roots to the mythological Samudra Manthan. It is said that the churning of the cosmic ocean by the gods and the demons – with Vasuki the serpent as the rope – yielded 14 gems, umpteen apsaras, the goddess of wealth Lakshmi and the coveted amrit, or the holy nectar of immortality. The
demons chased the gods across the skies for the amrit and a few drops of it spilt at the spot where Ujjain came up. Kalidas described it aptly as “the town fallen from heaven to bring heaven on earth”.

Ujjain, also known as Ujjayini, Avanti, Avantika and Avantikapuri, was part of the Mauryan empire and though it was later introduced to other religions, it has retained its Hindu culture. Apart from the 84 Mahadevs, here’s what Ujjain is famous for.

The Mahakaleshwar Temple

Ujjain, also known as the city of temples, has one of the 12 jyotirlingas at the Mahakaleshwar temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the five-storey temple is located near the Rudra Sagar Lake and blends Rajput and Mughal architectural styles. Brass lamps lead the way to the underground sanctum and the shiva linga is said to be swayamabhu, deriving power from within itself. Don’t miss the bhasma aarti held every day at dawn at the temple, in which the shiva linga is propitiated with ash from a cremation ground.

The Greenwich of India

According to the Hindu calendar, the first meridian of earth passes through Ujjain, making it the universal time coordinate. Also known as the Greenwich of India, Ujjain is situated at 23.9 degree on the northern latitude and 74.75 degree on the eastern longitude at an altitude of 1,658 ft. Traversed by the Tropic of Cancer, Ujjain is also a significant point of study for astro-sciences. Explore the Veda Shala Observatory, India’s first observatory, built by Maharaja Jai Singh in the early 1700s, which has instruments that can still accurately calculate time, the position and declination of the Sun, the distance of its zenith, and the alignment of stars and planets.

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Sandipani Ashram

Ujjain is home to the Sandipani Ashram, where Krishna, Balarama and Sudama are said to have received training from Maharishi Sandipani. The premises have two temples dedicated to Lord Shiva – the Sarveshwar Mahadev devoted to Sandipani’s patron deity and the Kundeshwar temple, with an image of the three students on the wall. It is said that the sage imparted his knowledge of time – the essence of the Bhagwad Gita – to Lord Krishna here.

Siddhawat

This is famous for an ancient banyan tree on the banks of the Shipra river on the outskirts of the city that is said to exemplify Ujjain’s indomitable spirit. Legend has it that a Mughal ruler had the tree cut and covered with iron sheets to prevent its roots from growing, but the roots pierced the iron sheets and continued to grow. This is also where Parvati is said to have performed her penance.

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Simhastha Kumbh Mela

The Simhastha Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years in only four cities: Prayag at the Triveni Sangam, Haridwar on the banks of the Ganga, Nashik on the banks of the Godavari and Ujjain on the banks of Shipra. The crowds peak at Mauni Amavasya and there’s a surge in devotees to bathe in the sacred river. The next Kumbh Mela will be held in April 2016.

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